By Taryn Kiekow Heimer
Kids Ocean Day—a day that inspired nearly 4,500 Los Angeles-area children to clean up nearby beaches—celebrated its 25th Anniversary last Thursday. The day started with a beach cleanup at Dockweiler State Beach, which was followed by a news conference and kick-off program where Emmett Kliger, a fifth grade student from Citizens of the World Charter School Mar Vista, recited a poem he created to commemorate the anniversary of Kids Ocean Day. The event concluded with a giant aerial art WAVE the children created with their bodies, a picture so large it could only be seen from the sky. This year's theme was "Kids Making Waves for a Plastic-Free Ocean," which highlighted the importance of teamwork for keeping our ocean clean for future generations.
Kids Ocean Day is part of a year-long program by the Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education that teaches children about how storm water run-off can create negative effects on water quality and marine life. The program aims to have kids become more aware of the damage plastic pollution and litter can have on our marine environment, and through hands on experiences the kids build a stronger connection between themselves and the environment. These students are the environmental champions of our future, and they play a pivotal role in keeping our local waterways and coastal areas clean.
This year, the aerial artwork encompassed the theme "Kids Making Waves for a Plastic-Free Ocean." To successfully protect our coasts and beaches from plastic pollution, teamwork is essential. Without the collaboration between children, nonprofits, schools and governmental entities, saving our ocean from pollution will not be possible. We are all stronger together, and our voices are louder together. This aerial WAVE, pictured below, empowered the children to become advocates for the ocean and teachers to the world by raising awareness of the impacts of litter on our valued marine environment.
Megan Goedenwaagen / Kids Ocean Day
Earlier this year, China stopped accepting shipments of plastic waste from the U.S. Instead of finding somewhere else to ship our waste, the solution should be to reduce our plastic use. Plastic materials are made of polyethylene, a material that doesn't degrade for hundreds of thousands of years. When plastic makes its way into our oceans, they photodegrade into tiny, microscopic pieces that are then mistaken for food by marine organisms. In 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a CA state bill that prohibits the sale of products that contain plastic microbeads.
In addition to the above, plastic pollution creates a massive slew of environmental issues ranging from marine mammal entanglement and deaths, to billions of dollars in cleanup costs and lost fisheries revenues. Pollution is present in our local coastal waters as well as in the distant Arctic seabed.
The message is clear—no one wants a polluted ocean.
This year's Kids Ocean Day brought awareness to the issue of marine pollution. This event instills a sense of environmental stewardship, and motivates the students of Los Angeles to take action to protect what they love.
Dedee Verdin / Kids Ocean Day
Kids Ocean Day is sponsored by the LA Sanitation Watershed Protection Program, the City of Los Angeles Board of Public Works, the California Coastal Commission, the California Coastal Conservancy, and Keep LA Beautiful.
Thanks to Dani Garcia for contributing to this post.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.