2018 – A Year to Remember!

As we embrace 2019 with optimism, we also close on an incredible year. 2018 was a year to remember! We look back on the past 12 months with gratitude for all of you who allow us to do what we love, and excitement for what we will be able to achieve together.

The year of the reef

For us, 2018 will always be the year of the reef. This year saw the groundbreaking decision to ban chemical sunscreen in Hawaii in an effort to preserve their reefs, followed by similar decisions to ban them in places like Bonaire, Palau and Aruba. Caring for our planet became more than mainstream; it became a legislative focus!

Spreading the reef-safe wordHealthy Reefs

We rallied for the reefs! Goddess Garden provided testimony, research and even reef-safe sunscreen distribution reports. We sent free samples and provided reef-safe sunscreen for events and education opportunities. We even created a Care2 petition that garnered nearly 55,000 signatures that we sent to Governor Ige, urging him to sign the bill into law. Many of you signed it and we can’t thank you enough! The bill became a law on July 3rd, marking a huge victory for reefs.

B Corp LogoOfficially a “Changemaker”

Our activism efforts to support the Hawaiian ban on chemical sunscreen not only made waves and helped push the bill forward, but it helped us earn a Certified B Corporation® Best for the World Changemaker Award. We’re grateful to organizations like B Corp for recognizing that businesses can effect positive change and for encouraging companies like ours to use business as a force for good.

Press: Reefs go mainstream

News of the chemical sunscreen ban in Hawaii—and the traumatic effects these chemicals have on the reefs which led to the ban—became national news. What was once considered a coastal issue became a global issue—another huge victory since water runs down and eventually makes its way to the oceans. Here’s a peek at some of our press:

  • Fast Company released a story on the ban and what it means to sunscreen companies. They called out Goddess Garden sunscreens as a reef-safe brand and even shared the news that CVS was planning to reformulate their store-brand sunscreens to avoid those chemicals.
  • The Denver Post talked about our efforts to support the ban and helped spread the word on how fast the reefs are disappearing as a result of harmful sunscreen chemicals.
  • SWAAY Magazine shared Nova’s story on why protecting the coral reefs became her rallying cry and the steps Nova and our company took to help save the reefs.
  • Conscious Company named Nova as one of their 35 World-Changing Women in Conscious Business for her efforts to protect the coral reefs—on stores shelves through reef-safe products and though her activism efforts.

On the shelfC-Spray Trio

We create products that make it easy for people to respect and protect the planet and the Earth’s inhabitants. To do that, we have to create great products! This year, we reformulated our sunscreens to make them easier to spray, easier to apply and more sheer than our previous formulas. We changed our packaging to make it easier for people to find us and get the right products for their needs. We also heard you when you asked for SPF 50! Look for our new, ultra-sheer SPF 50s that are, of course, reef safe and safe for sensitive skin. We’re excited to continue to make life easier and safer for people and the planet! We’re also unveiling several new products in the coming weeks, so stay on the lookout for our announcements!

Whale JumpingBeyond the shelf

Aside from making reef-safe products and supporting legislative action to protect reefs, Goddess Garden was working behind the scenes. 2018 marked the beginning of an annual company-wide river clean-up to help local waterways. Our founder, Nova, was asked to join the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary. And, in addition to her efforts on the board, Nova made a lot of progress with her ocean preservation foundation, Protect Our Mother. The Foundation is dedicated to protecting marine mammals and their habitats. The first goals are in the areas of protection, legislation and climate balancing. Stay tuned for more updates on the foundation!

Looking forward

As momentous as 2018 was, we’re embracing 2019 with open arms. We know this year will be another one for the books and we hope you know we couldn’t do it without you. Thank you for all you do. Let’s make 2019 the best year yet!

Happy New Year!

 

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Reef-Safe: Why Saving the Reefs in Hawaii Became My Rallying Cry

By Nova Covington

As reported in SWAAY Magazine

When I started my reef-safe skincare company, Goddess Garden, I had no idea that 13 years later, I’d be invited by the Governor of Hawaii to attend the historic signing of the first sunscreen bill banning harmful chemicals which damage the coral reefs. As the founder and CEO of a reef-safe mineral sunscreen brand that is a Certified B Corporation® and a certified woman-owned business (WBENC), our mission is built into every decision we make. We’ve always taken a stand to do what’s best for people and the planet.

