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Autumn Blum: Steward Who Created Reef-Safe Sunscreen

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This Green Scene story spotlights an environmentally focused attraction, event, person or place that enriches the Florida Keys

Autumn Blum, the founder of Stream2Sea reef-safe skin-, hair- and body-care products, is a part-time Key Largo resident, an avid diver and a cosmetic chemist who developed sunscreen products billed as the world’s only ones proven safe for saltwater and freshwater fish and coral larvae.

Through partnerships with Reef Renewal USA and Virgin Voyages, Blum launched a “Crazy for Coral” mission to plant 10,000 corals — a project that kicked off on Earth Day, April 22, and runs through July 31. More than 8,100 had been planted by late June.

Blum, newly inducted into the elite Women Divers Hall of Fame, is hailed as an entrepreneur, clean-ocean advocate, PADI master scuba dive trainer and highly skilled Trimix CCR diver. She’s also the founder of Scuba Girls, a community of more than 25,000 women divers.

A former competitive skeet shooter who grew up near Sarasota, Florida, Blum earned an organic chemistry degree at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.

At age 23, she worked as an organic chemist and created her first organic skincare line. Twelve years later, it was carried at 3,000 health food stores in a dozen countries.

After selling the company, she took time off to scuba dive.

In 2015, after a dive trip to Palau helped her realize that ingredients in body-care products are toxic to fragile aquatic ecosystems, she founded Stream2Sea in Wauchula, Florida.

Stream2Sea mineral-based sunscreen products have passed the stringent Haereticus Environmental Laboratory’s Protect Land + Sea certification, which tests and proves safety for freshwater and saltwater fish and coral larvae.

Rolling Stone magazine recently named Stream2Sea Sport Sunscreen as its top recommendation among “best reef-safe, eco-friendly sunscreens.”

Blum’s products include wakame seaweed, aloe vera, tulsi or holy basil, green tea and olive leaf. They don’t contain endocrine disruptors or toxic ingredients such as oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Blum has given presentations in the Florida Keys, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands and to the National Science Academies about the need to ban toxic sunscreens. Stream2Sea, a member of the “1% for the Planet” global environmental organization, donates 1% of revenue back to conservation and restoration projects.

The company is currently developing a deodorant and pet sunscreen.

While Blum’s Stream2Sea manufacturing plant is located in Florida’s Hardee County, she and husband John spend as much time in Key Largo as possible. 

Keys Traveler: When did you first come to the Florida Keys and why?

Autumn Blum: My parents took me scuba diving in Key Largo after I got certified at 14.

KT: What aspects of the Keys environment or way of life matter most to you?

AB: The water is central to my life, and this is exemplified in every facet of the Keys environment. Everything about living in the Keys revolves around the water. Choosing to only use products with ingredients safe for our waters is such a simple step. 

KT: Who or what inspired you to become passionate about respecting and protecting the Keys’ natural world?  

AB: I love the laid-back atmosphere of the Florida Keys, and how stress seems to melt away here. But what I love the most about the Keys is the water — and those who work to protect that water.

KT: How does that passion influence your work or profession? 

AB: My profession follows my passion. I’ve been a cosmetic chemist for more than 20 years, so I was aware of the potential toxicity of chemical sunscreens and body-care products even before researchers documented the damage. When I started Stream2Sea, I knew that we would have to do real aquatic safety testing.

KT: What are some of the ways, personally or through your work, that you connect with and/or help protect the local environment and unique lifestyle? 

AB: Through partnerships with conservationists and new ways to help educate people that what we put on our bodies can and does make a difference.

KT: What keeps you energized, challenged and focused on your path?

AB: Knowing that I’m making a difference. It takes a village to effect change in our world, and I love the members of this village! But the clock is ticking for our reefs. That keeps me motivated.

KT: What do you hope your positive environmental actions will accomplish? 

AB: We all need to protect our coral reefs, taking whatever steps are within our power. Learning about reef-safe sunscreens is a “gateway” to other steps to encourage personal action to promote conservation. Two drops of the wrong product are shown to harm everything in a 20-gallon aquarium — what would that whole bottle do?

KT: What message do you want your actions and example to communicate to people you encounter?

AB: Learn how to read labels. The terms “reef safe” and “natural” have no real regulations. When purchasing sunscreen, look for a label that reads non-nano titanium dioxide or non-nano zinc oxide. Every drop in the bucket adds up.

KT: What’s your favorite natural or eco-friendly activity in the Keys?

AB: Scuba diving, of course! Lately I have paired that with planting coral and cleaning the nurseries. I’m loving it!

Blum believes we all need to protect our coral reefs, taking whatever steps are within our power.

Blum believes we all need to protect our coral reefs, taking whatever steps are within our power.

Knowing that she is making a difference keeps Blum energized, challenged and focused on her path.

Knowing that she is making a difference keeps Blum energized, challenged and focused on her path.

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An avid diver since the age of 14, a dive trip to Palau helped her realize that ingredients in body-care products are toxic to fragile aquatic ecosystems.

An avid diver since the age of 14, a dive trip to Palau helped her realize that ingredients in body-care products are toxic to fragile aquatic ecosystems.

Blum said everything about living in the Keys revolves around the water. Choosing to only use products with ingredients safe for our waters is such a simple step. 

Blum said everything about living in the Keys revolves around the water. Choosing to only use products with ingredients safe for our waters is such a simple step. 

This article was updated on November 11, 2022 at 2:37 PM
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