Today Is World Oceans Day. Here Are 14 Things You Can Do

World Oceans Day sea life illustration

Illustration by World Oceans Day.

Today is World Oceans Day. You live in the Ocean State. That seems like an obvious opportunity to do something meaningful, right? For us, the ocean isn’t some far-flung idea that dreams are made of, it’s our front yard. It brings fog horns, crashing waves, stinky seaweed, and three-point-five million tourists per year.

Sailors for the Sea, the local conservation organization that works globally toward ocean health, is feeling the synergy. In collaboration with the Redwood Library and Aethenæum and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, the marine non-profit has brought the fascinating exhibit Tiny Giants to town. Open through June 19, the show exhibits large-scale, high-def photographs of the ocean’s smallest organisms, microbes. Blown up thousands of times, these miniature creatures – the base on which all other aquatic life is built – become not only beautiful works of art, but begin to teach us about the invisible mysteries of our largely unexplored oceans.

A scientist from the Maine-based Bigelow Laboratory  – whose mission is to “investigate the microbial drivers of global ocean processes” for the purposes of  conservation and responsible activity – along with other savvy speakers, will also be on hand today during the World Oceans Day Summit. These brainiacs have improved the health of Narragansett Bay to a point where it’s it’s now being used a model for improving coastal communities on a global scale. In other words, you should totally go. Can’t make it ’cause you gotta work? Don’t worry, you can still nerd out at the cocktail party this evening.

Inspired to do more for World Oceans Day? We’ve got you covered. Below are 14 events, actions, and ideas you can take part in today – and every day – to consider the ocean.

Tiny Giants Exhibit Ocean Microbes

“Tiny Giant #11: Fall harvest” is one of 18 works of scientific art in the Redwood Library’s exhibit. Photo by: Dr. Peter Countway, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, with funding provided by the National Science Foundation.

1. Go see the exhibit already

Tiny Giants: Marine Microbes Revealed on a Grand Scale is the inspiring photography exhibit that brings the minuscule creatures that create life to life. Teeny tiny marine microbes produce half the oxygen we breathe, serve as the source of food for all sea life from fish to whales, and help mitigate the effects of climate change. Yes, they are vital to human existence. Not only are these exquisite photographs amazing works of scientific art, they’re incredibly elucidating.


2. Get to the Summit

The World Oceans Day Summit: Lessons from Narragansett Bay to the Global Ocean will be held today from 9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. and will offer an overview of the state of our global ocean. A discussion about Narragansett Bay – a success story – will follow. Be proud: The example here could be used to improve waters worldwide. Crazy smart speakers from across the state will be on hand to educate attendees.


3. Grab a drink

That’s right, it wouldn’t be Newport if there weren’t cocktails. Say cheers at Tiny Giants at Night: Science, Art & Cocktails between 6 and 8 p.m. Clink glasses (there won’t be any plastic, we assume) with the scientists behind Tiny Giants and get behind the scenes scoops on taking the tiniest of pictures.


4. Forgo the Styrofoam

There’s way more you can do than attend the event, of course. Let’s start with your refusal to use Styrofoam cups and takeout containers for the day – and, ahem, from this day forward. Seriously, you guys, from Dunkin’ Donuts to other local shops we want to love, there’s no reason anyone needs to supply food or drinks in polystyrene vessels. From its toxic manufacture to littering the beach, Styrofoam is one thing our island could do without. If you’ve ever done a beach clean up, I know you feel me.


5. While you’re at it, skip the straws

If you don’t what I’m talking about, join a beach clean up sometime. (Hey, look! There’s one today. See #6 below.) Or just conduct your own personal survey on any beach or shore around. Take a pass on disposables, too. Single use water bottles, utensils, and cups are easy to replace with alternatives that can be used multiple times, and makes for a nicer picnic, too. Nobody’s perfect, but if you can cut back on your use of one-time plastics, you can help keep plastic trash out of our ocean – they make up 70 percent of debris cleaned up from beaches, according to Clean Ocean Access.

