After a local 2nd grade student successfully petitioned the Portland City Council in 2018 to mitigate plastic straw use in city-owned buildings, the Maine Chapter took it to the next level with Council interest to pass a citywide ordinance becoming the first municipality in Maine to ban single-use plastic straws, stirrers and splash sticks.
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By Katie Day
An emerging concern among ocean scientists, stewards and beachgoers is the impact that certain chemical sunscreens are having on the marine environment. This has led to bans on the sale and use of chemical sunscreens in states and island communities such as Hawaii, Key West and Aruba, and a proposed federal ban in all U.S. National Marine Sanctuaries containing coral reefs. There has also been a surge in the production of "reef friendly" sunscreens — but what does that actually mean, and how safe are these alternative sunscreens to the marine environment?
How Do I Know If a Sunscreen Is "Reef Friendly"?<p>Unfortunately the term "reef friendly" is not regulated, so you can't always trust products with this description. It's important to actually check the "active ingredients" label on the back of your sunscreen or personal care product to ensure that reef-harming chemicals are not included. The size of minerals can also have an impact. Be sure to use micro-sized (or non-nano) mineral sunscreens to avoid nanoparticles, as these smaller particles can be toxic in high concentrations.</p><p>It's also advised to stick with lotions and avoid spray or misting sunscreens, especially those that contain titanium dioxide as it can be harmful to your health if inhaled. Finally, it's always good to use products that <a href="https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/sustainable-travel-tips-for-spring-presented-by-scott-dunn" target="_blank">cut back on single use plastic packaging</a>, either by using containers that are reusable, have high recycled content or are made out of biodegradable plant-based materials like cardboard.</p><p><strong>Check the Label</strong></p><p>Make sure your sunscreen does not contain the following harmful substances on the <a href="http://haereticus-lab.org/protect-land-sea-certification/" target="_blank">HEL list</a>:</p><ul><li>Oxybenzone</li><li>Octinoxate</li><li>Octocrylene</li><li>4-methylbenzylidene camphor</li><li>PABA</li><li>Parabens</li><li>Triclosan</li><li>Any nanoparticles or "nano-sized" zinc or titanium (if it doesn't explicitly say "micro-sized" or "non-nano" and it can rub in, it's probably nano-sized)</li><li>Any form of microplastic, such as "exfoliating beads"</li></ul>
How Else Can I Protect Myself From the Sun, and Our Coasts From Harmful, Chemical Sunscreen?<p><strong>Use Sun Management</strong></p><p>Even mineral-based sunscreens can negatively impact fish and coral reefs at high concentrations. The best thing we can do is limit products when recreating in high use areas. Effective sun protection methods include a balance of:</p><ul> <li>Avoiding sun exposure during peak sun hours (10 am – 2 pm)</li></ul><ul> <li>Covering up- Wear hats and clothing (can be UPF or even just regular)</li></ul><ul><li>Using a more reef friendly sunscreen on exposed areas</li></ul><p><strong>Spread the Word and Advocate for Bans on Reef Harming Sunscreens</strong></p><p>In addition to changing our actions and purchasing decisions to protect the marine environment, it's also important to spread awareness about the issue to friends, family and community members. At the local level, ensure that your town's stores are offering "reef friendly" sunscreen products, and encourage them to stop the sale of harmful products (feel free to <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/160AnY-efer1p__OcdL-unDSVAy5nohRt/view?usp=sharing" target="_blank">share this handout</a> with your community).</p><p>You can also advocate for local legislation that bans the sale and use of toxic sunscreens. For instance, in 2018, <a href="https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/hawaii-passes-first-ever-ban-on-reef-harming-sunscreens" target="_blank">Hawaii passed the first ever statewide ban on oxybenzone and octinoxate sunscreens</a>, soon after, island nations including Palau, Bonaire and Aruba followed suite. Due to widespread community support, the Florida Keys were also able to pass an oxybenzone and octinoxate sunscreen ban in Key West, but chemical companies have been working tirelessly to try and revoke this important legislation through the use of statewide preemption — <a href="https://florida.surfrider.org/?p=1914" target="_blank">learn more here</a>.</p><p>At the federal level, you can ask your federal representatives to support the <a href="https://francisrooney.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=450" target="_blank">first federal bill to ban oxybenzone and octinoxate sunscreens in National Marine Sanctuaries</a> with coral reefs! National Marine Sanctuaries are home to some of the ocean's most biologically diverse and culturally significant marine areas, and we need to ensure that these critical areas are protected from harmful chemicals, in addition to other damaging practices like oil and gas extraction. </p><p>Please call your <a href="https://www.house.gov/representatives" target="_blank">House</a> representatives in Washington DC and ask them to support HR 1834 — Defending Our National Marine Sanctuaries from Damaging Chemicals Act of 2019, and ask your <a href="https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm" target="_blank">Senate</a> representative to support or sponsor a similar bill.</p><p>Learn more about "reef friendly" sunscreens, the negative impacts of chemical-based sunscreens and get a list of some great sunscreen options <a href="http://www.beachapedia.org/Reef_Friendly_Sunscreens" target="_blank">here</a>.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Pete Stauffer
For those of us who love the coast, the negative impacts of offshore oil drilling are obvious. Offshore drilling has a proven track record of polluting the ocean, damaging coastal economies and threatening a way of life enjoyed by millions of people. Yet, the oil and gas industry—and the elected officials who prioritize them over the public interest—would like you to believe that offshore drilling is somehow a safe and necessary practice.
