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8 South Florida-Based Companies Saving The Ocean

These eight South Florida companies are combating environmental problems through innovation.

Lisa Miceli

Founder of Stoked on Salt, Fort Lauderdale

Lisa Miceli, 48, isn’t a typical artist. The born-and-raised Fort Lauderdale local is not only a painter, but she’s also an avid scuba diver. During her dives, she began noticing bleached coral reefs and increased amounts of trash. So, she created Stoked on Salt, an apparel company that hosts events and beach cleanups, as well as SOS Ocean Conservation Day, which had its inaugural event in July. Miceli also paints murals in South Florida using only beach debris she finds during cleanups as brushes.

Describe Stoked on Salt.

Stoked on Salt is a company I created in 2013. I wanted to somehow reach out the message that we all need to take care of what’s going on right now because we’re losing our corals, and our sea life is disappearing. I started attending different cleanups and visiting marine centers and asking questions. Stoked on Salt really came about as I have a daughter, she’s 18 now, but I wanted to get her involved and interested. I thought, “How can we get the younger generation?” because they’re the ones who are inheriting all of this. Every time I attended different cleanups or events, I was like, “Why aren’t there kids?” I said, “You know what, I’m going to start my own. It’s going to be a mission that educates the younger generation.” The proceeds (made from apparel sales) are helping me purchase the gloves, and the bags, and the cups, and the Kool-Aid, and everything needed to make the cleanups fun.

How did you start painting murals?

One day after scuba diving I went to Windjammer Resort (in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea). I went in there and I’m like, “Listen, I was diving, and I can’t tell which building is yours from the water. You need some color.” Then they said, “What do you want to do? You want to paint it?” And I was like, “Yeah!”

You don’t paint with brushes, only debris.

No brushes! Zero brushes. This is a project that I took on my own time, once again. The cleanups are on my own time. No money’s being made. So, there’s no money being made painting this mural either. It’s in my heart that I want to do this. It’s for the community. I encouraged residents, and students, and tourists, anyone, that if you’re at the beach just pick up some debris and drop it off to me at the mural. They’d bring it to me, and I’d bleach everything right there. I’d paint using their pieces.

Albrey Arrington and Rick Blalock

Founders of Fish Rules App, Jupiter

Albrey Arrington, 48, who manages the Loxahatchee River District in Jupiter, and Rick Blalock, 36, a senior solution architect at Levatas, call themselves fishing buddies. Together they created the smartphone app Fish Rules, which simplifies saltwater fishing regulations—a much-needed tool in the fishing capital of the world. The app helps users identify what fish species they’ve caught, and then it alerts them about any relevant regulations.

How did the idea for the Fish Rules app come about?

AA: Rick and I used to get together and brainstorm different ideas for creating a new, cool app that was super needed and would save the world. One day we were kicking around ideas and Rick had come up with an idea regarding some fishing stuff. We’re both from Jupiter and love the ocean and fishing and paddleboarding. In a conversation in his car on the way to lunch we settled on, “We totally need to make an app that helps people understand fishing regulations.” That comes from personal life experience. I would be offshore fishing and catch a fish. I would know what it was, but I couldn’t figure out the regulations. It was such a real, legitimate need that, whether you’re a novice angler or whether you’re a totally seasoned, amazing angler, everyone has to follow regulations.

How does the app work?

RB: On the Fish Rules side, we use the latitude and longitude location to find out where you’re at and then load the regulations where you are. It’s a lot of work to have to figure out exactly where those boundaries are on the water. We’ve created a system that does all of that.

Why are fishing regulations important?

AA: Since there are so many people who go fishing in Florida, we have to be more conservative of our regulations so we don’t over-harvest. Regulations are there to provide for sustainable fisheries.

Brandi Kneip

Founder of JAR The Zero Waste Shop, Stuart

Before she received her high school diploma in the spring from South Fork High School, 18-year-old Brandi Kneip opened JAR The Zero Waste Shop, a package-free grocery store in Stuart that offers organic dry food, eco-friendly products and bulk items. Shoppers bring in their own jars, containers and reusable bags to fill up with desired items, ensuring no plastic bags or products are used.

What inspired you to launch JAR?

I used to watch a lot of videos on YouTube on zero waste. I saw in all these videos that these people had zero-waste shops or bulk shops that they could bring their containers to, and we didn’t have anything like that. I really got the confidence from knowing that we needed it in my little zero-waste community of people, and I didn’t think any other time would be more suitable to open than when we did because the environment needs help now; it doesn’t need help in 10 years when I’m 28.

