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Tips to Green Up Your Travels

Good day Deep Sea Diary readers!

Now that we have entered the winter season, some of you are probably already thinking of a tropical getaway (myself included!). Planning a vacation involves many decisions, and, for your reading pleasure this month, we here at Ripley’s Aquarium are going to help make those decisions easier, cheaper and greener!

After you’ve picked your travel destination, you need to decide how to get there, and how can you make your choice a green one?

My first suggestion would be to select a non-stop flight. Did you know that airplanes produce over 25% of their carbon emission during landing and take-off?

By opting for a non-stop flight you reduce the overall carbon footprint of your trip.

Even better, why not travel by train instead? While I understand this may not be applicable for all trips, but to those Europe-bound readers, Europe is a fantastic place to put this suggestion into practice. Rather than using short plane trips to sight-see overseas, opt for the train. Not only will you gain a greater appreciation of the landscape, you will also be using a cheaper (yay $), greener method of transportation.

With a big check mark beside the method of transportation box, we can move on to picking a place to stay. If you’re looking into hotels, ask yourself this question: how green is my hotel? There are many organizations world-wide that specialize in identifying green hotels, one you may be familiar with is LEED. LEED accredited buildings partake is energy saving strategies such as solar heated pools, graywater systems and using recycled construction materials.

Now we arrive at a big hurdle…what to pack?!

I try to live by the motto: skip the plastic, pack the cloth.

Save room in your suitcase for a cloth tote that you can carry on your daily travels. Be it farmer’s markets, shops or large malls, being able to skip the plastic bags limits the number of petroleum-based products you use.

If you’re destined for a sunny spot be sure to pack the SPF! As a redhead, I can’t stress this enough! There is nothing like a bad sunburn to ruin a vacation. Just remember, your sunscreen can be harmful aquatic life, especially sensitive aquatic organisms like coral. Thankfully, there are many companies that make reef-safe sunscreen for you coral-bound travelers!

The time is here! It’s vacation time!!

Now I know while on vacation staying green may not be at the forefront of your mind. My next suggestions however, are very simple!

Suggestion the first: don’t touch that!

When out hiking and being one with nature be sure to keep to marked paths, and keep a safe distance from wildlife. If you’re like us here at the aquarium, you will probably opt for either a snorkel or a dive while on vacation. Be sure to also keep a respectable distance from aquatic life, and never touch those lovely coral reefs you see as they are very sensitive animals.

Suggestion the second: pick up garbage you see.

This may not be the first thing that you want to do on vacation, but it is an important thing to do. I recently visited a tropical resort and was shocked and disappointed by the state of some beaches. The number of straws, plastic cups, bottles and wrappers that littered the beach was heartbreaking. Every day while walking the beach I brought a bag with me to collect what garbage I found. Not only was it great exercise, but I also lent a helping hand to the community and environment.

Travel souvenirs have always been a staple in my family. Even now, as an adult, I’m still excited for my parents to bring me something from their travels. Try to stick to local souvenirs, not only will you help support the local economy, local products have a minimal carbon footprint because they aren’t shipped long distances. One thing to NEVER do is buy wildlife souvenirs. Unfortunately, in many places, illegal wildlife harvesting (poaching) still occurs and unknowing travelers buy into it this way.

Now I have a challenge for you, rather, homework. If you’re travel destination is on a coast, why not take a photo and submit it to COASTWARDS (http://www.coastwards.org/)? Coastwards is using citizen scientists to map out coasts worldwide in an effort to determine their vulnerability to erosion and rising water levels.

There you have it, some quick and easy ways to green up your travels. I’m sure you all have other ways to help.

Why not share them below?

Canada’s Orcas: Population in Crisis

Canada’s Orcas: Population in Crisis

For many, the orca (or killer whale, which is in fact the largest species of dolphin) is a symbol of the beauty and diversity of the Canadian Pacific.

The Southern Resident orcas live in the Salish Sea between Vancouver Island and Northern California. This group–which is comprised of three pods (J, K and L pods)–is well-known and well-loved in British Columbia. Tourists come from around the world to BC to whale-watch and locals report the annual comings and goings of the whales to research groups.

