One of our favorite ways to celebrate Earth Day is to spend time marveling at the magnificent beauty of this place we’re lucky enough to call home—and that’s never been truer than this year, which finds us extra travel-starved and moon-eyed about future trips.
And we’re *sure* this will come as a shock … but there’s no place we’d rather take a (mental) vacation than in Hawaii—this Earth Day, we’ll mind-surfing turquoise waves and adventuring through lush leafy hikes. With that in mind (*literally*), we’ll also be belatedly celebrating the January passage of Hawaii Reef Compliant Act 104, which aims at protecting the island’s delicate reef ecosystem and promoting the use of reef friendly sunscreen.
The 101 on 104 (Hawaii Act 104, that is)
We’re so glad you asked! Officially signed into law on January 21 of this year, Hawaii Reef Compliant Act 104 prohibits the sale of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate—chemicals that negatively impact corals and other marine life.
Coral Reefs: A Primer
Yes, coral reefs provide us with endless watery, technicolor daydreams. More importantly, though, they’re some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on the planet, providing coastal livelihoods, protection from erosion and storms, and wildlife habitats … when they’re healthy.
Unfortunately, many of our coral reefs are decidedly sick, with human impact and climate change contributing to reef extinction in locations ranging from the Great Barrier Reef, to the Caribbean, to the Pacific. Reef decline was exacerbated by the global bleaching events of 2014 to 2016—an unprecedented 36 month-long global ocean heat wave—that devastated coral across the globe. In Hawaii alone, the temperature increase is estimated to have killed up to 50% of reefs in some locations.
Oxy-what? The Impact of Sunscreen Ingredients on Coral Reefs
*Nerd alert*—now for a brief foray into the science of sunscreen as it relates to the health of coral reefs:
Oxybenzone and octinoxate are two common active ingredients in chemical sunscreens—they’re known in ‘the biz’ as UV absorbers, meaning they absorb UV rays so your skin doesn’t. They’ve also been shown to disrupt coral reproduction and contribute to coral bleaching, even when present at low concentrations.
It’s that last bit that’s especially worrying … especially considering that NOAA estimates a whopping 4,000 to 6,000 tons (that’s right, friends, we’re talking a whole herd of Dumbos) of sunscreen wash off of our bodies and into coral reefs each year.
Bare your soul … not the reefs!
All of Bare Republic sunscreens are reef friendly per Hawaii Reef Act 104—nary a one contains oxybenzone or octinoxate.
Instead of using ingredients that harm the coral reefs, our mineral sunscreens—like our new Mineral Gels (available for face and body) or our classic Mineral Spray—protect your skin using non-nano zinc oxide mineral coverage. And our new Clearscreen, while offering chemical protection from UV, does so using a lineup of Hawaii 104 reef-friendly active ingredients.
Other ways to be coral reef friendly
- Screen your sunscreen: Take a peek at the active ingredients in your sunscreen, replacing anything containing oxbenzone or octinoxate (with Bare Republic, obviously!). While we always, always recommend sunscreen, we also heartily endorse common sense—hats, SPF shirts, and rashguards in the water are excellent waterproof ways to stay protected from the sun.
- Indulge your coral curiosity: We’re on an ever-evolving quest to learn as much as we can about the world around us, and how we can help protect our playground. When it comes to coral reefs, a few of our reliable resources are NOAA’s excellently educational website and Hawaii.gov’s aquatic resources.
- Think global, act local: It’s a tried and true saying for a reason. While our end goal is to help preserve coral reefs around the world, we’ve found that it’s sometimes easiest to get started by taking a local step—that’s why we’re partnering this year with UCSD’s Birch Aquarium (as snapped above, by Greg Goebels), a local San Diego organization that’s dedicated to ocean education and conservation efforts.
To learn more, take a peek at Outside magazine's favorite reef friendly sunscreens or shop Bare Republic to pick one up for this Earth Month!