Join the #BlueMovement - Ocean-Friendly Clothing from United by Blue
Founded in Philadelphia in 2010, United by Blue is an outdoor apparel brand that creates beautiful clothing and kit in a responsible way. Their mission statement is simple: ‘For every product sold, United by Blue removes one pound of trash from the world’s oceans and waterways’. And they do. United by Blue have worked with volunteers across the US to clean up 307,284 pounds of rubbish – and counting.
We caught up with company founder Brian Linton to find out more about the awesome work that UBB are doing…
“We love United by Blue because their focus has been unchanging since day one: caring for the environment and creating sustainable and beautiful clothing. You can see the outdoors in every piece too. From the outdoor-inspired graphic T-shirts to the earthy, natural colours in the range”
– Amy Williams, Clothing Buyer for Cotswold Outdoor
What came first, the clothing brand or the commitment to ocean conservation?
Actually, they came together. We created United by Blue with the idea that a successful outdoor brand can do serious conservation work. We’re a mission-based company, but our business has to do well for us to effectively fulfil that mission. We focus on creating strong products that sell well on their own, and those sales translate into more clean-ups, more outreach, and more measurable change.
What made you choose to focus on the world’s oceans and waterways?
We’ve always been passionate about the oceans and the waterways that lead us there. Our office is filled with anglers, surfers, and campers, and we’re all acutely aware of how important our oceans are to the overall health of the environment. Oceans cover 70 percent of our planet and heavily influence the climate. We’re here because we believe that as a for-profit business, we can make a tangible impact on water conservation.
Why don’t you just donate money to ocean conservation?
We opted to get our hands dirty and organize clean-ups because we wanted to make a measurable impact from the get-go. Water conservation groups do great work, but when you simply write checks, it’s hard to see exactly where your money and efforts are going. We love organizing and hosting clean-ups because it’s a concrete way we can make a difference. It also inspires a movement that everyone can get in on, whether by purchasing an item or volunteering at a clean-up (or both). When we tell our customers that their purchase goes to cleaning up our waterways, it means everyone here at United by Blue is rolling up their sleeves and removing plastic bottles, Styrofoam, tires, old appliances and more from creeks, rivers, beaches, and streams.
“For every product sold, United by Blue removes one pound of trash from the world’s oceans and waterways.”
How does the clothing you make fit in with your sustainability mission?
We’re first and foremost a purveyor of responsible, durable goods. Ensuring that our clothing is responsibly made also ensures that our oceans (and the air and soil) stay cleaner as well. We put a lot of thought into the materials that make up each piece and always opt for textiles that are kind to the environment. For example, our upcoming Ridgeline bag collection is primarily made out of sturdy, water-repellent recycled polyester, which is made from plastic bottles. Since plastic bottles alone make up 1.5 million tons of plastic waste annually, it’s really important to us to find ways to reduce all this waste (especially since it frequently winds up in the ocean).
Some of our other favourite materials include vegetable-tanned leather, which replaces harmful chemicals typically used in the tanning process with vegetable matter, and organic cotton, which is produced without using any of the pesticides that often wind up draining into our oceans and waterways. Every decision we make about our clothing and accessories goes back to making a positive, measurable impact on the environment.
You've recently recieved a B-Corp certification for the conservation work you're doing. Can you tell us what a B-Corp certification is?
Our certification means that we choose to use our company (and profits) as a force for good. In our case, our mission is focused on solving one of the most pressing environmental problems: ocean trash and plastics pollution. We decided to go for the B-Corp certification for two reasons: The first was to set a standard of excellence in the product we deliver our customers and deepen the connection that our volunteers feel to our business after working with us at a clean-up. The second was to become a member of a supportive community of businesses that have similar economic, social, and environmental aspirations.
We’re really proud of the efforts we made to earn a B-Corp certification. In addition to our pledge to remove one pound of trash for every product sold, we hold our suppliers to specific environmental standards, offer our employees paid time off for community service, and over 75 percent of our office supplies are made from recycled content. The B-Corp certification holds us accountable to our community and our environment, plus we hope it encourages other businesses to adopt similar standards in an effort to become B-Corps too.
How do cleanups work?
We work with local watershed groups, city agencies, and conservation organizations to identify polluted sites along a waterway and plan clean-ups in those locations. After we’ve locked in the location and date, we recruit volunteers from the area. Volunteers often come from local schools, universities, corporate groups, environmentalists, and youth volunteer programs, and we also invite our customers to volunteer via e-mail, social media, and in-store signage. We love to partner with area food and beverage businesses whenever we can to supply volunteers with a locally sourced, post-cleanup drink or snack. We provide volunteers with all supplies including gloves, trash bags, drinking water and sunscreen.
The large majority of the trash volunteers remove are single-use plastics like water bottles, straws, and snack bags. We have also found a variety of weird trash, including a toilet, diploma, voo-doo doll, a hand gun, and lots of underwear. We weigh each bag of trash brought back to the staging area. At the end of the clean-up, volunteers are awarded prizes for the closest guess to the total weight and for finding the weirdest piece of trash. A typical after-work cleanup in Philadelphia, for example, will yield between 750 to 2,000 pounds and will consist of around two hours of cleaning. Weekend projects can yield as much as 10-15,000 pounds.
Watch the video below to find out more about United by Blue Cleanups:
As the business grows, do you think that you’ll be able to stick to your ‘one pound of trash for one product’ mission?
The reason that we’re so public about our mission (for every product sold, United by Blue removes one pound of trash from the world’s oceans and waterways) is that we want to be held accountable to our goal. Each year, we set a high benchmark for the amount of trash we need to remove, and we have a dedicated person on our team who coordinates clean-ups and ensures we hit our goals. Our plan this year alone is to remove 200,000 pounds.
Brian Linton, Founder of United by Blue
United by Blue craft beautiful, durable, responsible outdoor apparel and kit. For every product sold, they remove one pound of trash from the world’s oceans and waterways.