How to save the turtles on World Turtle Day

Written by Ollie Wilkinson

Project turtle recall: how to save the sea turtles 

Turtles are one of many animals affected by pollution, with plastic waste posing a huge threat to their future on our beautiful planet. This World Turtle Day, we’re encouraging you to get your turtlenecks on and help save these endangered species. 

Imagine coming home to a delicious pizza, only to sink your teeth into it and discover it’s made entirely of plastic. That’s an everyday reality for turtles, with many mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish, their favourite afternoon snack. 

What is World Turtle Day? 

World Turtle Day is an annual celebration that encourages eco-warriors and animal lovers to unite and protect turtles and tortoises, raising awareness for their damaged and disappearing habitats across the globe. 

Founded by Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, World Turtle Day has been running annually for over 20 years. The husband-and-wife team are strong advocates of the humane treatment of animals, having also founded American Tortoise Rescue, an organisation that’s placed over 4,000 tortoises and turtles into caring homes! 

When is World Turtle Day? 

World Turtle Day takes place every year on 23rd May. And this year, we’d love you to join us in the shell-ebrations by helping to reduce plastic waste! 

What’s the difference between a turtle and a tortoise? 

Wouldn’t it be so much easier to tell the difference between Mary-Kate and Ashley or the Weasley brothers if one of them couldn’t swim and spent all their time on land and the other split their days between the ocean and the beach? Well, that’s how simple it is to distinguish a turtle from a tortoise. 

If in doubt, just remember: 

  • Turtles = aquatic or semi-aquatic animals that enjoy a dip in water as much as a stroll on land. 
  • Tortoises = Land-only animals that cannot swim. 

Turtle facts 

Did you know that a turtle’s lifespan can stretch as long as 80 years, and that they’ve existed on this planet for more than 100 million years!? There are many reasons why we love sea turtles; here are just a few of our fave facts: 

  • Leatherback sea turtles have been on earth since the dinosaurs. 
  • Sea turtles use their rear flippers like rudders to help them steer through the vast ocean. 
  • The largest sea turtle ever weighed a whopping 2,200 kilograms. That’s as heavy as a rhino and heavier than your average car! 
  • Sea turtles can stay underwater for hours. They even sleep underwater! 

However, as much as we love sea turtles, there are many reasons why we are worried about them our shelled friends. Here are some concerning turtle facts and stats that keep us up at night: 

Why are sea turtles endangered? 

Sea turtles are at risk of extinction due to human activity, with climate change causing: 

  • Increased sand temperatures 
  • Extreme weather 
  • Disease outbreaks 
  • Coastal degradation 

A sea turtle’s sex is influenced by the coastal conditions in which they’re laid and hatched, and a rise in temperatures is causing more females than males to be born

It’s not just the pollution of the atmosphere that’s putting them at risk, either. Over half of the world’s turtles have eaten plastic at some point in their life, as a result of the 11 million tonnes of plastic waste entering the ocean each year. Sea turtles are also hunted for food, oil and leather in some parts of the world. 

Why are turtles good for the environment? 

Sea turtles are an important member of our animal kingdom and are known as a “keystone species”. This special VIP pass means they are a pivotal part of our ecosystem, protecting the natural order of wildlife, communities and our atmosphere. 

If you thought the turtles in Finding Nemo were gnarly, wait till you see what they do in real life! After all, you don’t exist on a planet for hundreds of millions of years without getting pretty good at it. 

Here’s why turtles are good for the environment: 

