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5 must-see movies on marine debris

I am so excited to be in a town that is committed to reducing the use of plastic. Oak Park, IL will be implementing a 10-cent tax starting January 1, 2018. As trustee of Bob Tucker noted in August 2017, “What we’re really trying to do is change habits.”   Change for the good lawmakers … my favorite. Why should we care about changing the way we use plastic?

  1. In the ocean there are approximately 5.25 trillion plastic particles.
  2. For every foot of coastline there is approximately five grocery bags filled with plastic, according to estimates in 2010.
  3. Six continents have microfiber washing up on their shores.
  4. Each year, 8.8 million tons of plastic goes into the oceans.
  5. On average, Americans use 220 pounds of plastic per year.

If you want something MUCH more entertaining, and probably up-to-date, than my list of quick stats above here are some must-see films that are worth downloading for the treadmill or even showing in the classroom or your next community event.

A Plastic Ocean (2016/1h 40m/Netflix): Documents the newest science, proving how plastics, once they enter the oceans, break up into small particulates that enter the food chain where they attract toxins like a magnet. These toxins are stored in seafood’s fatty tissues, and eventually consumed by us.

The Plastic Age: A Documentary feat. Pharrell Williams (2014/17m/YouTube): We all talk about the Stone Age, the Iron Age and the Bronze Age, but what era are we living in right now? People are starting to refer to us as the – far less romantic – Plastic Age.

From the Waste Up – Life Without Plastic (2013/1h 16m/Vimeo for $4 rental or $8 purchase to download): Follows the lives of 19 people as they attempt to live without plastic. It explores the concepts of consumerism, waste, and convenience as well as the great abundance in going without. Live vicariously plastic-free as you watch these families navigate through this disposable world. 

Plastic Paradise – The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (2014/1h 25m/for purchase but also available on YouTube): Thousands of miles away from civilization, Midway Atoll is in one of the most remote places on earth. And yet its become ground zero for The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, siphoning plastics from three distant continents. In this independent documentary film, journalist/filmmaker Angela Sun travels on a personal journey of discovery to uncover this mysterious phenomenon.

Bag It (2010/78m; educational version 45 and 65m): What starts as a film about plastic bags evolves into a wholesale investigation into plastic’s effects on our oceans, environment, and bodies. We see how our crazy-for-plastic world has finally caught up to us…and what we can do about it.

UPDATED:

Also, an important addition to the list I forgot about is Smog of the Sea. You can get a free download link for the film, released in 2017, here. The music and cinematography (in part) are by the musician Jack Johnson and as the film overview summarizes, “The Smog of the Sea chronicles a 1-week journey through the remote waters of the Sargasso Sea. Marine scientist Marcus Eriksen invited onboard an unusual crew to help him study the sea: renowned surfers Keith & Dan Malloy, musician Jack Johnson, spearfisher woman Kimi Werner, and bodysurfer Mark Cunningham become citizen scientists on a mission to assess the fate of plastics in the world’s oceans.”


Oh, one more here. I am hoping to catch Straws SOON … maybe I can bring it to my new town and more change will come:

Straws (2017/1h 10m): “I highly recommend STRAWS as an educational and entertaining film about plastic pollution. Its brisk and engaging storytelling uses humor, fairness and heart to inspire plastic use changes we all can do…especially no plastic straws!” – Actor and Environmentalist Ed Begley Jr.

UPDATED: I actually just requested a free download for preview purposes so I’ll post on that later this week. Thank you #strawsthemovie.

I am really hoping that since folks finally are able to let go of plastic bags and soon straws that balloons will be around the corner. Anything that’s more harm than good is not worth it … kids don’t know if they just don’t see them. Check out some alternatives to balloons at your next celebration here.

What are the top ocean movies?

Since, I am feeling rather cold these days and want to warm myself up with some good “beachy” flix so I thought I’d share.