Unfortunately, this beloved population of whales is currently in crisis.

As of October 2018, there are only 74 Southern Resident orcas remaining

(down 24% from their population high of 98 whales in 1995). In August a mother orca lost her newborn calf to starvation and carried it with her for 17 days. A month later a juvenile male died after growing emaciated and falling behind the rest of his pod. Scientists are now concerned that due to the high mortality and slow reproduction rates among these whales, the Southern Resident population could be facing extinction.

The issues affecting orcas are those affecting many ocean species, but the specialized nature of their diet means that the Southern Residents are especially susceptible.

Other orca ecotypes have a diet comprised of marine mammals and other large prey in addition to fish. But due to their reliance on chinook salmon as a primary food source, the decline of salmon in the Salish Sea (by 60% since 1984) has led to malnutrition and starvation among the Resident population. The salmon are disappearing due to traditional migratory runs being blocked by dams, habitat loss, interbreeding with hatchery fish and overfishing.

In addition to the decline of salmon, the increase in underwater noise in the Salish Sea–due to ship traffic, construction and the use of sonar–has affected the orcas’ ability to hunt using echolocation and communicate effectively with one another while hunting.

Finally, as a top predator, orcas are particularly affected by bioaccumulation from pollution.

When chemicals leak into the ocean, they become concentrated up the food chain (bioaccumulate), meaning that orcas are some of the most contaminated animals on earth. High concentrations can damage reproductive organs and the immune system, as well as cause cancer. Fat-rich milk from mothers then passes that contamination to calves at alarming levels.

What can you do?

Although we don’t have orcas here at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, they are an indicator species–a signal of what is happening to marine life across the planet. The issues affecting orcas are the same ones negatively impacting many of our favourite aquarium species, like sharks, sea turtles and stingrays.

This crisis serves as an example of what can happen when all of these issues compound to affect the health and lifestyles of one species. The ball is already rolling–we have to act quickly to save our orcas and, as a result, the species we know and love at RAOC.

Here’s what you can do to help:

  • Eat Ocean Wise-approved sustainable seafood and skip the salmon
  • Reduce your personal use of single-use plastics, find out how here: link
  • Consider voting for political candidates who prioritize the health of our oceans
  • Choose organic cleaning supplies to help reduce the amount of everyday chemicals finding their way down sink drains and to the ocean

 

Photo

Sources

  1. Carrington, D. (2018, September 27). Orca ‘apocalypse’: Half of killer whales doomed to die from pollution. Retrieved October 11, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/27/orca-apocalypse-half-of-killer-whales-doomed-to-die-from-pollution
  2. Center for Whale Research – Orca Conservation. (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2018, from https://www.whaleresearch.com/orca-conservation Southern Resident Killer Whales. (2018,
  3. August 28). Retrieved October 11, 2018, from https://www.epa.gov/salish-sea/southern-resident-killer-whales

I’ll Have a Green Christmas

Tis the season…

to shop ‘til you drop, to eat a little more than usual and spend time with loved ones. Personally, I look forward to the holiday season all year. I just can’t get enough of it, the décor, the baking, the quality time with family (pets included!) and friends, it truly is magical. Despite all of the splendor, the holiday season can also be one of the most wasteful times of year. Take a moment to think about all of the waste produced over the holidays: food, wrapping paper, ribbon, bows, cards, the list goes on and on. If you’re looking for small ways to ensure your holiday is a green one you have come to the right place!

Let’s start with the lighting shall we?

In this case, LED is better, or at least more efficient and cheaper. LED lights consume 95% less energy than their incandescent counterparts. On top of that, the lifespan of an LED light is almost 10 times longer, way more bang for your buck if you ask me. Christmas can already be expensive enough, and this hack is a great way to cut costs! Better still, why not have the sun pay your lighting bill for you?! This is easy to achieve by visiting your local hardware store and investing in solar powered outdoor Christmas lights (yes, those exist!).

While we’re on the topic of lights, did you know many people accidently leave their holiday lights on long after they have retired for the night. Now is also a great time to think about investing in a light timer! By having lights on an automatic timer you can toss the responsibility of remembering to turn them off out the window!

