Everyone can agree, the Outer Banks has some of the most beautiful beaches. However, did you know that in 2015, there were over 5.25 trillion of pieces of trash in the ocean? According to National Geographic, 269,000 tons of that trash float on the surface. As unfortunate as this is, we all have the power to change this by taking simple actions! Whether you’re on vacation, or live on the Outer Banks year round, try to create new habits this summer that can protect what you love and save our beaches and oceans!

1 // Ditch The Straws

Reusable straws can help keep the Outer Banks and oceans way cleaner than you many think. It’s estimated that 500 million plastic straws are thrown away every day in the U.S. It’d be one thing if all these straws ended up in landfills and in the trash, but they usually end up in the ocean and on beaches. Not only does this look bad, but it causes a serious threat to marine life like sea turtles. If you’ve ever seen the video of a poor turtle with a straw stuck up his nose, you’ll never want to use another straw again.

Many OBX restaurants have done away with plastic straws and have switched to recyclable paper straws or no straws at all! Take a tip from these great establishments and use your own recyclable straws and cups.

2 // Try To Stray Away From Single Use Plastics

Remember what we said about how straws pollute the ocean? Single use plastics do the same thing! Your coffee cup, plastic utensils, carryout trays, and more can all end up in the ocean if they’re not disposed of properly. Try to limit your use of single use plastics by saying no to plastic silverware on to-go orders and bringing your own cup to the cafe! Front Porch Cafe offers a discount if you bring in your own cup, an even better incentive to reduce and reuse! The environment and beaches will thank you for this simple switch.

3 // Use Recyclable Bags

Since the 8 year plastic bag ban has been lifted on the Outer Banks, stores are now allowed to use plastic bags for customer goods. It’s estimated the 100 billion plastic grocery bags are used in the United States every year. Now imagine how many of those bags end up in the ocean. Plastic bags are detrimental to the environment because they don’t decompose and sea animals confuse the bags as jellyfish when they float in the ocean. Make the switch to using recyclable bags when you go shopping. Grocery stores like Harris Teeter and Food Lion offer a discount if you shop with recyclable grocery bags. You can save money, Outer Banks beaches, and save trips to the car when it’s time to unload!

4 // Pick Up Your Trash + Someone Else’s

When you go to the beach, make sure you clean up after yourself. Even though those single use plastic grocery bags are terrible for the environment when they’re littered, they’re good to keep in your beach bag for trash on the beach. Make a game with your family and see how much trash each member can collect in 5 minutes! A fun way to keep the Outer Banks and the beaches clean.

5 // Clean Up After Your Pet

While it’s fun to take your pup to the beach, it’s not so fun stepping in another pups poo. Not only is stepping in dog mess super gross and annoying, leaving it on the beach and not picking it up is bad for our beaches. Dog feces carry bacteria that can cause infection in other dogs, humans, and marine life. So just take the simple step and clean up after your pet!

6 // Quit Smoking

Okay, so we know it’s not that simple, but not only is smoking bad for your health, it’s bad for Outer Banks beaches! Cigarette butts are one of the leading pollutants on beaches, so if you can’t kick the habit, at least dispose of your butts properly and not in the sand, ocean, out of your window, or on the side of the road.

7 // Educate Yourself
A North Carolina Aquarium employee showing how plastic balloons can easily look like jellyfish in the water

The North Carolina Aquarium is a great place to start if you want to learn more about ocean conservation and beach cleanliness. Take a trip to the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island and learn about the delicate ecosystem of the Outer Banks and how to do your part in keeping the OBX clean and beautiful.

8 // Break Down Your Tents + Chairs

Not only is it illegal on most parts of the Outer Banks to keep up your tents and chairs from the beach day, it can harm wildlife and the beach. It’s illegal to leave beach equipment on the beach overnight. Your items are subject to wind damage and the risk of ending up in the ocean. The strings and ties from canopies can also be hazard to critters that call the beach their home. Break down all your equipment at the end of the day to keep our beaches safe for everyone.

9 // Keep Off The Dunes

The dunes that line the Outer Banks beaches are more important than you may think. They are home to different animals and they also protect homes and roads from hurricanes during the stormy season. Keep this in mind when you’re enjoying the beach and keep off the dunes!

10 // Get Involved

Beach clean ups are always happening around the Outer Banks. OBX 5 Minute Beach Cleanup features cleanups all the time that you and your family can go to and lend a hand to make the OBX even more beautiful than it already is! You can also tag them on instagram to show how you’re doing your part in keeping the OBX clean!