As the world continues to embrace sustainable materials and production processes for a better future, algae is a remarkable front-runner. See for yourself some of the amazing possible uses of algae to see why so many experts are excited about its potential.

What Is Algae?

Algae is a tiny plant that forms a type of aquatic plant but lacks a typical plant structure without leaves, stems, or roots. However, like other plants, algal species do contain chlorophyll and are capable of photosynthesis. This unique plant is found naturally occurring in both fresh and saltwater sources, like rivers, lakes, oceans, and ponds.

There are hundreds of thousands of species of algae, if not millions, floating around in bodies of water around the world. Some of the most common types of algae we hear about are Chlorella, Nannochloropsis, and Spirulina.

Although algae is tiny and commonly overlooked, it has a wide range of uses, and because of its sustainable production process, it is likely to be an important factor in our future, especially as the population continues to grow.

What Makes Algae So Sustainable?

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Algae is straightforward to produce and requires far fewer resources to grow than other foods and materials. To produce this plant, all you need is water, sunlight, C02, and a few key nutrients.

As shown by how easy algae is to find in nature, this aquatic organism also grows quickly and without too much effort. During photosynthesis, algae also helps capture CO2 from the atmosphere, which can have a positive impact on climate change. By using algae as an alternative to other, more difficult-to-produce materials, we can return important resources to the planet and preserve them for the future.

Where algae really shines is when you compare it head-to-head with other crops. Algae is full of nutrients — so much so that the tradeoff between the resources used and the benefits produced is extremely valuable. 

For example, algae is more protein-dense than soy while still using less land area to produce. Algae is also rich in other important nutrients like antioxidants, vitamin B12, amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids, making it an impressive alternative to animal-based foods as well.

By choosing algae as an alternative to other materials and foods, we can cut down on unsustainable production practices and maximize the value of the resources we are using. With so much value, it is impossible to deny the benefits of choosing algae.

What Are Some Sustainable Uses of Algae?

With so many environmental benefits, there are many reasons to embrace algae as a potential solution to unsustainable production. By producing algae, we can significantly reduce carbon footprints and even reap the benefits of excellent innovative products.

1. Shoes

If you never thought you would have the option of wearing algae, you certainly wouldn’t be the only one. Regardless, this outside-the-box idea is one to admire. The clothing industry can be incredibly wasteful, using excessive resources, harmful production processes, and tons of water. Shoes are one of the biggest examples, as one pair of shoes can use over 20 different materials, from rubber to plastic polymers.

With the help of algae, you can now find a shoe that cuts down on unnecessary waste. Sustainable brand Native has created Bloom shoes using algae as a replacement for the foam inside the shoe. These shoes are made by harvesting algae from naturally occurring toxic blooms.

Meanwhile, 80 liters of filtered water are put back into the environment. By using this filtered-out algae, Bloom foam technology helps protect ecosystems, all while using an impressive alternative to plastic and saving 15 balloons worth of carbon dioxide. Many other brands are also embracing algae to make t-shirts, hoodies, and other clothing.

2. Shampoo

Not only is this aquatic plant abundant and easy to produce sustainably, but various strains of algae also feature a wealth of nutrients. These nutrients are excellent for providing additional hydration to your hair. Algae-based shampoo can help promote stronger, shinier, and healthier hair. Including an option like Seaweed Bath Co. Volumize Shampoo, you can strengthen your hair with vitamins and minerals from sources like seaweed and more.

On top of being very nutritious for your hair, algae is also more sustainable to produce than other hair care ingredients, making it an excellent addition to your hair care routine. You can’t go wrong with a cruelty-free, plant-based shampoo that is great for your hair and the environment.

3. Skincare

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After you step out of the shower, you can use the benefits of algae to treat your skin as well. Algae has found a place in moisturizing products like Undaria Algae Body Oil, which can help you replenish your skin’s health and appearance.

If you want to boost the health of your skin even further, then you can explore the benefits of a Blue Algae Exfoliating and Detox Face Mask, which can help remove dirt and buildup from the surface of the skin while revitalizing your skin with protein, A and E vitamins, calcium, iron, and phosphorus.

The antioxidants and healthy fats in algae can be great for your skin. Antioxidants can help to support healthy aging of the skin, while healthy fats, like omega-3s, can help to maintain a healthy skin barrier. Try including algae products in your daily skincare to protect the environment while also enjoying radiant, glowing skin.

4. Food for Everyone

Even if you’re not into eating macroalgae like kelp right out of a bag, algae is probably already a part of your everyday diet. For instance, a red algae derivative called agar is a thickening ingredient similar to gelatin that is used to make ice cream and toothpaste.

