United By Blue (UBB) is an upstart company that manufactures and sells T-shirts, jewelry and bags made from sustainable materials. For every product sold, one pound of trash is removed from oceans and waterways through organized cleanups.
Founder Brian Linton, 23, was raised along the beaches of Southeast Asia. While the ocean holds many fond memories for him, there was one thing he could never seem to avoid – trash.
“When I was 17 years old, my family and I went on a kayaking trip in Western Thailand,” Linton remembers. “One of the islands we visited had only one village, yet the entire beach was literally covered with plastic bags. It was such a thick layer of plastic that you couldn’t see the sand. It really opened my eyes to how serious the problem of ocean pollution is.”
Linton decided he had to do something. In 2006, while attending Temple University in Philadelphia, he started Sand Shack, a jewelry line that donates 5 percent of all proceeds to ocean conservation efforts.
While most of his classmates were in their dorm rooms eating Ramen noodles, Linton knew he could do more to inspire radical change.
“Sand Shack involved donating a percentage of our proceeds to ocean conservation causes, but with financial donations, you never really know how your money is being used,” Linton says.
“So we created United By Blue, where there is an actual association between the products sold and the amount of trash removed. This allows us to have ongoing cleanups throughout the United States and really make an impact.”
Following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, there is a heightened concern for the health of oceans, but Linton holds that large-scale catastrophes are not the only sources of massive ocean pollution.
“The oil spill is incredibly tragic and is so horrible,” he says. “But what people don’t realize is that we dump more petroleum-based products in the form of plastic into the ocean every year than the oil spill will put into the Gulf. We don’t often think about how much petroleum, basically oil, we put into the oceans every time we use single-use plastic products.”
“The No. 1 way anyone can help reduce ocean pollution is to decrease their use of these plastics and other non-recyclable items,” Linton says. “These materials often end up in our oceans, and they stay there for hundreds if not thousands of years.”
Linton suggests opting for a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water, as well as bringing along a tote bag to the grocery store. Remember that the plastic you do use is recyclable. Most grocers now offer in-store recycling for plastic bags. For those other plastics, use Earth911 to search for a recycling center near you.
Linton also adds that participating in a cleanup is a great, hands-on way to get involved. A list of upcoming cleanups can be found on UBB’s website
No upcoming cleanups in your area? Not to worry. Concerned citizens can organize ocean or waterway cleanups anywhere in the country with the help of UBB. Not only will the company fund the cleanup, but it will also help select a location, provide supplies and assist with proper disposal.
Launched May 1, United By Blue is growing fast, and according to Brian Linton, there is no end in sight.
“We really want to become a driving force not only for cleaning up the mess that others have left, but for conserving the oceans for the future.”