Let’s move on and discuss my personal favourite part of the holidays, the tree.

For as long as I can recall getting the tree has been the best part of the holidays. My family would load up our dogs and trek out to the farm to find that perfect tree to decorate. You may be in for a shock if you think artificial trees are the way to go green, it’s actually live trees that are the more sustainable option. Being a petroleum-based plastic product, artificial trees last forever, that’s true. However, after a few holiday seasons they start to show a little wear and tear and are relegated to landfills shortly thereafter. Live trees, as we all know, do wonders for our air quality during the growth process and are grown on specific tree farms where they get re-planted on a regular basis. By selecting a locally grown, live tree you are also not contributing to the carbon emissions that come from shipping over long distances.

Moving on to the act of gift-giving now, why not try to opt for battery-free gifts? About 40% of annual battery purchases occur over the holidays, and batteries (rechargeable or not) can be an environmental hazard if not disposed of properly. If you do choose battery powered gifts, be sure used batteries are dropped off at designated battery disposal sites after use.

When wrapping those thoughtful presents, there are so many options! Between ribbons, wrapping paper, bows and tags, there are so many ways to spruce up their appearance.

Did you know, in Canada, the annual waste produced from gift wrap and shopping bags is close to 54, 500 tonnes? To put that into perspective, consider this: a blue whale (the largest mammal on earth) weighs a mere 200 tonnes in comparison. You can minimize your waste contribution by wrapping gifts in cloth bags, giving new life (as gift wrap!) to old calendars, maps or comic strips or by recycling gift wrap from year to year. Here at the aquarium we make tree ornaments from recycled maps and tickets. Another great hack (which, admittedly I just learned about) is to cut the front of last year’s holiday cards off and re-vamp them into this year’s gift tags!

My final suggestion is something we all probably do far too infrequently. Defrost your freezer! Not only will this make it more energy efficient, it also means you have more room for all those delicious holiday leftovers.

There you have it, some quick and easy ways to join me in making this year’s holiday season a green one!  I’m sure you all have other ways to help. Why not share them below?

5 Unexpected Ways You Can Reduce Your Plastic Use

Our everyday lives are ruled by plastic. It’s in the products we buy, it’s in the packaging we buy those products in and it’s in the bags we use to bring those products home. When we’re done with plastic, at best it can be recycled. But whether through littering or by being placed in the wrong bin, millions of tonnes of plastic end up in our landfills every year. And from there, loose plastic can make its way into our waterways, and ultimately, to the ocean.

Once there, that plastic is deadly to marine life. The bellies of whales are found filled with plastic bags. Fish can become permanently disfigured after getting trapped in six-pack rings. Plastic straws too-often end up choking sea turtles.

And it’s not just marine life that is suffering. Plastics don’t biodegrade (cannot be decomposed by living things). Rather, they break down into ever-smaller pieces called microplastics. Those microplastics are eaten by small organisms such as plankton, which are then consumed by larger organisms such as small fish, and so on and so on. As top predators in some seafood food webs, it is ultimately us that wind up with that plastic in our systems. In fact, in October 2018 a study showed that microplastics are now being found in our poop. That’s just gross!

But don’t despair. As you know, you can make simple changes to your habits, such as carrying a reusable water bottle or using cloth shopping bags, that can greatly reduce your production of plastic waste. And there’s even more you can do to become part of the pollution solution, that you might not have thought of! Read on

  1.  Consider a bamboo toothbrush.
    Over 99% of the toothbrushes in the world are made using non-recyclable plastic (hard plastic for the handle, rubber for the handle and nylon for the bristles). Not only are bamboo toothbrush handles biodegradable, but with its antimicrobial properties, bamboo is a more sanitary alternative to plastic.

