Stream2Sea’s Autumn Blum dives on a rich coral reef. JOHN NUSSBAUM/Contributed

Being “Crazy for Coral” pays off! 

Locals’ favorite reef-safe sunscreen Stream2Sea (S2S) teamed up with non-profit Reef Renewal USA and Sir Richard Branson’s sustainability-minded cruise line Virgin Voyages to restore our reef. So far, they’ve successfully funded and planted over 10,000 endangered corals here in the Florida Keys.

S2S products keep our reefs top of mind. Many traditional sunscreens contain chemicals that inhibit baby coral growth. In contrast, S2S sunscreens and other personal care products are non-toxic. They’re scientifically engineered and tested to ensure that they won’t harm humans or marine life – including our precious corals. 

In the Keys, our local barrier reef is the third largest in the world. It supports a huge array of marine life and much of the local economy. Unfortunately, challenges including water quality, overfishing, climate change and a disastrous coral disease have reduced traditional coral cover from 25 to 40% down to just 1 to 2%. 

“We’re at a time where we have so little coral cover that we’re starting to lose the reef framework and we’re starting to lose some of the functions the reef plays,” said Andy Bruckner, research coordinator of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), of which the sanctuary is part, is betting on coral restoration as the answer. The idea is to grow endangered coral species in land-based and in-ocean coral nurseries. Here, they are regularly tended to and grow faster than in the wild. Fragments of these are then planted back onto reefs that once enjoyed much denser coral cover. The hope is that these will continue to grow and reproduce naturally to become the reefs of the future and build back what we’ve lost.

To augment their efforts, S2S, Reef Renewal USA and Virgin America launched their “Crazy for Coral” campaign in April 2022. The three Florida-based companies set a goal of raising $10,000 for Reef Renewal USA. Through fun and inventive efforts, including a $1 donation from every tube of S2S reef-safe mineral sunscreen purchased online, the Virgin Voyages “Tip for the Ocean” program and a donated cruise for two on Virgin’s line, they surpassed that donation amount. Many local dive and snorkel shops joined the efforts and spread awareness about the campaign.

Stream2Sea CEO and founder Autumn Blum plants endangered staghorn coral with Reef Renewal USA as part of their “Crazy for Coral” campaign. JOHN NUSSBAUM/Contributed

“We did it!” an S2S statement celebrated. “Stream2Sea helped Reef Renewal USA exceed their goal to plant 10,000 new coral babies in the ongoing efforts to restore one of the most iconic reefs in the Florida Keys.”

According to Virgin Voyages’ Jill Stoneberg, “Virgin Voyages’ brand ethos is to ‘Create An Epic Sea Change For All.’ That means collaborating with like-minded organizations to be a champion for ocean health, starting with the design of our ships down to the sunscreen we offer sailors in our shops. Stream2Sea shares a similar vision, and we’re thrilled to be a part of such an epic partnership.”

These efforts are part of S2S’ long-term commitment to restore our reefs here in the Keys. In fact, the company has ties to our islands; founder and head “mad scientist” Autumn Blum met her partner John Nussbaum on a dive boat in Key Largo years ago. They remain part-time Keys residents, and, in 2014, they launched Stream2Sea together. 

“We’re Florida grown, Florida made, Key Largo launched,” Blum said.

As part of the campaign, Blum went out with Reef Renewal USA to plant endangered staghorn coral. “It was awesome to plant 500 coral in one day with (Reef Renewal USA’s) new innovative techniques,” she said. “And … Reef Renewal is founded by Ken Nedimyer and Mike Eschevaria – two of my heroes!”

The official “Crazy for Coral” campaign wrapped up on July 31, but Blum and her S2S team are still dreaming up ways to help restore the Florida Keys reefs.

“Organizations like Reef Renewal USA are actively out there restoring and regenerating our reefs. And they need continuous support to fund their activities. We look forward to future campaigns and collaborative opportunities to raise awareness and help them protect our reefs,” she said.

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Tiff Duong is a self-made mermaid who loves all things cheesy (romantic and dairy) and thrives in the 3 am hour. She believes in leaving it all on the field and has never met a (mis)adventure she didn't love.