Introducing United By Blue: Interview with President & Chief Trash Collector

Did you know that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the sea floor? With all the recent attention paid to making our sky and land greener, it seems that we’ve perhaps forgotten about the deep blue. As a society that lives on land, it is hard for many of us to see how closely our lives are connected to the world’s waterways, even though over 70% of the Earth’s surface is made up of it.

United By Blue is committed to changing this misconception. Lead by a committed group of individuals and organizations, the Blue Movement is dedicated to preserving and protecting our world’s oceans and waterways for our own and for future generations. For an inside look at the United By Blue team, we caught up with their President & Chief Trash Collector Brian Linton.

What was your inspiration behind starting United By Blue?
I have always loved the oceans and I grew up doing things like scuba diving and raising fish.  I even had 30 fish tanks in my room when I was in grade school!   And while in college I started an accessories company that was donating 5% of our proceeds to ocean conservation. Through this experience I learned just how limiting financial donations can be. It discouraged me that I wasn’t able to track the impact of the money we were giving away. Nothing was concrete or tangible.  And because of this I decided to create a brand that could not exist without doing something good, but no longer by giving money away, rather, by removing one pound of trash from oceans and waterways for every one product sold. By associating a concrete environmental action with every business transaction United By Blue cannot operate without doing something positive for the environment in return.

How many pounds of trash have you and your team removed so far?
In about one year we’ve removed over 22,000 pounds of trash at 35 cleanups across the United States.  Pictures and videos from a lot of these cleanups can be found on facebook.com/unitedbyblue.


Tell us about your most memorable cleanup to date.
My most memorable cleanup has been a cleanup we did at a creek in Pennsylvania called Cobbs Creek.  It was a real mess on the creek bed, and getting the trash out was made even more difficult because of a steep bank.  My closest cleanup mishap to date happened at this cleanup when I was trying to continuously flip a truck tire up the bank, taking great effort to keep it perpendicular to the bank so it wouldn’t catch the hill and roll back down into the creek.  Unfortunately, it turned on me and came rolling down hitting me square in the chest.  Luckily, it knocked me to the side rather than roll over me or cast me into the creek.  But overall, it was an entertaining cleanup and we removed nearly 650 pounds of trash out of the water that afternoon!

What are some ways that someone can help prevent pollution in the oceans and waterways?
Single use plastics are one of the main sources of ocean and waterway pollution. We find a tremendous amount of plastic bottles and bags at cleanups, and these are things that will last for hundreds of years in the water.  Cutting down on your use of single-use plastics is the single best way to help prevent pollution in the oceans and waterways.

What makes United By Blue bags unique?
This may be a strange fact, but to make organic canvas as thick as it is in our bags, it required tremendous effort on our part.  Conventional cotton (which uses enormous amounts of pesticides and fertilizers to grow), is easier to find in heavier weight canvas fabrics, but to make our organic canvas cotton the thickness we needed, it required special machinery and two extra months of production (on top of two months we originally needed)… it was a long process, but something well worth the wait!

How would you describe the look and style of your product?
Our environmental work is a big part of our company, but we still spend a lot of time designing and manufacturing products that are not only fashionable, but embody one of our mantras here at our company: “Finding Forgotten Beauty”.  At UBB we are all about discovering the things that were once beautiful, but time has forgotten; such as an old brick pier on the Hudson River, or a cobble stone street on the waterfront. That being said, our bags embody the feel of a ‘forgotten beauty’, with worn down stripes and thick, rugged organic canvas.

What are the next steps for United By Blue?  Do you have a goal in mind for trash pickups by the end of the year?
We are growing really fast, and as a result of our growth, our environmental work is growing at an equally fast speed.  I’m happy to say we are on pace to remove 100,000 of trash by the end of 2011.

If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering to help United By Blue during a cleanup, click here.

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