Our personal actions have a massive impact when it comes to keeping our planet cool — and to keep our seas clean. Fighting climate change and helping the Baltic Sea go hand in hand as eutrophication is accelerated by the effects of climate change and as many of the actions we can take in order to mitigate the eutrophication of the sea are simultaneously climate actions.
As summer approaches, we start to dream about lazy days by the sea... But when temperatures finally climb high enough for the Baltic Sea to be nice to swim in, there’s usually a blanket of blue-green algae staring us in the face, reminding us that we need to take better care of it.
These kinds of mass blooms together with cloudy waters, slimy shores and a seabed depleted of oxygen are common signs of eutrophication. This phenomenon is caused by the release of nitrogen and phosphorus into the sea, which support algae and water plant growth, which in turn cause oxygen depletion, leading to large areas of seabed with no life at all. Nitrogen and phosphorus usually enter the sea via wastewater and rainwater from forests and fields. Nitrogen from traffic and industries also ends up in the Baltic Sea through atmospheric deposition (meaning it “rains down” from the atmosphere). (John Nurminen's Foundation.)
Many of the operations that release greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere to increase global warming also contribute to eutrophication. At the same time, climate change is expected to speed up eutrophication as we will experience heavier rainfalls and milder winters, and this will lead to an increased nutrient runoff into the sea. A warmer climate also means a higher water temperature, which supports algae growth even further.
Luckily, our personal actions have a massive impact when it comes to keeping our planet cool and our seas clean. Many of the things we can do to mitigate eutrophication of the sea, both at home and as a society, are simultaneously climate actions. Thus, taking climate action and protecting the Baltic Sea can support each other and help us solve two problems in one fell swoop.
1. Add more climate-friendly proteins, such as beans or fish to your diet.
The reason it’s good to reduce consumption of red meat and chicken is that the production causes both greenhouse gases and releases nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) via manure, wastewater, and fertilizers for feed.
2. Eat local fish that isn’t endangered, and avoid farmed fish
Fish is a relatively climate-friendly protein source, in particular species that can be fished close to land since that requires less fuel. Local fish also remove nutrients from our sea, which reduces eutrophication. However, targeting only certain, large species causes a disturbance in the natural ecosystem, and farming adds to eutrophication.
3. Buy energy-efficient and durable equipment and electronics, and keep them for as long as possible.
Reducing the need for new products reduces emissions from production, hence slowing down climate change. This is good for the sea since a warmer climate would lead to heavier rainfalls and milder winters, which in turn would increase the amount of nutrients that reaches the sea. Electronics often contain hazardous substances that can cause harm if not disposed of correctly, thus ending up in our sea.
4. When shopping, prefer preloved clothes. Choose natural fibres such as wool and cotton if you can.
The production of clothes requires a lot of energy, thereby causing a lot of emissions and contributing to global warming. A warmer climate leads to heavier rainfalls and milder winters, which in turn increases the amount of nutrients that reaches the sea. Fleece and other synthetic fibres release microplastics during washing, which is why it’s better to go for natural alternatives.
5. Use muscle power, public transportation or shared rides to get around.
Fuel combustion in cars generate greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, as well as particle and nitrogen emissions that end up in the sea through atmospheric deposition. In addition, the wear of tyres releases microplastics that end up in the sea.
6. Embrace the concept of staycations! Travel by train instead of flying whenever possible.
Flights contribute to global warming by emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases, and a warmer climate leads to heavier rainfalls and milder winters, which in turn increases the amount of nutrients that reaches the sea.
7. Have a boat? Be a good captain and keep the bottom clean to avoid unnecessary fuel consumption.
Less fuel consumption means less greenhouse gases, and slowing down global warming is good for the sea since a warmer climate would lead to heavier rainfalls and milder winters, which in turn would increase the amount of nutrients that reaches the sea.
8. Buy emission-free electricity to support the production of clean energy.
The more emission-free electricity we produce, the less fossil fuel we need and the less greenhouse gases we emit. This helps slow down global warming, which is good for the sea since a warmer climate would lead to heavier rainfalls and milder winters, which in turn would increase the amount of nutrients that reaches the sea.
9. Take care of your clothes and make them last longer by only washing them when necessary.
Longer lasting clothes means we need fewer new items, thereby avoiding greenhouse gas emissions from production. Fewer washing times means less chemicals and microplastics end up in the sea.
10. Use your vote!
Tax reforms and legislation that favour sustainable operations are efficient ways of steering society towards a cleaner, cooler future.
11. Any climate action is actually a Baltic Sea action as well, since climate change will speed up eutrophication by causing more storms, rainfall, and nutrient runoff around the Baltic Sea. A warmer sea will also lead to more algae that keep us from cooling off in the water during hot summer days.
List inspired by John Nurminen’s Foundation.
Join us for an Instagram Live session on June 8th at 17.30 at @sparksustainability as we talk about how climate change and the state of the Baltic Sea are connected and the role of the individual. Live from Oodi! The session will be in Finnish.
Moomin Characters are arranging a 75 year anniversary campaign during 2020 to collect 1 million euros to clean up the Baltic Sea together with the John Nurminen Foundation. Spark is proud to be a close supporter of the #OURSEA campaign, which is going to be the largest campaign for the Baltic Sea to date.
John Nurminen’s Foundation, n.d.
John Nurminen’s Foundation, n.d.
Linda holds a Master’s in Media and Communication and is passionate about science communication, dogs and vegan food.