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Celebrating Earth Month at Divers Direct

This year, instead of just focusing on Earth Day, we’re taking a bigger look at Earth Month and how we can incorporate more eco-conscious practices into our everyday operations and life. As a retailer, a lot of our efforts center around choosing vendors who embrace environmentally friendly practices in the production and shipping of their products. 

 And we don’t stop there. Sustainability is at the core of everything we do because we, as divers, see first hand the impact we all have on our oceans. From our eco-friendly packing and shipping methods to our staff volunteering to help clean the oceans, and everything in between, we’re putting our best foot forward, investing in our planet, and asking you to join us. Not just this month: today, tomorrow, and every day. So let’s dive in.

What about Divers Direct’s packing peanuts?

Packing peanuts are a source of contention for any company that ships products. Here at Divers Direct, we use packing peanuts; however, the ones we use are made from biodegradable, compostable material. Check out the video below to watch how quickly our packing peanuts dissolve once they’re submerged in water. We encourage you to try it out yourself, it’s actually kinda fun.

What about the other packing materials Divers Direct uses?

Our commitment to the environment inspired us to write a blog about our use of packing materials. Basically, everything we use is either eco conscious packing materials or reused materials from packages we receive. Although we can’t always choose what someone else uses in their packaging, we are in complete control of what we do with it once it reaches us. Recycle, reduce, reuse is our motto and every little bit helps.

 

What’s up with Divers Direct’s bags?

When you stop in one of our four locations, select all your items, and at checkout, your items will be placed in a sturdy paper bag which can be reused (like a lot). And if you happen to purchase $100 or more in merchandise, your products will be put in one of our exclusive reusable Divers Direct Red Bags. The dimensions of this bag make it a great addition to your bag collection because it’s perfect for hauling your stuff to and from the beach or boat.

 

Can I say ‘No thanks’ to a bag?

Yep. Our staff is happy to place your items in a bag of your own or let you carry your stuff out without any bag at all. Up to you. Every little bit counts.

 

How is Divers Direct helping in the community?

At Divers Direct, we know how important our coral reefs are to our sustainability. That’s why we partner with Friends of Our Florida Reefs. From helping get the organization off the ground, participating in stakeholder groups, having had staff serve on their board, to helping support the Bleach Watch program. We’re committed to helping the environment and organizations working to protect and preserve our aquatic ecosystems. Which is why we also partner with Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

Some of Our Partners Investing in Our Planet

We work with as many companies as possible that focus on eco-conscious practices and investing in our planet. From eliminating harmful plastics and chemicals from their products to creating more sustainable and biodegradable packaging, here are a few of our many partners and a brief snip on how they’re making our planet a priority.

EVO Water Gear is working to eliminate plastic waste from their packaging by reusing the same packaging you buy your snorkel and mask in. At the checkout, when you’re buying the EVO Drift Snorkel and Mask Combo in our store, you can elect to take your new EVO gear out of the plastic clam shell packaging. One of our Divers Direct experts will gladly take it and make certain it gets sent back to EVO to be used again—thus eliminating the need to create more plastic, thereby reducing plastic waste.

Mares is working towards all their plastic mask boxes being plastic-free, compostable mask containers. Focusing on their Blue Oceans Plastic Free initiative, Mares has started to change the game on dive gear packaging. They even removed the plastic coating on most of their packaging. Check out the bigger picture on what Mares is doing to invest in our planet.

Osprey has been working to invest in our planet since 1995 and they haven’t looked back since. From reducing harmful chemicals in the production of their products to sewing in the Leave No Trace principles into their backpacks, Osprey is a true leader and innovator in eco-friendly practices. Here’s what Osprey is up to in sustainability.

Fourth Element is one of the top brands focusing on sustainability, eco-conscious business practices, and investing in our planet. From creating their Ocean Positive line that is made from recycled ghost nets, including dive suits to swimwear, to removing single use plastics from their packaging, Fourth Element sets the bar high when it comes to sustainable practices. Check out how they embrace the planet and work to protect and clean our oceans.