1) The Abyss – Only see the new deluxe version. It is like Armageddon under the sea.
1.5) Jaws I – The book was written by Peter Benchley of N.J. Robert Shaw played my favorite character, Quinn.
2) Point Break – Fun waves. Exciting skydiving. A little dramatic at sometimes, but, just fun.
3) Beaches – It has to go in because of the title. Whatever happened to Blossom?
4) Finding Nemo – Great jokes for adults. Science. Amazing graphics.

Here is Fox News list of the top ten ocean movies.

Do you have a question or comment please email info@beachchairscientist.com.

Action Project Ideas: Around the Community (5 of 5)

One idea I had when I started this website almost ten years ago was that I wanted to make science simple and accessible. I hope I have created a place where questions on anything from barnacles to whales can be answered in a knowledgeable no-nonsense or overly jargon tone. My secondary goal has also been to create awareness about ocean-related issues which would lead into actions. Maybe you like watching movies and visiting the shore and understand that there is concern for the ecosystem.

What I have now for the month of November is a series of posts on quick and useful actions you can take in the kitchen, bath, laundry, garage, during the holidays, and around your community to change behaviors and lessen your impact. Each one features products that are tried, true, and tested but I am not being paid. Please read, share, and feel free to comment if you have other strategies.

  1. Shed the straw: Join the movements (#sheddthestraw #stopsucking) to just say no to a straw. Reach out to local restaurants and ask if they would consider only handing them out upon request. There’s a handy card you can print out. Also, maybe request your local library have a showing of Straws a film by Linda Booker or any other movie about marine debris.
  2. Ban the bottle: If your town facilities (i.e., recreation centers, libraries, school) don’t already have them look into installing water refill stations. This will reduce single-use plastic bottles.
  3. Start a school or community garden: This is a sustainable way to provide food and illustrate to the next generation how to build community. Gardens reduce waste and can beautify otherwise dismal areas of the town.
  4. Have a contest: Have students and community groups create art to illustrate an awareness about a particular subject and teach others at the same time. Try to use the materials you used during a debris scavenger hunt (i.e., a fancy word for “litter clean-up”) to create art as well. Check out these amazing creations from the Washed Ashore exhibit currently on display at the Shedd Aquarium. Writing and video contests are also fun! If you’re in need of some help to you get started check out the Chicago-based One Earth Film Fest for fantastic resources.
  5. Write a letter to a member of the community: Let your collective opinions be heard! Include your issue (e.g., marine debris, climate change) as well as why it matters to you and what could be done. It’s very important to be as specific as possible. Don’t forget to ask for a response and say “thank you.” Here’s a template to get you started. This template is focused on writing to Congress but it’s just as important to write to community or state official.

All of the Action Project Ideas:

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Action Project Ideas: During the Holidays (4 of 5)

One idea I had when I started this website almost ten years ago was that I wanted to make science simple and accessible. I hope I have created a place where questions on anything from barnacles to whales can be answered in a knowledgeable no-nonsense or overly jargon tone. My secondary goal has also been to create awareness about ocean-related issues which would lead into actions. Maybe you like watching movies and visiting the shore and understand that there is concern for the ecosystem.

What I have now for the month of November is a series of posts on quick and useful actions you can take in the kitchen, bath, laundry, garage, during the holidays, and around your community to change behaviors and lessen your impact. Each one features products that are tried, true, and tested but I am not being paid. Please read, share, and feel free to comment if you have other strategies.

Next week is Black Friday! I am excited to value the extra time with family by opting outside. Maybe we’ll take a day trip to Wisconsin (please share ideas!). I do always like to do my shopping local at Small Business Saturday. It helps to reduce marine debris by cutting down on packaging from online shipping, etc. However, it’s tough because that means I need to plan ahead. I decided this year to settle in and think ahead of ways that I could lessen my impact on Mother Earth so I can just focus on my guilt of indulgence for my aunt’s fudge (… it’s insane).