I can’t thank the people of Hawaii and Governor Ige enough for doing the same thing! Having just returned from the ceremony in Hawaii where the governor signed the chemical sunscreen ban (SB2571) into law, banning chemical sunscreens oxybenzone and octinoxate from use or sale, starting in January of 2021, I want to wrap my arms around the entire state and give it a hug! I guess it makes sense that I was affectionately referred to as a reef-hugger in the media. I’ll happily embrace my new title, right along with the reefs.

Mobilizing to save the reefs

As I told SWAAY in 2017, I was inspired to create my skincare company after my baby daughter, Paige, had allergic reactions to the synthetic chemicals in sunscreens and other bodycare products. I made my own products for her, replacing the synthetic ingredients with all-natural ones. While looking for better ingredients that were safe for her, I learned a lot about how these same synthetic chemicals affect the environment—and specifically the coral reefs. That’s when saving the coral reefs really became my rallying cry.

Our company worked hard to support this bill. I provided testimony, wrote to legislative leaders and participated in awareness campaigns. Goddess Garden provided monetary donations and free reef-safe sunscreen. We supplied studies when the opposition said there wasn’t enough research. Goddess Garden sunscreens are being sold in 25,000 stores, so when the argument switched to a lack of available options, we provided product distribution reports to counter it. This ban took a lot of people, banding together, to come to fruition.

Apparently industry lobbyists spent more than 16 million dollars to fight the ban. That’s a lot of money from the opposition, so we had to work together and invest with our time and our voices. I started a petition with Care2 to give everyone a chance to be heard. We gathered and sent nearly 55,000 signatures to Governor Ige, urging him to sign the bill into law. I’ll never forget meeting him at the signing ceremony. When I told him I was the one who created the petition, he laughed a little and thanked me. He was grateful that I had brought awareness to the issue and had helped make so many voices heard. That moment will always stand out as a milestone in my career. It felt so exhilarating to be part of the process, to stand up and fight for what I believed in, and help other people do the same thing.

Nova and Governor Ige at the signing of the sunscreen ban into law.
Nova and Governor Ige at the signing of the sunscreen ban into law.

A reef-safe movement in the sunscreen industry

In his speech at the ceremony, Governor Ige said, “By signing this measure today, we will become the first in the world to enact this type of strong legislation to actively protect our marine ecosystem from toxic chemicals.” When he said that, I knew this was the beginning of a movement. To be there to see it happen—and have a role in the process—was incredible! Hawaii is leading the way, and there is already lots of talk about other states following suit.

What’s exciting is that it’s not just states that are getting on board. Some of the big sunscreen brands are taking this very seriously.  My company was featured in a recent piece in Fast Company that also mentioned CVS’s plan to reformulate their private-label sunscreens of SPF 50 and below to be oxybenzone- and octinoxate-free. Some companies are just brushing it off, but if even a few of these big brands switch to reef-safe formulations, it’s a major win!

Of course, I want Goddess Garden to be the brand of choice. We’ve always offered reef-safe formulas, and we’re always going to go above and beyond to ensure our products are safe for people and the planet. But, our ultimate goal is to keep these chemicals off the skin and out of the water. If these ingredients aren’t as prevalent on the shelves—mission accomplished!

Rallying around positive change

To me, it feels like our efforts have made a real difference in the world. For 13 years we’ve been educating the public about how these chemicals effect people and reefs. It’s been a real rally by every definition of the word. We’ve been offering a solution to people who often don’t know there’s a problem. We have done a lot of education and we feel people have a right to know what they’re putting on their skin and in the environment. It’s been a labor of love, driven by a need to protect the things I care about most.

When Hawaii took a stand and banned these chemicals, they simplified the chemical conversation to five simple words: They’re so bad they’re banned. I see this as similar to what happened with BPA. There are people who don’t know how BPA works and why it’s harmful. They just know it is and that they should avoid it. We don’t think people should have to have a degree in chemistry to shop for sunscreen. They should just be able to trust their products are safe for people and the planet. Hawaii is taking a necessary step and making that a lot easier for everyone.

Thanking Hawaii

The signing ceremony was the culmination of both a dream and a vision. I fell in love with the ocean years ago when my husband Paul and I traveled to Baja California, Mexico for our first anniversary in our old VW van.

And Mexico is where we first learned some marine sanctuaries were not allowing chemical sunscreens because of what they were doing to the reefs. My husband, Paul, who is a biochemist, really dug into the research on those ingredients. At the time, he said that stuff was so bad it could—and should—be banned. And now, it is!

