Recycle symbol on beach

(Photo: Koldunov/Getty Images)

The Do's and Don’t's of Visiting the Beach Responsibly

July 11, 2019

Whether you’re staying at a lakeside cottage or hanging out at a resort by the ocean, there’s nothing more relaxing than spending the day enjoying the sand and surf. From paddle-boarding and picnicking to laying back on a lounge chair and listening to the waves roll into shore, beach lovers far and wide will likely attest nature’s scenic playground is also one of the best places to have some fun in the sun.

Before you pack up your beach bag and head off to your favorite slice of sandy paradise, consider this list of Do's and Don’t's to respect the environment and visit the beach responsibly.

Do Use Reef-Safe Sunscreen, Don’t Apply Products with Harmful Chemicals

It’s important to use a high-SPF sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays while you’re at the beach. However, you also want to make sure the product you choose is reef safe. Some sunscreen brands contain chemicals that can harm coral reefs.

Namely, avoid brands containing octinoxate and oxybenzone (also referred to as benzophenone). These combined substances can reportedly “strip the coral’s natural defenses” and “spur bleaching events.” Hawaii has banned these chemicals. 

Also, avoid sunscreens containing non-biodegradable ingredients like petrolatum (mineral oil) and Titanium Dioxide. Both chemicals are harmful to aquatic life and waterfowl.

Don’t Litter, Do Properly Dispose of Trash

While this tip seems like common sense, sadly, many people disrespect natural settings by littering. Make sure to deal with disposable and recyclable items responsibly by throwing trash in designated trash cans and recycle bins. Or, carry your own bag or container to stow trash until you get home.

Do Carry Reusable Tumblers, Don’t Use Single-Use Plastic Bottles, Straws, or Bags

Ocean pollution has reached critical levels. Thousands of sea creatures are dying from ingesting microplastic particles from plastic waste including bottles, straws, and plastic soda bottle rings being pitched into the water. Alarmingly, their bellies are so full of garbage they have no room in their stomachs for nutritional food. Therefore, many sea creatures are dying of starvation.

You can help protect marine life by using a stainless portable beverage tumbler and a stainless reusable straw, instead of their single-use plastic bottle and straw counterparts.

Furthermore, many people may not realize that over time, plastic bags release toxic chemicals. Plus, when aquatic and land animals try to eat them, they can choke on them and die. Always carry your beach gear, snacks, and other items in a cloth reusable bag to help prevent this life-threatening problem.

Do Enjoy the Sights and Sounds, Don’t Disturb the Wildlife

For many people, especially city-dwellers, getting away from the hustle-and-bustle of the concrete jungle is a welcome reprieve.

However, in today’s social media-driven world, many people spend so much time trying to create the perfect “post,” that they don’t appreciate the natural beauty around them and truly live in the moment. Try to commit to being “unplugged” and enjoying a device-free day at the beach. 

If you want to take pictures to remember the occasion, use a standard point-and-shoot camera, instead of your phone, which allows you to surf the web instead of the waves right in front of you.

Also, as you enjoy the natural setting, it’s important to not disturb the wildlife or the scene around you. In other words, leave the creatures, plants, flowers, sand, shells, and rocks exactly where you found them, to help preserve the beauty of everything you see. 

Try to remember, you wouldn’t want a random “stranger” to enter your home and help themselves to whatever they wanted. Part of living sustainably is to give the Earth and its creatures the same kind of respect you want from others.