  1. Be creative in your wrapping and consider using funny pages, old calendars, or magazines (good for smaller items). If you feel like getting fancy here’s the most beautiful paper in the world for any scientist, naturalist, or teacher. Reusable bags are also a great option. Forget the ribbon all together.
  2. Make your own gifts. Books of tickets are great. Check out this amazingly helpful Etsy shop – Schnickle Tickets – for an easy, easy, easy way to get a cute custom book of up to 14 tickets with a sweet cover with your child’s photo. They’ve got enough toys! There are lots of other options besides Etsy for unique gifts (iCraft has a lot of options for ocean lover gifts!). Memberships to zoos, nature centers, and aquariums are also worth it!
  3. Put the money aside for a family trip together. There are even places that will give you a discount if you help out and clean up the shoreline.Has anyone ever been to check out Little St. Simon’s Island?
  4. Decorate with items that you find at second-hand shops.
  5. Think about the tree. Tree farms are fairly toxic and use at least forty different types of pesticides. A live tree can’t be cared for past a week of being indoors so make sure you probably dispose/donate it. If you go with a plastic tree you’ll only tap the petroleum supply once. There is no good answer here. What are your thoughts? Comment below!

All of the Action Project Ideas:

If you’re already a regular subscriber – thank you! If not, please take the time to add your email address to the subscribe option at the top of the right hand column. Don’t forget to follow on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Quick deep sea coral tutorials

Did you know that corals are living in the deep sea? That’s right, they’re aren’t only a part of the vibrant sunny reef ecosystems we’ve grown to know and love while watching movies like Finding Dory or Chasing Coral. Some species of coral live in complete darkness and withstand incredibly cold temperatures. They are just as striking in color as the shallow versions and have even been known to live up to 500 years old. Scientists use these corals as indicator species to gauge the health of the deep sea. Do you want to learn more about these jewels of the sea? Thanks to the  Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf (ECOGIG) for putting these video tutorials together. You’ll learn exactly how does a coral of the deep sea survives (i.e., there is no sunlight for photosynthesis), how scientists study them (i.e., great overview of technology and remote operating vehicles), and why scientists study them (i.e., human impacts like the Deepwater Horizon disaster). The best part is that each one is less than five minutes and it’s on Vimeo so hopefully your school hasn’t blocked it.

Thanks to Emily Davenport for sharing these with NMEA.

Action Project Ideas: Bath & Laundry (3 of 5)

One idea I had when I started this website almost ten years ago was that I wanted to make science simple and accessible. I hope I have created a place where questions on anything from barnacles to whales can be answered in a knowledgeable no-nonsense or overly jargon tone. My secondary goal has also been to create awareness about ocean-related issues which would lead into actions. Maybe you like watching movies and visiting the shore and understand that there is concern for the ecosystem.

What I have now for the month of November is a series of posts on quick and useful actions you can take in the kitchen, bath, laundry, garage, during the holidays, and around your community to change behaviors and lessen your impact. Each one features products that are tried, true, and tested but I am not being paid. Please read, share, and feel free to comment if you have other strategies.

  1. I am a big fan of Preserve triple razors and toothbrushes but upcycling should not be the reason for litter reduction. We can also consider new options instead of plastic. I am getting used to the idea of bamboo everything. Bamboo while being quite renewable can also be an invasive species. You want to look into each company to see how it’s harvested and where it comes from. One bamboo options for toothbrushes is made by natboo. Not only are they 100% biodegradable but they are also a good conversation starter too because the bristles are CHARCOAL black. It’s cool and you should definitely check them out. GIVEAWAY: I have two (one pink and one white with two holders) ready to send to a winner of a giveaway. Just subscribe to the mailing list by the end of the month. If you’ve already subscribed you are still a part of the drawing. It’ll be like an early Christmas present for you mouth. 
  2. Install a dual-flush conversion kit. Install of low-flow shower head.
  3. Watch the products you use. Many of them may contain micro beads.DIY
  4. DIY laundry detergent not only cuts down on plastic but reduces chemicals into the waterways.
  5. Wash a full load of clothes in the washing machine. Don’t just do a small load. Also, make sure to use a liquid detergent. They’re phosphate-free. Settle for not washing your clothes so often, too. Fibers from synthetic materials are making their way into the water.
  6. If you dry clean make sure to do it in bulk to save on the plastic wrap cover. You can probably hand back the wire hangers as well.