Additionally, carrageenan is a similar algae product that is used as a stabilizer in many dairy mixtures and foods. Meanwhile, alginate is a medium found in brown algae used in many pharmaceutical contexts today. Some types of algae are even used for their pigments, which are used to dye many food products, including the blue dye for M&Ms.

Algal biomass is also a common ingredient in some animal feeds due to its high nutritional content and high levels of carbohydrates, potassium, magnesium, and enzymes.

As it turns out, algae makes a great option for your pets as well. Most dog treats are made using animal products, like chicken and beef. For many, this sacrifice is considered to be worth it because of the assumption that only animal foods can provide considerable amounts of protein and nutrients. 

That is, before considering algae.

Algae-based dog treats, like Chippin Spirulina Dailies, are an excellent alternative to animal-based dog treats, with completely plant-based protein and excellent nutrients to support your furry friend’s health. With so many great ingredients, like flaxseed, carrots, and oats, your puppy will never be able to tell the difference.

Sustainability all starts with choosing one more sustainable option at a time, from our dog treats to our own food.

5. Nutritional Supplement

Don’t stop at using algae for your hair and skincare — you can take it as a supplement, too! Packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats, algae is already admired as a complete superfood. Algae like Spirulina and Chlorella are commonly found as supplements like powders and daily capsules.

These supplements are excellent choices for anyone, but especially for people on a plant-based diet. They can be added to protein shakes and drinks to provide an amazing nutrient boost. Algae can even provide vitamin B12, which is commonly said to only be found in animal products.

This is great news, especially as the population continues to grow. Many experts fear that our current food production practices are unable to sustainably support massive population growth. Fortunately, a protein-dense, nutrient-rich, and easy-to-produce option like algae can make all the difference.

6. Sustainable Energy

Because algae have naturally high photosynthesis rates, they have recently been used in the creation of biofuel. While blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, has the highest photosynthesis rates, other types of algae, like diatoms and green algae, are high in lipids that may help create biodiesel fuels.

Many algae species also have high concentrations of fermentable sugars, which are important ingredients in the production of bioethanol. Even more importantly, algae is a renewable energy source, meaning that as long as there’s water and sunlight, it’ll never run out.

Microalgae can also help promote bioremediation and reduce greenhouse gases, which may play a part in preserving the environment. It can also help with wastewater treatment, which makes it invaluable in providing clean water.

As amazing as algae is, it currently isn’t produced on a large scale. Although these photosynthetic organisms are perfectly happy to live in any conditions, including salt water, fresh water, and even fermentation tanks, we still have a long way to go before we can produce algae in large amounts suitable for these uses.

While biotechnology and aquaculture might not replace fossil fuels as energy sources anytime soon, research into the potential for algal biofuel production is on the rise and may provide a sustainable alternative to our currently gasoline-dominant society.

7. Omega-3 Supplement

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You’ve probably heard of fish or krill oil as helpful supplements for your health, as they provide an abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can offer several astounding health benefits. Omega-3s are well respected for their potential to support healthy blood pressure, help maintain joint health, and promote healthy cognitive function.

Fish and krill oil provide some of the few sources of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are the two most beneficial, but most difficult to obtain omega-3 fatty acids. However, as you may be able to guess, these two supplements pull important creatures from our oceans, significantly affecting the ecosystems they are a part of.

You may be surprised to find out that algae is a similarly effective, if not better, source of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids. Algae-based omega-3 supplements can even allow for better absorption of these fatty acids than other sources of omega-3.

Plus, because algae can be produced with few resources, it can provide these valuable nutrients and preserve the environment. For example, at iwi life, algae is farmed in the middle of the desert using ponds of salty water with some added nutrients — without harming valuable ecosystems.

Embrace Algae as the Future

Altogether, there are many surprising uses of this abundant aquatic plant, and embracing them is an excellent way to support the planet while giving yourself some great products to add to your daily routine. At iwi life, we aim to provide reliable nutrition while preserving the environment for generations to come. Explore our omega-3 supplements for yourself and start maximizing your nutrient intake while minimizing your impact on the planet.

 

Sources:

Algae-Based Carbon Sequestration | IOP Conference Series

Diet and Skin Barrier: The Role of Dietary Interventions on Skin Barrier Function | PMC

More protein and good for the planet | University of Technology Sydney

The wait is over for a natural blue! FDA approves spirulina as food color in US as Mars petition gets green light | Food Navigator

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