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Why Saving the Reefs in Hawaii Became My Rallying Cry

Business

When I started my reef-safe skincare company, Goddess Garden, I had no idea that 13 years later, I’d be invited by the Governor of Hawaii to attend the historic signing of the first sunscreen bill banning harmful chemicals which damage the coral reefs. As the founder and CEO of a natural mineral sunscreen brand that is a Certified B Corporation® and a certified woman-owned business (WBENC), our mission is built into every decision we make. We’ve always taken a stand to do what’s best for people and the planet.


I can’t thank the people of Hawaii and Governor Ige enough for doing the same thing! Having just returned from the ceremony in Hawaii where the governor signed the chemical sunscreen ban (SB2571) into law, banning chemical sunscreens oxybenzone and octinoxate from use or sale, starting in January of 2021, I want to wrap my arms around the entire state and give it a hug! I guess it makes sense that I was affectionately referred to as a reef-hugger in the media. I’ll happily embrace my new title, right along with the reefs.

As I told SWAAY in 2017, I was inspired to create my skincare company after my baby daughter, Paige, had allergic reactions to the synthetic chemicals in sunscreens and other bodycare products. I made my own products for her, replacing the synthetic ingredients with all-natural ones. While looking for better ingredients that were safe for her, I learned a lot about how these same synthetic chemicals affect the environment—specifically the coral reefs. That’s when saving the coral reefs really became my rallying cry.

Our company worked hard to support this bill. I provided testimony, wrote to legislative leaders and participated in awareness campaigns. Goddess Garden provided monetary donations and free reef-safe sunscreen. We supplied studies when the opposition said there wasn’t enough research. Goddess Garden sunscreens are being sold in 25,000 stores, so when the argument switched to a lack of available options, we provided product distribution reports to counter it. This ban took a lot of people, banding together, to come to fruition.

Apparently industry lobbyists spent more than 16 million dollars to fight the ban. That’s a lot of money from the opposition, so we had to work together and invest with our time and our voices. I started a petition with Care2 to give everyone a chance to be heard. We gathered and sent nearly 55,000 signatures to Governor Ige, urging him to sign the bill into law. I’ll never forget meeting him at the signing ceremony. When I told him I was the one who created the petition, he laughed a little and thanked me. He was grateful that I had brought awareness to the issue and had helped make so many voices heard. That moment will always stand out as a milestone in my career. It felt so exhilarating to be part of the process, to stand up and fight for what I believed in, and help other people do the same thing.

In his speech at the ceremony, Governor Ige said, “By signing this measure today, we will become the first in the world to enact this type of strong legislation to actively protect our marine ecosystem from toxic chemicals.” When he said that, I knew this was the beginning of a movement. To be there to see it happen—and have a role in the process—was incredible! Hawaii is leading the way, and there is already lots of talk about other states following suit.

What’s exciting is that it’s not just states that are getting on board. Some of the big sunscreen brands are taking this very seriously. My company was featured in a recent piece in Fast Company that also mentioned CVS’s plan to reformulate their private-label sunscreens of SPF 50 and below to be oxybenzone- and octinoxate-free. Some companies are just brushing it off, but if even a few of these big brands reformulate, it’s a major win!

Of course, I want Goddess Garden to be the brand of choice. We’ve never used chemicals that are harmful to reefs in our formulas, and we’re always going to go above and beyond to ensure our products are safe for people and the planet. But, our ultimate goal is to keep these chemicals off the skin and out of the water. If these ingredients aren’t as prevalent on the shelves—mission accomplished!

To me, it feels like our efforts have made a real difference in the world. For 13 years we’ve been educating the public about how these chemicals effect people and reefs. It’s been a real rally by every definition of the word. We’ve been offering a solution to people who often don’t know there’s a problem. We have done a lot of education and we feel people have a right to know what they’re putting on their skin and in the environment. It’s been a labor of love, driven by a need to protect the things I care about most.

When Hawaii took a stand and banned these chemicals, they simplified the chemical conversation to five simple words: They’re so bad they’re banned. I see this as similar to what happened with BPA. There are people who don’t know how BPA works and why it’s harmful. They just know it is and that they should avoid it. We don’t think people should have to have a degree in chemistry to shop for sunscreen. They should just be able to trust their products are safe for people and the planet. Hawaii is taking a necessary step and making that a lot easier for everyone.

The signing ceremony was the culmination of both a dream and a vision. I fell in love with the ocean years ago when my husband Paul and I traveled to Baja California, Mexico for our first anniversary in our old VW van.

And Mexico is where we first learned some marine sanctuaries were not allowing chemical sunscreens because of what they were doing to the reefs. My husband, Paul, who is a biochemist, really dug into the research on those ingredients. At the time, he said that stuff was so bad it could—and should—be banned. And now, it is!

So again, thank you, Hawaii, from the bottom of my reef-hugging heart. I can’t wait to see where this movement will take us, and I’m excited to ride the wave, especially now that that wave will be free from oxybenzone and octinoxate!

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.


In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.


Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.