Why We Should Care About Our Oceans: World Ocean Day 2020

It’s difficult to know where to begin when talking about our oceans. As Sir David Attenborough perfectly put it, “Nowhere is more powerful and unforgiving, yet more beautiful and endlessly fascinating than the ocean”. 

(Photographer: Christian Ching)

If you think the oceans don’t matter, try imagining our planet without them! 

Each and every one of us are inextricably connected and utterly dependent on the ocean. Every drop of water we drink and the oxygen we breathe, is linked to the ocean no matter where we live. The ocean plays a role in regulating the Earth’s chemistry and is, unsurprisingly, the largest carbon sink, where the Earth’s organic carbons are absorbed and stored in the living microbes. It covers 70% of the Earth’s surface, transporting heat from the equator to the poles, driving weather patterns and regulating the climate. Dr Sylvia Earle, legendary marine biologist, activist and ocean expedition leader, sums it up simply - "No blue, no green". 

That’s not all. The ocean supports the greatest abundance of biodiversity on our planet. If you haven’t flicked through Netflix documentaries for a sofa-based scuba diving expedition yet, perhaps now is the time to start!

(Photographer: Christian Ching)

The ocean is also  an important source of food for many of us. The drive to feed a world growing at a rate of 75 million people every year has put ocean resources under tremendous strain. 85% of fishing grounds in the world are already over-fished or fully exploited (Source: WWF). Worst of all, microplastics that have been consumed by the seafood we eat get passed on to us.

(Image Credit: Brack Magazine, Artist: Ernest Goh )

We’re starting to face the reality that our oceans are dying as we continue draining its resources faster than the natural systems can replenish them. At the same time, we’re suffocating the oceans with industrial waste and plastic. Almost all our shorelines are filling up with marine debris, and swimming in the sea pretty much guarantees swimming in the midst of floating trash. 

Let’s talk about the marine debris situation in Singapore.

Shoreline near the mouth of Sungei Seletar - a side of Singapore you might not recognise 
In the last few years, coastal cleanups have become more popular in Singapore, and community groups on the ground are taking more initiative to help contribute to cleaner shorelines around the island. More importantly, these teachable moments helped people see for themselves and understand the gravity of the marine debris situation and how individual actions can make a difference with each decision - whether it is bringing your own bags to the supermarket, refusing a plastic straw/disposable cutlery, or bringing your own reusable water bottles. 

To facilitate more community-based coastal clean ups, the Public Hygiene Council has recently set up communal “Clean Pods at some of our favourite recreation beaches, for storing cleanup equipment such as buckets, metal tongs, garden carts and weighing scales that can be shared among groups and to cut down on wastage of resources. If you’re thinking of organising your own clean ups, contact them for access to the Clean Pods! 

Here is a list of groups organised clean ups that you can follow or get in contact with:

These groups are actively recording data on the marine debris they collect during their cleanups and are working together to compile a national database that will hopefully help to understand major sources of the plastic waste and drive policy change in the future. 


Plastic waste in the beauty industry

As with many other consumer goods, the beauty industry generates a lot of plastic waste. And a lot of this plastic waste ends up in the oceans due to careless or improper waste management. Not only that, but the different types of plastics used make it difficult to recycle, resulting in our landfills filling up faster than ever. The global personal care industry – worth US$500 billion a year, according to National Geographic – packages almost everything it sells in plastic. 

Make up and personal care products find their way to the sea too

 

That is not to say that there are no brands out there that are conscious of this impact on the environment and are doing something about it. We’ve seen a growing number of beauty brands taking extra effort to redesign their supply chains and cut out plastic as much as possible, looking for alternative materials that are biodegradable, recyclable or reusable to use in their packaging. 

This year’s theme for World Oceans Day is “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean” and we’re looking forward to seeing more creative solutions from businesses in the beauty industry as well as others, that will help conserve our environment. As the saying goes, “Shut off the faucet before mopping the floor”. While our individual reactive efforts contribute to clearing and cleaning up the damage that has already been done, it is imperative that businesses stay proactive and take responsibility for designing their products and supply chains to cause less damage on the environment. 


Is completely sustainable beauty really possible?

We’re thrilled to see that even apart from businesses, many individuals are starting to challenge the status quo to do more to reduce their impact on the environment, particularly cutting down on plastic waste. Choosing to use reusable cotton rounds instead of wet wipes to remove makeup, or simply being more conscious of each purchase are great examples of small steps we can take to reduce plastic waste in our daily lives. 

Here at Beauty Pantry, we are dedicated to reducing the amount of plastic waste generated in the beauty industry. Our beauty swaps and resale of good-for-use beauty products may not have an immediately visible impact in reducing the amount of waste filling our landfills, but its effect becomes more apparent when more people opt for pre-loved instead of buying brand-new. This means a second life is given to under-utilised products that would have otherwise been hoarded and stored away in cupboards left to expire. Plenty of resources (energy, water, fossil fuels, minerals, etc) go into making these products and buying them just to not use them is unnecessary and damaging to the environment so this is our attempt at making their environmental cost count. 

Our recent beauty swap event in March

We’re looking into ways where we can restructure the entire product’s life cycle - from manufacturing & procurement, transportation, purchase & usage, and finally to post-consumption. The fight for sustainable beauty is going to be a long one and we’re in it for the long haul! Works are underway to make this a circular economy, ideally leaving as small a footprint on the planet as we can in our daily personal care routines. Stick with us, keep helping us, and let’s make this a reality!