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29 ways to step up and protect our seas, streams, and water supply.

Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.

Save Our Shores

Visit the Ocean Conservancy’s website to find out information about their annual coastal clean up day. Then again, why wait for the next clean-up date to roll around? Organize a crew of water lovers to beautify a nearby beach, river, or wetland anytime.

Find Your Footprint

If you understand your water use, you can make more conscious choices. The GRACE Water Program’s user-friendly H2O Conserve Water Footprint Calculator tallies up the gallons that go into fueling your car, powering your home, and producing your food.

Give Fish a Break

World-renowned oceanographer and National Geographic explorer-in-residence Sylvia Earle advocates that we stop eating seafood. “Give fish a break,” she says. “Don’t be a part of the problem as a consumer— for both your own health and the ocean’s health.”

Make it Fun

Ever since music legend Pete Seeger launched a traditional sloop called Clearwater on the Hudson River in 1969, hundreds of thousands of people have sailed up and down the river on it, singing songs about how toxic the river is, and learning about the need to clean it up. Supporters of the Clearwater helped pass the groundbreaking Clean Water Act in 1977 and convince a corporate polluter to start removing PCBs from the Hudson River in 2009. The sloop continues to act as a “floating classroom” for thousands of kids each year.

Sip On This

The most spiritual human moments involve water, whether it is baptism in the Christian church or the ritual bathing by Hindus in Mother Ganges…Water has cleansed us—cleansed us literally…cleansed our minds and hearts. We must learn how to return the favor, to wash water free of the thousand stains we’ve inflicted on it in our heedless rush toward prosperity.

—Bill McKibben, in Water Matters

Don’t Despair

Shaving seconds off your shower, bringing a towel to the gym, and other small measures really do make a difference. Learn how: Yoga Energy Activism, a collaboration of Shiva Rea and the Green Yoga Association, offers info and empowering celebrations to encourage energy, water, and waste conservation among our community.

Plant A Fish

To commemorate what would have been ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau’s 100th birthday, his grandson, Fabien, founded Plant a Fish, which aims to “replant” key aquatic species in distressed bodies of water.

Honor the Sea

Stay connected to the Earth’s waters by offering a daily invocation to water or simply by remembering its vital influence on life. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, yoga teacher Eoin Finn, whose Yoga Ecology Surf retreats include lessons in marine biology, keeps statues of Ganesha and the Buddha on his altar. But he also keeps a shell, a vial of saltwater, and a statue of a whale to help him make a daily connection to his desire to protect the ocean. Join him!

Kick It Old School

Check out Levi’s cool Water-Less rigid-finish jeans. They use up to 96 percent less water to produce than regular blue jeans.

Every Drop Counts

Last summer, globe-trotting yoga teacher Twee Merrigan raised $3,300 for restoration efforts after the Gulf oil spill. On her 2010 Butterfly Effect Tour she offered fundraiser vinyasa flow classes and trance dances from Bali to the American Midwest. Follow her lead and organize a karma yoga class or kirtan in your community.

Stay Strong

Moved by the Gulf oil spill, kirtan wallah David Newman wrote “Stay Strong” to inspire people in the Gulf and in the yoga community to keep their faith in hard times. Proceeds from the tune and its accompanying video (which features Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Seane Corn, and other yoga and chant luminaries) benefit Global Green USA, an environmental nonprofit that’s active in Gulf Coast recovery efforts.

Give the Gift of Clean Water

Make a donation in a friend’s name, and give them the gift of knowing that others will have access to clean water. At WaterAid’s online shop, your donation can buy a villager in Africa, Asia, or the Pacific clean water for life.

Be the Best Dressed

Cotton is a highly water-intensive crop. When farmed with pesticides, it pollutes our waterways. So if you wear cotton, go organic! With a sundress like American Apparel’s Organic Baby Rib Cross-Back Summer Dress, you needn’t compromise your sense of style to do what’s right.

Help a Scientist

Plan a volunteer vacation helping scientists measure the impact of climate change on glacier-capped mountains, or survey the biodiversity of tropical reefs through organizations like the Earthwatch Institute or Reef Check. No scientific experience required!

Move Like Water

“The water element has been worshiped across time and across cultures,” says Shiva Rea, founder of Prana Flow Yoga and an avid surfer. “From Ireland to Brazil, from Haiti to Hawaii, you find this reverence for water that expresses itself in movement.” Learn Rea’s Jala Namaskar, or “water salutation,” sequence, which appears on her Fluid Power DVD. Express your reverence for water by creating “spontaneous movement that doesn’t follow a specific set form,” Rea says. “If you watch a river, it has patterns, but the patterns are always changing. No wave is the same.”

Dip Your Toes In

Tantric scholar and teacher Pandit Rajmani Tigunait says, “Water is a Deva—a divine being who offers its body to be used as the basis of life.” Think of the millions of people who worship the Ganges as the great mother goddess, and head to the closest body of water to honor this primal element of life. Feel how your own creative nature, your ability to move, the very life force in you, reflects the fluidity of water. How can you show your gratitude to this life-sustaining element?

