Attention Parents: This CZ-Tip is for the kids, so hand the reins of the computer or mobile device over to them. And don’t fret about the screen time—it’s very educational and maybe even inspirational enough to motivate your kids to get outside…
Are you a young person who loves everything about the coast—the sound of the ocean waves crashing on the shore, the smell of the briny sea air, and the feel of the sand in your hands or beneath your toes? Do you enjoy navigating in a boat through marshes and bays or cruising out in the great blue ocean? Have you ever spent the day searching for interesting critters in a rocky tidepool, digging for crabs and clams on a tidal flat, or spotting interesting birds along the water’s edge? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then read on…
The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) is looking for the next generation of kids like you to help protect the coast. The following tip describes simple ways to help protect coastal water quality, fish and wildlife, and more.
Clean Coastal Waters
Swimming, boating, fishing, digging clams, sightseeing, and healthy coastal habitats all depend on clean water. But many typical daily activities contaminate the coast. Pollutants—such as oil from cars, road salt, fertilizer, animal waste (aka dog poop), and trash—can be carried by rainfall and snow melt to the closest river, harbor, or ocean, which can harm wildlife and make the water unhealthy for people too. Here are a few tips to help reduce this runoff pollution:
- Grab that pooper-scooper (or a bag) and pick up after your pet. Pet waste contains parasites and bacteria that can cause health problems, and it can lead to the closing of your favorite beach or shellfish bed. For more information, see the “Scoop the Poop” section in CZM’s CZ-Tip - Bring Your Dog to the Beach the Coast-Friendly Way .
- Don’t throw trash or things like leaves, sticks, and road sand into the storm drains. Even though they might look like deep garbage bins on the side of the road, storm drains are there to drain water into nearby water bodies—and this water flow takes trash and other pollutants along for the ride. If you’re a little kid, check out the Dwayne the Storm Drain learning and activity book to learn more. For older kids, you can help put simple signs on the storm drains to remind people not to dump anything down there. See Boston Water and Sewer Commissions Storm Drain Stenciling to get involved in Boston, or check with your local Department of Public Works.
- Make your lawn truly “green.” Talk to your parents about how pesticides, weed killers, and fertilizers can cause big water quality problems by running off and reaching the sea (and about how a “green” yard is a healthier yard for playing in). Check out The Green Guide for Kids’ Bug-Off Bugs! Gardening without Pesticides for ideas or SafeLawns.org for tips, how-to videos, and even some lawn game ideas.
- Even better, work on turning your boring lawn into a natural meadow, a native plant playground, or even a wooded area. Your yard will be much more inviting for both wildlife and you (with lots of flowers to pick, trees to climb, and places for hide and seek). And less lawn maintenance will mean your parents will have more time to play ball in the yard. Check out Playful Gardens to gain some inspiration for your own project. American Beauties from the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program also has ideas for bird and butterfly gardens and more.
- Build a rain garden to capture rain and snow melt and filter out pollutants. See the Rain Garden Network’s All About Rain Gardens for ideas.
- For other kid-friendly water quality information, see the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) What’s Up with Our Nation’s Waters.
Trash in the ocean, otherwise known as marine debris, is a big problem. Gigantic masses of trash have been found swirling around our waters—in fact, the 5 Gyres website says that one mass of trash in the North Pacific spans an area roughly twice the size of the United States! This trash has made its way to the ocean and coast by being blown out of trash cans, washed through storm drains, littered by people, and dumped off boats, and it can remain floating in the ocean for hundreds of years. Marine debris is not only ugly, it can be dangerous. Sea bird, seals, and other animals can be choked, starved, or poisoned when they mistake plastic bags and other trash for food. People can get injured when they step on pieces of glass, wood, or metal. Boaters can become stranded when propellers are jammed with fishing line. Here are a few suggestions to help keep trash out of the ocean:
- Never litter—and sometimes just finding the nearest trash barrel isn’t enough. Trash placed in overflowing barrels just blows away and becomes litter, so if the barrel is full, take your trash with you. Also, recycle whenever you can. Explore the EPA’s Recycle City website for an interactive way to learn more, check out The Imagination Factory for ideas on how to turn your trash into arts and crafts, or join The Green Team to help reduce waste, reuse, recycle, compost, and prevent pollution.
- Shrink your trash production by doing things like bringing your own bags to the store and buying products with little or no packaging. While you’re at it, reuse your own containers to pack your snacks, lunch, and drinks to go. Go to Reduce Waste, part of a Students Guide to Global Climate Change, to discover more ideas.
- Pass on some of your unwanted clothes, art supplies, games, and toys (but maybe not your favorite teddy…) to a swap shop, a shelter, a relative, or other donation source. See the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Donate & Reuse for links. (And don’t forget your cell phones and other electronics!)
- Participate in a CZM COASTSWEEP cleanup to help keep our beaches trash free. Cleanups are held throughout September and October, and school and scout groups are welcome. See How to Get Involved in COASTSWEEP for details.
- Download the Ocean’s Conservancy’s free mobile app, Rippl, which delivers weekly green living tips to help you make simple choices to reduce your trash impact.
- For more information about trash in our ocean and what you can do to help, check out CZM’s CZ-Tip - 25 Years of Sweeping the Shores of Marine Debris or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Debris Program website.
Healthy Coastal Habitats and Wildlife Protection
From lush salt marshes to sandy dunes to rocky shores, the habitats along the Massachusetts coast provide plants and animals with food, shelter, and other requirements for survival. They also serve important functions for people, from providing recreational activities to filtering pollutants and reducing storm damage on the coast. You can help protect coastal habitats by following these guidelines:
- Don’t release aquarium pets or plants into the wild—many of these species are invasive and can out-compete the plants and animals that live here. See the Massachusetts Bays Program's Protect Your Pets/Preserve the Environment or Habitattitude for more information.
- While at the shore, help protect the habitats of shorebirds (like the piping plover) and other animals by staying on designated paths and keeping your dog on a leash. Check out Audubon’s A Year in the Life of a Piping Plover to learn about this cute little shorebird’s 4,000-mile odyssey.
- If you find a whale, dolphin, sea turtle, or seal on the shore, keep back and don’t panic. Often, these animals are just resting, but just in case, see the New England Aquarium’s How to Help a Stranded Animal for how to call in the experts for help.
- When boating in the harbor, estuary, or bay, follow the no-wake signs and keep speeds to a minimum. Wakes can cause a salt marsh and its valuable habitat to erode away.
- Help build a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat right in your own backyard to provide food, water, cover, and a place for wildlife to raise their young.
Energy Savings for the Sea!
Typically, when we light and heat homes and schools and drive in busses or cars, we are burning fossil fuels—gasoline, oil, coal, and natural gas. When these fuels burn, they release carbon dioxide to the Earth’s atmosphere, which causes what is called “climate change.” One major coastal impact of climate change is rising temperatures leading to melting ice caps, causing sea levels to rise and flood low areas. To learn the details of this and other climate change impacts, see NASA’s Climate Kids. To take action yourself and help reverse the trend:
- Take the bus, ride a bike, or carpool to school.
- Turn off lights and electronics when you're not using them.
- Recycle and reuse products, since making new stuff requires more energy.
- Plant a tree. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air through photosynthesis.
- See the American Museum of Natural History web page on Climate Change for information, games, puzzles, quizzes, and videos on climate change and its effects.
- See EPA’s A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change, specifically Coastal Areas and What You Can Do, for more information about actions you can take to help stop rising seas.
- Check out Coastlines 2008 which emphasizes the small changes we can make in our lives that together have a positive impact on the coast.