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Plastic Free July

By Sarah Rafferty

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Are you participating in the Plastic Free July challenge?

What is it?

A challenge to go a full month of refusing single-use plastic. This means plastic cups, straws, coffee lids, disposable utensils, water bottles, food wrappers, shopping bags… you get the idea!

Why?

We’ve all seen the photos of sea turtles stuck in 6-pack rings, or beached marine mammals with stomachs full of plastic bags. But beyond not wanting to harm innocent wildlife, why is reducing our plastic consumption important to those of us who live on land?

To start, it’s important to understand one fundamental fact about plastic: it does not break down, it does not degrade. It only breaks into smaller and smaller pieces. These are commonly referred to as microplastics. The porous nature of aging plastic also happens to make them sponges for toxins.

There is now evidence showing that even creatures as small as plankton are ingesting microplastics. These teeny tiny ocean-dwelling organisms are the building blocks for the entire marine food web. They’re the primary source of food for filter feeders such as manta rays and whale sharks, and they happen to produce 70% of the oxygen in our atmosphere. When tiny bits of toxic plastic start to work their way into the food chain from the bottom up, it’s bad news for those of us on top. For humans to continue to eat fish, breathe clean air, or dive with manta rays at night, we must have a clean and healthy ocean ecosystem. It might sound cliche, but Dr. Earle wasn’t kidding when she said “No blue, no green.” All life on earth truly does depend on the well-being of the ocean.

Photo courtesy of National Geographic.

But I recycle this stuff? WTF?

We know, right. While recycling sounds great, there are a few issues with it:

Not all types of plastic are recyclable. This varies depending on where you live, so check your local government websites for information on what can be recycled in your area. For example, Hawaii County (the Big Island) recycles #1, #2, and #5, while Oahu only takes #1 and #2. This leaves the rest (#3, #4, #6, and #7) to go into the landfill.

Recycled materials aren’t always cost effective (for now). Oftentimes, it is much cheaper for manufacturing companies to produce virgin plastic from raw materials (petroleum) than it is to purchase and reuse recycled material.

Recycling doesn’t shut off the tap, but rather perpetuates the notion that single-use consumption can be exonerated by tossing refuse into the right bin. It places the onus of disposal on the consumer, and relieves manufacturers from the pressure of producing something better.

What’s more important is to reduce and reuse.

So how do I start using less plastic?

Here are a few EASY ways to cut down your single-use habits:

  • Say no to straws, or bring your own. Stainless steel straws come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can easily be cleaned with a brush or pipe cleaner. Get used to adding “no straw” to your order.
  • Decline plastic take-away bags at checkout. Chico bags makes a great stuff-stack that stores easily in your purse or glove box.
  • Bring your own mug or water bottle. Many cafes or coffee shops offer a discount for bringing your own mug, and will happily refill your
  • Ditch the plastic utensils, or bring your own. Visit an Ocean Friendly Restaurant near you, and support vendors who provide reusable or compostable cutlery. I keep a Togoware sleeve in my purse for takeout lunches (bonus- my stainless straw fits perfectly in there).
  • Watch for greenwashing. This often comes in the form of labeling regular plastic items with words like “green,” “eco,” “earth,” etc., to appear environmentally friendly without actually being environmentally friendly. It’s also worth noting that the terms “compostable” and “biodegradable” are not interchangeable. Items can be labeled as “biodegradable” regardless of how long they actually take to break down (ten or ten thousand years). To be labeled as “compostable,” an item must be able to break down in a commercial composting facility within 180 days.

The takeaway:

Aiming to eliminate all single-use plastic at once can be overwhelming. If you’re new to the practice, we suggest choosing one item from the list above and starting there. Once you’ve established one good habit, move on to the next, and work your way from there.

Other ways to help:

  • Support innovative cleanup projects like The Ocean Cleanup.
  • Clean up a beach! Volunteer with a nonprofit like the Surfrider Foundation, or organize your own.
  • Download the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch App to make sustainable seafood choices when grocery shopping or dining out.

Why Reef-Safe Sunscreen is Important

By Sarah Rafferty

This right hurr is the good stuff.

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Planning a Hawaii vacation this year? You’ll definitely want sunscreen (unless you’re a fan of the lobster look). But what kind? By now, you’ve probably heard the news about sunscreen’s effects on coral reefs and Hawaii’s new sunscreen legislation.

