Dive with a Purpose: How to be an Eco-Conscious Diver

Once you’ve gotten a few dives under your belt, no doubt you’ll find yourself looking past the coral reefs and schools of fish, because you notice something that doesn’t belong down there – human waste.

It could be a plastic fork, a hair tie, a set of plastic rings that held a six-pack – hell, I’ve even found a deck of playing cards while snorkeling in the Philippines. And let me tell you, once you’ve spent an afternoon swimming with turtles while simultaneously picking up trash, you start to think about your scuba diving a little differently.

Now, anytime I’m in or out of the water, I’m constantly thinking of ways that I can either limit my own damage to our oceans, or helping to repair what’s already been done to them. There’s no doubt that snorkeling and scuba diving are some of the best ways we can appreciate both the beauty and fragility of the oceans and the marine life they hold.

If you also want to become an eco-friendly diver, then here are 10 super simple ways that you can do your part!

10 Ways to be an Eco-Conscious Diver

1. Choose Brands that Protects the Ocean

Choosing eco-friendly, sustainable brands is just one of the many ways that you can be an eco-conscious diver. Thankfully, more and more companies and non-profits are joining the market every day, with the shared mission of protecting our oceans, preserving marine wildlife, and educating their consumers about how they can live and explore sustainably. Want to find scuba diving gear, apparel and accessories that are eco-friendly? Check out these 10 eco-friendly, ocean-loving brands for scuba divers!

2. Stay with an Eco-Conscious Diver Resort

Another great way you can be an eco-friendly diver is by working and booking with eco-resorts that are just as committed to both protecting and bettering the dive destinations that they call home! Eco dive resorts support their dedication to social and environmental business practices by using policies and infrastructure that are designed to be as low impact as possible, help local marine life, and integrate conservation whenever possible.

Looking for an eco-friendly dive resort? Check out this list of sustainable dive resorts from PADI!

3. Work with an Eco-Friendly Dive Center

Much like booking with an eco dive resort, working with an eco-friendly dive center is another easy way you can help protect our oceans! While the best way to identify an eco-friendly dive center is via online reviews or word-of-mouth, common sustainable efforts include offering carbon offsets, actively improving the area by participating in local cleanups, and educating their patrons about noninvasive, sustainable ways of diving.

Looking for an eco-friendly dive resort? Check out this list of sustainable dive centers from PADI!

4. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

When we think about the harmful products we release into the ocean, plastic straws, Styrofoam cups and toxic sunscreens typically jump to mind. But we don’t talk enough about the threat of carbon emissions. Whenever and wherever we burn fossil fuels, a large portion of the carbon dioxide that gets released into the atmosphere will be absorbed by the ocean, and this ultimately changes the composition of the water. The end result? Hostile living conditions for marine life. That’s pretty scary when you think about it, and while certain parts of marine life act as great, natural forms of carbon sequestration and storage, we also need to consider and limit our own emissions. To learn how, take a look at this article – 25 Ways to Save the Ocean by Reducing Your Carbon Footprint.

5. Join PADI’s Torchbearer Community

Photo Credit: PADI’s website

PADI is the strongest leader and educator within the worldwide scuba diving commitment, and their commitment to environmental conversation is not to be slept on. They are a firm believer that divers make the best advocates for protecting our oceans, and in addition to partnering with Project AWARE and offering conservation courses, PADI also hosts a growing community of Torchbearers – an interactive organization with PADI who promote their ongoing mission to clean up and protect the ocean. Join PADI’s Torchbearers Community here!

6. Like Seafood? Choose Sustainable Seafood Options

Did you know that 90% of the world’s fisheries have either been fully exploited or overfished. That’s right. 90%!! Between the population growth, illegal fishing, habitat loss, climate changes and the invasion of plastics in our oceans, we’re well on our way to eating ourselves out of fish and robbing our oceans of fish life. So here are some easy tips on how you can find sustainable seafood options:

  1. Try to eat fish that are green- or yellow-listed (i.e. low or medium threat)
  2. Avoid orange- or red-listed fish (bluefin tuna, wild sturgeon, sharks, skates, rays, wild halibut, and European eel)
  3. Words like farmed, pole-and-line caught, and green-listed options are safe words
  4. Use this label breakdown to understand which types of fish you’re buying (below)

7. Dive at Eco-Friendly Destinations

Even though more and more countries, companies and organizations are getting serious about marine conservation, the individual choices that divers are still critical, given the amount of time and activity they put into the ocean. A key responsibility among divers is to choose a dive site that supports sustainable diving, as well as reef, ocean and fish preservation. Here are just a few dive destinations that are uniquely focused on preservation and sustainability:

  • The Maldives
  • The Red Sea, Egypt
  • Hawaii
  • Bonaire
  • Coco Island, Costa Rica
  • Raja Ampat, Indonesia
  • Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  • Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  • Belize
  • The Philippines

8. Participate in Coral Restoration

Between rising ocean temperatures, overfishing and pollution, it’s no surprise that the health of our coral reefs around the world is in decline. A critical way that divers can help is by joining in on the global coral restoration. More and more efforts are being seen around the world, and Coral Restoration Foundation (founded in 2007 by Ken Nedimyer) volunteer divers are leading the charge! You can get involved, too, by helping tend coral nurseries, outplanting coral fragments on the reef, and monitoring the health of outplanted corals over time.  And if you’re really serious about contributing to these efforts, you can take PADI’s Coral Reef Conservational Specialty Course!

9. Collect Trash while Scuba Diving 

One of the most heartbreaking experiences I had during month long trip in Thailand was having to cut a dive trip short. Now, hear me out. It wasn’t heartbreaking because I had to get out of the water sooner than I had planned, but because of the severe amount of trash that was in the water. I developed a habit of picking up any trash I found in the water after scuba diving and snorkeling my way across the Philippines (a fork or hair tie here and there, nothing major), but it was a totally different story in Thailand. I picked up so much trash that it was falling out of my hands back onto the ocean floor. I’ve learned a lot since that dive, and now keep a mesh bag on me whenever I go diving or snorkeling so I can pick up trash on the go and not worry about dropping it. Sound like something you’d like to do during your dives, too? Check out this snazzy, wearable mesh bag from Trshbg that’s made from 100% recyclable materials!

10. Make Eco-Conscious Choices at Home

The fight to manage plastic waste is a long-fought battle in places all over the world, especially areas like Southeast Asia, and has become one of the most recognized forms of responsible tourism. And thanks to this push (many countries like China, the Philippines and Sri Lanka – which put forth an appeal back in 2019 to ban single-use plastics – are taking strong steps to reduce and manage plastic waste), minimizing your plastic waste is easier than ever! Minimizing plastic waste, especially the pesky single-use plastics like cups and utensils, is all the more manageable with eco-friendly travel products like stainless steel straws, reusable water bottles, and other gear that that’s made from recycled materials.

Previous Posts in my Scuba Diving 101 Series:

How to Get Scuba Certified

Scuba Diving on a Budget: 10 of the Cheapest Dive Destinations

Ocean Loving Brands: 10 Eco-Friendly Companies for Scuba Divers

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