Most people are familiar with the Green Movement, but what about the Blue one? As sailors, this cause should be near and dear to our hearts. The blue movement is about the oceans that occupy 70 percent of the Earth and our dependence on them. For sailors, the water is our playground, and we have a responsibility to take care of it.
The company United by Blue (UBB) cannot fully express how deeply it feels about this issue. Founder and “Chief Trash Collector” Brian Linton started the clothing and jewelry company after his other attempts at conservation left him feeling like he didn’t have control over the impact he was making.
“I remember traveling around Asia growing up and visiting beautiful beaches one day and beaches covered in plastic the next day...this troubled me so much that when I got to college I started thinking of ways to create a business that would help clean up our world's oceans and waterways, and have fun while doing it.”
Linton spent time in Singapore, where he was shocked by how dirty the water was in contrast to the clean city. There was plastic everywhere. “As one of the world's largest seaports, it is no surprise that the oceans surrounding Singapore are polluted, but it wasn't until I was learning to scuba dive off the coast that I realized just how bad it is. It is really sobering and sad to see an ocean so devoid of life because of how poorly we have treated it,” says Linton.
Back in the United States, Linton founded United by Blue in 2010 with the hope that the company’s in-house cleanup efforts and simple business model—which involves not just donating money to another organization, but actually removing one pound of trash from the ocean for every item sold—would make more of an impact. “My ultimate goal with UBB is to grow it into the largest organization removing trash from oceans and waterways in the world,” he says, a goal, he adds, that he feels is very much within reach.
According to Linton, the biggest threat to ocean life right now is single-use plastics, like those handy beverage containers and bags many of us use on a daily basis. To this end, his personal goal is to use UBB as an educational tool to prevent the trash buildup in the first place. Linton has also enlisted thousands of volunteers in over 60 cleanups in 15 states.
While sailors tend to pride themselves on having a low carbon footprint, we can always be more aware. You hate to turn on the engine if you can avoid it, and you may not be knowingly tossing trash into the sea. But 20 percent of trash is dumped at sea, so help to spread the Blue Movement when you see trash being carelessly dealt with.
By partnering with the likes of Subaru, Method Products Inc. (which manufactures a variety of home and personal care products) and Sperry Top-Sider, UBB is creating effective recycling programs. In addition to picking up trash, they are also trying to find a “new home” for trash they pick up. Method, for example, uses some of the trash that UBB picks up to make its plastic soap bottles. Sperry Top-Sider is also sponsoring a World Oceans Day UBB cleanup in Annapolis, Maryland, on June 8, and selling a limited edition line of exclusive UBB T-shirts that can now be found here. UBB is excited for World Oceans Day and all of their other upcoming cleanups.
The T-shirts, made of soft organic cotton, are packaged in banana fiber bags, and production is transitioning from India to the more carbon-footprint-friendly Los Angeles, now that they’ve found a place to produce the clothing at a price their consumers can afford.
“They're great for dressing up and dressing down, layering in warm and cool weather, and outfitting for deck and dock,” says Linton.
With the heavyweight partnerships they’re developing and beginning to sell items at retailers like Nordstrom, United By Blue may be new, but their impact can already be seen on the coasts we call home.
Photos by Katharine Friedgen, Courtesy of United By Blue