Hawaii’s coral reefs face many threats, like rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, and plastic pollution. Recently, sunscreen has been added to the list. It has been reported that up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up on coral reefs every year!

There are essentially two main types of sunscreen: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens work by soaking into the surface layers of your skin to absorb UV rays; physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin and reflect UV rays.

Most chemical sunscreens on the market today feature two suspect ingredients: oxybenzone and octinoxate. Some studies have shown these may possibly act as endocrine disruptors, soaking into our skin and potentially altering the way our body produces and processes hormones.

While further evidence is needed to substantiate the effects of these chemicals on humans, there is substantial data to show that they have powerful effects on coral – specifically in the polyp stage.

Coral reefs form when coral larvae attach themselves to hard surfaces, like our lava-rock substrate. The coral larvae develop into polyps that secrete skeletons, and it’s these skeletons that compile over years to form the large reef structures you’ve seen SCUBA diving or snorkeling. When exposed to endocrine disruptors (like oxybenzone or octinoxate), the polyps mutate and are unable to settle and continue their growth cycle. Different species grow at different rates; the slowest growing ½ to 1” per year, the fastest growing up to 8” each year. Reefs take decades to form, and their ecosystems support thousands of species of wildlife – they’re like the rainforests of the ocean.

Millions of visitors slather up on the beach, and that oxybenzone winds up on the reef, killing the very ecosystem many have traveled so very far to see. If you are a SCUBA diver, snorkeler, or just enjoy spending time near the ocean, this should concern you!

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep your skin sun-safe without harming coral. The most reef-friendly choice? Cover up! Grab a loose-fit rashguard with UV protective fabric to keep you cool. Use wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses to protect your face. And for those times when it’s got to be sunscreen, choose a physical sunscreen with zinc or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient. We have a wide variety from Stream2Sea and Raw Love in our shop. Other brands, like Raw Elements and All Good are great reef friendly options as well.

You may have heard that our state legislature recently passed a bill banning over-the-counter sales of products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate beginning in 2021, making Hawaii the first in the country to enact such a law. We’re optimistic that this will help bring more awareness to the health of our local reef ecosystems. To celebrate, we’re offering a 15% discount on all UV protection for the entire month of June- rashguards, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and more. Plus, bring in your old non-reef-safe sunscreen and get entered to win a FREE pair of Maui Jim sunglasses!

Aloha, and happy diving from your crew at BID 🙂

Common Misconceptions of Nitrox (Enriched Air)

By Sarah Bergeson

The label on a tank of enriched air showing the blend and max depth.

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After getting their Open Water Certification, a lot of divers choose to continue their education by acquiring an Enriched Air Diver certification.  Though there are a lot of benefits to diving with nitrox, there are a lot of common misconceptions tied to the alternative gas blend.  For safety reasons, it’s really important to understand the difference between a tank of 21% O2 and a tank with a higher percentage.  A specialty course is offered to divers who want to use enriched air, and no diver should dive with enriched air without proper instruction.

Start your nitrox certification now

Misconception #1) Your air consumption will improve if you dive with nitrox.  You will hear many certifying agencies talk about how they can dive longer with nitrox.  This does not mean that their tank lasts longer because they are diving with nitrox opposed to a 21% O2 gas blend.  What they mean by “dive longer” is that they can stay at depth longer than someone diving with 21% O2 before flirting with no decompression time.  100% oxygen is toxic after around 10 feet so a higher percentage of oxygen does limit the depth you can safely go.  However, a higher percentage of O2 allows you to stay at a safe depth longer than someone diving on air before having to proceed to a shallower depth due to no decompression times.

To simplify, if you were able to monitor 2 identical divers at equal depths and one diver was breathing off of a tank with 21% O2 and the other was breathing off of a tank with 32% O2, they would run out of air at the exact same time.

Misconception #2) You won’t get “narked” by diving nitrox.  The term “narked” is a slang term referring to nitrogen narcosis.  Defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a state of euphoria and confusion similar to that of alcohol intoxication which occurs when nitrogen in normal air enters the bloodstream at increased pressure (as in deep-water diving) —called also rapture of the deep”, it’s not only the amount of nitrogen present in the bloodstream that causes some divers to get “narked”.    As we learned in misconception #1, oxygen is also toxic at depth so a more accurate term would be to call it “gas narcosis”.

