Take only photos, leave only footprints

How to be an eco-friendly beach-goer this year

Hampton Roads, situated between the James and York Rivers on the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean, is full of many beautiful beaches, including those that are local, preserved, and more commercial. As an avid beach-goer myself, I absolutely love taking day trips to the various beaches in this area and exploring their surrounding communities with friends. However, one thing I always try to do when I go to any beach is to leave it better than I found it; a great principle a learned about being an eco-friendly tourist for any natural resource is to take only photos (besides picking up and properly disposing of stray trash), and leave only footprints. 

To encourage environmentally conscious beachgoing this spring and summer, I have compiled a list of 5 ways to make your next trip to one of those beaches more eco-friendly:

Eco-Friendly Beach Tips:

1. Leave the single-use waste at home

Bringing your beach snacks, drinks, sunscreen and more to the beach can be much more environmentally friendly if done so in reusable bags, cups, coolers and containers! You will end up taking everything you brought back home with you and ensure no accidental littering with your trash. 

2. Be sunscreen-smart

As someone who gets sunburn just as bad (if not worse) than the next person, I know how important it is to protect your skin in the warmer months of the year. However, many sunscreens contain a chemical in their active ingredients called oxybenzone, which has been scientifically proven to be harmful to human hormonal systems as well as harm coral reefs when washed into ocean systems. Sunscreens that are biodegradable, oxybenzone-free and mineral-based are more environmentally friendly, safer for human use, and work just as well! 

3. Pick up stray litter

If you see the trash of some other less-considerate beach-goer while enjoying your day in the sun, make sure that it ends up in the trash or recycling and not into the ecosystem you are there enjoying!

4. Respect wildlife

Obviously, a beach-trip wouldn’t be the same without seeing flocks of gulls, pods of dolphins and beautiful shells on the shoreline, but respecting this wildlife is the duty of every beach-goer this year. Not feeding gulls human-food like bread and chips, never taking more “memento” shells than you can fit in the palm of one hand, and always understanding the importance of all shoreline life, large and small, are great habits to pick up.

5. Share these habits

Making sure that everyone on your beach-trip knows the importance of preventing negative impacts like pollution of our waterways is crucial to keeping these wonderful beaches clean and healthy for generations to come.

~James Duffy, Staff Writer~

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