A Note from One of Our Writers

Hey all, Courtney here, regular college student and a member of the Wishing Whale team. Usually on this blog we talk about tips to conserve our environment or discuss news on what is currently happening to our oceans. I want to share something personal with you all , just so you can see that this isn’t a site that preaches to the choir, one that doesn’t care about its’ readers or its’ content. I wanted to share with you my personal history with sustainability, and the struggle I’ve had trying to save the world from a dorm room on the Jersey Shore.( I promise you it’s nothing like the show.)

A lot of the time when I read ocean conservation or sustainability blogs they come off really pretentious. They tell me what I should be doing. They tell me I should be not be using plastic, not eating sea food, not eating meat, not shopping at my favorite stores, not buying food from the grocery store if it has too much packaging, and not cleaning with chemicals. A lot of the time it is overwhelming how much I feel my existence alone does more harm than good when it  comes to saving the planet. It is really easy to become discouraged by these blogs. I don’t want to feel that way.Neither should you.

When Wishing Whale was created, we believed that people have lives. People live in a modern age in a consumerist society. It’s hard enough getting people who don’t care about the environment to finally start caring, so I don’t understand why people gear their information towards an audience that has already been invested, when it’s the people who don’t know that could really make a difference. Wishing Whale set out to inform young people, people who wouldn’t usually know or care about environmental issues, and let them know very simply what’s going on and the steps one can take to fix things.

I’m one girl living away at college near the coast of New Jersey. I’ve come to find how much beauty there is from seeing the beach every day. I’ve read up on what is happening to our environment, and it’s become something in me that I’ve tried my best to pay attention to. Do I always recycle responsibly? When I can I do. Do I eat meat and sea food? The dining hall at school has very limited options. Do i shop at stores that don’t participate in free trade? Sales are important when you’ve got fifteen dollars in your bank account. The point is that nobody is perfect.

Nobody, not even the ones preaching online about all of these different lifestyle choices are perfect. The important thing isn’t to do all of those things. The important thing is to know that you’ve thought about it. The more people who know that these alternative choices exist, the more it is possible to make these changes and to make conscious decisions to change. I wake up every morning and think about things I can do to help the environment. Wishing Whale is not here to shame you. We know that one person can’t just wake up one morning and save the world. But what we believe you can do, is wake up one morning, and try.

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Let’s Talk About the Trash Vortex

When you hear about the Trash Vortex it sounds like some science fiction novelists creation, or something you’d see in a movie about a far-off dystopian future. But the trash vortex is 100% real and honestly pretty unknown and not really talked about often.

For those who don’t know of the Trash Vortex, you might know it by its more official name; The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This “patch” actually spans from the west coast of the United States, primarily between California and Hawaii all the way to Japan. That’s a pretty large patch.

The Vortex gets its namesake from the immense amount of marine debris and garbage that gets pushed out there by various currents that run in a circular motion, known as a Subtropical Gyre.

The debris then becomes trapped there and can also sink to the bottom, and pile up.
It can’t be stressed enough how terrible this is for the environment and for the marine life that occupy this area. Most of the debris consists of microplastics and various other potentially hazardous trash.

But for what seems to be such an aggressive and ugly issue, the Trash Vortex has been unclaimed and ignored for years. Falling smack dab in the middle of two countries, neither have taken the blame for its creation, nor have set out to correct it.
So the Vortex remains, forever collecting nautical trash. So there may always be a Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is pretty sad, but what can be done is we can make an effort not to help it grow.

Reduce the usage of disposable plastics, watch where your recycled waste goes, and be sure to keep the coast clean. By doing these things, we can only hope that our Earth; and our oceans don’t become science fiction.

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Sustainable Holiday Gift Giving

With Thanksgiving only days away there is one infamous holiday where people brave the insanity of the day to shop for holiday gifts at record low prices. While Black Friday has become it’s own holiday tradition, is it really worth the insanity? It’s debatable whether the deals are worth the early morning adventure, and if those items are really necessary. While gift-giving is a wonderful tradition to uphold, there are much easier ways to get heartfelt gifts at low prices, and it doesn’t have to be Black Friday to get them.

It seems department stores and shopping malls have the greatest number of customers flocking to them. People don’t really realize when flipping through the circulars that small businesses also have Black Friday sales, and their items may be cheaper and better quality as well. There are many ways to shop for holiday gifts sustainably this year, and doing so not only helps the environment, but your local community and your nerves as well.

Holiday shopping is expensive. There are so many people who deserve gifts but the funds might just not be there this year. if you want to show someone you care, but don’t necessarily have the funds to do so, shopping at thrift stores might be the answer. The saying goes ‘what’s old is new’, and shopping at thrift stores or garage sales may help you find personal gifts, unusual and comical gifts, or really old things that friends or family might like. A lot of things that end up in these stores are barely used and still have packaging, so with the right touch this could really make someone’s holiday season. Being able to hunt for the perfect gift and not worry about the cost brings a different sentiment to holiday shopping. It feels less like a mission or a duty and more like a fun experience to find something that reminds you of that specific person.

