“A jewelled belt around the middle of the planet”
It’s now pretty well known that sunscreen plays a role in the destruction of coral reefs and that everyone can do their part by using reef-safe sunscreen. But did you know that there are other ways you can help protect it?
The most important thing we can do is educate ourselves and others. The more we understand the issue and can communicate it, the more likely our community will get behind us and take action. But before we spread the word, it’s important to understand why the coral reefs are worth saving in the first place and what measures we can take to protect them.
What Will Happen if the Coral Reefs Die?
Sound far-fetched? Unfortunately, the mass extinction of coral reefs and the marine ecosystems that depend on them is not an implausible future. In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef has experienced unprecedented mass coral bleaching over the past few decades and the number of new corals deteriorated by 89% in 2018.
But how will this affect us? It is estimated that more than 500 million people worldwide rely upon coral reefs for their livelihoods, food, recreation, and protection from storms. This is despite the fact that coral reefs only cover less than 1% of the Earth’s surface. Therefore, it’s easy to predict that millions of people will suffer if the coral reefs were to disappear.
It’s not only humans that will be affected. The loss of coral reef environments would spell the downfall for more than 25% of marine life and who knows what kind of knock-on effect that would have on the food chain and overall biodiversity.
What Are the Biggest Threats to Coral Reefs?
There are a number of human activities that contribute to the decline in our coral reefs, with the foremost being climate change. Others include irresponsible tourism, coral mining, coastal development, careless fishing practices and pollution (from plastic, chemicals, pesticides, fertilisers, non-reef-safe sunscreen, etc.).
What Can We do to Save the Coral Reefs in Australia and Worldwide?
Our last article on this subject focused solely on reef-safe sunscreen, but we want to share with you some of the other ways in which we can save our coral reefs, whilst living a more sustainable and mindful lifestyle in the process.
Examples of reef-friendly practices include swapping car travel for public transport, cycling or walking to reduce the pollution contributing to global warming; volunteering for beach clean-up events, such as the Seaside Scavenge, to reduce the damage caused by plastic; and switching to organic ingredients to decrease the use of fertilisers and pesticides that run off into the ocean.
It goes without saying that buying things as local as possible is more eco-friendly. Reduce your consumer air miles and protect our reefs in Australia by supporting local and sustainable businesses, especially those that donate to conservation charities and actively avoid the threats that lead to the degradation of coral reefs.
Ok, so without sounding too much like a broken record, but just in case you haven’t read our other articles, we thought we would mention it again...reef-safe sunscreen. The chemicals in regular sunscreens (such as oxybenzone and octinoxate) can be washed off the body and subsequently promote coral bleaching.
Reef-safe sunscreen avoids the use of harsh chemicals and instead uses natural ingredients that don’t cause damage to the marine environment. This doesn’t have to come at the expense of our health and well-being, thanks to the ingredient non-nanoparticle zinc oxide. Made from a naturally occurring mineral, this brilliant compound provides broadspectrum protection!
SunButter Sunscreen uses non-nanoparticle zinc oxide as the active ingredient in our vegan, cruelty-free, and reef-safe formula, plus we use plastic-free packaging! We also donate to and support a number of Australian and international conservation projects that work on protecting the environment, including our wonderful coral reefs.
Check out our upcycling campaign to reuse your tins and promote a more circular economy.
Go to pretty much any beach in the world and we bet you’ll find plastic waste lying around somewhere. Volunteering to clean up the beaches is a great start in reducing environmental damage but, as we discussed in our upcycling article, the single-use plastic often ends up back in the ocean despite efforts to recycle it.
What can we do about it? Lots of businesses have taken the initiative to end the linear economy and feed plastic waste into their circular system of recycled plastic products. For example, brands such as Ningaloo Swimwear, Selkie Surf Wear, and Beach Bums and Feels make fantastic swimwear using Repreve and ECONYL fabrics. Or check out these sustainable Australian-based companies that make fashionable clothing and activewear.
Reef-Safe and Eco-Friendly Tourism
To truly understand the plight of our coral reefs, you have to see it for yourself.
Luckily, you can experience the beauty of Australia’s coral reefs whilst contributing to conservation efforts at the same time! Kings Ningaloo Reef Tours is a sustainable Eco-tourism company that runs whaleshark, humpback whale and snorkelling tours to some of the most pristine and protected reefs within the Ningaloo Reef World Heritage-listed marine park.
They use sustainable and eco-friendly practices to minimise their impact on the environment, work with local conservation groups, provide educational tours of the marine ecosystems, and inform their customers of how to live more sustainably in the process. You can’t miss this!