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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.

sunscreen image

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

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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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plastic straw ban image

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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Fashion

A Guide to Ethical Fashion and Why You Should be Part of It

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Ethical Fashion Image

For most of us, shopping for clothes is a normal process, and we do not take the time to find out the nitty-gritty details about the clothes we purchase. Fashion houses are always competing on the latest fashion trends. And the best part is that most of these trendy clothes are affordable. It is now possible to look good without breaking the bank.

However, do you know what goes on behind the scenes in the fashion industry? Have you ever heard of sustainable fashion or Eco fashion? All these terms refer to ethical fashion; a term that is yet to be embraced by many “fashionistas”, but it is gradually gaining popularity. Most people think that ethical fashion is expensive. It’s not. In this article, I will explain this concept.

What is Ethical fashion?

Ethical fashion is more of a movement that aims to stop the production of high street items on a low-cost budget. In simple terms, ethical fashion is a call to all fashion designers to be ethical. It addresses all aspects of the fashion industry including fashion design, manufacturing, and retail and purchasing.

ethical fashion industry image

What do I mean?

Ethical fashion guarantees that in the next century, our environment will not be highly polluted by decomposing fashion waste products. Additionally, the designers will not continue cutting trees, killing animals, and other similar degrading social activities in an effort to find raw materials to sustain their industry. By embracing sustainable fashion, we embrace positive social responsibility and preserve our environment.

Why is Ethical Fashion Important?

As I mentioned above, for the trendy clothes to be affordable for many people, several sacrifices have to be made. Some of these sacrifices are detrimental to other human beings, animals, and the environment itself. Ethical fashion sheds light on the bad practices that take place behind the scenes that you and I, as consumers, are not aware of when buying the finished product. The critical areas that ethical fashion scrutinizes include:

  1. The working conditions of the laborers’

In over-populated countries like China, labor is widely available and cheap. Research shows that the laborers are exploited by working overtime, skipping meals, while being paid peanuts. Similarly, there are also cases of child labor and the worst part is the congested and unhygienic working environments with an aim to cut down on production costs. Ethical fashion fights against these poor working conditions.

  1. Chemicals used in the textile industries

Polyester is a product of petroleum, and it is one of the most used fabrics. Its production requires a lot of crude oil, and in the process, harmful emissions are released into the atmosphere, which causes respiratory diseases. Eco fashion aims to protect our environment.

  1. Animal rights

Cruelty-free fashion image

Animal cruelty continues to be a controversial topic in the fashion industry. Many people are quick to argue that we cannot be comfortable eating meat yet we are uncomfortable wearing fur or leather from the same animals. However, the bone of contention is the intentional killing of these animals for the sake of their skin other than for food purposes. Either way, we can let our furry friends live in peace if we chose to embrace ethical fashion.

  1. Environmental degrading

There is a lot of competition among the numerous fashion houses. All of them want to outdo each other. Consequently, they keep coming up with new fashion trends that are affordable, and they aim to sell many pieces so they can continue being relevant. However, the problem comes in the manufacturing bit. Cotton is one of the most used fabric, and some of the pesticides and insecticides used in the cotton plantations are harmful to the environment. When we, as consumers, damp the torn and worn out garments, these pesticides find their way back into rivers and soil. As a result, we contribute to degrading our environment.

  1. Sustainable production

Fashion trends keep changing every single day. This is not a bad thing. However, the rapid change of the fashion trends is what fuels the bad practices addressed by ethical fashion. Renowned companies like H&M have embraced eco-fashion, and they are now using eco-friendly materials and sustainable manufacturing practices.

Why should you practice Ethical Fashion?

The most important reason why you and I need to be part of the ethical fashion movement is to put to an end the bad practices that are never talked about by fashion designers. We need to be assertive and take time to scrutinize every detail of the clothes we are buying. It is the high time we put an end to the animal cruelty, exploitation of labor in the developing countries, and the damage to our environment.

ethical shopping image

There are two ways you can know whether a particular clothing line is ethical;

  1. Manufacturers always list the materials used. The list builds confidence in the consumers, and you will be able to know what the clothes are made of before purchasing them.
  2. Go through the company website. A fashion line that is serious about ethical fashion will always state this fact to the public. If the designer does not mention anything, send them an email and ask them.

We should wholeheartedly welcome any movement that seeks to protect our environment and buying eco-friendly clothes is only the beginning. There are numerous ways we can protect our environment and put an end to its degradation.

Are there affordable Vegan brands that promote ethical fashion?

Yes, many fashion lines have embraced sustainable fashion or Eco-fashion. Some of them include:

  • PACT Apparel
  • Krochet Kids Intl
  • Ararose
  • SmartGlamour
  • Threads for Thought
  • Cossac
  • Swap
  • Friday’s project
  • thredUP
  • Jan n June

You can also use the Good on You App. The App will help you find ethical clothing lines that match your taste. In addition, it has tons of information on different ethical brands in the market. The App makes it easy for you to find out which of these stores have discounts.

Good on You App Image

In addition to the clothing lines, some cosmetic companies have also embraced the manufacturing of products without harming animals. The cruelty-free brands safeguard animal rights, and they are against the testing of cosmetics on animals. Therefore, you can have eco-friendly clothes and cosmetics too. How cool is that!

In conclusion

Ethical fashion has gone a long way in creating awareness in the fashion industry. It is refreshing to find more eco-friendly products slowly filling up our shelves, and there is absolutely no reason to continue damaging the environment. There are even coral safe sunscreens to ensure that we don’t damage our marine environment.

Ethical Fashion also encourages slow fashion which aims to curb the massive production of high fashion items on a low-cost budget. Slow fashion emphasizes the need to buy vintage clothes instead of dashing for the latest trendy designs, making your clothes or accessories at home, and repairing or redesigning old clothes. This factor will help to break the never-ending production cycle.

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