Malibu-based skincare brand Osea is partnering with SeaTrees, a local non-profit organization specializing in the conservation and restoration of marine environments, to care for three marine ecosystems, one on its doorstep and two around the world. “We’re going from climate neutral to ocean positive, which we see as an offset,” says Melissa Palmer, co-founder and CEO of Osea.
Since the company started in 1996, it has been a veteran in the field of sustainability. “But to be honest, we struggled with that term, because we manufacture a product, and it has a footprint, even though we try to ethically source, reduce the use of materials and all that. So we’re quite happy that there are ways now that we can not only offset our use but have a positive impact, she adds.
Since Osea uses seaweed in their products, albeit a different variety of seaweed than in the kelp forests they want to restore, there has always been a connection to the sea and its health, Palmer explains.
By working with SeaTrees, a relatively new nonprofit founded in 2020, they become the first beauty brand ever to define themselves as “Ocean Positive.” For every tonne of carbon the company offsets, it invests in coastal restoration projects that extract carbon from the atmosphere.
“A kelp forest can capture as much carbon, if not more, than a forest forest,” she notes.
SeaTrees explains that over 90% of California’s kelp forests have been destroyed by a proliferation of purple sows, as their predators have disappeared from human impact and climate change. Nevertheless, giant kelp forests provide habitat and food for over 700 marine species. So they are essential to that ecosystem. (Note that kelp is a more specific type of seaweed; in fact, it is the largest subgroup of seaweed.)
In addition to contributing to the kelp forest off the coast of Palos Verdes, Osea has committed to helping with projects in Indonesia and Cambodia as well.
Indonesia has lost a majority of its mangrove forests due to degradation from agriculture, aquaculture, pollution and, in the Biak Island region, from a tsunami, explains Sea Tree co-founder Kevin Whilden. “Healthy mangroves support a wide range of ecosystem services, including benefits to local communities, critical habitats, protection from sea-level rise and storm surges, and filtering for nearby coral reefs.”
On the other hand, the back-to-reef watershed in Cambodia has faced increasing threats from illegal logging, he adds. The protection of this critical ecosystem helps sustain more than 200 jobs, along with education and healthcare for more than 16,000 people in the local community.
So what does this amount to in terms of carbon sequestration?
The SeaTrees token consists of 1 VCS (Verified Carbon Standard) certified carbon credit from the Southern Cardamom REDD+ Project, four mangrove trees planted in the Biak Island region of Indonesia, and one square foot of kelp restored in Palos Verdes, California. The additional four mangrove trees and one square foot of kelp together have the potential to sequester 1 extra ton of CO2 during their lifetime, claims Whilden.
“We designed the SeaTrees Token this way to be inherently regenerative, so you automatically sequester more CO2 than you release. Blue carbon ecosystems, which include mangrove forests, kelp forests, seagrass beds, coral reefs and coastal watersheds, can be much more efficient at storing carbon per unit area than any other ecosystem on earth when it is healthy, says Whilden.
For Palmer, working with SeaTrees was a natural extension of the company’s ethos. “Yes, it is a bit more expensive to participate in these initiatives, but it is important.”
The company, she explains, has looked closely at its own footprint, from simple details like managing its office paper usage and eliminating invoices in customer orders to investing in more expensive endeavors, like installing solar panels on its roof. And while the company is slowly growing, Palmer says she’s committed to doing it in a way that works for her.
“Greenwashing or using the word sustainable in a way that is very clever is something I see these days. So for us this is another clear commitment we can make that is traceable and impactful. It’s not just talk. At the same time, the commitment we makes Climate Neutral us to take on three projects each year. One year we decided to completely remove invoices from our packages. That’s thousands of pieces of paper saved. And there’s an easy option – email. “So really good sustainability isn’t always very sexy. It’s in the details and requires consistency,” she says.
Since Palmer spends his free time swimming in the waters off the coast of Malibu, preserving marine life is also a personal passion. However, she hopes other beauty brands will follow suit.
“Having seen so many brands now sign up to Climate Neutral, I hope we will see more companies investing in the ocean too, popularizing the idea of being ‘ocean positive’.”