If you’re looking to shop for unique items and help your community, shop small this holiday season. Tons of small business have great sales that are easy to miss out on because they don’t get the word out as well as a department store. Shop for quality, even if it may be a little more pricey than a department store. You’re paying for quality and helping the environment by contributing to a business that didn’t need much fuel to ship and transport their items.

People forget that the real joy of receiving a gift isn’t the gift itself but the person who gave it. Instead of splurging on material goods, try giving them the gift of a memory. By getting creative and planning an activity to do with them or getting them tickets to something, you’re giving them something they can’t put on a shelf, but instead will remember it forever. If you’ve got a computer and a pen, odds are you can come up with a pretty great experience for someone. Handmade gifts are also wonderful. The right friends and family will appreciate effort, and if you take the time to make something special for them odds are they will love it. Finding DIY projects on Pinterest can give you some great inspiration. Baking something special is also a great way to skip the expensive gift giving and give someone something they’ll enjoy.

What is most important about this season is that it is a season of GIVING. Give your time. Give your creativity. Give your warmth. Give away things you no longer want or need. The spirit of this holiday season is to give the gift of love; something you won’t find while in line for the register at 4 a.m.

 

 

California Becomes the First State to Ban Plastic Bags

While it’s no secret that plastic does more harm than good, the state of California has decided to do something about it. California is the first to have a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. This decision follows the recent approval of  P2016-11-14-16_50_16-wishing_whale-wishing_whale-%e2%80%a2-instagram-photos-and-videosroposition 67. The ban affects grocery stores, retailers, liquor stores, and small markets.

While the ban covers a large variety of places, restaurants are excluded from the ban , and customers will be able to obtain a thicker plastic bag or a paper bag if necessary, but must pay 10 cents extra. This tax is put in place in order to persuade people into using more sustainable methods of carrying things such as the usage of a reusable tote bag, or canvas bag.

According to the San Diego Times, The state of California is estimated to have used roughly 13 billion single use plastic bags every year. If just one state is using that money, it is easy to realize how much of a problem this can be if the rest of the nation is also using plastic bags.

This law has made much positive change in a short time. Cleaner beaches have been reported when beach sweep data has been submitted recently. Plastic bags tend to be one of the main objects found during these beach clean-ups. In cities that already had the ban since 2011, such as San Francisco, it has been reported that bag litter  has been reduced by about 90 percent. This is evidence that the state-wide ban will provide positive results in the future.

While the lack of plastic bags may be an inconvenience to some, the overall positive impact the ban will have can be argued to be worth more than mild inconvenience. Plastic bags have been known to enter waterways and harm marine life such as turtles and whales and other creatures such as birds. These animals swallow and become entangled within the bags. These bags are also an eye-sore and can make beautiful beaches look dirty and unpleasant.

By banning the bags, marine life is helped significantly, the state will not be further contributing in creating more of these plastic bags, and people will learn to make sustainable choices. People will be proud of their beaches and find that by enduring a small inconvenience, they are contributing a large part to positive change.

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What Donald Trump’s 100 Day Plan Means for Environmental Issues in America.

Coming from the man who tweeted that ‘the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive, the president elect’s one hundred day plan comes as no surprise. Soon after the announcement of his win, Donald Trump released an itinerary of things he would accomplish withing his first one hundred days in office. While it remains to be seen whether he actually will accomplish these things, it is positively frightening to see his policies on the environment and all of the progress he could potentially undo.

Global Warming Denialism has plagued the Republican party long enough that it’s not a secret. It’s unfortunate that many who have recently just won positions in office share this view, and therefore will not be able to speak for the many people in this country who do believe in it and care about it. There are three major things in the Plan that are worrisome for the environmentally conscious.

First, Trump wishes to ‘lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.’ Second he wishes to ‘lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward.’ Third he wishes to  ‘cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.’

It’s not hard to guess why these three things are terrible for the environment. Burning fossil fuels has never been a good idea, and the ‘roadblocks’ Trump claims are there because President Obama wouldn’t approve the Pipeline unless he had enough data on the environmental impact of it. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  encouraged President Obama not to approve the pipeline. There is evidence that the Pipeline could escalate carbon emissions. Once in place, the pipeline could lead to a heavy dependence on fossil fuels in the states surrounding it. Looking for cleaner energy alternatives will not feel as necessary. The tar sands also projected to exist in this project also can lead to higher carbon emissions.

Probably the most unfortunate part of Trump’s plan is to cancel the U.N Climate change program payments. While fixing Americas water and infrastructure is good, by ceasing to contribute to a unified interest in protecting the Earth, we lose the gumption to keep trying. We have lead the fight in combating climate change, and under this new administration we face the strong possibility that other countries will be doing what we can while we ignore the problem. This news is deeply disturbing, and  it is unclear whether these things will actually happen, or if it is just talk. As an American citizen however, it is important to make your voice heard so our leaders know  where we stand.

