Trilogy Excursions outfits boats with reef-safe sunscreen
LAHAINA – Trilogy Excursions is extending its commitment to the environment by outfitting all six of its sailing catamarans with sunscreen free of reef damaging chemicals.
After significant research by Conservation and Education Director Magen Schifiliti and Trilogy’s Executive Council, the company has chosen to provide Hawaii and Florida-based Hawaiian Sol sunscreen on its tours.
Trilogy had previously been using a brand that was deemed “reef-safe,” but as research progressed on the topic, it was determined that certain chemicals, even in low concentration, have a detrimental impact on reefs.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit research organization that rates products based on toxicity to humans and the environment, the harmful chemicals that have been found to damage reefs are oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.
Most of the sunscreen on the market today contains a combination of 2-6 of these ingredients.
According to published reports, when the chemical oxybenzone is in the water column, it disrupts the lifecycle of young corals, causing DNA damage and death. With thousands of visitors to Hawaii’s coral reef systems daily, the concentration of coral damaging chemicals is high.
According to Trilogy, this in combination with an inevitable future coral bleaching event caused by an El Nino year has the potential to be as lethal to Hawaii coral reef systems as the events seen recently in the Great Barrier Reef.
Trilogy’s sustainability and environmental initiatives include being the first boat tour company to refrain from dumping waste in the ocean, establishing day-use mooring systems that protect reefs from anchor damage and eliminating single-use plastics.
Educating its guests on reef health and best practices is also part of its commitment toward sustainable tourism.
The company first banned the use of spray-on sunscreens on all tours in 2010. Spray sunscreens are highly discouraged because of the potential of lung damage when inhaled, as well as the percentage of material that never makes it onto the user’s skin because it partly evaporates into the air and subsequently falls into the ocean.
Before a reef-safe sunscreen was available, Trilogy began producing SPF rash guards as a sustainable alternative to sunscreen.
Schifiliti advised Trilogy’s Executive Council that the company should look to bring a mineral-based sunscreen on board its tours. Mineral sunscreens to date appear to be less harmful to reef systems as well as human bodies.
The EWG suggests ocean users should do their best to avoid sunscreen altogether by utilizing SPF clothing, staying in the shade and planning activities around peak UV exposure times.
If a person absolutely must use sunscreen, the EWG recommends finding products that are mineral-based.
Minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are highlighted by the organization, because they provide strong sun protection with few health concerns, and they don’t break down in the sun.
Zinc oxide offers better protection from UVA rays than Titanium dioxide; however, it’s better than most other active ingredients.
“It’s important that we educate our guests about the differences between chemical and mineral sunscreens,” said Schifiliti.
“Ideally, we would avoid the use of sunscreen; however, this is not realistic for guests visiting from places where they are not exposed to sun. We recommend a combination of an SPF rash guard and a small amount of sunscreen.”
Trilogy chose to supply its boats with Hawaiian Sol because it is mineral-based and FDA approved.
Hawaiian Sol’s 100 percent natural sunscreen products are biodegradable and safe for Hawaii’s pristine marine ecosystems. Only all-natural ingredients are used to protect the skin, and the products do not harm precious sea life.
Before committing to the brand, Trilogy’s captains and crew tested a handful of products and concluded that Hawaiian Sol had the best smell and consistency, and a little goes a long way.
“We are excited to provide sunscreen that is both safe for our guests and coral reefs,” said Riley Coon, Trilogy’s director of operations.
“By providing this amenity, we hope to educate our guests so they are inspired to make sustainable choices that minimize their impact on the environment.”