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:

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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.

Wednesday Wisdom: Gaelic rune

I don’t know about you, but I get very reflective at sunset. Hope this brings you peace as you’re settling from Halloween adventures!

Find more great ocean and conservation quotes here and please feel free to share with your friends and family!

Also, ask away! If you have a question about something you found on the beach or just something you’re curious about just send an email to info@beachchairscientist.com or tweet us!

Horseshoe crab craft template

Last year I was pretty proud of my sea & sky pumpkin featuring constellations, a sunset, fish, a seahorse, and horseshoe crabs and I’m at a loss on what to do this year. I started a template for a much larger horseshoe crab so I thought I would share it with you (HSC_template).

I actually cut out and created some artwork for my office.

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?

Wednesday Wisdom: Rachel Carson

Find more great ocean and conservation quotes here and please feel free to share with your friends and family!

Also, ask away! If you have a question about something you found on the beach or just something you’re curious about just send an email to info@beachchairscientist.com or tweet us!

What makes each ocean unique?

Well, it’s finally happened. My almost seven-year old is bringing on the thought-provoking questions. We talk a lot about how what we do in our house will affect our watershed and that in turn (collectively) affects the world. Well, I was snagged the other day when I said, “Well, the river goes to the lake and leads to another lake and river and then to the ocean. And, it’s the only ocean we have so we need to take care of it.” What I heard next was, “Mom, if it goes into the Atlantic Ocean isn’t there also the Pacific? Isn’t that two oceans?” She’s not alone in the confusion as I’ve had students not sure how the oceans are connected (Giant Conveyor Belt of currents!) and why do we give them all different names.

I laid it out like this: There is only one ocean, but each area of the world has a section (i.e., basin) of the ocean that has specific properties based on temperature and what type of land it is near. For instance, the Pacific Ocean is huge, has rocky shorelines, and lots of volcanoes and islands because it’s surrounded by the “Ring of Fire.” I explained that the Indian Ocean is pretty flat almost like the Gulf of Mexico because lots of rivers flow gently into it.

Here’s a quick graphic I fancied up to share on some major characteristics of each ocean basin. Click on it and then travel around to each one! I like to keep it simple so if you feel like there’s something that needs additional emphasis, please feel free to share so I can add it!

 

My new land-to-sea connection

Even if you don’t live by the ocean you should care about it and issues associated with its health. Yes, the ocean ecosystem is unhealthy. Industry, industry, and more industry popped up in the last century and brought with it increased emissions into the atmosphere causing climate change. The ocean is the largest ecosystem on the planet and is taking the hardest hit.

It’s out of sight and out of mind for most people and that’s understandable. I’ve shared reason why we should care about the ocean here, here, here, here, here, and …. I could go on and on. But, it’s truly going to be a personal connection that’s going to make anyone have an impact on actions that can restore the health of the ocean. But, are we really close to the sea even if’s we live in … say, the Midwest? I just moved to Oak Park, IL right outside of Chicago so that was a question I struggled with as I made the move. How can I leave the ocean? Well, I’m not actually. We are all connected!

Illustrating proximity to the sea is a starting point to recognizing this connection. I’m so grateful for the Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum
The Great Lakes Ecosystem
for these illustrations for my new home (I took the illustrations and made a quick gif below).

It’s no longer the acronym HOMES (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior) for me. Now to accurately follow the path of water from the top point of the Great Lakes Flow to the Atlantic Ocean it’s SMHEO (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario). Eeeeekkk … SMHEO isn’t as neatly sounding.

The movement of creating awareness to the ocean even though you’re living far from it is known as “land-to-sea” stewardship. I’ve lived along the Atlantic coast my entire life so this Midwest vibe is so new and exciting that I’m officially having to give a name to my connection to the sea now. One organization that I’ve stumbled upon doing great work in Colorado is the Inland Ocean Coalition, a project of the Ocean Foundation. Can’t wait to be a part of how they expand to the Great Lakes region!

My favorite part about the land-to-sea movement is that even if you didn’t grow up near the ocean it causes a reason to learn about it and understand it’s importance to the larger ecosystem.

“Why is the bath still hot?” An anecdote on temperature & density

I’ve been mama-ing (i.e., SAHM) it lately to a 6yo and 3yo and with that comes some hard lessons to learn. I mean I just explained that there is one ocean but it has five spots with five separate names and now I get “Why is the bath still hot when you added so much cold water!?” (think of that one as being asked in a shrilly voice, too).

I had to keep my cool when I explained that the water on top still feels warm … but, if you could (please, please, please!) stick you toes in the tub to the bottom it will be cold and then you can mix it up.

I jazzed it up and said that when water droplets get cold they huddle together. More of them will take up the same space so it’s heavier (i.e., denser). Therefore, they’ll sink to the bottom of the tub.

In the ocean the water on the bottom is definitely colder, too. However that’s generally because sunlight isn’t penetrating past the first 200 meters (1/8 of a mile).

You see the ocean has a “thermocline.” The thermocline is a place when the temperature drastically changes. On the surface of the sea – the top 200 meters – it’s warm since it gets a lot of sunlight. Sunlight can’t really go any further and the temperature decreases for the next 800 meters. That layer where the temperature drastically changes is called the “thermocline”. After that the zone without sunlight is consistently colder. Check out the image below from NOAA Ocean Service and then this interactive and extremely up-to-date sea surface temperature map from NASA.

 

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.