How do you pick suppliers before putting their products in your store?

I make sure that I talk to somebody who is representing the brand and can answer all of my questions. We go through a series of questions and then we ask them what their packaging is like, what their values are regarding fair trade or organic, non-GMO. A lot of times the brands that we’re seeking out, they are sustainable because their whole company is trying to change the world’s mind, just like we are.

What’s your best advice on adopting a zero-waste lifestyle?

I suggest going from a 30-day to zero waste challenge. It uses one thing at a time, or you could do a 60-day, so every two days you cut something out. There are different steps, but in it you cut out plastic bags and straws, and you just go up the line. I think it’s because people have been so far in their routines of buying the bottle of shampoo, buying the bottle of lotion, that they can’t see the other alternative. It’s a mind switch. The hardest part is turning your mind over to being zero waste.

Dustin Jeffers

Head of operations at SaltWater Brewery, Delray Beach

SaltWater Brewery was founded in 2013 and is Delray Beach’s first local production microbrewery. The company backs ocean-based charities and was the first Florida brewery to package its beer cans with eco six-pack rings, made from by-product waste and other compostable materials. The six-pack rings are designed to replace plastic and, if they make their way into the ocean, the rings are safe for marine life to eat. Dustin Jeffers, 31, is at the forefront of SaltWater Brewery’s eco efforts.

How are the six-pack rings created?

It’s the same ingredients from the brewing process. So, malt and barley and wheat. That’s the main thing. The piece is pressed, and the fibrous material keeps everything together. If it does end up in the ocean, ends up on the ground, something eats it, it’s not harmful to them like plastic is.

Why were the eco six-pack rings important for SaltWater Brewery to use?

When we started 4.5 years ago, our biggest thing was to make good craft beer and then promote environmental awareness, especially the ocean. That’s why we’re called SaltWater Brewery. We all grew up as fishermen, surfers, boaters, people who just love the beach. When we first started, we worked with three charities: Coastal Conservation Association, Surfrider Foundation and Ocean Foundation. As people found out that was our main mission, we started working with more organizations, more charities, and it’s just grown since. One of the biggest issues is plastic in the ocean. Being able to tackle that was great for us. It went right along with our mission, and it’s something we wanted to go after.

Skylar Mandell

Founder of Florida Sea Turtle Company, Boca Raton

Skylar Mandell, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Alabama and Boca Raton local, first came up with the idea for her bracelet and merchandise line in 2016 at Boca Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), a nine-month program that walks students through the process of entrepreneurship. Her signature bracelet design, brightly colored beads with a simple sea turtle charm, is the backbone of Florida Sea Turtle Company, which donates 10 percent of all proceeds to sea turtle conservation centers in Florida.

What inspired you to create your own company for sea turtles?

Ever since I was little, I’ve had a connection with the ocean and being at the beach and with marine life. I was always a huge advocate for it, and then, my sophomore year of high school, I applied for YEA!. During the duration of that program, the goal of it was to make your own business. I came up with a bracelet business, but it was different from Florida Sea Turtle Company. After the program was over, I decided to continue that business with a few alterations and take in the ocean that I love and the turtles, and I came up with Florida Sea Turtle Company.

During your time at YEA! you originally named your business Moody Buddhi. How did that idea transform into Florida Sea Turtle Company?

I had a partner during the program, and we named it Moody Buddhi because our charm bracelet had a Buddha on it. After the program ended, my aunt who lived in Jupiter went to a surf shop there called Blueline. They agreed to start selling my bracelets, and they called my aunt a few weeks after, telling her that my bracelets were doing so well. I was like, “Oh wow, that’s interesting.” So from there I took it upon myself to start Florida Sea Turtle Company. We still sell bracelets to Blueline to this day.

Besides donating proceeds, how else does Florida Sea Turtle Company contribute to ocean conservation?

We’ve done a bunch of beach cleanups. We’ve done events with Alex and Ani in the Town Center at Boca Raton where we just advocate for sea turtle awareness. This past year, we’ve made it a community service opportunity at my school. We give volunteers beads to bead and they just do it on a huge spool of string. It’s worth the community service hours because it isn’t difficult and they do something to help a cause.

