whatever floats your boat

Imagine yourself floating in a flat, smooth ocean. Suddenly a wave of whitewater replaces the smooth water, and you notice that a change in the density of the water makes it harder for you to stay afloat.  Remember Archimedes’ principle? The buoyancy of an object in a fluid depends on the density of the fluid. If the object has a lower density than the fluid, it will float; if less, it will sink.

Now imagine you’re floating next to a plastic container, which normally has a lower density than water, which means it floats too. If we replace the plastic in that container with calcium carbonate – a material that is much denser than plastic – will it still float? Thanks to our Okeanos Innovation Team, the answer is yes!

While we are replacing significant amounts of plastic in single use containers with a heavier material, we are researching ways to reduce the density of the container.  This is important for efficient recycle streams and reduces the cost and amount of the material needed to make a container. Both results have substantial environmental benefits.

Density reduction is not easy.  Because density is inversely related to volume, some volume will be lost as the density increases. So how is Okeanos affecting change? Okeanos is studying an approach that mimics the effect of naturally aerated water, like whitewater and we are on a path to reduce the density of containers to less than 1 with no change in volume.  Archimedes would be proud.

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When we think of paradise, we think of crystal-clear waters, lush islands, and swimming alongside some of our planet’s most spectacular creatures. For Nan, paradise is her daily life. Currently located in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, Nan spends her days either on the water tracking and observing whales or in the Cetacean Research Center studying her findings. She not only shares her passion with the world through her photography but is also a seasoned traveler.  Fom Cambodia to Spain, she educates kids about the importance of preserving and protecting our oceans. Nan’s work as a conservationist has been featured in numerous documentaries and television series; she was even approached by NASA to present her research on whales’ bioindication of climate change!
Okeanos will be working closely with Nan to organize volunteer efforts and develop educational tools to further conservation efforts. She will also be part of our Coral Crew, allowing other members to learn more about her, her research, and even get the chance to meet her in the Cook Islands to tag along on some of her excursions!When asked why she does what she does, Nan’s response is insightful “The Earth is an awesome place! It has flourished for billions of years thanks to a unique and delicate balance between land, sea and sky. In just a few human lifetimes, that balance has been greatly compromised in our pursuit of progress, comfort and convenience. Have we crossed the point of no return? We’re uncomfortably close. I want to help to make it a better place!”“Our planet was a gift. A beautiful blue dot perfectly positioned in an unimaginably vast space. If we look after it, it will continue to look after us. We have the ability to be its most capable guardians,” she explains. “Luckily, we share our planet with animals that in many ways surpass our own intelligence. These animals recognize and adapt to environmental changes that we only ever realize by observing them. I saw whales off Bermuda when I was a child. I was quickly drawn into the fascinating world of whales and dolphins and knew that I would someday become a whale biologist. They’re in trouble. We’re in trouble. Let’s work together to find solutions. My work raises public awareness of marine conservation issues protecting and promoting the future of whales, dolphins, turtles, sharks and all life in the sea. I hope that my passion is contagious and inspirational!”Nan uses her platform to spread awareness about these majestic animals, and that’s why we’re thrilled to have her in our Coral Crew! Are you a fellow conservationist or looking for ways to help save our beautiful blue planet? Join our Coral Crew!Learn more about our foundation efforts here!
This month, we continue our Sustainability Series with Dr. Petrie, as we explore the Carbon Cycle and its role in Global Warming.

Carbon Cycle & How CO2 Plays into Global Warming  

We continue our sustainability series with Dr. Russ Petrie. Wildfires have plagued the state of California for the past several months. Dr. Petrie explains below how our actions play a role in the carbon cycle and why reducing our carbon emissions is an urgent global problem.

Q: What is the “Carbon Cycle”?

A: The carbon cycle is the process in which carbon travels from the atmosphere into organisms on earth and then back into the atmosphere. The earth is a closed system, so the total amount of carbon does not change, it simply cycles from one reserve to another – whether it’s stored in trees and rocks, or even the ocean. The carbon cycle is the ultimate form of recycling and is an essential and natural process for the survival of all living things. Through our actions, we as humans have caused an imbalance in the cycle, through the burning of fossil fuels, emitting more CO2 than the cycle can handle, thus leading to global warming.

