Malibu-based skincare brand Osea is working with SeaTrees, a local nonprofit that specializes in the conservation and restoration of marine environments, to care for three marine ecosystems, one on your doorstep and two throughout the world. “We went from climate neutral to ocean positive, which we see as a leveling off,” says Melissa Palmer, co-founder and CEO of Osea.
Since the company started in 1996, it has been a veteran in the sustainability space. “But to be honest, we struggle with that term, because we’re making a product, and that has a footprint, even if we try to source ethically, reduce our use of materials and all that. So we’re very excited that there are now ways that we can not only offset our use, but also have a positive impact,” he adds.
Since Osea uses kelp in its products — albeit a different variety of kelp than in the kelp forests they seek to restore — there has always been an affinity with the ocean and its health, Palmer explains.
By working with SeaTrees, a relatively new non-profit organization founded in 2020, they are becoming the first beauty brand to define themselves as “Ocean Positive”. For every ton of carbon the company offsets, it is investing in coastal restoration projects that pull carbon out of the atmosphere.
“A kelp forest can trap as much carbon, if not more, than a wooded forest,” he notes.
SeaTrees explains that more than 90% of the kelp forests in California have been decimated by the proliferation of purple sea urchins, as their predators have disappeared due to human impact and climate change. However, giant kelp forests provide habitat and food for more than 700 marine species. So they’re crucial to that ecosystem. (Note that kelp is a more specific type of algae; in fact, it is the largest subgroup of algae.)
In addition to contributing to the kelp forest off the coast of Palos Verdes, Osea has also committed to helping with projects in Indonesia and Cambodia.
Indonesia has lost most of its mangrove forests due to degradation from agriculture, aquaculture, pollution and, in the Biak Island region, a tsunami, explains Sea Trees 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 surge, and filtration for neighboring coral reefs.”
On the other hand, Cambodia’s ridge-to-reef watershed has faced increasing threats from illegal logging, it adds. Protecting this critical ecosystem helps support more than 200 jobs, along with education and health care benefits for more than 16,000 people in the local community.
So what does this add up to in terms of sequestered carbon?
The SeaTrees token is made up of 1 VCS (Verified Carbon Standard) certified carbon credit from the South Cardamom REDD+ Project, four planted mangroves in the Biak Island region of Indonesia, and one square foot of restored seaweed in Palos Verdes , Calif. The four additional mangroves and one square foot of algae together have the potential to sequester an additional 1 ton of CO2 over its lifetime, Whilden argues.
“We made the SeaTrees Token this way so that it is inherently regenerative, so that it automatically sequesters more CO2 than it emits. Blue carbon ecosystems, which include mangrove forests, kelp forests, seagrass beds, coral reefs, and coastal watersheds, may be much more effective at storing carbon per unit area than any other ecosystem on Earth when they’re healthy,” says Whilden.
For Palmer, working with SeaTrees was a natural extension of the company spirit. “Yes, it is a little more expensive to participate in these initiatives, but it is essential.”
The company, he explains, has meticulously analyzed its own footprint, from simple details like managing its paper use in the office and eliminating bills on customer orders to investing in more expensive endeavors like installing solar panels on its rooftop. And even as the company slowly grows, Palmer says she’s committed to doing it in a way that works for her.
“Greenwashing or using the word sustainable in a very misleading way is something that I am seeing today. So for us, this is another clear engagement that we can make that is trackable and impactful. It’s not just talk. Simultaneously, our commitment to Climate Neutrality requires us to undertake three projects a year. One year, we decided to completely remove invoices from our packages. That’s thousands of sheets of paper saved. And there is an easy alternative: email. So really good sustainability is not always very attractive. It’s in the details and it requires consistency,” she says.
Since Palmer spends her free time swimming in the waters off the Malibu coast, preserving marine life is also a personal passion. However, she is hopeful that other beauty brands will follow her lead.
“Having seen so many brands now sign up for Climate Neutral, I hope we will also get more companies to invest in the oceans and popularize the idea of being ‘ocean positive.'”