20-year-old MielSequiera-Holm, creator of Pura Vida, Palau’s local reef-safe sunscreen, served as the Keynote Speaker at Tuesday’s National Environment Symposium (NES).
Miel is also known as the advocate for the government bill passed on January 1 this year banning the importation of reef-toxic sunscreens in Palau.
The Symposium, which was held at Ngarachamayong Cultural Center, focused on opportunities for growth in numerous fields in Palau, such as environmental conservation and economy.
In her address, Miel spoke about the need for innovation among the people of Palau, especially the youth, as well as greater environmental concern. Chief among things which locals should be doing, she said, is producing locally-made products, while being environmentally safe.
“This pandemic is a window of opportunity for us to change things, and has really shown us that we need to be more self-sufficient,” she said. “We don’t have to always rely on imported products; we can make our own.”
She described how her research revealed that most commercial sunscreens contain chemicals like oxybenzone and octynoxate which contribute to coral bleaching, as well as damage to human and marine-life tissue. She managed to find a recipe for naturally-made, reef-safe sunscreen, and to purchase as many ingredients as she could from local suppliers.
“We import ingredients like nano zinc oxide and essential oil but we also buy ingredients from local vendors like Palauan coconut oil and beeswax, if it’s available,” she said. “In this way, we support each other’s businesses and work with people in the community to help one another.”
Miel explained that environmental conservation does not need to be at odds with economic growth. In addition to providing a product which decreased chemical pollutants in the ocean, as well as substituting plastic packaging for tin to lessen plastic pollution, she was able to support local suppliers and sell her sunscreen to 15 locations in Palau, all the while avoiding import taxes. She went on to describe her future plans to begin selling her products online and exporting them.
Miel’s initiative as an environmental activist policymaker, which began during her high-school days when she contributed to a rule banning plastic utensils in the Palau Mission Academy cafeteria, led her to write a letter to the Olbiil Era Kelulau advocating a bill banning reef-toxic sunscreens in Palau, which was put into effect on January 1, 2020. However, Miel pointed out that many stores in Palau still sell these.
“Even if the sunscreen’s label says ‘all natural’ or even claims to be reef-safe, you must look at the ingredients yourself,” she said. “The only safe active ingredients are non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Any additional active ingredients means it is not reef-safe.”
President Tommy E. Remengesau, who spoke after the young conservationist at the NES, expressed how inspiring it should be to Palau “for a 19-year-old to think outside the box . . . and make a policy which becomes the law of the land”.

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