Q: Break it down for us. How does it work? 

A: The Carbon Cycle is broken into four main processes: Photosynthesis, Respiration, Decomposition, and Combustion. Plants use energy from the sun to take in carbon dioxide and water from the atmosphere during Photosynthesis. Using the carbon dioxide as fuel, they release the oxygen back into the atmosphere. Animals continue the cycle by breathing the oxygen and then eating the plants which allows the carbon stored in the plants to be absorbed into their bodies. When animals exhale, they release carbon dioxide, which can then be absorbed again by the plants. Once the plants or animals die, they begin to decompose, releasing more carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. However, not all dead plants or animals immediately decompose. Sometimes their remains are absorbed by the soil and locked in underground deposits. Over hundreds of years, layers of sediment build up on top and compress these remains, forming fossil fuels. Examples of fossil fuels include oil and coal.

Q: Does the carbon cycle happen in the ocean too?

A: Yes, in aquatic ecosystems, carbon dioxide dissolves in the water. Just as plants on land depend on CO2 for photosynthesis, aquatic plants do too – and just like plants on land, they give off oxygen, which fish use to breathe. In nature, there is a natural balance between the carbon dioxide in the air and carbon dioxide in the water. If the balance is disrupted by an increase in carbon dioxide in the air, CO2 increases in the water as well, and the water becomes more acidic. Acidification of the oceans makes it difficult for marine life to get essential oxygen needed to survive.

Carbon dioxide can also be pulled out of water by small single cellular organisms called diatoms, and other organisms such as cyanobacteria and microalgae. Like plants during photosynthesis, these diatoms also release oxygen, and in fact account for 20% of all the earth’s oxygen. Diatoms hold on to carbon and sink to the bottom of the ocean, “sequestering” the carbon.

Q: So where do humans come in?  

A: The one step in the carbon process we have not discussed yet is combustion.  The burning of fossil fuels has supplied energy to the human population for decades, but as the population grows, as do our energy needs, which means more combustion of fossil fuels. The combustion of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We are now burning fossil fuels at unprecedented rates and the environment simply can’t keep up.

Q: How does the Carbon Cycle contribute to climate change?

A: When we burn fossil fuels to release energy, by driving for example, we release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is considered a “Greenhouse Gas.” If you envision the world as one giant greenhouse, the amount of carbon dioxide produced by plants in a greenhouse keeps the climate warm all year, allowing the organisms inside to grow regardless of the outside temperature.

With more cars than ever on the roads, and more global production of materials in factories, we are causing an imbalance in the air quality by releasing significant amounts of CO2, trapping the heat in our atmosphere, and warming the planet.

Q: What does this mean for us?  

A: In California, where I live, the destructive forest fires you may have seen on the news recently are attributed to conditions caused by drier, hotter temperatures. These fires are part of the carbon cycle too. These forests that have been around for hundreds of thousands of years, and each tree has large stores of carbon inside. When the trees burn, the carbon is released into the atmosphere in the form of CO2. More CO2 in the atmosphere means warmer temperatures and the cycle continues.

Q: How can we work toward re-balancing the carbon cycle? 

A: This is going to require a global effort. Companies around the world have committed to reducing carbon emissions produced by the production, transportation, and manufacture of their products. This is vital to continuing to make the earth hospitable for future generations.

From Hong Kong to Miami, Okeanos has created a global family. While most of us have only met virtually, we’ve established a network and space that has officially been named a “Great Place To Work!” The certification confirms that we are among the world’s best workplaces as determined by the global authority on workplace culture. Our employees feel empowered by the work they’re doing to change the world and enjoy the unique atmosphere and culture that has been curated here at Okeanos. Check out what some of us have said by checking out “The Team” highlights on our Instagram. And if you’d like to learn more about working with the Okeanos Team, check out our job board for current open positions.
Rockstar Interview 