Justin Trudeau’s New Ocean Protection Plan

While the United States may face some serious setbacks under the new presidency in the realm of environmental issues, there is one national leader who’s doing something good. Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has made it a point to spend 1.5 billion dollars on an ocean protection plan. This plan will include the development of  a marine safety system, the restoration of ecosystems that are damaged, and will focus on cleaning oil pollution and conducting research on how oil can have less of a negative impact in the ocean.

This decision came after a tanker sank off the east coast of Vancouver. Trudeau said that the plan will make it a point to install stricter rules for business that have polluted in the past and continue to do so. The plan also highlights an increase in coast guards, rescue stations, and more inclusive dialogue with indigenous communities on the coast.

While many are thrilled that Trudeau has taken a huge step forward in protecting the ocean, citizens feel that their tax dollars are going to a lost cause. The Liberal Party of Canada  has made a commitment toward saving marine life and protecting the oceans, stating “

“By 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.” [Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, Target 11] 

The Party under Trudeau’s administration aims to follow through with their commitment through encouraging community involvement, strengthening laws, and protecting the ocean from oil spills by monitoring crude oil. This is a step in the right direction for Canada, who can hopefully do some good and compensate for the retrogression The United States may face within the next four years on this issue.

Photo Taken from the Toronto Star.

 

 

How to Organize Your Own Beach Sweep

Beach sweeps are a great way to make a difference and get your community involved in protecting the environment. It is the perfect way to initiate change and take a hands on approach at getting involved. Organizing your own beach sweep isn’t as difficult as you may think, an we at the Wishing Whale have made things even easier by giving you a step by step guide.

The Clean Ocean Action Organization has been a leader in organizing beach sweeps in the New Jersey and New York Area. They have been greatly successful and have also encouraged how rewarding it is to organize your own beach sweep and what it takes to do it.

1.Location, Location, Location.

Observe a waterway that is in need of some TLC. Search for the perfect place where people can gather and get the most trash off of the most land. If you want to do this on a smaller scale, pick a specific location and map out the parameters and scale of what you’re cleaning up.

2. When?!

Choose when this event will happen. Pick a time when the weather will be nice but there won’t be a lot of people around that might be bothered by the sweep. Choosing a rain date is also wise!

3. Figure Out What You Will Need

According to Clean Ocean Action, some supplies you’ll need includes:

“trash bags, gloves, pencils and data cards for data collection. (The organization has a sample data card on their website) Feel free to create your own data card, but be sure to use it. Anyone can pick up trash, but collecting data about what kind of debris you find is the only way to identify the possible sources of debris, understand the magnitude of the problem, and educate others about it.
You will also need materials to create your advertisements such as paper, a computer and printer or markers.”

4. Where is the Trash Going?
It’s important to make sure that the trash being removed goes to a good place. collecting a large amount of garbage may require a garbage pickup service or possibly the rental of a dumpster. This all depends on the scale of the beach sweep of course! It is also important to note how trash is sorted and picked up in that specific area. There’s no harm in researching or calling the public works department so they can help you. Encountering hazardous materials is possible during the sweep so it is also important to research how to properly dispose of items like that.

5. Who Is YOUR Audience

Find a group  of people who would be interested in participating in this event. People in the community should definitely be invited to become involved. Figure out who these people are and make sure you’re getting the word out to all of them.

6. Permission

It is important to make sure you have clearance from the authorities and/or town or city officials, before proceeding. Sending them a letter containing all of the information about the event is a good idea.Getting a clear response back and proof that you were given permission is  also imperative.

7. Advertise

Once you’ve gotten permission, it is important to let your audience know about the event. Spread the word though flyers, advertise online, send emails, make phone calls, and make sure people are telling others about the event. Invite local businesses to attend, or even to just post your flyer in their window. Email press, and invite elected officials to attend.Making sure people know about the event and know the details is crucial in having a successful beach sweep!

8. Donors and Sponsors

Reach out to businesses who may be interested in an event like this and ask them to make small donations of supplies or even just to attend. This is mutually beneficial because you get help, and the businesses get possible new business and a good reputation for helping out. Be sure to thank these people for their help.

9. Cleanup Time

Make sure that you are early on the day of the event. An hour earlier than the time should be fine to make sure everything is organized and that you have the necessary supplies. Make sure you have people working with you to distribute these items to the people who are beginning to arrive. Explain the importance of the data card.

10. Post Event

Collect all of the data cards and submit the total data to The Ocean Conservancy. Make sure you have thanked everyone who attended and helped withe the event. Send thank-you letters to all sponsors/donors.

These 10 steps give you an idea of how to organize a beach sweep. This proves that even on the local level, it isn’t that difficult to make a difference and help your community. So get out there! Make some waves in your community and have a beach sweep!