• Matt Sykes

Sunbutter - Voices of Regen #2: Tom Hiney

By Jaari Heyes / Photos by Sunbutter Skincare & Sacha Guggenheimer

Who would have thought something so seemingly harmless as applying sunscreen before belly flopping into the ocean could result in coral bleaching, be highly toxic to marine life and have an impact on your endocrine system.

In 2016, marine biologists and conservationists Tom Hiney and Sacha Guggenheimer were working as guides on whale shark diving tours in Western Australia’s dreamy Ningaloo Reef. It was during this time the pair began to notice just how harsh certain sunscreen chemicals were.

“How many people know that sunscreen is bad for the ocean?” says Tom.

“You might argue that there's a growing awareness, but then how many people would know that 10 out of 16 chemicals haven't even been tested on the effect of human health, as well as the marine environment.”

Unable to find a sunscreen brand that met their ethical and environmental needs, Tom and Sacha dug their heels into the sand and started hand-making their own. Organically, their conscious creation blossomed into what is now known as ‘SunButter Skincare’, Australia’s first SPF50 plastic free sunscreen.

“You can find sunscreen that’s semi reef safe, but it’s packaged in plastic, and that just seems like such a daft idea, so we thought why not, let’s make our own,” says Tom

Living now less than a minute walk from the beach in a coastal village on the Mornington Peninsula, the pair’s connection to the ocean has only deepened during COVID-19.

“If Sacha doesn’t get salty at least once a fortnight, then she gets really salty in the other sense,” laughs Tom.

“The ocean is so important to us, it’s such a source of joy and benefit to our mental health. Some of our worst days are improved by wandering down to the beach.”

Being proud members of ‘1% for the Planet’ and believers in donating as much as is financially viable to environmental charities, SunButter is paving the way to a regenerative future.

“Being aware how lucky and fortunate we are makes it really easy to give back and go beyond giving back, living that regenerative lifestyle,” says Tom.

“Whatever business you're in, on some level you’re making money from the planet’s resources. We’re at this stage where it should be immoral and even illegal to not give back,” says Tom.

SunButter’s social media provides a platform for environmental advocates, giving a voice to both local and wider communities.

“We are more than happy to have that leadership role,” says Tom.

“We’re not getting involved in protests such as ‘Save Westernport’ because we feel obliged to, we get involved because we are passionate about it.”

With a mission to educate the public on what the real sunsmart philosophy is - skincare that meets Tom and Sacha’s high ethical and environmental requirements, Sunbutter promises to protect people and oceans.

“You've got to live on this planet, so you may as well do it in a way that makes the planet a better place.”

More info at Sunbutter Skincare.

Travel story from Micronesia, photo by Sacha Guggenheimer

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