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The world's oceans

Their temperature, chemistry, currents, and organisms - drive global systems that make Earth habitable for humans. Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe are all ultimately regulated by the ocean.1

 

For this reason, the UN General Assembly designated June 8 as World Ocean Day in 2008. The concept of World Ocean Day was first proposed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to raise awareness of the critical role the ocean plays in our lives and how people can help protect it.2 On the occasion of this year's "World Ocean Day", we should all take a look at our lifestyles and change our own behavior for the benefit of our environment, the oceans and our livelihoods. After all, the oceans are one of the most important ecosystems on our planet.

Lungs of our planet

Every child is aware of the fact that trees use photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, among other things. But what is often unknown to many - plants in the ocean also carry out photosynthesis. Microscopic algae and even bacteria, even in fresh waters, produce oxygen. Since 70% of the earth is covered by water, about the same amount of oxygen is produced here as by all the forests of this earth together.3

 

Therefore, the oceans serve as the lungs of our planet.

They also store 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere and absorb about 25% of the CO2 emissions produced annually by human activities. They form an important part of the biosphere and contribute significantly to climate regulation.4

Our oceans are suffering

The oceans have stored more than 90 percent of the heat caused by human greenhouse gas emissions over the past 40 years. The result - oceans are becoming more acidic and warmer.5

 

So the ocean's supply of oxygen to the Earth is threatened by global warming: warmer surface water absorbs less oxygen than colder water, and it also increases ocean stratification. This can affect the uptake of heat and carbon dioxide by the oceans and also affect the formation of tropical storms and their intensity.6

Ocean pollution

The sea is full of garbage. And this is due to us humans. Plastic is a particularly big problem: It is estimated that 60 to 80 percent of the trash in the world's oceans is plastic.7

Plastic that lands in the oceans contributes to habitat destruction and the deaths of marine animals because they mistake plastic for food and die with full stomachs, or become entangled and strangled. In total, at least 2249 different marine species are impacted worldwide as a result. Many of these species are also on the Red List of Threatened Species because of littering.8

 

However, biodiversity is critical to maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem.

Marine pollution often originates on land. Regions far from shore can also be partly responsible for marine pollution. On the one hand, through the rivers that connect inland areas to the oceans; on the other hand, trash and plastic discarded on land (ocean bound plastic) can easily enter the ocean through wind and tide.9

It is difficult to break patterns and seems almost impossible to completely eliminate plastic in our daily lives. But we can all, through small changes in our daily routines, make a big impact in the long run and protect our oceans. And opportunities do exist:

© European Parliament Research Center

Reduce plastic

Using less plastic has always been, and will continue to be, one of the most important actions we can take to make our daily lives more environmentally friendly.

At the market, farm stores, farmers' markets, specialty stores, organic supermarkets, or "unpackaged" stores, it is possible to save on packaging by having all produce packed in your own cloth bag or the container you bring with you. So you can buy vegetables and fruit in bulk, or drink water and milk from glass bottles.

Try to avoid disposable dishes or cutlery that end up in the trash after only a few minutes of use. A little more washing up after the picnic or party, is good for the environment as well as your wallet.

 

Or check which plastic-packaged products you can replace with plastic-free products in your bathroom. Many cosmetics and shower products also contain microplastics. Behind labels like polyethylene (PE) or polyquaternium (PQ), most people overlook what's hiding in their shampoo. And these liquid synthetic polymers are not only bad for us, but also difficult to degrade in the environment. Shampoo and soap, can be bought in any drugstore in solid form. So that you can reduce plastic without having to give up products.

Conscious consumption

Being aware of your own consumption and paying attention to the possibility of avoiding plastic - is a first step towards sustainability. Often it is the small things that you can change without having to give up quality of life. The sum of these small steps then unfolds a big effect. Where do I buy things? How are they packaged? In what ways can I avoid this? What are alternative options?

 

The average usage time of a to-go cup is 15 minutes. However, the plastic coating used in this process takes centuries to decompose into smaller and smaller pieces. What remains are tiny particles less than five millimeters in size. These microplastics spread everywhere.10 To counteract this, maybe bring your own cup to your next café visit, or ask for a reusable one. In many cafés, this effort is even rewarded and the coffee in your own cup costs less.

 

The production of textiles requires an incredible amount of water. It is estimated that 2700 liters of fresh water are needed to produce a single cotton T-shirt, which is as much as one person drinks in 2.5 years. The dyeing of textiles as part of their manufacture actually causes about 20 percent of the world's water pollution.11

So before you buy something new, you should ask yourself - do I really need this item? Questioning oneself and one's purchasing decisions can help to change behavior patterns and consume more consciously without limiting the quality of life.

Thinking about consequences

The same applies to behavior after purchasing decisions and consumption. Disposable tableware, as well as aluminum cans, often end up in the environment after outdoor events because they are carelessly discarded by visitors. Whether you are participating in water sports, boating, or visiting the beach with friends, please clean up when you leave the beach and do not leave trash lying around. Small items in particular, such as bottle caps or beverage can rings, are often overlooked but can have deadly consequences for marine wildlife. Smoking a cigarette on the beach and not throwing the butt into designated trash cans may feel like a trivial thing, but it costs nature several years in the decomposition process.

