The climate conversation has never been more ubiquitous. With rampant wild fires occurring in the most surprising locations causing unthinkable destruction to the harshest of winters in the unlikeliest areas, we are seeing the ravaging effects of a climate and planet neglected.
The repercussions are so severe that one of the global governing powers, the United Nations stepped in. In a call to harness the power of global citizens and international leadership, the United Nations issued a 17 point developmental agenda, known as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, (UNSDGs) for all countries to contribute efforts towards creating and building “an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future for people and planet.”
One of the UNSDG’s goals, Goal 14, Life Under Water, has been one of the least considered goals by comparison, considering its immense role in affecting climate change.
I recently interviewed the founder, Lea d’Auriol, of Oceanic Global, an ocean conservation non profit, who is helping the conversation through education and implementation of audits and certifications to help businesses and individuals do their part in creating a more sustainable planet. Under her direction, she has launched a certification program called the Blue Standard, that helps leadership and companies eliminate single use plastics in their practices and products.
To date, d’Auriol’s work, alongside her team, have prevented 93,746,227 single use plastic items from the water waste streams through their Blue Standard certification, removed 550,000 pound of plastic from the ocean through corporate sponsorships, and created 125 educational campaigns to highlight ocean conservation.
Since 2019, they have partnered with the United Nations as co-hosts and producers of the United Nations World Ocean’s Day, UN designated as June 8th, an annual symposium event which convenes the international communities on its single focus of ocean conservation.
We discussed why the ocean conservation efforts are crucial and why it should remain at the forefront of conversations at the highest level.
Jennifer Lee: Why, on this Earth Day and everyday, is it important to prioritize the oceans?
Lea d’Auriol: The ocean is central to maintaining life on earth, covering over 70% of the earth’s surface and producing over half of the world’s oxygen. It regulates our climate, absorbing heat and CO2. 93% of warming created by humans since the 1970s (last 50 years) and over 40% of all CO2 emissions produced by humans are absorbed by the ocean. It has the richest planetary biodiversity and supplies nourishment and livelihoods for many countries and is the cornerstone of many cultures. We need to rebalance our relationship with nature and the ocean.
Jennifer Lee: You had mentioned that your biggest impact on the ocean has been through your Blue Standard Certification. Can you describe what this is and how industries could get involved?
Lea d’Auriol: The Blue Standard , also called ‘Blue’, is the first of its kind cross industry standard launched by Oceanic Global. We work with businesses and corporations in a three tiered process to wean them off of single use plastic. The certification empowers industries and businesses of all sizes to achieve measurable impact that protects our blue planet and establishes universal accountability for sustainable business leadership.
The verification process begins with a step-by-step auditing and consultation support, and buying deals with vetted vendors to help businesses eliminate single-use plastics and operate sustainably. ‘Blue’ also offers Product and Packaging seals that verify Consumer Packaged Goods for meeting Blue’s plastic-free criteria. The two synergistic offerings work together to empower businesses to achieve measurable impact that protects our blue planet. Industries can get involved through an application process online.
Jennifer Lee: What is the significance of the certification and how many businesses have you helped to date?
Lea d’Auriol: Becoming ‘Blue Verified’ means taking responsibility for our ocean planet and all it sustains. Seals are awarded to celebrate positive action and to encourage continued commitments that prioritize the health of our collective future. Blue’s flagship is our hospitality edition. We designed this program as a result of the amount of plastic-waste that is created by the hospitality and tourism industry every year, and to help businesses successfully transition to long-term sustainable options. This is why we developed ‘Blue’ as a tiered system which provides open-source resources as well as consulting services for businesses. The ‘Blue Standard’ drives scalable behavior change, and holds accountability to the sustainability commitments companies are making in response to both consumer demand and legislative pressure. We have worked with over 400 Businesses in over 26 countries and the timing really varies as we work with businesses that are at different stages of their sustainability journey.
One example of our clients is the luxury hotel, the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, who has achieved Blue 3 Star Plastic Free Seal in December 2021. Another is the Sandals Resort, who is currently Blue 2 Star Sea.
Jennifer Lee: What is World Ocean’s Day and what is your theme?
Lea d’Auriol: World Ocean’s Day is a day where thought leaders and high level government officials convene to discuss the health and solutions for the ocean. Pre-Covid, it was held at the UN in New York City, and this is the first year that it will be a hybrid event where it may be attended in person and can be joined virtually. Our theme this year is “Revitalization: Collective Action for the Ocean”. We will hear from subject experts, celebrities, institutional partners, community voices, entrepreneurs, states, and cross-industry experts as they delve into key topics and work to both inspire and ignite collaborative change.
The event will be taking place at the UN HQ in NYC on June 8th from 10am-1:30pm and will also be broadcasted live. For those that would like to register to the live broadcast they can do so on the UN WOD website which has an RSVP link to here.
Jennifer Lee: What are the small ways people can choose to protect the ocean?
Lea d’Auriol: 1) Reconnect with the ocean and nature – people protect what they love. Spend time outside to remind yourself about why you’re passionate about protecting the environment.
2) Reduce your plastic consumption. An estimated 22.3 billion pounds of plastics enters the ocean every year from land-based sources. That is the equivalent of dumping two garbage trucks full of plastic into the ocean every minute.