So again, thank you, Hawaii, from the bottom of my reef-hugging heart. I can’t wait to see where this reef-safe movement will take us, and I’m excited to ride the wave, especially now that that wave will be free from oxybenzone and octinoxate!

ocean-goddess-garden-activism-reef-safe-sunscreen 2

 

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Sunscreen and Coral Reef Conservation (Guest Post)

Sea Turtle and Coral Reef

Guest post by One People One Reef

OnePeopleOneReef-01

We are a group of communities and scientists working together to keep the reefs, culture and people of the Micronesian Outer Islands healthy. We are bringing traditions and modern science together in a revolutionary approach to sustainable ocean management.

Micronesian Outer islanders from the remote atolls of the Yap and Chuuk outer islands in the Western Pacific have sustainably managed their oceans for centuries, even millennia. Their culture, traditions and livelihoods are intimately linked to the reefs that surround their islands. However, their future is threatened by rapid environmental and cultural change. In 2010, they recognized a decline in fish populations and reef health, along with human health challenges. They asked for help to learn more about how to manage a sustainable food supply from their oceans in the face of these changes, a critical issue for their present and future wellbeing.

We brought together a team of scientists to respond to the outer islanders’ call for assistance. The result was a revolutionary approach in which communities lead through traditional management, backed and informed by modern science. Our work, which began on a single atoll–Ulithi–has now expanded across Yap State and into neighboring Chuuk State, at the request of local communities. Explore our website to learn more about our program’s history, approach and achievements.

Reef conservation and sunscreen

CoralReef-01

In our work studying and helping manage coral reefs in the outer islands of Yap State, Micronesia, our team spends long hours snorkeling and diving in the intense tropical sun. For coral reefs this strong sunlight is essential: Reef-building corals have single-celled algal partners called zooxanthellae that need plenty of sunlight to photosynthesize. It is the products of their photosynthesis that give the corals the energy they need to build their skeletons, which are what form the structure of the reef. For us, the UV radiation in this strong sunlight presents a serious risk of skin damage and related cancers. Both sun-protective clothing and sunscreens can offer effective protection from UV rays. However, the possible effects of sunscreens on coral reefs are a cause for concern.

Coral reefs are already under great stress from climate change-related ocean warming and ocean acidification, destructive fishing, coastal development and pollution. Recent research is now showing that certain ingredients in sunscreens pose an additional threat. Estimates of the amount of sunscreen entering reef areas annually range from 4,000 to 14,000 tons.[1] This either washes off people’s skin when in the water or reaches the ocean via water treatment plants. Importantly, it is estimated that 90% of snorkeling/diving tourists are concentrated on 10% of the world’s reefs, so any environmental impact is likely to be concentrated in a few heavily visited areas.[2]

“Chemical” vs “mineral” sunscreens

There are two main types of sunscreen: Those that use carbon-based chemicals, and those that use zinc or titanium oxides to protect our skin. The former are often referred to as “chemical” sunscreens, and work primarily by absorbing UV radiation through their chemical bonds, and releasing the energy as heat. The latter are referred to as “mineral” sunscreens. They contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which work primarily by scattering and reflecting UV light off the skin.

Chemical sunscreens—oxybenzone

Many sunscreens contain the carbon-based chemical oxybenzone (also called benzophenone-3 or BP3). It has been the focus of much of the research into sunscreen effects on corals to date. A 2015 study[3] found that:

  1. Exposing coral larvae to the chemical deformed and immobilized them
  2. The more corals were exposed to oxybenzone, the more likely they were to bleach (lose their algal symbionts, which they need to survive)
  3. Oxybenzone damaged coral DNA
  4. It also caused abnormalities in the coral larval skeleton

The same study found concerning concentrations of oxybenzone on coral reefs in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The authors conclude “Oxybenzone poses a hazard to coral reef conservation and threatens the resiliency of coral reefs to climate change.” On May 1, 2018, Hawaii became the first State to pass a bill banning the use of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and a second ingredient—octinoxate—based on such studies.

Other ingredients of concern

In 2008, Danovaro et al linked a number of carbon-based UV filters to coral bleaching and viral infections.[4] In an article for Alert Diver Online, the lead author of this study recommends avoiding all of the following ingredients because of their potential environmental impact:

  • parabens (common preservatives such as butylparaben)
  • BMDBM (4-tert-butyl-4-methoxydibenzoylmethane benzophenone
  • BZ (benzophenone-3)
  • MBC (4-methylbenzylidene camphor)
  • OMC (ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate)
  • OCT (octyl methoxycinnamate)
  • BEMT (bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine)
  • any component that includes the term –benzene

None of these ingredients known to be of concern are found in Goddess Garden products.