Spacefish Army creates fun watersports wear from recycled single-use plastics. Virgin polyester is not exactly a planet-friendly material, which is why Spacefish Army takes the extra steps necessary to keep plastics out of our landfills and oceans by recycling them into creative and unique apparel rather than using virgin polyester for their material.

Nomadix towels were once upon a time 30 plastic bottles. That’s right, Nomadix takes single-use plastic bottles and turns them into versatile towels perfect for the beach, boat, pool, and anywhere you might want a towel. Eliminating plastic waste and creating innovative gear that works, Nomadix is raising the bar on towels.

Stream2Sea creates Protect Land + Sea Certified sunscreens that are tested and proven safe for fish and coral larvae. Additionally, they use sustainable ingredients and sustainable packaging too. Good for you and good for the oceans, does it get better than that? 

Costa not only created their UNTANGLED collection which turns used-up fishing nets into frames for sunglasses, they also created their OCEARCH line that’s dedicated to ocean conservation. When you buy a pair of Costa OCEARCH sunglasses, you’re helping fund shark research expeditions to aid in protecting our ocean’s ecosystem. Did you know that sharks play a huge role in our ecosystem?

4Ocean is on a mission to remove trash from the oceans and waterways. To fund that mission, they create bracelets made from recycled materials and proceeds from the sale of each bracelet covers the cost of removing one pound of trash from the ocean. Raising awareness on the importance of protecting these areas and the magnificent creatures within them, it’s just another reminder that we can all do a little more.

What’s Divers Direct’s staff up to in the community and how can you help?

One of our staff, Kelly, volunteers regularly with @mangrolife removing trash from the waterways of South Florida. This group also focuses their efforts on collecting mangrove propagules and replanting the mangroves in depleted areas. How does this help? Mangroves are amazing plants that work to filter the water they live in while also providing a critical habitat for marine life. Note that most of the work done by MangroLife is either on paddleboards or kayaks so they’re not contributing to pollution while removing trash from the water. If you like to paddleboard and want to help, check out MangroLife.

Another of our staff, Mackenzie, graduated from the University of California, Davis in 2020 as a Marine and Coastal Science Major. Between her father’s love for the ocean and her mother’s Hawaiian cultural heritage, she was raised spending hours in and around the water – from visiting many aquariums and looking in tidepools to caring for her own saltwater aquarium and going on snorkeling adventures. After graduation, in order to expand her field work experience, she became PADI open water scuba certified in November of 2020 and moved to Key Largo, Florida. Here she started working as a Marine Conservation Intern at Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), where she conducted fish surveys on local reefs, helped organize the annual lionfish derbies, built a new invasive species educational game, and presented on fish identification, invasive species, and Florida Keys ecology.

Since the end of her REEF internship in May 2021, she’s been working as an intern with the Islamorada Conservation and Restoration Education (I.CARE), which made its public debut in January of 2021. Partnered with Mote Marine Laboratory, I.CARE is a marine conservation non-profit dedicated to the restoration and maintenance of the coral reefs in Islamorada by incorporating local businesses, residents, and visitors in restoration activities. As one of the first interns of this innovative organization, Mackenzie has aided in streamlining processes for a community-based approach to reef restoration and now as a PADI Divemaster, she serves as a safety instructor, dive guide, and environmental ambassador to the public. As this year-long internship comes to an end, Mackenzie will continue working in coral reef restoration, attending graduate school for her PhD at Oregon State University working in Dr. Rebecca Vega-Thurber's coral reef ecology and microbiology lab.

