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Hotel gives out environmental friendly sunscreen to protect Hawaii's coral reefs

Surrounded by the clear blue waters, Hawaii has some of the best places to surf, swim and snorkel.

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Melody Gonzales
HONOLULU, HAWAII — Surrounded by the clear blue waters, Hawaii has some of the best places to surf, swim and snorkel.

But studies have shown when we lather up, we might be protecting ourselves but we risk killing our reefs. It's known as coral bleaching.

"Coral bleaching is especially happening in areas that are very popular with tourists in part due to sunscreen that contains a chemical called Oxybenzone," Theresa Van Greunen, Aqua-Aston Hospitality said.

Aqua-Aston Hospitality's statewide initiative steers tourists away from Oxybenzone, and does so in the most effective way possible: Giving away reef-safe sunscreen for free.

More than 35,000 free samples have been handed out since last April.

Aqua-Aston hotels are now installing free sunscreen dispensers at its properties across Hawaii.

"We were pleasantly surprised to see that it's something that they're doing. It's really awesome," Matt Smith, guest at the Surfjack Hotel said.

There's more to the initiative than just sunscreen. Aqua-Aston Hospitality is taking plastic water bottles out of the mix and plastic bags, too. It sets up the Eco-friendly trifecta.

"We provide this to guests who book direct. It's no cost. What it includes is the reusable shopping tote so no single use plastic bags; reusable water bottle, so no single use plastics and also a sample of the reef safe sunscreen," Van Greunen said.

Others are jumping in with Aqua Aston like the Waikiki Aquarium. They installed similar sunscreen dispensers for the public to use and sending experts to the hotels to speak about the dangers of coral bleaching.

"We're really focusing on raising public awareness that there are safer alternatives out there. You can still protect your skin and also protect the natural environment that your enjoying," Van Greunen said.

Aqua-Aston owns more than 40 hotels and resorts with a majority in Hawaii and hosts more than 5.5 million guests per year.

The company says it would like to partner with community leaders and others to find ways to protect the island's pristine environment.

"We're really all in this together. One company can't tackle this alone, so we're really trying to reach out to our community leaders and raise the volume on this issue," Van Greunen said.

Next up: taking the initiative to the mainland and Costa Rica by the end of this year.

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