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The Clever Girl’s Guide to Choosing Coral Reef Safe Sunscreens

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You need to choose a coral reef safe sunscreen before your next trip to the beach.

Forget that old bottle you have lurking in the back of your bathroom closet. And definitely, don’t go for the same mainstream brand you’ve been using forever.

Because if you do, you’ll be partly responsible for the death and destruction of coral and coral reefs across the world. Really.

Whilst you’ve been happily chilling out at the beach and enjoying the ocean over the years, the sunscreen you’ve been (very sensibly) wearing has been slowly washing off your skin and killing coral reefs.

Coral Reef Image

Researchers say that an astonishing 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotions end up this way, and even more shockingly, that 80% of the gorgeous coral reefs in the Caribbean have been lost because of sunscreens.

That’s why last week, Hawaiian officials passed a ground-breaking bill which banned the use of sunscreens which contain the two worst reef-bleaching chemicals; oxybenzone and octinoxate. This is their last-ditch attempt to protect their struggling coral reefs.

Which leaves us with a massive problem.

Because these nasty coral-killing ingredients aren’t just in a handful of sunscreens but in almost all the sunscreens we’ve ever used.

So, if you’re a sun-worshipper or fan of the outdoors, you want to protect yourself from skin cancer and you also want to protect the health of the world’s coral reefs, what are you supposed to do? You can’t exactly ditch sunscreen altogether, despite your principles…

But you don’t have to! There are many wonderful coral reef safe sunscreens out there which will help protect your skin and coral reefs around the world from damage. Here’s what you need to know about the chemicals and choosing a better brand of sunscreen.

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What’s the deal with those sunscreen chemicals?

Hawaii passed the sunscreen bill because of the toxic chemicals which almost all regular sunscreens contain. These are oxybenzone (also known as benzophenone-3) and octinoxate, and have been proven to damage and even kill coral reefs. Here’s why:

#1: They bleach coral reefs

Oxybenzone and octinoxate cause coral reef bleaching. This happens when the algae that usually lives on its surface disappears, exposing the coral underneath and causing it to turn white. If it doesn’t immediately die, it will be more susceptible to disease and much more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

#2: They prevent coral reproducing properly

Oxybenzone damages coral DNA, leaving it unable to reproduce properly. When this happens, we get fewer coral reefs, and the ones we do have are likely to be deformed and sick.

#3: They can cause coral deformations and strange behavior

These chemicals can also cause disruptions in the coral reef hormone balance which cause strange growth patterns in adult coral.

These two are the only chemicals which have been singled out by the Hawaiian authorities so far, but they’re certainly not the only sunscreen ingredients which affect coral reefs and marine life.

Butylparaben (related to the dangerous parabens in your cosmetics), and 4-Methylbenzylidine Camphor (4MBC) are two other harmful chemicals which have also been linked to coral bleaching and are best avoided.

So, how do I choose a coral reef safe sunscreen?

There are plenty of coral reef safe sunscreens you can choose instead so your summer fun doesn’t result in coral death.

#1: Read the labels on your bottles of sunscreen

Start by getting into the habit of reading your sunscreen bottles to check whether they are coral reef safe, just like you would your food labels.

sunscreens image

First watch out for those four toxic chemicals (oxybenzone, octinoxate, Butylparaben and 4-Methylbenzylidine Camphor). Also make an effort to buy an organic, biodegradable, non-toxic, reef-friendly product which hasn’t been tested on animals.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the labels, remember the Hawaii State Department’s slogans: ‘If You Can’t Say It, Don’t Spray It.

#2: Use one of these coral reef safe sunscreens instead

Here’s my top pick of the best coral reef safe sunscreens on the market.

1. The Green People

Green People Sun Lotion Image

The Green People produce a wide range of organic and natural sunscreens and skin-care products that are free from harsh chemicals and not tested on animals. Their award-winning sunscreen range is non-toxic, coral reef-safe and available in a range of SPFs. They also have a lovely product that’s great for the kids too.

2. Stream2Sea

Stream2Sea sunscreen

The biodegradable, performance-tested sunscreens from Stream2Sea are one of the best options if you’re a big fan of diving, snorkeling or just lazing it up in the sea. They offer both regular and tinted sunscreen and their prices are very affordable too.