Kendall has always been enamored with the ocean. Growing up with a mother who studied humpback whales, the first time she truly learned what a marine biologist was, she declared that she wanted to be one. Because Kendall’s family was heavily involved with conservation, some of her earliest memories are of tagging sharks and banding birds on the  Eastern Shore of Virginia. Her passion carried her through experiences from Curaçao to Australia and most recently landed me in Key Largo working as an intern for Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF)

Through this organization, Kendall learned more than she imagined about best practices to restore degraded reefs along Florida’s Coral Reef (previously known as the Florida Reef Tract). As the only barrier reef in the United States, and the third largest in the world, it is imperative that we do all we can to preserve and protect this vital ecosystem and all of its inhabitants. From leading public dive programs that educate the public on the work CRF does to corresponding with collaborators from different institutions who conduct research using corals from our nurseries, Kendall feels extremely fortunate to have a direct hand in aiding our reefs. Interns perform a wide variety of field-based tasks on the water such as cleaning the trees that corals grow on, monitoring the coral’s health, and outplanting the corals that are grown once they reach reef-ready size. In combination with her job at Divers Direct, the sheer volume of people that Kendall surrounds herself with that also have a passion for the ocean has been nothing short of incredible.

Over five years ago, the thrill of shooting her first lionfish started an exciting journey of lionfish derbies, cooking contests, making jewelry with the spines and teaching thousands about the invasive species for Randy.  As the event coordinator at the Key Largo store, she began including lionfish dissections, classes on how to plan a specific lionfish hunt and having REEF teach everyone how to make pendants from the spines. Randy has been volunteering at REEF and FWC lionfish derbies throughout Florida for the past five years cutting spines, fileting fish, making ceviche, and teaching the public about why we have to get rid of the lionfish. 

 Divers are the only true predator of the lionfish, so we have to get out there and dive. If lionfish are present on a reef, 90% of the fish will be eaten, leaving the possibility that the next generation may never taste snapper, shrimp or lobster. Each female lionfish produces approximately 30,000 eggs every 2-4 days in an gelatinous egg sac that is not edible and floats on the surface current of the water to invade our previously fish abundant oceans.  Randy’s goal is to make the world aware of these issues so people will order lionfish in a restaurant, wear jewelry made of lionfish spines, or teach others about the dangers of invasive species.

Another team member, Anne, works as a Field Instructor and Outreach Coordinator for MarineLab Key Largo. MarineLab is a non-profit educational organization that teaches students from around the country about the marine ecology of the Keys. Much of what makes it unique is that they utilize the outdoors as their classroom and focus on providing students with an immersive learning experience. For example, teaching mangrove lessons on a boat, followed by a mangrove snorkel in the unique Florida Bay habitat. Or, learning about the importance of monitoring invertebrate diversity during a hands on lab involving “live rocks” taken from the marine environment located in our backyard. Anne finds it extremely rewarding to see students make the connections between what they learn in the classroom and what they are actually seeing in the water.

Through MarineLab, she has also had the opportunity to work with many of the other conservation organizations throughout the keys. Anne loves to get students and staff involved in citizen science projects. MarineLab staff participate in quarterly seagrass monitoring through Seagrass Watch, assist Mote Marine Laboratory with fragmenting coral, and get involved with local schools through science fair judging. They also get their students involved by reporting data through the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project, conducting marine debris cleanups, and conducting REEF fish surveys. Anne believes that education is the biggest step we can take to protect our planet for future generations and it is an honor to be a part of an organization that reaches thousands of students every year.

Many of our staff participate in beach cleanups regularly. Removing 5-10 lbs of trash per person per cleanup, we’re making an impact and keeping trash out of the waterways. There are plenty of nonprofits and groups out there organizing beach cleanups, but you don’t have to wait for one of those to come along. Grab a bag and head for the beach, any beach will do. You get some exercise, a little vitamin D, and just about every time, you’ll remove over 5 lbs of trash in about an hour. 

Note that all of these organizations and cleanups would love to have you join in the mission. Feel free to reach out to any of them and if you mention you read about them on the Divers Direct Earth Month blog, we’re sure they’d be excited to hear that.

There is always more that can be done, and we are constantly looking into new ways to improve and invest in our planet.