Dive Deeper Blog

Why the USDA BioBased Certification is so Important

March 4, 2024

In 2023, I spent several weeks and several thousand dollars working to get our products included in the USDA’s new BioBased Certification program. Still, not everyone on my team understood why I thought it was important. In the process of explaining it to them, I thought sharing that information with our consumers and partners might be a good idea too – so here goes, just in time for National BioBased Products Day on March 8.

Eliminating Mineral Oils

The first reason we should all switch to biobased products is pretty basic: we’re avoiding non-renewable petroleum products. It takes a lot of fossil fuel to produce things we really don’t want to rub on our skin – and maybe absorb into our bodies. Avoiding fossil fuels in whatever form we find, from ingredients like mineral oil to conventional plastic packaging, has always been a top priority for Stream2Sea.

Using fossil fuels to create cosmetic products means that they’re drilling for more oil, then creating emissions when they’re manufactured. On the other hand, you can literally grow biobased products that absorb carbon dioxide when they’re alive. While some of that carbon may be released when they’re used, biobased products are considered carbon neutral. Plus, more biobased products are supporting American farmers.

Petroleum-based Ingredients Hiding in Fragrances and Parabens

Choosing biobased products can be confusing though, without that certification. You can tell that products like “mineral oil” are petroleum-based but ingredients that start with “butyl” or contain “propyl” also are made from fossil fuels. Parabens, phthalates and many fragrances also are derived from petroleum.

mineral oils

Biobased Affects Biodegradability

Another key advantage of biobased products is their biodegradability, which means they’re less likely to cause damage in aquatic ecosystems. Biodegradable doesn’t always mean non-toxic – think poison ivy – but it does mean that a substance easily breaks down into something that should be safer and less-toxic. Not always though, as some sunscreen petrochemicals actually biodegrade into substances that are even more dangerous than the original.

And even products labeled as biodegradable don’t always work the way you would expect. For some manufacturers, biodegradable means an ingredient will break down within 28 to 60 days, typically in the best-case scenario of a well-run wastewater treatment plant with high levels of microbes, enzymes and oxygen. It doesn’t mean an ingredient is going to biodegrade if it washes off your body while you’re swimming over a coral reef.

We’ve done the analytics on most of our products to make sure they’re readily biodegradable in fresh and salt water, but doing the hard work to earn the USDA’s BioBased Certification gives our customers an added level of confidence that a respected government agency has confirmed that our products are derived from plants and other renewable materials.

Reduces Carbon Footprint

Shifting towards sustainability is no longer a choice. We all must work to create consumption patterns that minimize our impact on our planet. Using biobased products not only reduces our carbon footprint, it also supports the delicate balance between human needs and environmental preservation and helps create a more sustainable and resilient world.

Stream2Sea is BioBased Certified

The BioBased Certification is just the latest in our commitment to complete transparency with our formulations. Since starting Stream2Sea in 2015, we’ve been a national leader in developing Reef-Safer™ sunscreens and working with third parties to document the safety and sustainability of our formulations. Professors at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg (my alma mater) created the world’s first-ever tests to show that our products are safe for fresh and saltwater fish, then coral larvae. We worked with Craig Down’s Haereticus Environmental Labs to become one of the first sunscreens to earn their Protect Land+Sea designation. We were among the first sunscreen companies to earn the EWG Verified label.

biobased sunscreens

100% USDA BioBased Certified Sunscreens

And now, we are delighted to report that our new SPF40 Zinc Sunscreen Balm and Every Day Active SPF 45s are 100% USDA BioBased Certified, and we’ll be working to get that label on more Stream2Sea products this year.