United By Blue: Using Business to Heal Our Oceans

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by guest blogger Brian Linton, founder of United By Blue

United By Blue is a brand of outdoor apparel and accessories focused on ocean and waterway conservation. We make products that are responsibly made of sustainable materials like organic cotton, wool, and other low-impact fibers. We believe the outdoors is something that unites and connects us all, and protecting the blue parts of the planet is not only essential for outdoor enjoyment, it’s essential for life, too.

In order to conserve the outdoors, United By Blue (UBB) was founded on a very simple and powerful mission: For every product sold, we remove one pound of trash from our world’s oceans and waterways through company-organized and -hosted cleanups.

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Making outdoor apparel and organizing events to pick up trash? How do you connect business and grassroots conservation efforts? After all, business and conservation are often two disparate things.

When I started UBB in 2010, we strove to find a way to combine the worlds of commerce and conservation in a cohesive and effective way. Our environmental efforts needed to be fully supported by our business transactions, and at the same time, we needed to make sure that our business didn’t get ahead of our environmental commitments. This was, and still is, a challenge. Not only were we starting a brand of apparel and accessories, but we also had to figure out how to organize and host beach and waterway cleanups on an ongoing basis. We had to not only develop a sales pipeline for our product, but also the systems and infrastructure to make hosting cleanups affordable and highly effective.

Our success with this model has been rooted in the simplicity or our mission, which enables us to scale our cleanup efforts at the same time as we scale the business.  More sales equals more cleanups. More than four years in, we’ve now hosted 107 cleanups across 22 U.S. states and removed more than 175,000 pounds of trash.

United By Blue’s cleanup efforts bring us to needy rivers, lakes, streams, and beaches all over the country; while there, we join with volunteers and pick up trash. Piece by piece. Pound by pound. Trash such as cigarette butts, tires, plastic bottles, and anything you can possibly imagine…from common household objects to grotesque unmentionable items.

The biggest reward from seeing our brand grow over these first four years has been seeing people embrace United By Blue—whether it be our products or our cleanups or the ideals of what it is to be united by the blue parts of our planet. Something as simple as a great turnout at a cleanup is always a heartwarming experience. So is seeing someone wearing or using our products.

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United By Blue bags on Rodales.com

This blue movement is not something that United By Blue participates in alone. Every person, business, and government has a stake in healthy waters. Here are three easy things anyone can do to participate in this movement.

  1. Refuse single-use plastics. Things (like bottles, straws, and cups) that you use once and discard are not worth using and are the most commonly found trash in our world’s waters.
  2. Join a cleanup effort. http://unitedbyblue.com/collections/cleanups
  3. Purchase a United By Blue product to support further cleanup efforts (available on our site and at Rodales.com).

brianBrian Linton is the founder and president of United By Blue. At UBB, he leads overall brand strategy and sales growth, working closely with UBB’s sales team and distributors. Growing up in Japan and Singapore, Brian has traversed the world and traveled to over 40 countries. Legend has it that his childhood bedroom housed over 30 fish tanks, and this love of aquatic life is where United By Blue found it’s environmental focus.

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One Response to United By Blue: Using Business to Heal Our Oceans

  1. Alice Green June 24, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    You are to be commended and thanked for your love of our world and for your finding a way to combine business and saving our world. Cleaning up the trash in our water is not a fun thing to do, but you have found a way to get folks out in nature and probably have some fun as they clean up the mess others leave behind. I hope your business continues to do well and I thank you for helping to save our earth, and educate all of us about waste.

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