Sunrise in the Maldives. The sliver of beach looked as perfect and clean as an untouched ski slope at dawn. We brought our coffee to the water’s edge to watch the sky painting unfold before us.
Pale yellow and soft pink light gave way to bold orange and shades of magenta. Then came the sun’s dramatic entrance in swirl of brilliant red, yellow and gold. The arrival of a new day humbles me every time.
We were enjoying this moment when something caught my friend’s eye in the distance, a piece of plastic sack half buried in the sand. Thinking we’d discovered ancient treasure washed ashore from centuries past, we brushed it off and took a few proud photos.
“I’m going to bring this back to LA and frame it!” my friend excitedly proclaimed.
We carried it back to our place, washed it with soap and water, and carefully hung it outside to dry with our towels and bathing suits.
We spent the rest of the day snorkeling in what is inarguably one of the most beautiful places in the world. The variety of fish, coral and plant species in the Maldives are astounding. Vibrant colors, intricately detailed patterns, underwater art like I’ve never experienced. To call it beautiful wasn’t enough. It was magic. At one point a huge school of dolphins appeared out of nowhere and my friend swam alongside them. It was enough to make me catch my breath, and a mouthful of seawater.
When we returned at the end of the day our sack was gone. The housekeeping staff informed us they thought it was trash and seemed confused by my friend’s disappointment.
“I thought it would have made a great memento from this trip,” he sighed.
“Maybe we can find another one?” I offered hopefully.
“Doubt it. I think it’s one of those rare finds.”
The following day we took a boat trip to another island. This one, much more inhabited than our tiny secluded paradise, was bustling with people and activity. As we approached the crowded port we were stunned by what we saw. Littering the coastline were hundreds of those same plastic sacks. That’s when we realized that one man’s trash wasn’t our treasure. It was just trash.
Samudra is a Sanskrit term for ocean, or the gathering together of water. “Sam” meaning “together” and “udra” meaning “water.”
It is also the name of an ocean-inspired skincare line featuring wild-harvested seaweed. The founder, Shilpi Chhotray, wanted to solve two problems. On a small scale: her dry skin and eczema. On a large scale: ocean protection.
Just like the tides, everything is cyclical. What we use, consume and dispose each day becomes a part of our shared existence, connecting us like the seven seas. Something as simple as visualizing our impact as one individual and multiplying it by the world’s population is enough to understand that it’s not just one stray bag on the beach. It’s all of us.
Harnessing the healing benefits of seaweed while also promoting ocean conservation became the driving force behind Samudra Skin & Sea. The seaweed is locally sourced in Mendocino, California, edible-grade, and hand-harvested to protect its natural habitat.
Before you think, “Ew, slimy seaweed on my skin!” The product is not that literal. In addition to seaweed, the ingredients in the soap, for example, also include avocado and organic oils, making it moisturizing enough to use as a shampoo or even a shave lather. Wash, shampoo and shave all in one? According to Shilpi, guys really dig this convenience.
I gave a bar to a friend of mine after pointing out all the harsh detergents in his name-brand one, not to mention the unnecessary plastic packaging that goes back into the environment. He kind of shrugged his shoulders and quipped about having used it his whole life.
Old habits are hard to break, Shilpi pointed out, so it’s about changing people’s mindset: Continue using products that harm the ocean, or ones that come from the ocean? People innately want to do better for themselves and the planet, they just don’t have the information or awareness that their purchase decisions can actually have an impact.
It reminds me of the parable about the little girl throwing starfish in the water after finding them washed up on a beach. A man approaches her and asks why she’s doing this, there are thousands and she can’t possibly make a difference. The girl considers his statement for a moment, then reaches down, picks up another starfish, and throws it as far as she can.
“I made a difference to that one.”
To learn more about Samudra Skin & Sea and social entrepreneurs like Shilpi, attend an Indie Beauty Expo, where you can meet these innovative leaders, try their products, and join the sea change for a better tomorrow.
The 2017 IBE Schedule…
Los Angeles: January 17th – 19th
Dallas: May 9th – 11th
New York City: August 22nd – 24th
“Each one of us can make small changes in our daily lives that have a big collective impact on our blue planet.” – Shilpi Chhotray