Clean Ocean Access RI Beach Clean UP


6. Join a beach cleanup

The grassroots nonprofit Clean Ocean Access does its part to help keep our shores tidy and ensure access for everyone to beautiful blue spaces. Join them at 6 p.m. tonight at First Beach for the inaugural Clean the State World Oceans Day cleanup on Aquidneck Island (or other nearby places). The organizers request a registration, but I bet they’d take your help even as a walk-up.


7. Or just conduct your own

You don’t need to be all formal about it. All it takes to clean up a beach is an empty bag, your eyeballs, and some bending at the knees or waist. Bring your kids; walk the dog. You love this island, and it needs your help wherever you can offer it.

Octonauts for World Ocean Day


8. Teach your children well

Want your kids to be stewards of this island? Take them crabbing, swim off the rocks, collect rogue candy wrappers, and send them to nature camp. If you’re just not sure where to start, hit the trails at Norman Bird Sanctuary or Sachuest Point; both have loads on fun, hands-on stuff. World Oceans Day also has a great toolkit from the Octonauts – a cartoon team adventurers who explore, rescue, and protect ocean animals – for getting the littlest budding environmentalists excited, too.


9. Help keep history above water

A recent international conference hosted by the Newport Restoration Foundation brought experts in climate change, sea level rise, and historic preservation together. Keeping History Above Water, as the conference was called, used the Point neighborhood as a case study for the increasingly regular flooding that threatens Newport’s – and so many other cities’ – immense and intense commitment to historical preservation. But even if you don’t live in the Historic District, there’s a good chance you’re still at risk – more than half our city sits in the flood plain, putting $3.8 billion worth of property at risk. (If I got your attention, click here.)


10. Learn how to recycle correctly

I consider myself a serious recycler. I sort. I save. I care. A lot. Turns out I was doing it wrong. Well, not entirely, but this piece by our writer Caroline Goddard really opened my eyes. It’s worth checking out.

Selfie for the Sea


11. Take a selfie for the sea

Wherever you go and whatever you do, consider turning today’s self portrait – if you’re into that sort of thing – into a “selfie for the sea.” Take a pic of yourself cleaning up at the beach, enjoying the water, or holding a sign about what you pledge to do. It’s a great way to get your followers thinking about ocean conservation. Use the hashtag #SelfiefortheSea or #WorldOceansDay to be part of the global movement.


12. Carry a reusable brag…I mean bag

Despite what this post might lead you to believe, I’m not the preachy type or an activist…except when I pull out my little wad of a reusable bag. I always mention matter-of-factly to the cashier that I’m trying to cut down on all the plastic bags that seem to force themselves into my house. I don’t say that micro pieces of plastic are clogging up our oceans, that loose plastic bags are the bane of the RIRRC, or that turtles often mistake floating bags for jellyfish then proceed to eat them. I just unroll a bag so perfectly soft, squishy, and easy to carry that it fits in every purse and pocket I own. See? Not preachy AT ALL.


13. Support the ban on bags

Globally, human beings use more than 1 million plastic bags per minute. Locally, Clean Ocean Access has collected 9,600 of them from our beaches in the past four years. Wouldn’t it be so cool if Newport just got rid of them? Detractors claim that it could be bad for business, but hundreds of cities in the U.S. have reported positive outcomes to the bans. The Newport City Council voted 6–1 last month in favor of the idea; now the city must draft an ordinance to phase them out by January 2017. Two council votes will then enact it into law. Oh look! Here’s the mayor’s email address. (Just sayin’.)


14. Drop the microbeads

Some face washes and personal care products use tiny plastic beads to scrub skin clean. (Does yours? Yup, there’s an app for that.) But those little pieces of plastic wash down the drain and, eventually, end up in our water ways where they harm the ocean and its creatures. Look for beauty products that use natural exfoliants, such as sea salt or jojoba. Beauty, it turns out, is in the hands as well as the eyes, of the beholder.

Meaghan O'Neill is a writer, editor, blogger wrangler, and the founder of Puddingstone Post. She was formerly editor-in-chief of TreeHugger, Discovery Channel online, and TLC's Parentables. Her writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, and her book, Ready, Set, Green: 8 Weeks to Modern Eco-Living (Villard/Random House) was published in 2008. She lives in Newport, RI with her family.

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