While conventional sunscreen protects humans from skin cancer, it causes grave harm to coral when it leaches into the water, according to the Los Angeles Times.
So to protect reefs in Hawaii, the hotel chain Aqua-Aston is now providing coral-safe sunscreen to guests, according to Travel and Leisure.
The hospitality company owns more more than 40 hotels and resorts and receives more than 5.5 million travelers per year.
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But it makes both environmental and economic sense to provide sustainable sunscreen: the coral reefs are critical to marine ecosystems and their stunning beauty attracts tourism.
"We're really focusing on raising public awareness that there are safer alternatives out there,” Theresa Van Greunen of Aqua-Aston Hospitality told the local media station KITV 4.
“You can still protect your skin and also protect the natural environment that you’re enjoying,” she added.
Hotel gives out environmental friendly #sunscreen to protect Hawaii's coral reefs - Aqua-Aston hotels are now installing free sunscreen dispensers at its properties across Hawaii. #Hawaii#Environment#CoralReefs#Tourismhttps://t.co/j2DQl5tekt@aquaaston Aqua-Aston Hospitality pic.twitter.com/c1sDcwH95K— Eia Hawaii Fund (@Eia_Hawaii) April 4, 2018
Coral reefs face a lot of threats around the world — warming temperatures, acidifying oceans, and plastic pollution, to name a few.
A common chemical in sunscreens — Oxybenzone, also known as BP-13 — also happens to be “highly toxic to juvenile corals and other marine life,” according to a report by the National Ocean Service, and causes damage and other deformities to baby coral DNA.
The chemical is found in more than 3,500 skincare products—a reminder that many widely used chemicals have unintended environmental consequences.
Hawaii’s famous reefs have suffered serious harm in recent years due to the prevalence of Oxybenzone, the Times reports.
For people who visit resorts outside of the Aqua-Aston network, there are sustainable alternatives.
This guide by Vogue breaks down the various options on the market.
Aqua-Aston is trying to protect marine life in other ways, as well.
The brand provides guests with reusable water bottles and reusable shopping totes to limit the need for single-use plastics, according to KTIV 4.
Globally, around 380 million metric tons of plastic are being created annually. Meanwhile, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans each year, which is like emptying a garbage truck full of plastic into an ocean every minute.
Companies, cities, and countries around the world are beginning to restrict single-use plastic to cut down on this problem.
Aqua-Aston is doing its part by both providing customers with alternatives and informing people about the risks facing marine life.
"We're really all in this together,” Van Greunen told KTIV 4. “One company can't tackle this alone, so we're really trying to reach out to our community leaders and raise the volume on this issue.”
Global Citizen campaigns on reducing single-use plastic around the world and you can take action on this issue here.