What do pharmaceuticals, human resources, and sailing all have in common? Yuki! Our October Rockstar. She began her career as a pharmacist, but her passion in sailing led her here, to Okeanos, where she embarked on a new journey as our Okeanos HR Associate. Working from her home city, Hong Kong, she has been working tirelessly to ensure our internal operations run smoothly and that Okeanos continues to be a Great Place To Work! Read More

Q: Yuki, tell us about your childhood: 

A: I grew up in Hong Kong in an Asian family. In most cases what they say about the way traditional Asian families have things planned for their kids in advance is true, but my family is different. They gave me the freedom to pursue my passions. My dad works overseas, and I don’t get a lot of time to spend with him, but whenever we do see him, I cherish that time together. When I’m with my mom, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking. Growing up in Hong Kong near the sea, I was always exposed to water sports. When I was young, I loved to swim, but it wasn’t until I got to school in Birmingham in the UK that I fell in love with sailing and being on the water. I met a friend who introduced me to the sport and got me hooked. We recently took a sailing trip around the North of England!

Q: Growing up in Hong Kong, are people generally environmentally conscious? 

 AYes, very much so. The government has a lot of advertisements and regular public announcements encouraging people to save energy and recycle. There are many local organizations that organize events like regular beach clean-ups. People here have this kind of mindset that they must look after the environment.

Q: When you’re not working with Okeanos, you’re studying to be a Pharmacist. Tell us why you decided to go into that field.  

A: Growing up, I was influenced by movies and the idea of working in hospitals really appealed to me. I chose pharmacy instead of other healthcare professions because I’m very interested in chemistry. If I can create drugs that cure diseases that are not yet able to be treated, that would be brilliant! I really enjoy interacting with other healthcare professionals and patients on their treatment plans. It’s a well-rounded profession.

Studying to be a pharmacist has already allowed me to do incredible things. Two summers ago, I was able to travel to Uganda for a volunteer opportunity. I spent two months there, living in a high school teaching the students the basics of pharmacy and Chinese, and in turn got such an unforgettable life experience.

Q: What led you to Okeanos? 

A: Sailing, actually! I use a cultural exchange website which encourages shared experiences. Hosts have the opportunity to organize different events and activities, and likeminded people can join them. Sometimes they host sailing activities and I have the opportunity to tell them my stories and join their sailing events. Florencio, our CEO saw my profile on the website, and he was interested in my story. Once we spoke, he told me more about Okeanos and asked me to be a part of it!

Q: What is your favorite part about the job? 

A: The work Okeanos is doing is very interesting to me, and I love the people here. I especially love that my job gives me cause to engage with everyone in every department all around the world. I’ve been able to recruit and onboard employees from my office here, which has allowed us to connect with great candidates in Asia, Europe and Africa! On a personal note, I also I love working with Maria Jose. She has taught me so much!

Q: Favorite beach or ocean anywhere in the world? 

A: A small beach on an island in Greece that we encountered while on a sailing trip. It was windy, but we decided to go there for a night anyway. The trip was quite dangerous – a 2-hour hardcore journey – high waves, rough water – but we made it! We tried to anchor but the wind prevented us from doing so, and we needed help from a passing dinghy to get to the beach. It was an unforgettable experience, and we had a huge delicious Greek meal to celebrate when we finally got there.

Q: How have you been spending these past few months during COVID?

A: I returned from Birmingham to Hong Kong because of Covid. I’ve found that while everyone else has been staying in, what I’ve been craving is fresh air. I’ve used it as an opportunity to rediscover my city. I don’t want to be home. I want to be out in nature, hiking or at the beaches where there are less people. I’ve also improved my baking skills, but I’ve been working on that for a while!

Vietnam is a rapidly growing country with a population of nearly 100,000,000! Their rich street food culture makes meals on-the-go the most popular option for dining, so we’re thrilled to announce we’ve begun production there, and are looking forward to getting thermoformed bowls and food service containers Made From Stone into the hands of the Vietnamese. Vietnam is known around the world for the premium quality of their calcium carbonate, and we are looking forward to successful production there at our eighth international plant. Okeanos Vietnam’s operations will be spearheaded by Hannah Galvez. Stay tuned for more expansion announcements in the coming weeks!
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