  2. Try toothpaste tabs.
    Making the switch from conventional liquid toothpaste to toothpaste tabs reduces plastic use times two. Not only will you be swapping out your toothpaste tube for more sustainable packaging, but many toothpastes with whitening properties contain small, abrasive microbeads, a form of microplastic that washes down the drain and can be consumed by egg-eating animals. Toothpaste tabs come in a solid form and activate into a minty, frothy paste when combined with the water from your (bambo
    o) toothbrush.
  3. Use shampoo bars.
    By switching from conventional liquid shampoos in disposable plastic bottles to shampoo bars you can reduce your plastic use AND save money. Shampoo bars last longer than shampoo bottles, as consumers are less likely to waste product by pouring out more than they need. Bars are also less likely to contain chemicals such as sulfates, which can damage your hair over time. Saving plastic, money and my hair? Sign me up!
  4. Invest in a long-term razor.
    By replacing the disposable plastic in our lives with longer-lasting alternatives we benefit from better-made products that have the potential to save us money in the long-term. Such is the case with the classic safety razor, which requires only the replacement of (recyclable) metal blades rather than the entire razor handle and head. After the initial purchase of a safety razor, blade replacements will run you about $0.50 each.

  5. Make food choices based on packaging
    When it comes to grocery shopping, there are brands that come wrapped in lots of disposable plastic, and others that are packaged with more environmentally-friendly materials, such as cardboard. While it might be difficult to avoid plastics entirely while grocery shopping, making a move toward buying (and not wasting!) fresher products (which require less packaging for long-term freshness) and staples such as detergents in boxes vs bottles can reduce the amount of plastic stocking your cupboards.

The plastic problem in our oceans can seem overwhelming, but we have the power to purchase products that help reduce our environmental footprint, and let companies know (through our dollars and cents) that we care about protecting our planet. Consider making a pledge to lower your plastics use today, and spread the word about it to your family and friends. Check out the hashtag #liveplasticfree online and on social media for more ways in which you can choose to live with less plastic today and every day.

How do you reduce your plastic use? Please share in the comment section!

Sharkwater Extinction: A Call To Save Sharks

It’s been 12 years since Toronto-born filmmaker Rob Stewart released Sharkwater. The award-winning documentary exposed worldwide practices of shark-finning. It was an industry threatening to drive sharks to extinction. Sharkwater also addressed the public’s fearful opinion of sharks–one fueled by Hollywood and the media. Sharks are not monsters, Stewart said, but vital animals worthy of our respect and protection. Over 100 countries have banned shark finning since the film’s release. Problem solved, right?

Unfortunately not.

The plight of sharks didn’t end with the public’s new awareness; instead it went underground (or rather, underwater). 150 million sharks are killed by humans annually. But why?

Sharkwater: Extinction is Stewart’s follow-up to his 2006 film. The documentary picks up where Sharkwater left off. It seeks to expose continued incidents of shark finning in countries that have banned the practice, but not the importation of shark fins themselves. The film brings to light other human threats to sharks, such as drift nets, trophy fishing and the use of sharks in everyday products.

SHARK FINNING

Although over 100 countries–including Canada–have made shark finning illegal, the importation and exportation of shark products, including fins, is not. That means that a crew caught directly finning sharks would be arrested, but that transferring shark fins and carcasses to a shipping vessel would render their transportation and sale legal.

The film posits that additional legislation banning the importation and exportation of shark products and closer monitoring of shipping cargo are required to put an end to the practice of shark finning once and for all.

DRIFT NETS

In a particularly heartbreaking piece of footage, Sharkwater: Extinction shows how unsustainable fishing practices such as the use of drift nets are hurting sharks. These nets, nicknamed “death nets,” are stretched across a kilometre of open ocean, reaching as deep as 100 feet, in order to indiscriminately catch large fish such as swordfish. However, the nets also end up ensnaring other species, including sharks, who eventually drown when they are unable to swim free.

TROPHY FISHING

Another upsetting reality presented by the film is that of trophy fishing, whereby tourists pay local fishermen to help them hook and photograph so-called “dangerous” catches like hammerheads and bull sharks. While many of these sharks are released after the trophy photo is taken, most don’t survive the stress of their time out of the water, or live the rest of their lives with imbedded fishing hooks or lines.

