Here are some Ways to LOVE the US Gulf Coast because the Gulf sure has taken a beating in our lifetime.
Any one of us can make a tiny difference but many of us collectively can change the world. Or at least OUR world—the extraordinary US Gulf Coast.
Hopefully every other article on this website will live up to our philosophy of Cool, Happy, and Fun things to do, see, and eat on the US Gulf Coast. But this treatise is for anyone who cares and is concerned about the environmental issues and the prior, existing, and potential devastation of the unique and phenomenal US Gulf Coast environment and habitat.
Thank you for reading and your support. We will return to regularly scheduled US Gulf Coast Travel funness after this article. Promise!
Here are 8 Fantastic Ways to LOVE the US Gulf Coast
It is an overwhelming scenario but here are some simple steps you can do to help love YOUR Gulf Coast.
1. Reduce Impact
Everyone is familiar with the recycling logo (above) but note that the first pillar is REDUCE. Recycling is great but reducing is the best option.
Some action items to REDUCE impact:
- Eliminate or reduce packaging, especially plastic (yuck!)
- In restaurants, say NO to plastic straws. I find that most servers appreciate the gesture and wish their place had a 100% no straw policy.
- Say “No, thank you” to plastic water bottles on tours, in hotel rooms and empower your children, family members, co-workers, and friends to do the same in school, work, events, and other situations.
- Press NO for receipts for gas, ATM, etc.
- Bring your own shopping bags. I have one that folds into an egg shape and fits in my car cup holder and my pocket.
- Skip housekeeping service on multi-night hotel stays
- Grow your own food. I love my small garden and the arugula, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other small batch herbs and produce taste so much better than from markets.
- Less driving and more walking and biking. Electric bikes are becoming very popular and are great for navigating busy beach towns—faster and better for the environment.
- Drive more fuel-efficient vehicles and buy more efficient appliances for your home
Even though there are several actions listed here, I count it as only one of the ways to love the US Gulf Coast.
The second component of the familiar Recycle logo is REUSE. After reducing your impact, reusing is the second best option.
Some ways to REUSE:
- Invest in a high-quality refillable water bottle. And fill it from water fountains or the tap. Many water bottles have amazing filters in case you are worried about public water quality. US Gulf Coast Travel note: most bottled water companies use public water sources so the water quality is no better and often even worse than regular tap water. Plus the insidious plastic and transport impact make bottled water a triple horrible thing.
- Bring a reusable hot beverage mug. Tea is my thing but I live in a world populated by coffee lovers. No worries. Bring your own mug to fill up at your favorite coffee shop, gas station, grocery store, or tea shop (!). Thank you!
- Use reusable straws. I do not mind the metal ones but there are other materials if you prefer.
- Save plastic carry out containers and support restaurants that allow you to bring them in to take leftovers home. Or reuse the containers for small storage or crafts.
- Donate items you no longer want or need. Clothes, books, even broken electronics are appreciated by charities, schools, senior centers, shelters.
- Compost organic trash. To supplement my garden, I compost banana and orange peels, avocado and potato peels, pistachio shells, and so much more (basically any non-animal food scraps except shrimp tails). I have a tumbler bin and I add cardboard and dried leaves to the mix and it results in the most amazing soil for my veggies. Note that many communities offer personal compost bins or compost recycling.
- Utilize other community free opportunities such as trees and plants, rainwater barrels, compost and mulch, and community garden plots.
Think about other ways to reuse things before adding them to the landfill. Thank you.
Everyone is familiar with recycling and I trust and hope everyone will do what they can. Recycling is a wonderful way to love our US Gulf Coast.
- Encourage others to recycle. Unfortunately I have stayed in many vacation rentals and hotels with no evident recycling effort. The next two options are two immediate solutions I often do.
- Take cans, bottles, and recyclable items to community bins. They may be at fire stations, libraries, schools, grocery stores, parks, or other places. I stayed in at least one beachfront condo with no recycling bins on the entire property BUT the beach had recycling bins. So I took cans and bottles to the beach bin and encourage you to do the same in similar scenarios. In one place, the beach bins were closer than the complex bins.
- Deposit recyclable items in National Park or state park facilities. Even when a city or community has no recycle policy, National Parks always do. Everglades, Gulf Islands, and Padre Island are three reliable US Gulf Coast National Park properties with recycling bins.
- Recycle Christmas trees. I love communities that use Christmas trees to support the sand dunes. Gulf Shores Alabama is one such place but every US Gulf Coast community should recycle Christmas trees.
- Reuse/recycle Mardi Gras beads. I am disappointed when a US Gulf Coast community does NOT have a system to deal with Mardi Gras beads. Whether there is a drop off place at hospitals, community centers, fire stations, or business, look for them wherever you are.
Thank you to every state, city, community, town, business, and person who finds Ways to LOVE the US Gulf Coast by reducing, reusing, and recycling.
4. Pick up Trash
Quick (hopefully) story.
A long time ago, I read about a billionaire—you know him, the media mogul from Atlanta—walking in NYC to a big meeting. A reporter saw him bend down and pick up a piece of trash and throw it into a garbage can. The reporter asked him why he did that, why an extremely wealthy person would take time to do that. The billionaire continued walking to his meeting while telling the reporter that if everyone in NYC picked up one piece of trash then the streets would be spotless.
I am certainly not a billionaire but I feel that way about US Gulf Coast beaches. If every visitor picked up a piece of trash, our beaches would be the cleanest in the world—to further show off and complement the whitest and softest sand in the world.
That is why every time I stroll my US Gulf Coast beaches, for many years, I pick up things that do not belong there. Whether on a sunrise walk, sunset stroll, or any other time, I fill my pockets with bottle caps, wrappers, insidious plastic items, etc. Or I often bring a bag and try to fill it. I am happiest when I fail this challenge and do not find enough trash to fill a small bag but too often the challenge is easily met. And that is sad.