All of the Action Project Ideas:

If you’re already a regular subscriber – thank you! If not, please take the time to add your email address to the subscribe option at the top of the right hand column. Don’t forget to follow on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Action Project Ideas: Garden & Garage (2 of 5)

One idea I had when I started this website almost ten years ago was that I wanted to make science simple and accessible. I hope I have created a place where questions on anything from barnacles to whales can be answered in a knowledgeable no-nonsense or overly jargon tone. My secondary goal has also been to create awareness about ocean-related issues which would lead into actions. Maybe you like watching movies and visiting the shore and understand that there is concern for the ecosystem.

What I have now for the month of November is a series of posts on quick and useful actions you can take in the kitchen, bath, laundry, garage, during the holidays, and around your community to change behaviors and lessen your impact. Each one features products that are tried, true, and tested but I am not being paid. Please read, share, and feel free to comment if you have other strategies.

  1. Xeriscape (native plants reduce the need to water): Find the local USDA extension agent and see what would work best in your area. Maybe no plants and just do rocks!
  2. Use a rain barrel in the garden. You can convert any giant tub-like container into a decent water barrel with a conversion kit.
  3. Consider alternatives to pressure-treated wood on the patio.
  4. Pull weeds or use natural herbicides: Commercial fertilizers are unregulated and may contain toxic wastes.
  5. Do not dump hazardous materials (e.g., oil, grease, antifreeze, pesticides, fertilizers, paints).
  6. When it’s dirty take the car to a professional car washer (doing it yourself wastes about 150 gallons of water).

All of the Action Project Ideas:

If you’re already a regular subscriber – thank you! If not, please take the time to add your email address to the subscribe option at the top of the right hand column. Don’t forget to follow on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Action Project Ideas: In the Kitchen (1 of 5)

One idea I had when I started this website almost ten years ago was that I wanted to make science simple and accessible. I hope I have created a place where questions on anything from barnacles to whales can be answered in a knowledgeable no-nonsense or overly jargon tone. My secondary goal has also been to create awareness about ocean-related issues which would lead into actions. Maybe you like watching movies and visiting the shore and understand that there is concern for the ecosystem.

What I have now for the month of November is a series of posts on quick and useful actions you can take in the kitchen, bath, laundry, garage, during the holidays, and around your community to change behaviors and lessen your impact. Each one features products that are tried, true, and tested but I am not being paid. Please read, share, and feel free to comment if you have other strategies.

  1. Better Life moppingMy mom is coming next week so it’s time to get serious with the floors. This stuff is magic on hardwoods and even helped get rid of some scuffs from the move (when I switched furniture six or seven times) and my dog’s paw prints. The company is based in Missouri and founded by some folks that realized floors should be clean once they had kids. They’re so right. Even though my kids aren’t crawling I’m less miserable playing on the floor with them. Join their mailing list for good deals. It’s so worth it.
  2. Use glass instead of plastic: Food storage and drinks can easily be switched out to glass. Spend some time scoring second-hand stores and lot’s of glass containers are cheap. Honestly, it’s bloody difficult to be #plasticfree or #zerowaste. I like the approach by Kathryn Kellogg in that she’s Going Zero Waste since it’s virtually impossible to be waste free. Limiting plastic isn’t just a good idea to reduce marine debris in the ocean but it potentially cause a correlation with your endocrine system.
  3. Buy bulk: Along the same lines as the using glass it’s an easy transition to quite using the plastic bags for produce and buy bulk. I have not used the plastic bags for produce in years and usually have a kid or two in tow at the store so the stuff is all over the belt. The people are pretty used to it and I have never once heard a cashier say, “what’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you use the bags for these?” It’s one of those crazy things that we accept but we’d be fine without. Packaging makes up 30% of our waste.
  4. Make your own cleaning supplies.
  5. Switch to fair trade coffee. Start with one fair trade product and work through others by checking out these helpful resources.
  6. Skip the paper towel and try the cellulose clothes. Just try them if you see them. Lots of places sell them and you won’t be out of paper towels again. Cause … you’ll never need them. This is what we are currently moving on from in our house.
  7. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. You’ll save money and it’s a huge reduction in energy use.
  8. Make sure your wood stove is up to date and clean. Did you know you can install a wood stove inside a fireplace?

