Malibu-based skincare brand Osea has partnered with SeaTrees, a local non-profit organization specializing in marine conservation and restoration, to care for three marine ecosystems, one at your doorstep and two around the world. “We are moving from carbon neutral to ocean positive, which we see as leveling out,” said Melissa Palmer, co-founder and CEO of Osea.
Since the company started in 1996, it has been a veteran of sustainability. “But to be honest, we struggled with that term because we make a product and that has a footprint, even if we try to procure ethically, reduce our use of materials and all that. So we’re really excited that there are now ways that we can not only offset our use, but also have a positive impact,” she adds.
Since Osea uses seaweed in its products, albeit a different variety of seaweed than in the kelp forests they want to restore, there has always been an affinity for the ocean and its health, Palmer explains.
By partnering with SeaTrees, a relatively new non-profit organization founded in 2020, they become the very first beauty brand to define itself as ‘Ocean Positive’. For every tonne of carbon the company offsets, it invests in coastal restoration projects that remove carbon from the atmosphere.
“A kelp forest can hold as much carbon, if not more, than a forest forest,” she notes.
SeaTrees explains that more than 90% of California’s kelp forests have been decimated by an increase in purple hedgehogs, as their predators have disappeared due to human influence and climate change. Still, giant kelp forests provide habitat and food for more than 700 marine species. So they are crucial for that ecosystem. (Note that sea 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.
Indonesia has lost much of its mangrove forests to degradation from agriculture, aquaculture, pollution and a tsunami in the Biak Island region, explains Kevin Whilden, co-founder of Sea Trees. “Healthy mangroves support a wide range of ecosystem services, including benefits to local communities, critical habitats, protection against sea level rise and storm surges, and filtration for neighboring coral reefs.”
On the other hand, Cambodia’s ridge-to-reef watershed is increasingly threatened by illegal logging, he adds. Protecting this critical ecosystem helps preserve more than 200 jobs, along with education and healthcare benefits for more than 16,000 people in the local community.
So what does this yield in terms of sequestered carbon?
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 meter of kelp recovered in Palos Verdes, California. The additional four mangrove trees and one square foot of kelp together have the potential to capture 1 additional ton of CO2 over their lifetime, Whilden says.
“We created the SeaTrees Token this way to be inherently regenerative, so you automatically capture more CO2 than you emit. Blue carbon ecosystems, including mangrove forests, kelp forests, seagrass meadows, coral reefs and coastal watersheds, can be much more effective at storing carbon per unit area than any other ecosystem on Earth if it is healthy,” Whilden says.
For Palmer, working with SeaTrees was a natural extension of the business ethic. “Yes, it is a bit more expensive to participate in these initiatives, but it is essential.”
The company, she explains, has looked closely at its own footprint, from simple details like managing their office paper usage and eliminating invoices from customer orders to investing in more expensive endeavors like installing solar panels on their roofs. And even as the company grows slowly, Palmer says she’s committed to doing it in a way that’s right for her.
“Greenwashing or using the word sustainable in a way that is very misleading is what I see these days. So for us this is another clear commitment that we can make that is traceable and impactful. It’s not just talking. At the same time, our commitment to Climate Neutral asks us to take on three projects a year. One year we decided to completely remove invoices from our packages. That’s thousands of pieces of paper saved. And there is a simple alternative: email. Really good durability is therefore not always sexy. It’s in the details and requires consistency,” she says.
Since Palmer spends her free time swimming in the waters off the coast of Malibu, preserving marine life is also a personal passion. However, she is hopeful that other beauty brands will follow suit.
“I have seen so many brands now signing up to Climate Neutral and I hope we will get more companies to also invest in the oceans and popularize the idea of ’ocean positive’.”