Our extended family recently returned from Alaska, and let me tell you: the waterways and wildlands of our nation’s 49th state are on a scale not found elsewhere in the United States – and maybe even the world. The Last Frontier’s rugged coasts and mountain ranges are majestic and magical, and our family was in awe of both the magnitude of its beauty and the significance of its solitude.
More than 60 percent of Alaska is federal land, meaning it belongs to you and to me and to all of us. And water, including the Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, and the Beaufort Sea, touches Alaska on more than 48,000 miles of shoreline. Both the land and the ocean are integral parts of Alaska’s ecosystems and economy and both are sensitive and susceptible to exploitation. But Alaskans know their land is special, and they are committed to keeping it culturally, environmentally, and economically secure.
Including folks at the Alaska SeaLife Center.
Some of our time was spent in Seward, Alaska, at the Alaska SeaLife Center, a facility on the shores of Resurrection Bay dedicated to marine research and education while also serving as the only permanent marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation facility in the state. The Alaska SeaLife Center gave us an up close and personal look at harbor seals, sea lions, puffins, and more, but also helped us understand how to steward Alaska’s marine ecosystems. Like…
One resource I found particularly helpful at the Alaska SeaLife Center was a small exhibit encouraging us to think beyond the 3 R’s – reduce, reuse, and recycle – to help protect and preserve Alaska’s diverse ocean systems and marine life, including bowhead whales, Chinook salmon, cold water corals, sea lions, and more. It’s relevant to us in Florida too, and I’d like to share it here…
Reduce – buy disposable products only when necessary. If you forget your water bottle? No problem. Buy a disposable one. But more often than not invest in reusable items like grocery bags and washable sandwich bags.
Reuse – use disposable products more than once. Plastic takes too long to degrade, but is easy to reuse. Refill your disposable water bottle, wash and reuse plastic utensils, and use plastic bags as garbage bags.
Recycle – rely on a recycling center to make the best use of plastic materials. There are some types of plastic that are not recyclable in certain areas. Learn about what plastics are recyclable in your area and seek out other areas for plastics that cannot be recycled at your local recycling center.
Refuse – turndown single-use plastics. You are capable of carrying a bunch of bananas and a loaf of bread with your own hands! Don’t use plastic bags when you can use something else to tackle the job just as easily. Perhaps even ask restaurants if you can bring your own tupperware containers to store leftovers rather than using styrofoam to-go boxes. There are many ways to avoid using plastic!
Redesign – tell corporations to use less plastic in their operations. While making the change individually is great, the biggest usage of plastic comes from large companies. You can opt for less packaging on websites like Amazon, and give feedback to companies who overuse plastics. Materials like aluminum, glass, and cardboard are all better than plastic when it comes to recycling. Support brands that use easily recyclable materials in place of plastic.
If you’re planning a trip to the Land of the Midnight sun, do it. And consider doing it with an eco-tourism organization like Off the Beaten Path or Natural Habitat Adventures. These are the two organizations we traveled with and, wow, they were fantastic. Highly recommend. Grateful for their work and everyone’s work to better steward our beautiful world.
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