I invite you to leave YOUR beach cleaner next time you visit. Same with river, bay, bayou, park, trail, yard, street, or parking lot settings. Because, you know, it all ends up in the Gulf.
5. Eat Local
Eating local is better for you, YOUR amazing US Gulf Coast, and your community. Local food is healthier and tastier. And by local eating, I do not mean packaged stuff from the convenience store or fast food junk.
By local eating, I mean buying and ordering products, ingredients, and items with a focus on the local setting. When shopping, reduce buying things that are packaged and you are taking a huge step to eating local. Buy from vendors at farmers markets instead of supermarkets. Visit shrimp boats, seafood markets, and fruit stands instead of big box stores.
Key West Pink Shrimp, stone crabs, grouper, red snapper, red drum (red fish), Royal Reds, and crawfish are but some of the Gulf of Mexico seafood items I order before salmon, halibut, or lobster (even though I love them!). Order Gulf oysters instead of oysters from colder waters that are flown in. When in doubt, ask your server, chef, or buyer where the seafood is from.
Eat at restaurants who use local suppliers. Ask farmers market and fruit stand vendors about their process. Pesticides and fertilizer spoil up-water environs and end up in the Gulf.
6. Protect Our Manatees
Speaking of polluting waterways, can we please give manatees a break?
Not only are sweet manatees being pummeled and scarred by boat propellors but their grass beds (primary feeding grounds) are also being decimated. When boating, please adhere to zero wake signs in manatee zones, eliminate spilling of chemicals and trash, and use only permanent anchorages.
Propellor guards are one product that seemingly will help protect manatees but manatee researchers say they only work when boaters adhere to speed limitations. Otherwise, the impact from the propellor guard harms manatees more than the propellor itself. So sad.
I single out manatees for a couple of reasons. First, manatees are unique to the US Gulf Coast. Well, I suppose alligators might also qualify, But anyway, respect and love all of our US Gulf Coast animal friends. Second is more personal as I once worked in a facility with a manatee hospital and saw the constant damage caused by reckless boaters.
7. Volunteer for Wildlife Care
OK, yes, manatees are not the only US Gulf Coast animals. And they are definitely not the only animals that need protection. Gators, crocs (you did know the Gulf Coast has crocs, right?), snakes, and mosquitoes only need us to leave them alone.
Sea turtle watches might be the best and most popular opportunity to love US Gulf Coast wildlife. From South Padre to The Florida Keys, hundreds of people volunteer for sea turtle watch programs. Even if you are not an official volunteer, you can help sea turtles in several ways. First, do not disturb sea turtles or their nests. Also follow all the other ways to love the US gulf Coast in this article, especially pick up trash and keep the beaches clean.
And almost every time I ask a server to skip the straw, I say “save the turtles” and the server smiles.
Restoring oyster bed habitats is another way to love the US Gulf Coast. Oysters are natural filters and remove bad stuff from the water. The water around a thriving Gulf Coast oyster bed is healthier than nearly anywhere else in the world. And of course supporting restaurants, farmers, and markets selling Gulf oysters is a fun and tasty way to love the US Gulf Coast and support the oyster beds.
8. Shop Local
As with your food, buying locally produced products is better for you, the Gulf, and the local businesses. I love the internet meme that says buying from a small business owner helps them feed their family while buying from Amazon helps Bezos buy a little more fuel for one of his private jets or boats. Poignant.
Our Gulf Coast communities thrive when the small businesses, farmers, restaurants, and shop owners thrive. Make it a mission to skip the big box chain stores and shop local. Buy a bar of soap or jar of honey from a vendor at a craft fair.
I will mention two local craft artisans and intend to list more later. OK, I am not a shopping expert and should enlist an expert for this section. Anyone want to jump in and contribute more?
Buy perfect Gulf Coast souvenirs from:
- Mike Macy at White Pillars in Biloxi, one of our favorite US Gulf Coast Seafood Trail restaurants. Mike lovingly creates wooden spoons, cutting boards, and other cooking items at Macy Spoons.
- Thomas McCool creates gorgeous bowls, pens, and other products from local Mississippi trees. Find him at McCool’s Wood Works.
On your next US Gulf Coast visit (or shopping excursion if you live on the Gulf Coast), consider buying a product from a local author, artisan, farmer, or business rather than a chain store. Thank you for loving the US Gulf Coast.
More Ways to LOVE the US Gulf Coast
There are many more than 8 ways Ways to LOVE the US Gulf Coast and surely this article will expand in the future.
Some other ways I plan to include:
- Support Upcycle Vendors
- Smart Lodging (sustainable stays, non-chemical cleaners, camping)
- Reduce Poisons and Chemicals (Skip Fertilizer, convert to zero maintenance landscapes)
- Use non-toxic household cleaning products (vinegar instead of Round Up and lemon instead of cleaners)
- Protect and cherish Gulf Coast trees (mangroves are protected in Florida)
- Support Organizations, Festivals, and Events
- Save the Manatee, co-founded by Jimmy Buffett
- Avoid walking on sand dunes and plant sustainable and restorative dune grasses
- Share your ways to love the US Gulf Coast with us and others
Oil spills, hurricanes, red tide, freshwater flood. Overdevelopment along the coast and into the Everglades and urban sprawl. Destroyed and disappearing reefs, grass beds, and seafood populations. Invasive animals and plants threatening and eliminating native species and destroying native habitats. So much litter marring our otherwise gorgeous sugar sand beaches.
Let us reverse the effects of all that and restore the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Coast to its pristine state.