Misconception #3) As a nitrox diver, you are able to use any available tank on the boat.  Each tank must be analyzed by the diver using the tank to verify the % listed on the sticker is in fact the % indicated on the tank.  The % in the tank will determine your maximum operating depth.  Without knowing the % blend, you cannot know the MOD (maximum operating depth) for a safe dive.  Most tanks are assigned to divers prior to departure based on the list of passengers and the groups the Divemasters have assigned them to.  If you have a nitrox certification be sure to coordinate with your dive shop prior to your arrival.

There are many benefits of diving with nitrox.  Diving with nitrox means your body absorbs less nitrogen on a dive than someone who is diving with a standard air tank with 21% O2.  You’ll have less nitrogen to off-gas during your surface interval so you can get back into the water sooner than someone who is not diving with nitrox.  This can be especially beneficial on live-aboards or other dive vacations where you’re doing several dives a day.

Whether you choose to dive with “voo-doo gas” or a standard tank of air, be sure you follow the suggested recreational dive limits and maximum operating depths for each tank to help avoid any potentially dangerous side effects.

Getting nitrox certified is a quick and painless process – a perfect continuing education certification to get while visiting Hawaii. Since it is strictly classroom work, you can get certified before your first dive with us and enjoy the benefits of nitrox immediately.

Start your nitrox certification now

Best Fishes!

Why Diving? The Top 7 Reasons For Becoming a SCUBA Diver

By Sarah Bergeson

Are you for scuba? Instructor Brooke checks with her student on a descent line.

Are you for scuba? Instructor Brooke checks with her student on a descent line.

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Did you know that the ocean covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface?  That means that most human beings only see about 1/3 of what this amazing world has to offer.  Not interested in the math?  Here are some of our favorite reasons for becoming a SCUBA diver:

  1. No phones, emails, or presidential debates.  For the most part, diving is serene.  You will hear yourself breathing, fish eating coral, and the occasional noise-maker from your dive buddy trying to get your attention (hopefully to point out something incredible), but not much else.  Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  Ohmmmmmmm.
  2. You don’t qualify for the astronaut academy and are tired of gravity.  Don’t give up on your dream of weightlessness!  SCUBA diving is a great way to experience neutral buoyancy (the sweet spot between sinking and floating).  If whales can do it, so can you!
  3. Non-verbal communication.  At a lame party?  The hand signal for “Follow me to the exit” will save you and your dive buddy from getting stuck talking to a vegan cross-fitter who teaches yoga and grows their own kale.
  4. Better selfies.  Manta rays, sharks and whales live in the ocean along with thousands of other incredible critters.  And you can dive with them.  And take photos.
  5. Learn what a “Big Mac” is called in other countries.  You can dive in almost any body of water.  Lakes, quarries, rivers, oceans, and even swimming pools if you just need to blow bubbles.  SCUBA diving is recognized world-wide!
  6. Learn something new while swimming through something old.  There are thousands of wrecked ships and planes from human history that can only be seen underwater.  With a wreck specialty certification you can learn how to safely navigate these sunken treasures.
  7. You can do it instead of learning how to play Bridge.  As long as you’re in good cardiac and pulmonary health, you can dive!  Your certification never expires, though a tune-up is suggested after 6 months to a year of diving inactivity to refresh your safety skills.

In all seriousness, there are so many reasons to become a diver.  If you still aren’t convinced, here are some others:

  1. Endemic species.  Many of the best dive locations are known to be the best dive locations because they have something you won’t find in any other body of water.
  2. Travel.  Get that passport ready!  In addition to discovering new dive locations, you can learn about the different cultures around the world.
  3. It’s relaxing.  For the most part, diving is an extremely relaxing sport.  All you need to do is descend into the blue and the fish will take it from there.  You could spend hours in 1 spot just watching how the critters make a living underwater.
  4. Members only.  Join the other 2.5 million people in the world with an active SCUBA diving certification.  It’s a great conversation piece and an easy ice-breaker when meeting other divers.
  5. “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever”.  -Jacques Cousteau.  If you don’t know anything about him, do yourself a favor and start looking up all of the incredible things he did for diving and marine conservation.  He is truly an inspiration to all of us!

Best Fishes!

2018's #1 Dive Operator in Hawaii

with a 5 star reputation

“I've wanted to do this for years and it was as amazing as I had hoped. We were in the water for 45-60 minutes, with mantas right beneath us nearly the whole time, gracefully looping and over and over, often coming within a foot (or closer!)”

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