In 2019, we surpassed two million pounds of trash removed from oceans and waterways. And that’s not the only record we blew out of the water: this was our largest weight haul year to date, and we had more volunteers join us than ever before. We launched several national cleanup partnerships with for-profit businesses, showing spectacular progress happening in the private sector when it comes to taking a stand for clean water. We moved into a new office, we #QuitSingleUse, and we rang in the new year with the biggest, most motivated team we’ve ever had.
Two Weeks on an Abandoned Island: 96,100 Pounds Removed from Burlington Island
In early 2019, we were sought out by the New Jersey DEP to tackle a tricky cleanup project on an island in the Delaware River. Home to historical infrastructure and debris that had broken down into piles of rusted trash, Burlington Island was presenting a serious threat to the health of the Delaware. Century-old trash was sinking into the river after heavy rains and floods and also leaching chemicals into the soil and riverbeds. We partnered with the City of Burlington and the Board of Island Managers, as well as a number of private sector businesses like Sea Tow Delaware, Allied Recycling, and River Services, to execute this complicated cleanup. Using a barge to make trips back and forth, we spent weeks transporting machinery to the island and bringing trash back to the mainland to be disposed of and recycled. It was a cleanup worthy of its own documentary:
Targeting a Trio of Illegal Dumpsites: 628,180 Pounds Removed in Oklahoma
Thanks to a new partnership with Environmental Crimes Units in Oklahoma, we joined forces with two counties to target illegal dumpsites along tributaries and ponds throughout the state of Oklahoma. Using heavy machinery, paid manpower, and professional trash trucking services, we removed over half of our yearly weight haul along waterways in of Oklahoma.
This year, we came up with new ways to participate in a handful of worthy causes celebrated annually around the globe. We’re strong believers in “the more the merrier”, so we always try to involve our community in events that rally around sustainability and conservation. There’s more coming in 2020, and you’re invited.
World Oceans Day: #QuitSingleUse
On World Oceans Day, we made a pledge to clean up our act: to cut the most prevalent single-use plastics from our supply chain by World Oceans Day 2020. Then, we opened up the pledge to you, and we were blown away with the results—more than 11,532 people pledged to quit single-use plastic for 24 hours. When you take into account daily plastic statistics, the pledge saved thousands of water bottles, straws, plastic cutlery and more from being used once and thrown away. We were thrilled with not only the immediate impact of the #QuitSingleUse pledge, but even more so the enthusiasm we saw for going plastic free!
Blue Note Speaker Series
The Blue Note series invites our Philly neighbors to listen and learn about conservation topics that affect us all (in our cozy Flagship store, with snacks). This year, we held events covering three themes: World Oceans Day, How Global Warming Affects Us, and How to Live Zero Waste. These conversations featured local experts and delved into climate issues, watersheds, biomes, zero waste municipalities and more.
New, Reusable Mesh Garbage Bags
This year, we made the switch from single-use garbage bags (which we originally viewed as sort of a necessary evil) to reusable mesh garbage bags. Made with a netting that’s fine enough to catch small scraps of garbage but durable enough to be washed many times, these bags allow us to remove trash without creating more trash. We now bring them to all of our community cleanups.
The business community is catching on to the notion that a healthy environment is good for business, and we couldn’t be happier. Two great examples of for-profit companies coming together for clean water and sustainability:
Maker’s Mark x United By Blue #Cocktailsforcleanups
This spring, a partnership with Maker’s Mark added 75,000 pounds to our trash pick-up counter and a new, lively component to several of our cleanups. To pick up all that extra trash, we joined forces with Maker’s to hold cleanups in five cities. And we paired each cleanup with complimentary happy hours, because sometimes conservation is best served with a cocktail.
REI x United By Blue #OptOutside and Opt to Act
You may have missed Blue Friday this year—but we didn’t do away with it, we just transformed it into something bigger. In a partnership with our longtime pal REI, we combined the well-known #OptOutside campaign with a call to action: Opt to Act. We sold over 2,000 exclusive Opt to Act cleanup kits, hosted three collab cleanups with REI, and inspired countless people to not only get outside on Black Friday, but to bring a trash bag and leave our wild places better than they found them.
There’s a need for cleaner waterways all over the country, but especially in our backyard—after all, Philadelphia is a city located smack-dab in the middle of two large rivers. So to preserve where we play, we put a lot of our efforts toward local projects with local partners. Here’s how we cleaned up Philly this year:
This year, we surpassed two million pounds of trash removed (currently we’re at 2,453,008) since we opened for business in 2010, and worked with nearly 15,000 volunteers to get there. Keep an eye out for our 2020 goal, coming this week! This number will be based on product sales in 2019, every single one of which will account for a pound removed in the new year.