By Pete Stauffer
The partial shutdown of the federal government reached its 16th day on Monday with no immediate resolution in sight. With border security politics dominating the headlines, Republican and Democrat lawmakers remained locked in a stalemate while President Trump signaled a willingness to keep the government shut down for months or even years. The upshot is that dozens of federal agencies remain closed or operating at minimum capacity until the gridlock in DC is resolved.
By Adam Hammell & Dana Williams
The pungent, salty air that emerged over South Bay communities last February was not a familiar whiff of wrack decomposing on our favorite beaches. In fact, it was the estimated 143 million gallons of raw sewage that raced down the rugged canyons of Tijuana, funneling directly through the mouth of the Tijuana River into the Pacific Ocean. Beachgoers, visitors, and residents of San Diego County have suffered the devastating effects of these spills for decades—yet little has been done to remedy the origins.
By Pete Stauffer
Ever since the United Nations declared June 8th to be World Oceans Day in 2002, people and groups from around the world have used the occasion to celebrate the ocean and take steps to protect it. Now, with the ocean facing more threats than ever, it's time for all of us to come together to protect our treasured marine environment.
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By Katie Day and Trent Hodges
When we think of plastic pollution, we think of images of plastic bags on the beach, suffering marine life and the almost invisible smog of microplastics in our ocean. What often gets overlooked is the fact that conventional plastic is made from fossil fuels, and is a product of the oil and gas industry.
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The Surfrider Foundation and leaders of the coastal recreation and tourism industry on Thursday presented Department of Interior representatives with a surfboard and letters signed by more than 1,000 coastal businesses and elected officials in opposition to new offshore oil drilling in U.S. waters. From Florida to Maine and California to Washington State, businesses including restaurants, retailers, surf shops and hotels are expressing concerns that new offshore oil and gas development would be disastrous for coastal communities.
By Pete Stauffer
The Trump administration is expected to unveil the new Five Year Offshore Oil Drilling Plan as early as this week, after signing an executive order earlier this year to expand offshore oil drilling in U.S. waters. Expanded offshore oil drilling threatens recreation, tourism, fishing and other coastal industries, which provide more than 1.4 million jobs and $95 billion GDP along the Atlantic coast alone. The executive order directed the Interior Department to develop a new five-year oil and gas leasing program to consider new areas for offshore drilling. The order also blocked the creation of new national marine sanctuaries and orders a review of all existing sanctuaries and marine monuments designated or expanded in the past ten years.
By Stefanie Sekich-Quinn
The Surfrider Foundation released the 2017 State of the Beach Report Card, which evaluates U.S. states and territories on their policies to protect our nation's beaches from coastal erosion, haphazard development and sea level rise. The results reveal that 22 out of 30 states, and the territory of Puerto Rico, are performing at adequate to poor levels, with the lowest grades located in regions that are most heavily impacted by extreme weather events. Surfrider's report card clearly denotes that not only do the majority of states need to make improvements, but they also require continued support at the federal level for the Coastal Zone Management Act and funding for agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to protect our coastlines for the future.
By Pete Stauffer
It's a simple choice, really. Do we want our National Marine Sanctuaries to be used for recreation, education, fishing and ecological protection? Or do we want to hand these ocean gems over the oil and gas industry so they can expand offshore drilling off our coasts?
For the past six months, the federal administration has been studying this very question. Following the Trump administration's Executive Order: The America First Energy Strategy, the Department of Commerce began a review of five National Marine Sanctuaries (including all four off California's coast) and six Marine Monuments to determine if these sites might be exploited for energy development. As part of the process, they invited the public to share their thoughts on the matter. The input received was unequivocal: don't mess with our sanctuaries!