Project BLUE Brings Competitors Together to Save the Oceans
Image source: Twinka Tison
Fortunately (or unfortunately) the surf was flat on Monday, which squashed our plans to paddle out, but did give me a chance to sit down with Vipe Desai, President and Founder of project BLUE. Now in its first full year of operation, project BLUE is set to raise $100,000 USD, all of which will go straight to the Surfrider Foundation, by giving consumers a way to help the oceans by doing something they already do. "Its not a charity. Its a plan of action."
Any time you buy an item with the project BLUE tag, $2 of every purchase goes to Surfrider and sales are tracked so that money raised in Australia, for example, goes back to the Australian chapter of Surfrider. All project BLUE items are not new items, they just have a blue color scheme to identify them. For example, the Mick Fanning beer-bottle opening Reef sandals in blue are dedicated to project BLUE. "A collaboration of competitors such as those in project BLUE is unheard of in any other industry." When was the last time you saw competitors like Apple and Microsoft or Ford and Toyota joining forces to save the planet?The goal is not to create more products, but instead offer people a chance to help ocean conservation when they need a new pair of sunglasses or board shorts. Surfing is a $7 billion (USD) industry and noT everyone is going to do a beach cleanup, but this gives people interested in the industry to also participate in conservation.
How Did the Competitors Join Forces?
Desai has been on the Surfrider board for the past 5 years, but as he has gotten more involved and realized all of the tremendous work that goes on behind the scenes, he wanted to use his talents to help bring more money in - think of all the other things they could do if they had even more funding. Desai made a few calls to a few friends in high places, and the rest is history. All of the surf companies were eager to participate because, according to Desai, they get it, "without a healthy ocean, we don't have a healthy business."
Surfrider can't afford to manufacture products in order to raise money, and thats a little besides the point - they want to save the oceans, not put more products out into the environment. Besides, Surfrider is a non-profit so it gets a little complicated. project BLUE is a for-profit enterprise and therefore can raise the money for Surfrider and worry about the business side of things. Be True to BLUE is very quick to say that they are not encouraging over consumption, but that surfers are going to buy boardshorts so why not shorts that also help Surfrider.
What can you find at Be True to Blue?
Well, sunglasses by Electric (who has had such a good response that they are making all 60 of their polarized sunglasses into project Blue sunglasses), Billabong board shorts, Dakine backpacks, Reef sandals, O'Neill tshirts, Nixon watches and Famous biodegradable surf wax. Each of the items are either organic or made from recycled materials. Bonus!
Even in this tough economy, stores are finding that the project BLUE items fly off of the shelves, so its one more way for stores to differentiate themselves from other stores. There are no plans to offer new items at this time because project BLUE wants to keep it a "boutique" feel, thus only offering one board short label, one shoe label, etc.
The riders for the different surf labels and the Surfrider riders, are some of the biggest champions of the products. Mick Fanning (Australian) asked that the money raised go back to the respective country. Dave Rastovich (Australian) loves his signature boardshorts and is a huge supporter of the cause. Kids who look up to their favorite surfers also get to see that the surfers care about the environment and are giving back.
Desai is really into surfing and helping Surfrider and its obvious the moment you bring up the subject. "Its a bit of fate that I ended up doing this," Desai remarks. Growing up surfing in Hermosa Beach, attending school in San Diego so he could keep surfing and then running a surf store in LA for 8 years, Desai is very in touch with the culture and the ocean. It seems natural that he would merge his business background with his passion to find an easy way to give back. Almost every day there is another green article on surfing - its great to see an industry so in touch with nature also concerned about protecting its future.
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