Activist and artist Danni Washington campaigns for cleaner, plastic-free oceans. She founded the non-profit Big Blue & You, and presents the STEM-themed TV show Xploration Nature Knows Best. We talked to her about what everyday people can do to protect our oceans.
What are a few easy swaps for ocean-friendly living?
The easiest swaps for ocean-friendly living are simple. Refuse single-use plastics and cut them out of your daily purchases as much as possible. Offset your carbon footprint by choosing to take carbon-neutral transportation (i.e., bike share programs, electric buses). Participate in a waterway or beach clean up near your home. Eat a whole-food, plant-based diet and support the establishment of marine protected areas.
Less than 7 percent of our world’s oceans are fully protected from human activity. I truly believe the ocean is resilient. Although a lot of irreversible damage has been done, we must give the ocean time and space to heal itself.
What are some ocean-friendly gifts people can give this holiday season?
- Reusable utensil sets
- Silicone reusable bags (used to store snacks/food items and compartmentalize gadgets, cables, etc.)
- Organic and fair trade cotton clothing
- Reef-safe sunblock
- Bamboo toothbrush and dental tabs
- Reusable water bottle
- Stainless steel straws and cups
- Vacuum-insulated portable coffee mug
- Portable solar charger
How do you interpret “conscious consumerism”?
I interpret conscious consumerism as taking the time to ask questions about the products you purchase. Doing your homework about the source materials, who made the product, and where was the item was manufactured. It’s important to take into consideration how the production of the item positively or negatively impacted people and the planet.
Every day we make choices with the money we spend and what we decide to purchase. Consumers have the most power when it comes to driving the demand for certain products and industry. We must vote with our currency and support businesses that are developing better solutions for our collective future.
What are the most drastic situations in which humans make a big impact on the ocean? How much can people actually do?
Worldwide waterway and coastal clean-ups make a difference but that is only the tip of the iceberg. We have to reassess our entire waste management system and stop pollution from entering the ocean at the source.
I think our attention should focus primarily on plastics that enter water systems on land (i.e. rivers, streams, wetlands) and make sure this pollution doesn’t enter the ocean. This is something that local, regional, and national governments can help mitigate.
The second biggest issue is drastically reducing the amount of carbon and other emissions that are causing the warming of our atmosphere. Carbon sequestration is the most exciting solution that is within our grasp thanks to countless technologies and nature-inspired designs that have the ability to capture the excess carbon. Composting is one of the simplest ways an individual can assist with this particular issue.
Is there such a thing as “sustainable seafood”?
I have personally chosen to skip seafood in my diet because of the current state of our oceans. Industrialized fishing practices, human trafficking, and other human-induced pressures on the seafood industry are causing many marine ecosystems around the world to collapse.
At the same time, I understand artisanal fishing communities that completely depend on the ocean for their sustenance still exist, and they have managed their local fisheries properly for many generations. Choosing to consume a whole-food, plant-based diet is a great choice on many levels for the health of our entire planet.