"Before you hit the beach you slather on the sunscreen, right? Well, not just any sunscreen. A new study finds that the chemicals found in sunscreen are also killing off coral reefs worldwide - specifically via a process called coral bleaching.
The study, published in the U.S. journal Environmental Health Perspectives, estimates up to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off ocean-goers each year. And, up to 10 percent of reefs are threatened by sunscreen-induced bleaching. The popular brands of sunscreen tested included four common ingredients: paraben, cinnamate, benzophenone and a camphor derivative.
What can you do? Although we know we need to address looming conservation problems threatening coral reefs including pollution, overfishing and sedimentation there are simple things that eco tourists can do as well.
There are many sunscreen options on the market now to choose from that are natural, organic, chemical-free and biodegradable. If you don't see one in your local market, a simple online search will reveal many top brands. Even if chemical sunscreens aren't banned at your favorite dive location, choosing a more organic option is one simple thing you can do to reduce your impact on coral.
For more information on what you can do to take action for coral conservation visit www.projectaware.org.
Tiffany Leite of Project AWARE
"Stop collecting additional plastic bags and other waste: Travel with an eco-friendly shopping bag, such as the Hide-Away Tote. You can also cram a week's worth of laundry into it. In fact, some travelers, for the flight home, check their tote filled with their dirty clothes, and then carry on board their valuable items and breakable souvenirs. And when you're not using it to haul anything, it zips down into its own little pouch."
Lisa Werner, Rick Steves' Marketing Manager
"Try and volunteer for conservation activities at the destination they will be traveling to. Most destinations have some kind of organization working to protect or conserve the environment and they always need help. This would be especially helpful if made part of group travel arrangements. Give something back to the community while visiting areas of the world."
Glenn Faires, Owner Golden Rock Dive Center
- Travel by public transportation or carpool whenever possible. The carbon footprint is smaller, and is split up between all of the passengers.
- Travel by or bicycle or consider walking, and experience the world at a pace that's more resonant with nature.
- Get to know an area. Avoid the 'been there, done that' mentality and get to know the geographical character of a new place intimately its environment, culture, aesthetics, and heritage.
- Camp a night or two. Some of the best spots for overnight accommodation require a tent. Get down to earth and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smell of a place.
- Buy local and meet the locals. Locally owned restaurants, pubs, B&Bs, and stores provide opportunities to support the local economy and get to know the locals.
- BYOB. Avoid unnecessary waste and bring a water bottle or purifier since many rural communities don't offer recycling options. Also, save your recyclables and recycle them when you get home since recycling while on the road isn't usually an option.
- Eat healthy and stay energized. Fresh, locally harvested produce is more readily available at farmers markets throughout the US. Or, if traveling off season, avoid fast food and consider bringing your own organic snacks and pre-packaged food that's lightweight and easy to transport.
- Consider a vegetarian diet or eating meat only once a day. It takes between 8 to 10 times more energy to produce animal protein than plant protein like beans and grains.
-- Brian T. Mullis, President Sustainable Travel International