Mineral sunscreens—“nano” vs “non-nano”

Coral-01

Less research is available on the effects of mineral sunscreens on coral reefs. However, some attention has been paid to the effects of nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium oxide, now used in many mineral sunscreens since they help the product appear clear on the skin. Studies have raised a number of concerns about them, both environmental and human health related. One such study found that nanoparticles of zinc oxide damaged the exoskeletons of the small crustaceans at the base of the coral reef food web.[5] Another found that zinc oxide nanoparticles were toxic to sea urchin embryos.[6]

We recognize that Goddess Garden is using particles that meet Australian and EU guidelines for “non-nano” size in response to these studies.

More research is needed

According to both the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI)[7] and the Environmental Working Group, more research on the environmental effects of all UV filters and other sunscreen ingredients is needed. Currently, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) considers that “the weight of evidence indicates that both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide pose a lower hazard (to the environment) than most other sunscreen ingredients approved for the U.S. market.”

Our approach to sunscreen

In the field, our team uses sun-protective clothes like rash-guards and swim leggings, along with sunscreen to cover still exposed skin like faces and hands. Our team uses non-nano, zinc and titanium-based sunscreens, as the evidence points to those being the best options given our current state of knowledge.

As the ICRI briefing states, “Considering the many stresses already faced by reefs and current concerns about the toxicity of certain components of sunscreens to corals, a proactive and precautionary approach to dealing with this issue may be required. Reducing the amount of harmful sunscreen components that reach the reef environment is a high priority and will require the involvement of governments, reef managers, divers, snorkelers and swimmers, and the tourism and pharmaceutical industries.” We recognize and appreciate that companies like Goddess Garden are doing their best to develop products that are as ocean-friendly as possible, given the lack of conclusive data, and are responding to developments in the research as they become available.

We want to thank Goddess Garden for their generous donation of sunscreen to our team and the local people of the Yap outer islands for our summer 2018 field season. We feel a responsibility to share what we know not only about marine science and the management of sensitive coral reef ecosystems, but also about secondary impacts to these systems–and sunscreens are definitely part of this. For more on our work, please visit onepeopleonereef.org.

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[1] Wood, Elizabeth “Impacts of Sunscreens on Coral Reefs”, ICRI Briefing, Feb 2018. www.icriforum.org Web. Accessed June 4 2018.
[2] National Park Service. “Protect Yourself, Protect the Reef!”, Sunscreen Bulletin. n.d. www.cdhc.noaa.gov. Web. Accessed June 4 2018.
[3] Downs CA, Kramarsky-Winter E, Segal R, et al. Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter,Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 2015 Oct 20. doi: 10.1007/s00244-015-0227-7.
[4] Danovaro, Roberto, “Sunscreens linked to Coral Bleaching.” Alert Diver Online. Winter 2014. www.alertdiver.com Web. Accessed June 4 2018.
[5] Wong, S. W. Y., Leung, K. M. Y., Djurišić, A. B., & Leung, P. T. Y. (2010). Toxicities of nano zinc oxide to five marine organisms: Influences of aggregate size and ion solubility [electronic resource]. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 396(2), 609-618. doi://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00216-009-3249-z
[6] Sonia Manzo, Maria Lucia Miglietta, Gabriella Rametta, Silvia Buono, Girolamo Di Francia, Embryotoxicity and spermiotoxicity of nanosized ZnO for Mediterranean sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus, Journal of Hazardous Materials, Volumes 254–255, 2013, Pages 1-9, ISSN 0304-3894,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2013.03.027.
[7] Wood, Elizabeth “Impacts of Sunscreens on Coral Reefs”, ICRI Briefing, Feb 2018. www.icriforum.org Web. Accessed June 4 2018.

Did Hawaii Really Ban Sunscreens?

Hawaii Sunscreen Ban

On May 1st—May Day—Hawaiian legislators answered the reef’s Mayday and passed a bill banning chemical sunscreens that have been proven to harm coral reefs. State Bill 2571 bans the use or sale of oxybenzone and octinoxate, two common chemical sunscreens. It goes into effect in January of 2021, giving the reefs a much-needed break!![i]

Legislators in Hawaii have been trying to ban sunscreens like oxybenzone and octinoxate for some time because of their hazardous effects on coral reefs, but what does that mean for people? Maybe you’ve read how quickly the reefs are disappearing and that we need to act now to save them. Maybe you’ve heard the opposition argue that people still need sunscreen to protect themselves from sunburns and skin cancer. Do people really have to choose who and what they want to protect?

