30 Under 30 Highlight: Sam Teicher of Coral Vita

This blog is an entry in ACC’s series to highlight the winners of our inaugural 30 Under 30: The Green Generation awards.  Learn more about 30 Under 30 here, or view a comprehensive list of profiles as they are released through this link.

Ninety percent of the planet’s coral reefs are projected to die out by 2050, which is a huge problem not only for the health of our oceans, but for the one billion people who depend on the reefs for their livelihood. And this is not a problem for the future, but one happening now, as we’ve already lost half of the world’s coral reefs. People everywhere are determined to change this trajectory, including Sam Teicher, co-founder of Coral Vita.

Sam has been in love with nature all his life, and started scuba diving when he was 13 years old. Visiting the underwater worlds our planet holds quickly became one of his favorite things to do, but even back when he first started diving he could tell that the coral reefs were in bad shape. “The very first coral reef I dove at in Negril, Jamaica is pretty much an algae field now,” Teicher explained.

Although he was gaining firsthand experience of the problems our ocean is facing, he didn’t truly become committed to environmental issues until he took a college class that left him with a revelation: 

If the systems we depend on are pushed beyond the point of no return, it’s humanity’s ability to prosper and survive that’s on the line.
— Sam Teicher, Coral Vita

It was this revelation that changed his career trajectory toward environmental protection. Ironically, university would not only be where his career started, but what helped launch Coral Vita; he met co-founder Gator Halpern at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies where they both received Master of Environmental Management degrees.

Sam Teicher, Coral Vita

Sam Teicher, Coral Vita

Coral Vita was founded in an effort to restore our world's dying and damaged reefs. Recognizing reef restoration’s existing small-scale grant-funded model doesn’t scale to counter to scope of global degradation, Sam and Gator decided to take a different approach.

In addition to their ecological wonder, coral reefs are incredibly valuable, conservatively generating estimates of $30 billion annually through the value they provide to tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection. Coral Vita uses a commercial land-based farming model—selling restoration services to reef-dependent customers—to support large-scale restoration while integrating breakthrough methods to grow coral up to fifty times faster while strengthening their resiliency to climate change. Simultaneously, the organization strives for a community-based approach, partnering with the local people who are impacted by the reef. Ultimately, they envision a global network of coral farms in every nation with reefs, helping to preserve them for future generations.

“It continually blows my mind that my co-founder Gator and I had to create a coral reef restoration company, but that's what our world has come to,” Teicher shared.

My lifelong love for coral reefs and the critical role they provide drives me to find better ways to help them.
— Sam Teicher, Coral Vita

Coral Vita doesn’t exist in isolation—Sam noted that in order to be successful, it is vital to partner with others working in the same space. They collaborate with groups and organizations like Plant a Million Corals LLC, Gates Coral Lab, and the Grand Bahama Port Authority. Coral Vita is also a member of groups like Echoing Green, the Global Island Partnership, and the Coral Restoration Consortium. They are looking to further expand collaboration, working with international organizations, scientists, local communities, and other stakeholders.

If you were to ask Sam how you could get involved in making the planet a better place, he would definitely have some ideas:

“First and foremost—vote. We live in stupidly perilous times, and we need sensible, visionary, and educated leadership. If your country has a democracy, your vote matters more than most things. As far as other personal choices, it frankly shouldn't be on the individual to fix the problems our leaders have created and inflamed,” Sam noted.

But making small differences can add up if we each make the effort—use less plastic, buy from responsible companies, wear reef-safe sunscreen.
— Sam Teicher, Coral Vita

Want to keep up with the work being done by Coral Vita? You can see their website here, or head over to their Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter pages. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Sam’s favorite coral reef is in the Red Sea. “Diving there was like visiting another planet and seeing the coolest alien life, only I was legitimately thirty yards off the shore.” If anyone needs us, we’ll be planning our next dive trip!