Ocean Play, the Sustainable Way – the Importance of Using Reef-Safe Sunscreen

The chance to explore the warm, bright blue waters and vibrant coral reefs of Maui is one of the biggest draws for visitors to our island paradise. It’s nothing short of magical to watch colorful reef fish dart amongst the coral heads beneath you while graceful, lumbering green sea turtles meander slowly up from the sea floor to take their gulps of air. When you’re lucky enough to be frolicking in the ocean here, whether you’re snorkeling, diving, surfing, beach-combing, swimming, paddle-boarding, kayaking, or simply floating on your back and watching the world go by, you’re in one of the most relaxing places on Earth. We get so much from the ocean – shouldn’t it be part of our job to make sure we’re taking care of her in return?

Sunscreen, one of the first toiletries many think to pack when traveling to an island, has become a big topic of concern out here in this popular vacation spot. Naturally, sun protection is an important part of taking care of our skin, but many don’t consider that there are plenty more options apart from the typical creams, sprays, and lotions that line the shelves at convenience stores. Did you know that certain ingredients in many of the most common sunscreen brands are actually killing our coral reefs? It’s easy to forget about the products we’re slathering on our bodies when we’re excited to jump in and explore these beautiful underwater places. But oxybenzone and octinoxate are two common active ingredients in sunscreen that can dramatically harm the tiny animals that make up our fragile coral reef ecosystems. Researches are finding that these chemicals can cause coral viruses, which in turn can cause bleaching and polyp death. They’ve even been shown to disrupt the endocrine systems of larger marine creatures, like shrimps and clams.

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Protecting the Ocean, One Purchase at a Time

Healthy oceans depend on a lot of factors – one of the most important being you and me. Our choices as consumers have a profound influence on the future of the marine environment, and believe it or not, can affect the smallest algae to the largest whale.

Unfortunately, the manufacturing consumer products typically comes with a big environmental price tag. A single t-shirt, for example, can use up to 700 gallons of water.  Not to mention the host of chemical dyes and pesticides that are associated with a shirt’s manufacturing.

As an organization committed to minimizing our environmental impact, Pacific Whale Foundation has taken numerous steps to green its retail operations. One way that we are making a difference is by substituting traditional products, like 100% cotton t-shirts made in China, with items that are more environmentally friendly.

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