Hawaiian legislators only ban sunscreens oxybenzone and octinoxate

The simple answer is “no.” Not all sunscreens are harmful to the reefs. Mineral sunscreens like the ones used in Goddess Garden’s products are safe for the reefs and people alike. We can protect ourselves and the reefs, and most people won’t even notice a difference. There are currently 16 sunscreens the FDA will allow as an active ingredient for sun protection. Of those, only eight are used regularly and only two of those eight protect against UVA rays, the rays that cause skin cancer and premature aging.[ii] The legislative ban in Hawaii affects two of the 16 ingredients—oxybenzone and octinoxate—leaving plenty of sun protection options, including zinc, that protect from cancer-causing UVA rays.

What’s really happening in Hawaii with sunscreen?

ReefLegislationBlog3-01

Even though this has only recently gained attention, there has been a lot of effort happening behind the scenes. In January of 2017, Senator Espero, along with Senators English, Chang and others, introduced a bill to ban reef-harming chemical sunscreens like oxybenzone from being used or sold in marine life conservation districts. It passed through the Senate and the House of Representatives, but narrowly missed becoming a bill.

Opponents cited the need for more research and countered with the importance of people protecting themselves from sunburns and skin cancer. Reef-safe sunscreens like Goddess Garden’s have been available for a long time, and the best UVA/skin cancer protectors were not even up for the ban, but their arguments were strong enough to sway the vote. The ban failed to pass at the time, but reef-safe education was out there and a plan was in place. Senator Espero promised to keep fighting for the reefs and was true to his word.

How was Goddess Garden involved in Hawaii?

Since 2005, we’ve been making reef-safe mineral sunscreen. Our motivation originally stemmed from our founders’ need for a safe and effective sunscreen for their daughter who was allergic to the chemicals in sunscreens. As it turns out, the reefs have sensitive skin as well. Goddess Garden Founders Nova and Paul have always been dedicated to protecting the environment. Long before the bill was introduced, they worked with the University of Colorado Boulder to study the effects of sunscreen chemicals on the coral reefs. As a company, we’ve used that and other research to educate the public about the need to use reef-safe sunscreen. We’ve offered samples to help people do their part to protect this fragile ecosystem and we supported organizations who are protecting the reefs and oceans. When Hawaii proposed the ban, we knew we had to support it, too!

In 2017, we provided testimony in support of the bill and wrote to senators and representatives urging them to protect the reefs. We sent free sunscreen to multiple groups for educational events all over Hawaii. People traded in in their chemical sunscreen for a free bottle of our reef-safe sunscreens. We provided monetary assistance to groups helping to spread the word. And most importantly, we made our reef-safe sunscreen available in the places people shop. In 2017, when the bill was first introduced, we expanded our sunscreen sales into retailers like Walmart to make it easier for people to find safe options. If people were going to make a change, the change needed to be as easy as possible. We knew safe sunscreen needed to be more accessible!

ReefLegislationBlog4-01Mineral sunscreen gets along swimmingly with coral reefs

A single ounce of chemical sunscreen product can contaminate 114 million gallons of ocean water.[iii] This can ultimately kill the coral reefs and affect all the life that depends on them. When you consider 14,000 tons of chemical sunscreen reach the reefs every year, you can see why Hawaii wanted to ban sunscreens oxybenzone and octinoxate and why the bill was such a milestone. Hawaii is blazing a trail we hope other states will follow, but we still have work to do. Because the ban doesn’t take effect until January of 2021, reefs are still at risk. Hawaii isn’t the only state with coral reefs either. We need to continue to educate people on the use of reef-safe mineral sunscreen and give all our remaining reefs a fighting chance. We need to help other states follow in Hawaii’s footsteps, ultimately leaving footsteps only in the sand and not on the reefs!

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[i] https://cen.acs.org/articles/93/i20/Decade-FDA-Still-Wont-Allow.html

[ii] https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billnumber=2571&billtype=SB

[i] http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/20/450276158/chemicals-in-sunscreen-are-harming-coral-reefs-says-new-study

 

What Is Avobenzone and Is It Safe In Sunscreen?

what is avobenzone

Avobenzone was introduced in the 1990s and is a common chemical sunscreen. Unlike other chemical sunscreens that just protect from the sunburn-causing UVB rays, avobenzone also protects from UVA rays, the rays that cause premature aging and skin cancer. This chemical is given a two rating by the EWG. So what’s wrong with avobenzone? It seems like a safe sunscreen, right?Sunscreen Ingredients UVA and UVB protection

What’s wrong with avobenzone?

