Saving Aruba’s Reefs One Jar at a Time
Coral reefs around the world are suffering, including the reefs surrounding our island. The main perpetrator is coral bleaching, typically brought on by a rise in water temperatures (thank you, global warming). When corals become stressed by changes like water temperature fluctuations, they expel the algae that resides in their tissues, which causes them to turn white. While this is not a death sentence for the coral, other factors can further stress the coral and inhibit it from surviving a bleaching event.
One culprit that is directly impacting the health of coral is sunscreen, in particular, sunscreen that uses the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. An article penned by Anna Smith for the Ocean Conservancy explains, “The main chemical culprits are oxybenzone and octinoxate, which convert sunburn-causing UV rays into harmless heat on human skin. But once these chemicals are in the water, they actually decrease corals’ defenses against bleaching, damaging their DNA and hurting their development.” By the way, it only takes one drop of these chemicals to cause damage. “A 2015 study showed that oxybenzone starts causing serious damage to corals at concentrations as low as the equivalent of one drop of water in six-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools,” the Ocean Conservancy article further explained.
If you are not a diver or snorkeler, why should you care whether the ocean’s reefs are healthy? Coral reefs cover just roughly one percent of our ocean floors, but according to the Coral Restoration Foundation, “Life on earth needs coral reefs. They are the ‘rainforests of the sea,’ supporting 25 percent of all marine life, protecting our shores, feeding our people, and providing breathtaking natural playgrounds that underpin economies around the world. Yet coral reefs are among the most endangered ecosystems in the world.”
How can we help? For starters, use sunscreens that are deemed reef-safe and are mineral-based. Here on the island, Arubalife Organics, founded by local Julienne Paskel, offers Reef-Safe Organic Sunscreen Butter, handcrafted with natural ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil, bee’s wax, and non-nano and uncoated zinc oxide. The ingredients are all biodegradable as well. While not waterproof, it is water resistant for up to 80 minutes and should be reapplied after swimming or exercising. The SPF is 30, providing UVA/UVB protection.
Another reason to use organic, mineral-based sunscreen? Your health! Sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate penetrate your skin, while mineral-based products shield the sun’s harmful rays by providing a barrier on the top of your skin.
You can order Arubalife Organics’ Reef-Safe Organic Sunscreen Butter online for $15 a jar. It will be delivered to your address in the U.S., or you can save space in your luggage and have it delivered to your hotel on your arrival date. Guests of Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort can purchase the sunscreen right from their minibar. Arubalife Organics has also curated a line of organic makeup products (blush, bronzer, translucent face powder, eyeliner, and lip tint) that can also be purchased from the website.