Now that it’s the height of summer, I love spending as much time outdoors. Whether I’m traveling or staying in the city, I always make an effort to visit local parks and beaches and bask in the sun. The feeling of sand sticking to my skin and smelling the salty ocean air or running my hands through the grass and picking off bugs make me feel connected to nature. When I was at the beach the other day, I thought to myself, “This is beautiful. What a gift it is to be able to sit on the sand or throw yourself into the ocean.” Sounds cheesy? Maybe, but is it totally accurate? Yes, definitely.

If you enjoy going to the beach or the park, or traveling to other beaches and national parks in the world, then you automatically appreciate nature. And if you appreciate nature, I encourage you to not take it for granted and think about the literal definition of “environmental protection.”

According to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the definition of environmental protection is:

“Environmental protection refers to any activity to maintain or restore the quality of environmental media through preventing the emission of pollutants or reducing the presence of polluting substances in environmental media. It may consist of:

(a) changes in characteristics of goods and services,
(b) changes in consumption patterns,
(c) changes in production techniques,
(d) treatment or disposal of residuals in separate environmental protection facilities,
(e) recycling, and
(f) prevention of degradation of the landscape and ecosystems.”

This sounds like a lot, but it’s actually do-able on a personal and consumer level, especially options A, B, E, and F.

Here are some easy reminders, tips, and ways you can help the next time you visit a beach or park:

  1. Pick Up Trash: There is a shocking amount of trash in the ocean, up to 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic to be exact. So yes, it may seem obvious that you should pick up your own trash before you leave, but if you also happen to see other trash along your path, pick it up as well! Now, I know you’re probably asking, “why should I pick up someone else’s trash?” but try to be above it even if it’s just one scrap. I’m not saying turn your day of fun into a day of trash picking, but keeping parks and beaches trash free is the easiest way to preserve its beauty. Who knows, maybe you’ll inspire others to pick up trash as well!
  2. Zero-Waste Picnic: Try to avoid having trash altogether by preparing a zero-waste picnic at the beach or park. Pack your food and drinks in reusable containers and bottles or Tupperware and bring reusable utensils. Don’t leave anything behind, not even food for the ants. Pack anything that can be composted for later.
  3. Wear Biodegradable Sunscreen: This is especially important if you’re traveling and taking adventures like snorkeling or scuba diving. Non-biodegradable sunscreens have chemicals and ingredients like oxybenzone that damage and bleach coral reefs. Oxybenzone is also known to disrupt hormones in both fish and humans! Coral reefs are important for many reasons: they are habitats for thousands of types of fish and organisms which affect the fishing industry and food supply, they protect the coasts during natural disasters, and they generate tourism revenue. When buying biodegradable sunscreen, look out for active ingredients like zinc and titanium dioxide.
  4. Plant a Tree: Each year there are an average of 100,000 wildfires or forest fires in the U.S. Four out of five forest fires are caused by humans in situations including: campfires, disposing lit cigarettes, and playing with matches/fire. Trees are vital to the planet because they provide oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, literally cleaning our air. It’s important that we continue to plant them and take advantage of their many benefits. If you live in NYC, you can request the city to plant a tree near you for free. You can also look into tree planting organizations that will plant a tree in various parts of the world for just $1 like One Tree Planted.

It’s easy to take advantage of the beauty and serenity of our natural resources because it can be hard to see the effects of our damage indirectly. Our natural resources will only stay beautiful if treat it with respect and take care of it. If we continue to pollute, our natural resources get hit first and the damage can be irreversible.

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