By now, many of us have heard about the plastics, microplastics , and sewage that end up in our oceans and lakes. Most people realize that pollution in our waterbodies is a serious problem. But what can one person do in the face of such an overwhelming, widespread issue?

It may be easier for you to help our waterbodies than you think.

We want to talk about the small changes you can make at home to prevent contributing to the contamination of our rivers, lakes, and oceans. 17.6 billion pounds of plastic enter our oceans each year, but you have to power to reduce your own contribution to this daunting statistic by making a few simple changes at home.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, we have a lot of new things to dispose of, like face masks, gloves, disinfectant wipes. Find out more about which of these items you can’t flush by clicking here.

Here are 5 easy things you can do at home to make your local waters cleaner:

1. Never flush anything that’s not toilet paper or human waste down the toilet

While it’s true that toilets are for waste, they’re for human waste and toilet paper only. If you’re ever unsure of whether you can flush something, follow the ‘5-P’ rule: only ever flush pee, poop, puke, period blood (but not pads or tampons), or (toilet) paper.

Photo by hermaion

When we flush items that are not toilet-friendly, they can end up in our waterways when combined sewer systems overflows occur. People are flushing all kinds of things that shouldn’t be going down the toilet: baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, medication, drugs, dental floss, bandaids, you name it.

Out of sight, out of mind, right? Sure, until you head to the beach and find a shoreline littered with tampon applicators and condoms.

Photo by Photo by Jon Anderson

Flushing medications like hormones and antidepressants (that have endocrine disrupting compounds) can have serious consequences for the reproduction and growth of aquatic life. Recently in Tennessee, ‘meth gators’ were created when people flushed methamphetamine down the toilet.

Safe to say, we need to think twice about what we flush down the toilet.

If you head to the water and find pollution, you can help by reporting it and taking photos to document what kind of waste is present and where. We always want to know when there is pollution present. Click here to contact us and report pollution.

2. Use your dishwasher, but pack it full

Finally, an excuse to stop hand washing dishes. Believe it or not, using a dishwasher uses less water than washing dishes with good old fashioned elbow grease. You may use as much as 100 litres of water by hand washing dishes. With a dishwasher that is ENERGY STAR certified, you can use as few as 11 litres. You can show our waters even more love by switching to an eco-friendly dish soap.

Photo by andrea castelli

Of course, dishwashers are only water-efficient if you pack them totally full. But hey, loading your dishwasher well is so satisfying. It’s basically a game of Tetris with dishes.

3. Don’t pour cooking oils or waste down the sink

Discarding of cooking oils, grease, fats, and other cooking waste (such as bacon grease) in the sink can do more than just clog or damage your drains. They can also build up in sewers and cause them to overflow into our buildings and into our environment.

Photo by Andrew Ridley

Instead of pouring these oils down the drain, scrape them into a jar, put it in the fridge to solidify, and then compost. You can also put the grease in compostable grease bags, or bring the substances to a Household Hazardous Waste facility in your area to dispose of them safely.

4. Stop buying synthetic dish sponges

You know the ones: those classic yellow and green sponges that grace the kitchen counters of most homes. Unfortunately, while you’re scrubbing, these sponges are shedding microplastics into your dishwater. These tiny pieces of plastic will go down the drain, eventually ending up in our lakes, oceans, and even in the fish we eat.

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko

Instead of using a synthetic sponge, use an all-natural loofah. A loofa is actually made from dried vines in the cucumber family. It’s very coarse, and is more durable than a cheap sponge. You can cut these long sponge-like items into pieces and compost them when you’re done. One loofa can make up to 20 dish sponges. That’s a year supply, plus some to share with friends.

Photo by Carolyn Riccardelli

5. Share with others about what you do (and what they can do) to make our waterbodies cleaner

One of the most important things you can do to improve the health of our waterbodies is also the easiest. Talk to those around you about the changes you’ve made to keep waste from ending up in our waters. Start the conversation, and expand the movement of people who care about having water that is swimmable, drinkable, and fishable.

Expand the movement of people who are willing to take steps to make our waters cleaner.

Photo by DanaTentis

Doing something like replacing your dish sponge with a loofa may seem like only a drop in the bucket of water pollution reduction.

But consider that if you go through one sponge a week, so does someone else, and someone else, and someone else. Soon, you’re looking at a lot of sponges and a lot of microplastics going down our drains.

These small changes can have a positive impact on the health of our waterbodies. We just need to make them.

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