Let the Drinks Be On You

As of 2011, nearly 1 billion people have no access to clean drinking water. Many nonprofits are working to solve this global crisis, and there are many ways to get involved. Organize a fundraiser, donate money, or buy products to support these nonprofits:

Charity: water raised more than $20 million in its first four years to provide clean water solutions to people in developing nations, including drilled and hand-dug wells, spring-protection systems, rainwater catchments, and BioSand filters., co-founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, works to transform communities in Africa, South Asia, and Central America by providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The Water Project provides water to people in Kenya, Sudan, Sierra Leone, and India.

Give Up Plastic

Each year, over 300 million tons of plastic is produced—often for one-time use, says Doug Woodring, director of Project Kaisei, which raises awareness about the North Pacific Gyre, a 3,500-square-mile mass of debris in the Pacific Ocean. To help end plastic pollution, forgo new plastic purchases.

Use Fish-Friendly Cleaners

After the phosphates in detergents rinse out of your clothes and off your plates, they seep into your watershed, fueling algae blooms that threaten aquatic life. Use phosphate-free products like Method Smarty Dish tablets, which, according to Consumer Reports, leave your dishes dazzling without polluting your waterway. Prefer to hand wash? Ecover’s Dishwashing Liquid with Lemon and Aloe Vera cuts grease and cleans deeply.

Shower With Power

Reduce water use in the shower by about 30 percent with an aerating showerhead, which forces air into the stream and turbocharges the pressure. Visit to learn more.

Enjoy Gray Gardens

The relatively clean water you spin out of your laundry and drain from your tub could do double duty in the garden, saving thousands of gallons. Do-it-yourselfers can buy valves, pipes, and tubing to redirect this “graywater” outdoors. Graywater reuse isn’t legal everywhere yet, so you might need to lobby for it.

Ban the Bag

Plastic bags wreak havoc in the sea, where they trap and entangle seabirds, turtles, fish, and other marine life, and are often mistaken for food. That’s why cities across the globe like San Francisco and Delhi are banning the bag. You pack your groceries in canvas bags, right? Try reusable produce bags, too. Flip & Tumble makes mesh produce bags that help you avoid plastic and also let your veggies breathe.

Tap into Local

It takes three times as much water to produce bottled water as tap water (and evidence shows that the bottled stuff is rarely cleaner than tap water). What’s the healthiest, most eco-friendly option? Carry filtered tap water in a reusable container, like Klean Kanteen’s Reflect stainless steel bottle with a bamboo top.

Watch your E-Waste

Despite your best intentions, chances are good that when you “recycle” an old cell phone or laptop, it is simply sent to a developing country in Africa or Asia, where its toxic components are dumped, contaminating rivers and streams. Choose a certified recycler that really does collect and process e-waste using rigorous best practices. The organization e-Stewards is now auditing and certifying recyclers to bring transparency to this field.

Get Schooled

Want to be a water activist? The first step is to learn about the environmental, geopolitical, and health issues surrounding the global water crisis—and the ways you can get involved.


FLOW: How Did a Handful of Corporations Steal Our Water? (Oscilloscope Pictures, 2008)
An acronym for “For Love of Water,” FLOW offers a wide-ranging view of ;the science and politics of water scarcity, pollution, and privatization; explains how the water crisis affects both the rich and the poor around the world; and profiles people and institutions that are making a difference now.


Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource, edited by Tara Lohan (AlterNet, 2010).

This is a solutions-focused collection of essays about the world’s water crisis, from writers like Maude Barlow, Bill McKibben, and Barbara Kingsolver.

The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One by Sylvia Earle (National Geographic Books, 2009)

Marine explorer Sylvia Earle chronicles the devastating human impact on the ocean and explains how our actions in the next decade may turn the tide or seal our fate forever.

Find Your Watershed

Summer parties. River festivals. Activism in your own backyard. That’s what watershed protection groups are all about: a community of concerned citizens working together to care for rivers, streams, and surrounding land—everything from natural gardening ideas (so pesticides don’t pollute the water) to safeguarding endangered species that are vital to your ecosystem. Find a group through the EPA’s Adopt Your Watershed Program.

Low-Flow the Loo

Older toilets flush away nearly a third of the clean water delivered to your home. San Francisco yogi Scott Pinizzotto co-created a 30-minute do-it-yourself upgrade called Simple Flush, which transforms your old-school toilet into a dual-flush latrine, cutting its water use by 30 to 50 percent.

Work with Nature

See nature as a teacher, not an obstacle, and learn how to build technological solutions that are beautiful and sustainable. For example: Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson, Arizona, is the heart of a wastewater treatment facility that reclaims city water for residents and industry, replenishing the local aquifer while providing a sanctuary for water-loving wildlife that was displaced when a nearby marsh was paved. Cinnamon Teal ducks glide across the water; bobcats hunt in the reeds. Sweetwater is an oasis in the desert and a sweet example of how nature embraces positive change.

Choose Oil-Free Energy

As drilling takes place in more challenging environments, more oil spills the 2010 Deepwater Horizon BP disaster are likely. Commit to a personal reduction in nonrenewable resources by creating an energy budget to track your usage, making a concrete timeline for your efforts. Start by estimating your annual kilowatt-hours of electricity used; heating oil or natural gas consumed; water used; miles driven; and bus, airline, and train miles traveled.