Brian Linton grew up scuba diving, researching marine life, and falling asleep to the hum of 30 fish tanks in his childhood bedroom. "I got to see the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to oceans and waterways," he says about his formative years living in Singapore and traveling the world. Now he's the founder and CEO of Philadelphia-based United by Blue, a premium clothing and accessory brand that collects one pound of trash from coastal areas for every item sold.
Linton says the concept for the business "was born out of the realization and experience that... just simply donating money to somebody else to do good for you is not a very effective way to accomplish any tangible good." Departing from his previous business model, a jewelry line that gave away 5 percent of proceeds to ocean conservation projects, Linton founded United by Blue on the principle of "doing your own dirty work." Of the venture's 10 full-time employees, two are tasked with organizing marine cleanups around the United States and in Taiwan. Since the company launched in 2010, they've executed 60 volunteer clean-up events and salvaged more than 82,000 pounds of trash, some of which gets reworked into bottles for the sustainably minded soap company method.
United by Blue's products range from organic cotton t-shirts to canvas bags to artisanal leather jewelery, all adhering to an aesthetic of "vintage nautical nostalgia," Linton says. "Our brand resembles a laid back, sun-washed harbor town. It evokes feelings of forgotten beauty—of times past." And as the company moves forward into the future, Linton is focused on striking the "balance between being a for-profit company and a very, very, very philanthropic and environmental organization." Appealing to more people and selling more product means the ability to pick up more trash. While he had originally considered producing the apparel in the United States, it was far cheaper to move production to India, which made the company more "scalable" and better able to execute on its philanthropic mission. Now Linton is hoping to move production from India to Central America to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation, while the company has already managed to eliminate 80 percent of plastics from their supply chain.
So far, the product line is carried by 100 retailers around the country, who have helped organize local cleanups. Customers that purchase a piece from the website can name the particular cleanup they'd like to contribute to.
Image courtesy of United by Blue