USE OF SHARKS IN FOOD AND MAKEUP

The most shocking discovery for me while watching Sharkwater: Extinction was that shark is commonly used off-label in a number of the grocery and beauty products that we purchase every day. The mislabeling of seafood–for example, when a grocery store or restaurant labels a low-quality fish as a higher-quality fish in order to sell it for more money–is a huge problem. Seafood fraud can cause health problems, undermine sustainable fishing efforts and cost individual consumers hundreds of dollars annually.

Sharkwater: Extinction goes further, proving that a number of common grocery store items, including pet food, lipstick and fish purchased from the fresh seafood section, tested positive for ingredients made from shark. It is evident that shark fishing is fueling a greater industry than just shark fin soup.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

Sharks are a vital part of the ocean’s health. As top predators, their health and vitality ensures that ocean food webs stay balanced. In fact, studies have shown shark populations help manage the negative effects of climate change by controlling populations of algae-eating fish. Algae, as you know is an important consumer of carbon dioxide.  The loss of sharks is directly related to how well oceans are able to navigate climate change.

ROB STEWART WAS A HERO FOR SHARKS

Tragically, Rob Stewart passed away in a diving accident while filming Sharkwater: Extinction.

He saw the problems facing his beloved sharks and used his voice and his talents to do something about it. With his passing the world lost a passionate advocate for sharks and our oceans–someone who dedicated his life to convincing us that sharks are worthy of our love and respect, and to exposing the atrocities that they are suffering at human hands.

As Educators here at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, we work with 13 different species of sharks. We know first-hand how impressive and charismatic these species are, and that they are not the monsters depicted in movies and news reels. We strive to educate aquarium guests about our sharks–to help them see what we see and what Rob Stewart saw in them–and the rate at which we are driving them toward extinction.

SPEAK UP FOR SHARKS

Sharkwater: Extinction is an important film for anyone concerned about the state of our oceans and its top predators. The first step in advocating change is to become better educated about these issues, whether here at the aquarium, by reading articles like those posted in our Deep Sea Diary blog or in a movie theatre. The documentary goes on to encourage its viewers to act on behalf of the sharks, like Rob Stewart did.

HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO

—Educate yourself about the products you use in your everyday life–ensure that your groceries and health and beauty products are #sharkfree.

—Eat sustainable seafood–not only is sustainable seafood better for the health of fish populations and the ocean, but ethical providers of seafood will be able to tell you exactly what you are eating, where it came from and how it was caught

—Use your voice–educate your friends and family about these issues, and let them know what they can do to help. Consider contacting your local or national politicians to let them know that you care about sharks and want to see better governmental control of the shark trade and the use of harmful fishing practices

Sharkwater: Extinction premieres in Canada on October 19, 2018.

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada Achieves BOMA BEST Silver Certification

January 16th, 2018

Downtown Toronto attraction recognized as leader in energy, environmental management and performance

TORONTO, ON – As part of its ongoing conservation and sustainability initiatives, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada was recently acknowledged with a BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada) BEST Silver Certification – making it the first aquarium in Canada to achieve this designation.

To qualify, the Aquarium underwent a comprehensive assessment of its energy, air, water, comfort, health and wellness, custodial, waste and stakeholder engagement practices.  Based on the findings, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada exceeded the criteria for mechanical systems and operations, which largely contributed to it receiving one of BOMA’s highest honours.

Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is the most visited attraction in the country, welcoming thousands of guests from around the world each year.  At 135,000 square feet, the Aquarium contains over 1.5 million gallons of water and more than 20,000 marine animals.

As part of its sustainable efforts, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada created a culture of environmental awareness by appointing a ‘Blue Team’ to ensure that sustainability is an organization-wide priority.

Made up of staff from all departments, the Blue Team meets regularly to discuss and promote environmental initiatives and works together to develop programs, policies and procedures that help the Aquarium not only meet its sustainability targets, but look for ways to improve its existing operations.

“We’re proud to be recognized by BOMA as a leader in sustainability,” says Peter Doyle, General Manager, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.  “Reducing our environmental impact while promoting a culture of sustainability and conservation has always been our goal, and we’re honoured to receive this distinction,” he says.

For more information on Ripley Aquarium of Canada’s education and conservation programming, visit https://www.ripleyaquariums.com/canada/education/conservation/ or call 647-351-FISH (3474).