3. Tom’s of Maine

Tom’s of Maine Sunscreen Image

Tom’s of Maine offer the most gorgeous coral reef safe baby sunscreen which is great for grown-ups too. It’s fragrance-free and created using just five ingredients to create a SPF30 reef-friendly sunscreen which you know won’t cause nasty skin issues or worsen ocean pollution.

4. Raw Elements

Raw Elements Sunscreen Image

Raw Elements certainly gets my vote as one of the best coral reef safe sunscreens out there. Just look at their mission: ‘to create the safest, most effective sunscreen on the planet’! And what they create is impressive – water-resistant, long-lasting, nano-free, certified natural and organic and safe for everyone!

5. Badger Healthy Body Care

Badger Healthy Body Care Sunscreen Image

Badger Body Care is a family-owned, family-operated, and family-friendly company and they’re pros at what they do- creating gorgeous, planet-friendly products which don’t cost the earth. They have a great range of sunscreens for babies and kids, active sports, and daily use that you know won’t go damaging any coral reefs or killing marine life any time soon.

6. Australia Gold Botanical Sunscreen Mineral Lotions

Australia Gold Botanical Sunscreen Mineral Lotions Image

Give yourself a taste of luxury with this beautifully scented, mineral sunscreen which is free from all kinds of nasties like oxybenzone, parabens, phthalates, petrolatum, PABA, SLS, dyes, and oils. Available in SPF 30 and SPF50, it’s soft, non-greasy and feels lovely on your skin.

#3: Be sensible in the sun

Don’t forget there’s also a huge benefit to just being sensible in the sun. Instead of slapping on the sunscreen, protect your skin by covering up with regular clothing like t-shirts and sunhats.

Also, avoid those hotter midday hours between 11 am and 2 pm when the sun is strongest. You’ll still get your tan, but you’ll save dollars on sunscreen and protect those coral reefs too.

So next time you’re planning a trip to the beach, think twice about what sunscreen you’re using and opt for a natural, coral reef safe brand instead. Just one switch could help a coral reef survive or recover.

Charlotte Witts is a freelance writer and editor who will show you just how effortless and stress-free caring for the environment can be. A confirmed yoga-addict, wannabe zero-waster and lover of the ocean, she currently lives in the Azores where she aims for whole-life simplicity.

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How to Start Your Clean Living Journey? 8 Simple Tips

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Water, plants, air, animals, and soil make up the earth’s natural resources. These resources have preserved mankind for centuries. However, today we’re waking up to a steep rise in global warming, animal and plant species extinction, drought, and other natural calamities. The saddest part is that we are the ones fueling these calamities. Yet among these natural resources, most are renewable. So how are we contributing to this degradation? And is there something we can do about it?

In this article, we will talk about clean living, a simple yet effective approach for each one of us that would save our planet several centuries of the good life. In the process, we will also be saving ourselves from the results of our current situation. I’m talking about the cancers we are experiencing as a result of polluted air and water, drought from desertification, unpredictable weather a.k.a. global warming due to the depleting Ozone layer among others.

Enough of the theory, let’s get down to the specifics.

What is Clean Living?

Clean living is the conscious decision to conserve our natural resources by being mindful of the products and foods we consume every day for the sake of all living things now and in the future. Say for example the choice between a really good and fragrant shower gel made of parabens and toxic chemicals as opposed to a natural bar soap made of non-toxic ingredients. Or the choice between a healthy homemade meal as opposed to processed foods.

Why Is It Important for Our Planet?

what is clean living image

The natural resources I mentioned above can only last and replenish forever if we take care of them. Our population has grown rapidly over the past few decades. As we let the governments think of long-term survival solutions, you and I can at least contribute to today’s solution.

If we stop, say for example, using toxic products or dumping plastic bottles, we will reduce the toxicity in our seas and oceans. And did you know that besides giving us food, the oceans absorb more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere while producing over half of the oxygen we use worldwide?

Similarly, when we start polluting our soils, this means the compromised nutritional value of our food. Consequently, we start to experience foodborne diseases.

So, let’s fix this.

How to Start a Clean Living Lifestyle – 8 Tips

#1: Your Household Cleaning Products

Have you ever wondered where all the water we bathe with or wash our clothes in ends up? Well, this goes back to the oceans and seas. So, every time you use a toxic handwash you’re adding to the already toxic oceans and consequently threatening our marine life.