  • The ocean’s mower: Underwater, the seagrass is always greener on the turtle’s side. That’s because they mainly feed on the plant, preventing it from getting overgrown and suffocating itself. Hawksbill turtles also love feasting on sponges (you’re safe for now, Squidward and Patrick), which promotes healthy coral reefs and shelter for thousands of their underwater neighbours. 
  • Maintaining the chain: Sea turtles are a key part of the ocean’s food chain, keeping jellyfish populations at an optimal level. Jellyfish eat fish eggs (just like caviar-loving yacht owners), and too many of them can cause fewer fish. Meanwhile, unhatched turtle eggs are a great source of nutrients for local coastal wildlife, and adult sea turtles are the prey of killer whales and sharks. 
  • Whoever shelled it dealt it: Like us, turtles LOVE recycling. By snacking on crustaceans, they help break up other animals’ shells, increasing the rate at which nutrients recycle at the ocean’s bottom. 
  • Fertiliser: Remember our piece on using eggshells in the garden? Well, empty turtle shells often play a role in beach vegetation. 
  • The ocean’s Airbnb: Many small marine organisms set up shop and live on turtle’s shells, providing a food source for other fish. 
  • The ocean’s Uber: Sea turtles migrate across the water for miles, acting as an underwater taxi and diversity-spreader by taking all their attached barnacles, algae and small creatures with them. 
  • A part of the community: They may not take part in bake sales or be a part of the neighbourhood watch, but sea turtles provide coastal economies and communities with a huge boost through tourism and job creation. 
  • More shell, less smell: A world without turtles would be a stinky one, because they’re among the biggest fans of scavenging dead fish from lakes and rivers. They’re such good stink-vacuums, that ecology professor, Whit Gibbons, described them as “the garbage patrol of an area”! 

So, how can we help?  

Most of the seven different species of turtle are endangered. But all hope is not lost. You don’t need to be a teenage mutant ninja to save the turtles. You just need to limit your plastic consumption

The less plastic in the ocean, the less damage we inflict on their habitats and lives. Going entirely plastic free is a huge challenge, but by starting small and slowly removing it from your life, you’ll soon find you’re throwing less and less into your bin. 

10 ways to avoid single-use plastics in your household: 

1. Buy plastic free groceries 

We deliver a shedload of plastic free groceries in sustainable packaging to doorsteps across the UK, including fresh milk, fizzy pop and fruit juice in return and reuse glass bottles, and seasonal fruit and veg in home compostable bags. 

2. Use refillable personal care and cleaning products 

Our friends over at Miniml are revolutionising the way we buy our household products. Their refillable toiletries are the perfect way to live a clean, eco-friendly life, and you can order them directly from us! 

3. Carry reusable straws and cutlery 

Reusing instead of recycling is a great way to cut down on plastic usage, with paper straws becoming the norm in restaurants and cafes. You can now even buy your own sustainable straws made of metal or bamboo! 

4. Invest in reusable face masks 

Surfers Against Sewage says it’s seen an “explosion” of discarded face masks on beaches and rivers since the coronavirus pandemic. Face masks aren’t going away anytime soon, so it’s probably time to invest in a reusable cloth mask, if you haven’t already. The fun colours and patterns can make a great fashion statement, and their reusability helps prevent unnecessary waste. 

5. Bring reusable cutlery 

Swerve that horrible squeaky plastic fork with your chips and gravy by grabbing a small set that fits easily in your pocket. 

6. Keep reusable shopping bags 

We’ve all been guilty of forgetting our reusable bags while doing our weekly shop, so it’s a good idea to keep extra ones in the back of your car, or foldable ones in your pocket. That way, if you’re in a rush, you’ll always have your reusable shopping bags handy.  

7. Carry a reusable water bottle 

Time to ditch the single-use plastic bottle. It may be annoying to lug a huge metal bottle around, but there are so many other options out there. You can even get collapsible ones that fit in your pocket, and cafes will usually fill them up free of charge, saving you plastic and pennies! 

8. Ditch the plastic dish sponge 

Most dish sponges are made of plastic. But our home-compostable Seep sponge isn’t like most sponges. Keep the ocean and your pots squeaky clean with a double-sided sponge that’s tough on stains and kind to the planet!  

9. Avoid cling film 

Need to save that last bit of your Sunday roast? While it may be convenient to reach for the cling film, you could try a plastic free alternative like beeswax food wraps. They come in loads of sizes and fabrics and are just as cute as they are sustainable! 

10. Use a sustainable toothbrush 

Keep your teeth sparkling with eco-friendly bamboo toothbrushes. You can now find them at most retailers, and they even come in different brush colours! 

Small changes make a big difference 

Going completely plastic free is difficult, but not impossible. By making small changes in our daily lives, we can save plastic waste from reaching landfill, oceans and turtle habitats.  

And remember, you don’t have to go completely plastic free all at once! The turtles and the planet will thank you for every piece of plastic saved.

Look how much plastic we've saved!

46,459,870

Plastic bottles saved and counting

110,768

Wheelie bins of plastic saved from landfill

Share the love...