3) Do an audit of your home. Look at what you are currently using that is single-use and see what you can invest in, for example, reusable coffee cups or bottles.
4) Look at your diet. The food you choose has an impact on greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, land use by the agricultural sector but there are tips that we can all incorporate into our diets. For example, eat low-carbon foods such as a plant-based diets can reduce food emissions by up to 73%.
With summer travel plans forthcoming, d’Auriol recommends another way to have an impact is to vote with your dollars, meaning show your support to companies that are intentional in their business models and rooted in sustainable practices and conservation.
Here are are few products to consider on your next travels:
Solgaard Check In Closet -The Solgaard Check-In Closet features an interior lining made from Shore-Tex®, Solgaard’s award-winning proprietary fabric made from ocean-bound plastic. For every product sold, Solgaard prevents the equivalent of 229 ocean-bound plastic bottles from polluting the ocean.
Founded by Canadian-Norwegian entrepreneur Adrian Solgaard in 2016 as a design-driven premium lifestyle brand, Solgaard, to date, has prevented the equivalent of 30 million ocean-bound plastic bottles from polluting the ocean.
Solgaard prioritizes sustainable materials in their products collections of luggage, backpacks, bags, luxury timepieces, and solar tech accessories, while having a positive impact on the planet.
“Supporting oceanic health is the key to our future. Cleaning up plastic is just the beginning. Supporting blue carbon projects – nature based systems of carbon capture in the ocean which strengthen the ocean’s resilience – is something we all must get behind, and now, ” says Solgaard, Founder and CEO.
Raw Elements sunscreen – Launched by an entrepreneurial Ocean Lifeguard, Raw Elements is a natural sunscreen that is reef safe in biodegradable packaging. Most ingredients in sunscreen, when washed off in the water, bleaches the coral reefs and damages them inhibiting their function as a filter for the ocean. Founder, Brian Guadagno, was distraught after his discovery of how harmful many of the ingredients were in chemical sunscreens. He began to experiment with his own formula to develop a natural sunscreen that still held the performance capability for its protection and met the requirements of being a clean, sustainable product.
“With 70% of our Earth covered by the Ocean and the Ocean providing 50% of the oxygen we breathe, it’s critical we prioritize the Ocean on this Earth Day and every day, truly. We all, as individuals, can and should make choices in our daily lives to reduce waste that ends up in the Ocean. We can make these choices together and also plant a tree on Earth Day, ” quotes Guadagno.
Bybba Reusable Bags – Former Brand and Marketing Executive, Pam Seidmen, launched her reusable bag, BYBBA, which celebrates their one year anniversary this Earth Day, with the intention of having an impact on the beaches and the ocean, an area she claims as her “favorite place on earth.” She found that most reusable bags, while claiming to be sustainable, in contrast, contribute to the problem due to the materials and the processes used to make them. They ultimately end up in landfills and oceans. BYBBA, an acronym for Bringing Our Bags Back Around, is constructed from a proprietary Techniluxe fabric, which is made from 100% post-consumer recycled material sourced from the ocean. Once the bags are finished being used, customers can return them to the company so that the materials may be recycled for use in future bags.
“The ocean is one of the greatest sources of promise in the face of climate change, a vast opportunity for renewable energy. Keeping plastic out of people’s hands and ultimately our oceans- Earth Day and every day- inspired BYBBA and how we approach our designs. If I can do anything to preserve its integrity, that would be the greatest impact I can imagine, ” says Seidman.
Akua Kelp Burgers – Kelp is a naturally regenerative food resource that is low in calories and rich in essential nutrients, while offsetting carbon usage. Ocean-farmed kelp does not require fresh water, dry land, or any fertilizer to feed it. Since their launch on Earth Day in 2019 Akua has used 80,000 pounds of regeneratively ocean farmed kelp responsible for removing 4,000 pounds (2 tons) of carbon from our oceans.
In 2021, Akua sold over 120,000+ Kelp Burgers and avoided the additional creation of 660 tons of carbon and removed 300 tons of carbon from the oceans. For serial entrepreneur and environmentalist, Co-Founder and CEO, Courtney Boyd Myers, launching Akua was the culmination of her strengths in building community and growing companies, while having an impact on the environment.
“ Earth Day is a wonderful time for the environmental community to come together and raise awareness for the causes they care most about. For AKUA, our mission is to support human health and planetary health, and more specifically ocean health,” says Boyd Myers.
Hay! Straws – When founder, Emma Grose, felt compelled to counteract the pollution and plastic items she saw in her local Bay Area adopted city, she wanted to utilize her background in design, operations and manufacturing to solve the pollution crisis and protect the environment. HAY! Straws was born out of the need to replace the millions of single-use plastics used everyday in the restaurant and beverage industry with a compostable alternative. With the help of thousands of bars, restaurants, hotels and individual customers, Hay! Straws have helped divert over 113 million plastic straws and cutlery pieces going to landfill.
“The Oceans are earth’s lifeline, they provide water, help regulate earth’s temperature, absorb carbon from the atmosphere, provide food and livelihoods for missions of people and bring us joy. Protecting our oceans, protects the planet, our home and ultimately protects us.”
Mable Bamboo Toothbrushes – Founder of Hay! Straws, Emma Grose, also designed the compostable toothbrushes made from bamboo. With its own carry case, all components of the toothbrushes are biodegradable.