Chase Lurgio and Anthony Centrone

Founders of Hooks4Hope, Stuart

Every year, polluted water from Lake Okeechobee is dumped into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. The result? Toxic algae blooms, which kill fish, birds, oysters, seagrass and other marine life. Hooks4Hope was founded in early 2018 by locals Chase Lurgio, 20, who works full-time at Coastal Closets & Showers in Stuart, and Anthony Centrone, 19, who is a Florida State University student. The company sells handmade bracelets that feature fishing hooks to bring awareness to neglected rivers.

Why did Hooks4Hope begin?

CL: What inspired us to create Hooks4Hope is that for so long everybody’s been protesting, and [politicians] say they’re going to do something and nothing has happened.

Who came up with the hook design for the bracelets?

AC: Our friend actually came up with it. It was his hobby. He was just making them, showed them to us and we were like, “That’s awesome.”

CL: It’s something that you can wear every day and be reminded that you’re doing something to help. Be a part of cleaning up the river. It’s something that goes with all types of different styles and can be a constant reminder on your wrist.

Where do you donate the proceeds?

AC: Our main outlet is the Florida Oceanographic Society, and they’re the ones out there testing the waters, determining whether it’s safe to swim, doing research on ways that this can be fixed. That’s where the money’s going.

How can locals help your cause?

CL: Just be aware of what’s going on. The protests and everything have been going on for years, and the algae have been going on for years. It’s a government issue. The only thing we can do is not fight the problem but try to make a solution to the problem by cleaning up and just putting in our best effort in the situation.

Laurie and McCay Green

Founders of Sportsman Shield, Jupiter

Husband-and-wife duo McCay and Laurie Green, both 35, founded Sportsman Shield, a chemical-free sunscreen. The salespeople by day, anglers by weekend, came up with the idea after a fishing trip when they realized the stains they were cleaning off their boat were from the chemical compounds found in typical sunscreens. Sportsman Shield is mineral-based, uses non-staining, dry-touch technology and is safe for boats, fishing gear, the ocean and skin.

What inspired you to create Sportsman Shield?

MG: I grew up basically hating sunscreen. I hated the way it smelled. I hated the way it felt on your skin. But as I got older, I realized it’s an important tool that needed to be on every boat and in every tackle box. It took us about 2.5 years to create a formula that was designed for people like us, who spend a lot of time on the boat, who need a product for protection that was not going to harm the coral reefs, harm the fish or harm your equipment, the boat or your clothing.

What problems do traditional sunscreens have for fishermen?

MG: A lot of sunscreens burn your eyes. A lot of sunscreens absorb into your skin.

LG: It also makes you hotter when you have a sunscreen that absorbs into your skin. It clogs your pores and it makes you sweat more, because it makes you hot.

What makes mineral-based sunscreens better for the ocean? MG: There’s a lot of science backing up certain chemicals that are used in traditional chemical-based sunscreens that are harming coral reefs, in particular. Oxybenzone is one that they have the science to prove it’s destroying the coral reefs.

LG: It’s natural. Minerals are essentially elements from the earth, so they’re naturally based, naturally composed formulas.

MG: The only two active ingredients in our products are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are both produced naturally by the earth.

Bill Lindsey

Vice president of marketing and advertising, Star brite, Fort Lauderdale

Founded in Miami in 1973 and now headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Star brite manufactures waxes and polishes used to clean boats with tested chemicals that are safe for marine life and biodegradable when possible. Bill Lindsey, 51, has worked at Star brite since 2005.

Why is creating biodegradable products important for Star brite and boat owners?

Just about all of our stuff, if it’s at all possible, is biodegradable. We don’t do it because it’s “green,” because the company has been around for 45 years. Nobody buys a boat wash because it’s green. You buy it because the boat’s dirty, and you need to clean it, so you want something that works. But we try and make everything biodegradable because we’re here, we use the water, we’re all boaters and divers and fishermen, so we’re focused on maintaining our natural resources.

What’s a common mistake boaters make when it comes to cleaning?

A lot of times people will reach for a bottle of laundry bleach and they pour it on their deck and they put it on their vinyl seats. If you put it on fiberglass, over time, it can make it chalky, but even worse, if it gets on your skin, obviously it’s caustic. You certainly don’t want to get a splash in your eye, and you don’t want it to get into the environment. If it gets into the water, it’ll kill the fish. We try and engineer everything to do the job it needs to do without impacting the environment.

How else does Star brite lower its environmental impact?

We do recycle everything as much as we can. We try and keep our environmental impact down to a dull roar. We blow mold our bottles on site, and then there’s a huge recycling project with that. It is all collected and then gets dumped back in the bin and reused to make bottles, so there’s no waste.