Luckily, there are plenty of organic cleaning products for you to use, and these are safe for our environment. Besides, you can always make your own using natural ingredients, just to be sure.

Similarly, invest in long-lasting rugs such as microfiber. These are equally efficient without detergent and after serving you for ages, they can be recycled, which means less carbon print.

#2: Your Self Care Products

clean self-care products image

Are you a make-up person? Well, even if you’re not, you will have your hair done occasionally, right? Are you aware of the products you’re using? For starters, avoid products with “fragrance”. According to research, artificial fragrances are a blend of over 4000 undisclosed products among them toxic parabens and phthalates. Some of these ingredients are key causes of asthma and different cancers.

#3: Your Kitchen Equipment and Ingredients

So recently, more people are becoming aware of the dangers of using aluminum and Teflon coated pots. What cookware are you using? These directly impact your health as much as they do on our environment.

Similarly, every time you buy groceries, read the label. How many chemicals, preservatives, or food colorings does your favorite product have? Clean eating goes hand in hand with clean living. Our sewer system ends back in the soil. Besides, a healthier nation means less congested hospitals and more workforce.

#4: The Plastic Mayhem

I know you’re wondering, “is there a product that is not made of plastic?”. A few years ago, I would have resonated with you. Luckily, the global plastic ban policy has now taken deep roots and most plastic manufacturers have given us better alternatives.

Today we have freezer-friendly glassware, re-useable woven shopping bags and much more. Make an individual effort to do the same. We all know the dangers of plastics by now, don’t we? Besides, research has proven that the BPA alternatives are equally or even more harmful for our health.

#5: Trees and Plants

organic farming image

If you cut one tree, plant two. This is a slogan that has been around for a very long time now. You can practice the same even if you don’t own a farm by planting trees in the parks and nurturing them until they are old enough to survive on their own.

#6: Medicines and Supplements

While some of us can’t do much about the doctors’ prescriptions, we can definitely choose what we buy over the counter. Did you know that vitamin C supplements can be replaced with a single serving of an orange fruit each day? Did you also know that a concoction of lemon, ginger and honey works faster on a sore throat than aspirin tablets? Well, now you know.

#7: Pets

As you watch out for your own health, remember your lovely pet. What does your favorite dog food contain? Read these labels too. If possible, replace store-bought pet food with homemade meals.

#8: Organic Farming

In the same thought, let us encourage organic farming by buying from these farmers. Besides being healthier for your family, these are the farmers who have chosen not to degrade our soil by using harmful pesticides and fertilizers.

The Bottom Line

I’m certain by now you can agree with me that clean living is not impossible to achieve. The above tips are practical and in the long term, they will also save you money and fewer trips to the doctor, right? Let’s start clean living today for a better tomorrow.

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Eco-Friendly Christmas Trees: How Sustainable Is Your Christmas This Year?

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How to choose eco-friendly christmas tree image

Ho Ho Ho! Christmas is around the corner. Is your eco-friendly Christmas tree ready? Don’t panic. In this article, I will discuss a variety of options available for you. I will also share with you several practical tips for choosing eco-friendly Christmas trees.

But first things first:

Artificial Vs. Natural Christmas Trees

To understand the sustainability of our Christmas trees, we have to answer three important questions:

  • What are the inputs in your Christmas tree?
  • How long will those inputs last? In other words, for how long can you use that Christmas tree?
  • How will you dispose of your Christmas tree eventually?

Artificial Christmas trees are made of plastics, metal, petroleum products, and other similar inputs. Natural Christmas trees are made of water and nutrients for the soil. However, the big issue is in the manufacture of these inputs. Petroleum products are one of the biggest threats to our environment. The processing plants continually pollute our atmosphere while the tankers have multiple oil spills in the ocean that pose a threat to aquatic life.

Natural Christmas trees also consume a lot of water. Luckily, if they grow tall, without being cut down, they give back to the environment by attracting more rainfall, creating a natural habitat for our wildlife, and giving us clean oxygen to breathe.

The problem with the rising demand in natural Christmas trees is that farmers are now using chemical nutrients to hasten the growth process. With time, these chemicals sip into the rivers, lakes, and oceans, and cause serious pollution issues and dead zones. They also use herbicides and pesticides that pollute the environment.