Reducing fish(ing)

It is an immensely long list of pressures that threaten the largest interconnected ecosystem, the ocean. These include overfishing and unwanted bycatch. Over 300 marine areas have already had to be declared dead in the past 30 years.12

Reasons for the decline of many species lie in decades of misguided fisheries policies, including those of the European Union: there are too many fishing vessels, fishing quotas are too high, and far too many fish die as unused bycatch. For example, stocks of large fish, such as tuna, shark, and cod, have already been reduced by 90 percent due to industrial fishing. In addition, current fishing techniques cause too much damage to marine ecosystems. Without restrictions and protective measures, by 2050 the weight of plastic waste could exceed that of fish in the sea.13

 

For a long time, fish was considered a food, irreplaceable for the omega3 fatty acid budget. In the meantime, the media regularly warn against the consumption of fish. Due to the increasing pollution of the oceans, heavy metals and microplastic particles accumulate in fish meat and thus also end up on our plates. In fish farming, on the other hand, chemical substances and antibiotics are part of the animals' everyday " food".14

 

If you do not want to accept this deplorable state of affairs, you should rather consume omega3 fatty acids and important proteins via vegetable oils, especially linseed oil and rapeseed oil, or through flaxseeds and walnuts, for the sake of our oceans.

© WWF

Together for the oceans

Germans last consumed around 5.75 billion plastic bags a year. If each of us did without plastic bags, we could save around 68,000 tons of waste per year in Germany without any of us having to sacrifice quality of life as a result.15

 

Inspired by other pioneers in this field and by the massive plastic problems we had to see with our own eyes through private travels and the cooperation with our Indian manufacturer, we too were inspired to think and wanted to change something. On the one hand, to put an end to senseless littering and on the other hand, to revolutionize the way people think about handling trash as a precious and recyclable resource. That's why we developed the Fitz & Huxley OCEAN line, which currently includes backpacks and hip bags made from so-called Ocean Bound Plastic.

 

Ocean Bound Plastic (OBP) is plastic collected from rivers, shorelines and beaches. Plastic waste that lies on the banks of rivers or beaches today and is relatively inexpensive to collect will lie on the ocean floor tomorrow, where it can only be recovered with a great deal of effort and expense. That is why we have deliberately chosen to use OBP as a preventive measure to act even before the plastic enters the sea.

Plastics for Change

For this project we have teamed up with the NGO Plastics for Change, which has been fighting plastic pollution in India for many years. This plastic waste is sorted, cleaned and finally shredded into flakes before being turned into new yarn and then woven into a sturdy, durable fabric, which we in turn use to make our bags.

This recycling process not only helps keep the oceans clean. It also helps reduce greenhouse gases, and protect our climate. Because: one ton of recycled plastic saves 2 tons of petroleum and up to 1.6 tons of CO2 that would be needed to produce new plastic.16

 

With the purchase of a backpack, you do not save the world, of course, this is also just one of many approaches to protect our environment. "Buy not more, but better" has been our philosophy since our founding.

 

When we stop ocean littering, it has a multitude of positive impacts on our planet. We protect marine animals that, for example, get caught in plastic waste or ingest plastic as supposed food, are then unable to digest it and die with a "full stomach". But we also protect us humans - because we ingest microplastics from the oceans through the food chain.

 

Let's start together today to make conscious consumption decisions, to reduce plastic, to recycle plastic and to put an end to the overfishing of our oceans. Only then can we protect this ecosystem, which is so important for our earth and the climate, together ...

Sources

1 https://www.nabu.de/umwelt-und-ressourcen/klima-und-luft/klimawandel/11801.html

2 https://www.un.org/en/observances/oceans-day

3 Toon, John. Oceanic Oxygen: Feedback Effect on Marine Life May Affect Atmospheric Oxygen. Georgia Institute of Technology, 28 May 1996.

4 Hall, Jack. (2008) The Most Important Organism? Ecology Communications Group, Inc.

5 https://worldoceanreview.com/de/wor-7/der-ozean-im-klimawandel/die-fatalen-folgen-der-waerme/

6 https://www.helmholtz.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Netzwerk_Sch%C3%BClerlabore/Material_Download/GEOMAR/sfb754_schulbroschuere_web.pdf

7 Derraik, José. (2002). The Pollution of the Marine Environment by Plastic Debris: A Review. Marine pollution bulletin.

8 Heinrich Böll Stiftung (2019): Plastikatlas 2019, S.27-28 https://www.boell.de/de/plastikatlas

9 https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/themen/wasser/meere/meeresschutz-geht-uns-alle-an#gemeinsam-fur-den-meeresschutz

10 Heinrich Böll Stiftung (2019): Plastikatlas 2019, S.27 https://www.boell.de/de/plastikatlas

11 https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/de/headlines/society/20201208STO93327/umweltauswirkungen-von-textilproduktion-und-abfallen-infografik

12 https://www.greenpeace.de/biodiversitaet/meere/meeresschutz/

13 https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/de/headlines/society/20181005STO15110/plastik-im-meer-fakten-auswirkungen-und-neue-eu-regelungen

14 https://www.dieumweltdruckerei.de/blog/verzicht-auf-fisch-und-meeresfruechte/

15 https://www.entega.de/blog/muellvermeidung-tipps/

16 https://www.diw.de/de/diw_01.c.820601.de/auf_dem_weg_zur_klimaneutralitaet__plastikrecycling_muss_staerker_in_den_fokus_ruecken.html

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