TBS.11.12.15Did you read the alarming news that the world’s reefs are bleaching out to a ghostly white in a huge global die off? Anyone who has snorkeled in the tropics or watched a diving video has marveled at the vibrant colors and the multitude of life the reefs support. They are one of the building blocks of life in the oceans upon which we depend for food. If the reefs collapse, a domino effect will be set in motion that will affect one of our most important food sources.

Still, the news was on the back page in most of the media and little has been mentioned about it since. According to the article, the damage was simply chalked up to another possible casualty of global warming. Are we so callus that a major worldwide catastrophe merits only a blip on our news radar screen?

Meanwhile, for decades we have been warned about the damaging effects of the sun’s ultra violet rays. We have been told to protect our skin with sunblock before exposing ourselves to the sun. Dutifully we have been slathering up with a variety of sunscreen products on a daily basis. The sunblock industry is massive.

Then we read just recently in the Huffington Post that an ingredient contained in sunscreens,  Oxybenzone,  has been identified as the possible culprit of the dying reefs, not necessarily global warming by itself.  Upon closer look, we find out that Oxybenzone is in 3,500 sunscreens. When we take a shower, swim in a river, or play at the beach our sunscreen washes off and eventually finds its way to the reefs and kills them.

This means that although global warming is changing the oceans to our detriment, it is we who are apparently killing the reefs directly with our choice of sunscreen products! But even more shocking was that this story was also deemed to be not news worthy.

These reports should be a big heads up to the sunscreen industry that the game has changed! It’s only a matter of time before they all must change their formulas to eliminate this dangerous ingredient or be left behind. This is a great example how commercial marketing competition can actually be good for the environment – if the sunscreen industry responds in a responsible way.

Companies compete for market share as the market becomes more educated about the health consequences of their brand choices. Brands with products that spare the environment will win a greater market share.

At least one sunscreen brand, Badger, was listed as free of the suspect ingredient and apparently did not damage the reefs. This is an excellent opportunity for Badger and others to take up the campaign to stop polluting the reefs and continue the educational process where the media dropped off.

We have a long maintained that people vote with their purchases. When consumers are educated and given the choice, they will vote with their purchases to protect their environment.  This is a classic example from which Badger and others can certainly benefit. Sure, it will take more research and it will take time to educate the general public, but solely from a marketing perspective, it will give Oxybenzone-free sunscreens a clear advantage in the market place.

Consumer brand producers can take education to the next level. And isn’t that what free enterprise should be all about? Education is the key. Why can’t we save our skins and save the reefs too? Take a look for yourself and find out what’s in the brand of sunscreen you use. What are you voting for?