How long do these trees last?

artificial christmas tree image

People use artificial Christmas trees for years whereas you can only use the natural ones for just a year. Does that make artificial Christmas trees eco-friendly? Not necessarily!

The third question ascertains this.

Imagine thousands of homes disposing of their artificial Christmas trees at once. That would severely affect our environment, right? But that doesn’t make the natural ones less concerning. It takes 8 to 10 years to grow a Christmas tree naturally. And if you only get to use it for one year, then that is a waste of the soil’s potential. Even if ideally these trees will decompose and release their nutrients back to the soil eventually, they leave reasonable carbon footprint and traces of methane gas after decomposing.

So what options do you have?

Sustainable Options When Buying an Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree

Natural Christmas trees

In my city, there is a guy that sells potted Christmas trees. Once you order, he delivers and sets them up in your home with a tree skirt. That makes it easier for you to keep watering the tree until January when he picks them up for planting. Larger organizations such as The Living Christmas Tree Company and many others that rent eco-friendly Christmas trees have borrowed the same idea.

In my opinion, this is the best option for an eco-friendly Christmas tree. You enjoy nourishing a living tree as you teach the young ones about responsibilities. You also inspire them to become conscious of our environment for the sake of their future generations.

Besides, once these people plant the trees in January, they don’t have to use artificial chemicals to hasten growth. They let them grow naturally since they don’t need them anymore. Instead, they plant young seedlings and water them naturally awaiting the next December to rent them. So it’s a win-win situation for both you (the buyer) and the environment.

Designated Natural Christmas Trees

christmas tree love image

Have you ever driven along loop 360 in Austin, Texas? There is an entire farm full of Christmas trees open to the public for decoration. Each year, people decorate these trees as their own. It is more like rent a Christmas tree only that you don’t get to carry the tree home.

If your city offers such reserved Christmas trees, it’s only fair that you decorate the tree with eco-friendly materials.

However, if your last resort is a real Christmas tree (a branch of pine trees), ensure it has the FSC-certification logo. This proves the pine tree was grown ethically and hence promoting sustainability.

Artificial eco-friendly Christmas trees

If you live away from cities that offer “rent-a-Christmas tree-service”, you can still enjoy Christmas with an artificial tree that is sensitive to our environment. So how do you choose an artificial eco-friendly Christmas tree?

  • Buy a Christmas tree made from polyethylene plastic (PE). This is a newer technology, and the tree branches look more realistic. Polyethylene degrades naturally, but over a long period. If you dispose them to a recycling center, they have artificial ways to hasten the biodegradation process.
  • To ease the burden on your end, just make sure you re-use your PE eco-friendly Christmas tree for several years (20-plus years). In addition to preserving our environment, you will save quite a bit of money.
  • Keep off PVC trees. These contain the harmful petroleum inputs we discussed above.
  • Avoid the glossy types. These are usually coated with lead – which acts as a PVC stabilizer. The lead-laced dust sheds over time, and some might land on your kid’s gifts or on the pet’s carpet. Lead is a toxic metal, especially when inhaled or swallowed.

If you already own an artificial Christmas tree, don’t throw it away. Just stick to the basics of “eco-friendly”: Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

The DIY Option

YouTube is full of tutorials on how you can design a Christmas tree using locally available materials such as fabric, plywood, cardboard, and crates.

And if you have a bigger garden space, it’s about time you plant your own pine tree. Just make sure you water it economically and grow it organically.

The Bottom Line

Investing in an eco-friendly Christmas tree would go a long way in preserving our environment for the sake of our future generations. You don’t have to give up the entire Christmas tree idea. Just find a solution that works well for you and enjoy a guilt-free festive season.

Happy holidays!

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What’s With The Plastic Straw Ban Controversy? The Facts vs. Myths

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Did you know that in America only we use over 500 million plastic straws each day? This translates to 182.5 billion straws annually. How many times do you take your straws for recycling? You probably dump them in the nearest bin and forget about them. Do you know what impact such plastics have on our environment? Let me shed some light.

Why are Plastics a Problem?

Previously, items that we are currently making from plastics were made from coal or byproducts of natural gas. Things changed in 1907 when we made the first plastic polymer from Bakelite (fossil fuels). The process of polymerization (making plastics) involves heating and curing of the products. This changes the true form of Bakelite, which makes it hard to recycle them 100%.

