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Driftwood outdoors: Company backs water conservation

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Water is the life blood of our world. Protecting water through conservation is paramount to everything and everyone. Water is what unites us.

Yet, it seems to me that water is often overlooked as a primary conservation concern. For United by Blue, water is first and foremost.

United by Blue was founded by Brian Linton in May 2010 as a for-profit business with a mission to fund real conservation efforts. I first learned about the company at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City last month.

After doing a little research on United by Blue and speaking with a number of folks associated with the organization, including Linton, I’ve come to really respect their mission and the unique way they are going about funding it.

“I started United by Blue because of my realization that businesses need to be more involved in waterway conservation. Business usually focuses on terrestrial resource issues, but the aquatic issues the world faces are core to all of life,” Linton said.

So Linton had an idea to make a difference. He would create exceptional products, which currently consist of apparel, bags, jewelry and accessories, to be sold for a profit that would generate revenues he could then use to fund water conservation efforts. This is different, because most conservation organizations operate as nonprofits that generate their funds through memberships, solicitations, fundraising and grants.

United by Blue operates for-profit and spends money to fund on-the-ground events.

Seth Godin, a marketing guru, writes and speaks about building tribes around central ideas and passions. He wrote, “A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader and an idea. For millions of years, humans have been seeking out tribes, be they religious, ethnic, economic, political, or even musical. It’s our nature.”

United by Blue is a growing tribe. The way it works is fairly simple. For every one product sold, the organization is committed to removing one pound of trash from a waterway through a “Cleanup.”

United by Blue organizes and hosts waterway cleanups with its partners and retailers across the country. Volunteers gather together to go out to specific waterways and remove trash. It’s a simple concept that makes an enormous difference.

If you’ve paddled a river lately, then you have undoubtedly felt your heart sink at the sight of bottom-dwelling beer cans, old tires and other pieces of trash that have settled where they don’t belong.

“We have a cleanup nearly every week, with multiple per week in the peak summer months. We operate through retailers that carry our products, because those locations tie our products with the mission,” Linton said.

Customers who buy the United by Blue products, which are available at major retailers like Nordstrom and REI, as well as small shops around the country, can

feel good about knowing a portion of their money is going to fund water conservation. But also, they’ll likely want to become part of the solution. They’ll want to be part of the tribe.

This means they’ll never intentionally pollute, will encourage others to join in water stewardship and will work to clean up after those who negatively effect our environment.

“Pollution in rivers and streams and other waters shouldn’t be there. It’s not open to debate,” Linton said. “We shouldn’t be dumping in our water.”

United by Blue is a great example of a for-profit business using fiscal resources to fund a mission for positive environmental effect. What can your business do locally, regionally, nationally or worldly to have a positive impact on the conservation of our life blood, water?

See you down the trail.

Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears Saturdays in the Daily Journal. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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