I think by now most people have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but just to catch you up to speed, it is a giant collection of marine debris (i.e. litter that ends up in our oceans, seas and other large bodies of water) floating around in the North Pacific Ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is probably the most famous, but unfortunately, it is just one of many vortexes of trash where plastics (I’ve talked about this issue before), and other litter end up when they get caught in a gyre, which is system of circular ocean currents.
The actual size of the patch is unknown and a little difficult to estimate since most debris consists of small plastic particles suspended at, or just below, the surface which is hard to detect by aircraft or satellite. That being said, estimates put the size range anywhere from 270,000 square miles to more than 5.8 million square miles. To put that into perspective, that means best case, the size of this thing is about the size of Texas (which is 268,597 square miles), but it might also be larger than the United States of America (much larger actually, the U.S. is 3.8 million square miles).
A garbage patch in our ocean potentially LARGER THAN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Oh, and it’s growing. According to the UN environmental program, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is growing so fast that it is now visible from space. So that’s cool (if by cool I mean alarming).
This is where United By Blue comes in. In case you didn’t get it from their name, United By Blue believes that every living creature is united by the blue of our world’s oceans and waterways. And, as outdoor enthusiasts, they also believe that we all have the responsibility to protect them.
That is why in 2010, they created a company with the goal of making a measurable impact when it came to cleaning the world’s waterways. United By Blue liked the idea of associating the sale of each product with a concrete environmental action — so for every product sold, United by Blue removes one pound of trash from our world’s oceans and waterways. They don’t do this by accepting donations or contributing money to a cause, United By Blue literally gets their hands dirty — they organize cleanups.
They host ocean and waterway cleanups where, along with volunteers, their teams pick up plastic bottles, tires, appliances and anything else they happen to find (including abandoned trucks, on occasion). United By Blue held their first cleanup the same week they sold their first t-shirt, and to date the company has held 177 cleanups in 26 states and removed 995,291 pounds of trash.
The certified B Corp, which started with just a handful of organic tees and has since expanded to a full line of responsible, durable goods from apparel (don’t worry, they still carry their organic tees), to bags, to home accessories. They put extra effort to make sure their apparel and accessories are made responsibly and using sustainable materials.
They use organic cotton to avoid the chemical fertilizers and pesticides used for conventional cotton. They use recycled polyester made from plastic bottles to alleviate at least a little bit of that plastic pollution. And they use wool, a natural, renewable and biodegradable fabric.
They also hold their suppliers to specific environmental standards, pay all of their workers living wages and over 75% of their office supplies are made from recycled content. And beyond organizing cleanups, they give back to their community in other ways, too. They donate 10% of their profits to charity and offer their employees time off for community service.