Avobenzone, by itself, is relatively safe in terms of toxicity, but it breaks down quickly in the sun. Once exposed to the sun, avobenzone alone only offers about 30 minutes of protection.[i] Since UVA rays are the sneaky rays that do their damage deep within the layers of your skin, you wouldn’t even know it until many years later.

Why is avobenzone used in sunscreen?

So maybe you’re asking why they don’t they just use an ingredient that is better friends with the sunshine. We wish we knew! Because many chemical sunscreen companies still use avobenzone for UVA protection, they then have to add not-so-safe chemicals like octocrylene to make it work longer than 30 minutes.[ii] Octocrylene helps stabilize avobenzone, which is good, but it is a known endocrine disruptor that also releases free radicals.[iii] Not good. Skin sample tests showed there were more free radicals when using octocrylene than skin exposed to the sun with no sunscreen at all.[iv] And remember, free radicals, also known as reactive oxygen species (ROS), can damage skin cells and increase the risk for cancer and other health issues.[v]

Alternatives to avobenzone

Free radicals are neither free nor rad. Solving one problem by creating another one just doesn’t make sense. Luckily, zinc oxide, like we use in Goddess Garden sunscreens offers natural broad-spectrum sun protection from both burning rays and the rays that cause premature skin aging and skin cancer. Zinc doesn’t break down in the sun, and it doesn’t release free radicals. It is also reef safe, unlike octocrylene.

A sunscreen that is good for us and good for coral reefs? Now that is actually rad!

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[i] http://www.acne.org/blog/2010/07/06/more-on-avobenzone-and-octocrylene-our-sunscreen-ingredients/

[ii] http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/700596/AVOBENZONE/

[iii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3443608/

[iv] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17015167

[v] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/

Why We Care About Coral Reefs

So you’re not a scuba diver. Maybe reefs are miles away. Perhaps you get seasick just looking at the water. But you still need to care about the coral reefs! Why? While not everyone lives close enough to experience their beauty, the coral reefs’ other benefits extend to millions.

Protection and health depend on coral reefs

Barrier reefs are just that—a natural barrier that protects the shore line. Waves break apart on the coral reefs, reducing their impact on beaches and coastal cities. Simulated research even suggests that a sufficiently wide barrier reef within a meter or two of the surface could reduce run-up on the land from a tsunami by 50 percent.[x] That means if we lose reefs, a tsunami could have twice the impact in those areas!

Beyond the reefs’ physical ability to offer protection, coral reefs are called the medicine cabinets of the sea. They are important sources of new medicines being used to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, heart disease, viruses and other diseases.[xi]

Dolphin by the coral reefDiversity keeps our options open

Once a living organism is gone, it’s gone forever. That’s why keeping all life alive keeps our options alive, too.[i] Suppose the sea grass that thrives near a reef disappears. What if that sea grass had contained the cure for some terrible disease? Stranger things have happened—penicillin, for example, comes from mold![ii]

Who knows what we might discover? Coral reefs are home to a quarter of all marine species, and an abundance of plant life.[iii] That’s a lot of options, but reefs are disappearing twice as fast as rainforests![iv]

Coral reefs affect our wallets

Biodiversity also has a positive economic value. There are more types of fish in a two-acre area of coral than types of birds in all of North America.[v] This abundance of life allows other life to thrive—even beyond the water. Reefs provide food and resources for more than 500 million people in 94 countries and territories.[vi]

Coral reefs have an annual global economic value of $375 billion.[vii] Here in the U.S., commercial value of fisheries from coral reefs alone is over $100 million a year.[viii] Reefs are also a source of billions of dollars from tourism for the coastal communities they surround.[ix] Money changes hands rapidly, so even if you’ve never seen a reef, you likely benefit from by their existence in some fashion.

We need to act now to protect the coral reefs

Healthy coral and bleached coral reefsSeveral things are affecting the reefs and, while not all of them have an easy solution, one easy thing we can all do is switch to a reef-safe, biodegradable sunscreen like Goddess Garden’s. Chemical sunscreens are having a dramatic impact on coral reefs. A single ounce of chemical sunscreen product can contaminate 114 million gallons of ocean water. This can ultimately kill the coral reefs and all the life that depends on them. When you consider 14,000 tons of chemical sunscreen reach the reefs every year, you can see why we need to act now![xii]

What we’re doing to help the reefs

The state of Hawaii is blazing a trail, and we’re getting involved! Hawaiian senators Espero, English, Chang and others introduced a bill in January to ban reef-harming sunscreen chemicals like oxybenzone from being used or sold in marine life conservation districts. The bill also requires anyone operating in a marine life district to inform their customers that the use of those chemicals are harmful to coral reefs and are prohibited from use.