It is also impossible to achieve the original quality and, therefore, they are only recycled to make less inferior products. After a few recycling processes, that piece of plastic is beyond reform, and it is eventually thrown away.

Plastics can stay for over 100 years in landfills without decomposing. This means they occupy potential garbage space and they pollute the waters. Some forms of plastics slowly release their chemical composition into the environment. These chemicals can cause our ozone layer to deplete or even pollute the waters, and there is nothing much we can do at this stage. For this reason, prevention is better than cure when it comes to plastics.

Why Straws

Straws are made from polypropylene, which we can recycle in theory. However, most of them end up in dumpsites. If they don’t find their way to a landfill, the straws will be on a big boat en route to China for a controversial plastic trade. Most of them drift out to sea because of their minute nature, and they join the rest of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In fact, the reason we have the plastic straw ban today is because of a viral video showing a sea turtle with a straw blocking his nostril.

In my opinion, the battle shouldn’t end with straws. We need to ban all forms of plastics and go back to the good old glass and porcelain. Our environment needs us, and the creatures in it (human beings included) can only survive for as long as the environment supports them.

The Concerns versus the Facts

While big franchise like Starbucks is in support of the ban, there are several organizations and individuals fighting the ban.

  • The associations of persons living with disability are on the forefront opposing the plastic straw ban. Their case is arguably reasonable. People without hands need to feel comfortable dining in public and straws play a significant role. However, the straws they use don’t have to be plastic. They can use recyclable bamboo straws or the other alternatives below.
  • Another concern is that closing down the manufacturing factories means we lose more jobs. Our nation has enough job burdens with several unemployed citizens living from hand to mouth. This concern is equally valid. However, if we close down the plastic straw factories and open recyclable straw factories, we can shift this labor in that direction. The factories will incur losses in the machinery and equipment but this is a loss that can be mitigated by the government and if possible find a new use for the equipment.
  • The opposition also argues that the recyclable straw companies might not be able to meet the demand. While it takes lesser time to manufacture plastic straws, the recyclable options are worth the wait. After all, we don’t always need straws, to be honest, do we?
  • A ban on plastic straws means we spend more money buying safer alternatives. We can look at this as a possible solution to discourage people from buying straws eventually. Whether plastic or recyclable, most of us don’t need them anyway.

You might be wondering, why not encourage people to recycle instead of banning these plastic straws? Well, did you know that only 9 % of trash gets recycled? Don’t take my word for it. The statistics are according to this 2017 report. So you can imagine the 91% of plastic trash you slid in the “recycling” bin is releasing toxins somewhere in a landfill. Maybe if you had used glass instead of plastic, we would have different statistics.

Alternatives to Plastic Straws

Now that you see the need for Plastic Straw Ban let’s discuss the alternatives we have.

Multi-use straws – This is one of the best alternatives. We can reuse and easily clean straws made from metal with ease. The major drawback with this option is the cost compared to the plastic straws currently in use.

Decomposable straws – Straws made from plant material like bamboo can decompose safely even when disposed of in landfills. However, some need further crushing to facilitate the decomposition. Looking at the trend, we might do more harm than good to our plants if we choose this route. We cannot sustain the number of straws manufactured in a day.

Recyclable straws – This option may seem viable to most people. However, the municipal recycling system has failed us. And maybe we shouldn’t blame them as much, because we end up trashing more waste than they can handle, right?

Life without straws – If you can use your two hands comfortably, you can as well sip from a glass. Does the drink taste different? Not really! The straws are just mental barriers we have created over time. Our forefathers didn’t use plastics, and that’s why we found a clean world to live in. Will our future generations say the same?

In Conclusion

Several states within the USA have already effected The Plastic Straw Ban. In some states like Seattle and Oakland, they have passed “a straw-upon-request” ordinance. Other cities are still drafting similar legislation, but the negative public reception with demonstration against the ban is making it almost impossible.

I believe with or without legislative laws, we can all support the ban individually. When you order a drink, choose to sip from the glass or use the above alternatives for the sake of our environment. If we all unite against plastic straws, the manufacturers will soon join in the plastic straw ban, and together we will make our environment safer for our future generations.

 

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