Go green for summer!
Updated: Jul 20, 2019
Now that the weather is picking up we'll all be getting ready to enjoy the sunshine so here are a few things to remember while you're enjoying that heat!
When it comes to the sun it's important that when you're protecting yourself you're not simultaneously destroying sea life. If you're not already aware there are chemicals found in the majority of the main sunscreen products that cause damage to aquatic life, primarily coral reefs, which are already on the brink of extinction. Choosing the right sunscreen is a bit of a minefield right now because for some chemicals there isn't a lot of research on how they affect corals. I'm going to try and make it a little easier for you.
First things first why protect the corals? In terms of how they affect us, corals are so important when it comes to tides and wave control. They greatly reduce the strength and speed of the waves that hit the shore by acting as a wall to the forces of the ocean. Without corals, the beaches would receive the full force of the ocean. They also provide us with large quantities of food, but only if this is well maintained and not overfished. Corals are the habitat of such a range of species, they're a biodiversity hub in our great oceans. If we lost the coral reefs we would lose an immense amount of species the use them for shelter and coexist symbiotically. Coral reefs are vital in nutrient cycles in their ecosystems. They clean the oceans by removing particles, provide by releasing important nutrients as well as fixing compounds such as nitrogen into usable forms for other species, creating balance. It is their ability to remove particles from the water that puts them at risk to the chemicals found in sunscreen. We apply sunscreen, go for a swim, the sunscreen gets washed off and the corals clean the sea, absorbing the sunscreen and with it the damaging chemicals.
So what chemicals should you avoid to help protect our oceans? various organisations have created lists based on research on what chemicals to avoid. Haereticus environmental lab (HEL) has created a list of damaging products that can be found here. Environmental working group (EWG) believe that sunscreens that use zinc oxide, titanium dioxide nanoparticles are the preferred product. Research shows that coral reefs cannot absorb these nanoparticles. However, there is some research that shows they can cause damage to your cells and organs if absorbed. Although, most research does state that less than 0.01% makes its way into your bloodstream meaning there won't be any effect on your organs so I wouldn't worry about suddenly dropping dead after using a sunscreen with either of these in it. Using these two lists the most important chemicals to avoid are oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate
Brands to avoid include, but are not limited to, Nivea (contains homosalate, octocrylene), Garnier Ambre solaire (contains homosalate), P20 (contains homosalte and octocrylene) Piz Buin Tan (contains octocrylene) and hawaiian tropic (homosalate and octocrylene). Essentially the majority of sunscreen you can buy from your local store is going to be bad for the environment. Brands that don't look so bad are Ultrasun, they have none of the listed chemicals; Tropic sun balm is almost totally natural ingredients; Incognito, this double acts as a mosquito repellent; and Weledaa Edelweiss. A good place to shop is holland and barrats, I only found one cream on their site with any of the listed chemicals and that was Jason Sunbrellas. In addition to being mindful of the ingredients, its best to choose cream over spray as with aerosols you tend to lose a lot of the spray to the beach where it gets washed into the sea. You can also reduce the amount of sunscreen you need to use by getting clothes with UV protection if you're going to be walking lots or doing any sports in the sun this is an easy choice to make. If you're going to the beach then wearing a hat or lying under an umbrella will also help reduce how much sunscreen you use. Finally, if you're going swimming in the sea try to do it before you put on sunscreen (it's just going to get washed off anyway) or after its been on for a while and reapply after you've had your swim. This will help reduce how much goes into the sea.
Another tip for the summer: Don't forget to take bottled water with you and remember most cafes will refill your bottle with nice cold water so no need to buy more! Keep your water cooler for longer but shoving some ice in (from an ice tray, not a bag!) or get one of the bottles that have a freezer stick in it.
BBQ season is well on its way. There are a few things to think about here. Let's start with cut back on waste. There are a few ways to do this - instead of buying disposable BBQ's invest in a portable BBQ. These are becoming more and more common and are available on amazon or in shops such as IKEA, M&S, John Lewis, Lakeland and Homebase. Why not take actual plates, cups and utensils from your kitchen to replace throw away paper or plastic versions. When buying your food think packaging - buy loose rolls in a reusable bag, make burgers - vegi or meat, alternatively take a container to butcher or counter at your supermarket to pick up packaging free meat.
To reduce CO2 emissions when it comes to choosing food, try eating a vegi burger or sausages over meat ones as cattle produce staggering amounts of CO2, if everyone even just reduced their consumption of meat, allowing us to reduce production, it would make such a substantial reduction in the CO2 produced. If you are choosing meat choose local as this will reduce CO2 emissions due to reduced transportation.
A big part of having a BBQ is the smoke, generally, people choose BBQ for that smoky taste. Ideally, you would buy a non - coal powered BBQ such as electric or solar, however, this might not appeal to everyone so there is an option for reduced smoke coal such as Brazier or Homefire. You can also buy biomass firelighters here instead of the usual ones, further reducing the fuels from the fire.
A final summer tip: Fresh fruit and veg are the best in summer, but when you're buying it buy it whole to avoid packing and loose to avoid waste by only buying what you will eat. You can then prep it before you go out and use a reusable container. Look out for locally produced fruit, it's much easier to find at this time of year and cuts CO2 emissions as well as supporting local farms.
Hope this has been helpful! As always, thanks for reading!