At Goddess Garden, we have provided our testimony in favor of the bill, along with our support. And we have good news! The bill is making its way through the legislative process. It passed the Senate and crossed over to the House of Representatives. There, it was referred to three separate committees. In a unanimous vote, it passed the Energy and Environmental Protection (EEP) Committee. It also passed the Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian Affairs (OMH) Committee. Now it will move on to the Consumer Protection and Commerce (CPC)/Finance and (FIN) Committee.

If it passes all three committees, it will move on to the floor of the House of Representatives. There, they can make edits and small changes. Those changes then go back to the Conference Committee to approve. If all goes well, it will go to Governor Ige for approval, and then become official. You can follow the bill’s progress here:

Oxybenzone Ban Bill Status

This is a long process, but all journeys begin with a small step—and in this case, the hope of an even smaller footprint!

Goddess Garden natural sunscreen on the boardwalk by the beach

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[i] https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED315280

[ii] https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/whatischemistry/landmarks/flemingpenicillin.html

[iii] http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2011/06/13/losing-our-coral-reefs/

[iv] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/08/070807-coral-loss.html

[v] http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/top-25-coral-reef-facts.php

[vi] http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2011/06/13/losing-our-coral-reefs/

[vii] http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2011/06/13/losing-our-coral-reefs/

[viii] http://celebrating200years.noaa.gov/foundations/coral/side.html

[ix] http://celebrating200years.noaa.gov/foundations/coral/side.html

[x] https://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/bibliography/related_files/cmk0601.pdf

[xi] http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=819&year=2017

[xii] http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/20/450276158/chemicals-in-sunscreen-are-harming-coral-reefs-says-new-study

 

Happy Earth (and Water) Day!

“Earth” is defined as the planet we live on. It also means the substance of the land surface or the soil

Have you ever wondered why we refer to the soil as “earth” when in fact, 71-percent of the Earth is covered in water? It’s kind of a head scratcher, but it really highlights the idea of “out of sight, out of mind,” doesn’t it?

The oceans hold about 96-percent of all that water, but unless you live near them or get to visit often, we rarely think about them. But we should.

Beyond being beautiful, the oceans host life for one-million species, with a scientific possibility of nine-million more species yet to be discovered.(i) That means we’ve only begun to learn what the ocean has to offer.

Did you know an enzyme used by corals to protect themselves from disease is actually used to treat asthma, arthritis and other inflammatory disorders? Blue-green algae is used to treat melanoma and small-cell lung cancer.(ii)The oceans affect people everywhere, whether we get to gaze at their beauty or not. What secrets do the oceans hold? And more importantly, what would happen if the life within them disappears?

There are many issues affecting the oceans and the reefs in particular. The reefs provide homes to 25-percent of all marine life, so they’re particular important—and particularly at risk since they are disappearing twice as fast as the rainforests! (iii) (iv) Luckily, we can help!

What is Goddess Garden doing?

A lot! Common chemical sunscreens are big contributors to the destruction of the reefs. The chemicals awaken a latent virus in the algae the reefs depend on, ultimately killing both the algae and the reef. That then harms the the 25-percent of sea life that use the reefs for protection, and the life that depended on that life for food, and so on and so forth until the effects are felt back on the soil.

Every single bottle of reef-safe sunscreen keeps enough harmful chemicals out of the water to save 250 million gallons of water from contamination! Beyond that, we have donated directly to organizations like REEF.org and The Ocean First Institute . We’ve also taken it a step further and established the Protect Our Mother Foundation to generate funds for organizations that foster healthy reefs and oceans, and educate the public on the dangers facing this fragile ecosystem.

What can you do?

A lot! And, no, it’s not the usual “it all adds up” kind of way. The damage adds up one person at a time—and it will take that same one-at-a-time approach to reverse it— but one person’s small steps, like choosing reef-safe sunscreen, can have an immediate and lasting effect!

On Earth Day, and all year long, take a few minutes to think about the Earth beyond the soil. Remember, we can all make a difference by keeping in mind the very thing that makes our little blue planet blue—the oceans!

Happy Earth (and Water) Day!