All of the Action Project Ideas:

If you’re already a regular subscriber – thank you! If not, please take the time to add your email address to the subscribe option at the top of the right hand column. Don’t forget to follow on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

10 reasons you’ll want to start to collect bottle caps

I try to reduce-reuse-recycle-refuse-reuse as much as possible but sometimes there is no way around it. Your home collects trash and waste. We seem to accumulate plastic caps. Bottle caps are one of the top five types of litter found on beaches worldwide. Imagine how many are in the sea we can’t see!? First, check to see if your municipality does recycle plastic caps. If not, here are ten ways that you can make use of them and maybe even have fun when the dreaded winter hits!

  1. Checkerboard: Use some corrugated cardboard and two sets of 12 differently colored caps. They stack on tops easily when you’re “kinged.” 
  2. Magnets: Add some friendly personal messages, too.
  3. Learning tools/games: I did some alphabet but memory could be just as fun. Check out Early Learning Ideas for more engaging learning ideas, too. 
  4. Musical instruments: These Snapple caps are ah-mazing for any type of bottlecap bands.
  5. Jewelry: It’s pretty easy to drill a hole through your bunch so you can string them together for clunky kids creations.
  6. Decorations: Forget the disposable plastic banners for parties. Make something personal with your favorite colors or brands on it.
  7. Caps of Love: This organization collects bottle caps which helps to provide wheelchairs for needy disabled children.
  8. Art work: My art pieces here are pretty elementary. I am sure many of you have far superior skills. For inspiration check out Pinterest.
  9. Save the caps in school: Some companies work with you to recycle them back into other products like toothbrushes.
  10. Miniature gardens: Thank you Redesign Report for this list of ways to upcycle bottle caps, especially the cute little gardens at the bottom.

Contact your local recycling agency and find out what they do collect. If not, start a collection. Make it a challenge and share your challenge with your neighbors. Any time you can do something to start a conversation about marine debris and plastic in the ocean is good. Watch some movies on marine debris. It might be a little uncomfortable at first – but smile, follow your heart, and know some facts.

So you think you want to be a marine biologist?

Have you ever watched an epic movie about the sea and dreamed of being a “marine biologist” or “oceanographer”? Have you ever had thoughts after that thought about … what is the difference between a “marine biologist” and “oceanographer”? Marine biology, or the study of life in the sea, is actually just one branch of the oceanography tree. Oceanography is the larger discipline of describing and recording the contents and processes of the ocean. There are four branches of oceanography. Check out the difference below:

  • If you are a chemical oceanographer you might study (but, are not limited to …): the sea’s oxygen levels and their impact on marine life; toxic dumping; vents on the ocean floor; rainfalls.
  • If you are a physical oceanographer you might study (but, are not limited to …): oil spills and their travel patterns, ocean currents, alternative power, beaches, and shorelines.
  • If you are a marine geologist you might study (but are not limited to …): maps the ocean floor, volcanoes, trenches, abyssal plains, and helps predict the continental drift.
  • If you are a biological oceanographer (e.g., marine biologist) you might study (but, are not limited to …): ocean plants, animals, and all other sea life (i.e., bacteria!).

So, where do you fit in to all of these? Take this fun and informal online quiz from the New Hampshire Sea Grant to see which branch of oceanography would suit you best. My results are below! Go figure the “related fields” includes education.

What was your score? Anything surprising?