When Linda Loi got out of her car in Ocean City, N.J., a couple weeks ago, she was immediately shocked at the number of people in her periphery. About 150 volunteers had flooded the beach town’s Aquatic Center on Simpson Avenue, and were getting to work cleaning up the widespread damage left in Hurricane Sandy’s wake. “Most people were still cleaning up their houses,” Loi says. “And there was so much trash on the side of the street from the storm. The lower levels [of beach-front homes] were flooded. It was heartbreaking.”
Loi, whose role in the cleanup was maintaining a list of what supplies residents needed, was among volunteers from Philadelphia, New York, Maryland and D.C. They all shared a common link: United by Blue, a Philly-based apparel company created by Temple grad Brian Linton in 2010. His idea was based on the belief that we’re all connected—united, if you will—by water.
“We do a ton of work throughout the year … anywhere there’s water,” Linton tells PW . “We’re all united by blue. We all need water to live. Life doesn’t exist without water, so protecting it is our mission.”
For every T-shirt, hoodie, bag or accessory the company sells, its volunteers clean a pound of trash out of shores, creeks, rivers and beaches around the country. And since 2010, more than 141,000 pounds of trash have been hauled away.
“The ‘Buy one, give one’ model has grown substantially and has been very popular for a few years now,” says Linton. “We’re a totally different form of that. We’re a ‘Buy something to support action and environmental good’ model. Giving away things or donating to another organization is a lot easier than doing something to create the infrastructure and systems to conduct these activities on an ongoing basis.”
And so just days after Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast in late October, United by Blue quickly created an “After Sandy” line of T-shirts, hoodies and accessories. The company is using 100 percent of all proceeds to fund not only its own volunteer efforts, but also various other groups doing cleanup along the Jersey shore.
“[United by Blue does] a great job in teaching people about the blue movement,” Loi says. “People all know it’s important to be green, but it’s important to know what goes on with all the trash we throw out, too. And it’s great for Philly to know that there are companies like this in our city.”
United by Blue’s next “After Sandy” cleanup event will take place Dec. 1. Visit unitedbyblue.com to see the “After Sandy” apparel line or for more information on how to volunteer. And visit phillynow.com for ongoing coverage of Sandy’s aftermath.