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(i) chool.discoveryeducation.com/schooladventures/planetocean/ocean.html
(ii) ttp://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/habitats/oceanscoasts/explore/coral-reefs-and-medicine.xml
(iii) ttp://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/habitats/coralreefs/index.htm
(iv) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/08/070807-coral-loss.html

Give Chemicals the Bird: Environmental Damage

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If something is harmful for you, chances are it’s harmful for the environment, too. Caring for ourselves means caring for the earth. At Goddess Garden we keep this in mind with every decision we make, from the way we source our ingredients to our recyclable packaging and the organizations we support. And this is a big reason why all our sunscreens are non-nano and reef safe.

Keppel-bleaching_largeThis isn’t pretty!

Okay, it’s still pretty, but it’s a pretty skeleton. “Bleached” coral doesn’t simply mean the coral isn’t as vibrant. White coral is akin to bare bones. There is no longer any life. And chemical sunscreens are not reef safe. They are coral killers—especially since about 14,000 tons of it are washed into oceans every year.(i)

Make Sure Your Sunscreen is Reef Safe!

Algae and coral have a symbiotic relationship. Algae live in the coral tissue. In return for its room and board, the algae “feed” the coral through photosynthesis and give the coral its color. Common chemicals in traditional sunscreen, like oxybenzone, awaken a dormant virus. The virus multiplies, unchecked, until the algae explodes. Once this happens, the algae is released from the coral and the coral dies. The reefs provide food for about

4,000 species of fish, and provide homes for 25 percent of all sea life. They also directly feed 30­ to 40 million people every year. Often referred to as the rainforests of the sea, we’re losing coral reefs about twice as fast as we’re losing the rainforests!(ii)

The four chemicals linked to this phenomenon are parabens, cinnamate, benzophenone and a camphor derivative.(iii)  And they aren’t the only threat to the reefs! Nano-particles also have harmful effects on algae, further poisoning aquatic ecosystems.(iv)

Chemicals are toxic to animals, just like they are to us!

We know the chemicals in conventional sunscreens are endocrine disruptors, meaning they can lead to infertility, problems with sexual development and increased risk of cancer.(v) Similarly, they can have the same consequences for the animals as they do for us. On the sunny side, simply switching to a mineral and reef-safe sunscreen like Goddess Garden’s will make a world of difference. Even Mother Nature wants you to give these chemicals the bird, and we’re here to help!

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(i)  http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/20/450276158/chemicals-in-sunscreen-are-harming-coral-reefs-says-new-study

(ii) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/08/070807-coral-loss.html

(iii) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/01/080129-sunscreen-coral.html

(iv) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1065%2Fespr2006.06.311

(v) http://www.doctoroz.com/article/your-sunscreen-might-be-poisoning-you

Is Your Sunscreen Reef Safe?

You’re on vacation in a tropical paradise, the sun is shining, and you are preparing for a swim in the reef. As the sun-conscious person that we know you are, you lather up with some sunscreen you picked up at the resort and dive in. But wait! Do you have a reef safe sunscreen? Not enough people realize that chemical-based sunscreens can cause harmful damage to the world’s coral and that a simple change can help to stop coral bleaching. Hawaii even placed a ban on two chemical sunscreens—oxybenzone and octinoxate—in an effort to help protect their coral reefs.

The NOAA National Center for Coastal Ocean Science and partners have found a link between sunscreen chemicals and coral bleaching. To summarize the findings of the study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal:

  • Corals are highly sensitive organisms that are prone to bleaching at the slightest stress, making even low concentrations of chemicals potentially harmful.
  • The chemicals that filter ultraviolet (UV) light can activate latent viral infections in the symbiotic microalgae that the corals rely on for nutrition.
  • Seawater surrounding coral exposed to sunscreen contained up to 15 times more viruses than unexposed samples.
  • The ingredients found in sunscreens that should be avoided around reefs, that also have shown potentially harmful effects on humans, are octinoxate (also known as ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate), oxybenzone, parabens and octocrylene.
  • The researchers estimate that 4000-6000 metric tons of sunscreen washes off swimmers and snorkelers into coral reef environments, and that up to 10% of the world’s reefs are at risk for bleaching due to sunscreen runoff.

While the study’s methodology isn’t necessarily perfect, as Christine Beggs of Project Blue Hope analyses, ingredients in chemical sunscreens are still harmful to both humans and the environment. Instead, she suggests the use of reef safe mineral sunscreens that are water resistant and biodegradable for the most environmentally friendly method of sun protection. The coral reefs, and your skin, will thank you.

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