Episode 129: Protecting our Oceans and Beaches with project BLUE
Host Sean Daily talks with Vipe Desai of Project BLUE. Project BLUE, the national initiative established to raise funds in support of ocean and beach protection, continues to gain momentum as the campaign's second year officially gets underway.
Sean Daily: Hey everybody, this is Sean Daily from Green Talk Radio from greenlivingideas.com. Welcome to another episode. Today we are going to be talking about protecting our oceans and beaches and we're going to be talking with an organization called Project Blue and the founder, whose name is Vipe Desai.
I'm going to read from a press release here to introduce you to Project Blue, if you haven't heard of them. It's really a very unique organization.
“Project Blue is the national initiative established to raise funds for ocean and beach protection. They continue to gain momentum as the campaign's second summer officially gets under way. An unprecedented harmonization of six leading and competitive brands in the multi-billion dollar surf industry, proceeds from products sold under the Project Blue umbrella will go towards the Surfrider Foundation, the non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of the world's oceans, waves and beaches.
Project Blue represents a collaboration rarely witnessed in other billion dollar industries. Six internationally respected brands, including Billabong, Dakine, Electric, Nixon, Reef and O'Neill, (all of whom will be very well known to anybody who is in the surfer world or has ever bought surfer wear) have partnered to create a complementary product line of special-edition, co-branded merchandise for both men and women, specifically for the project Blue initiative.”
So Vipe Desai, welcome to the program.
Vipe Desai:Thanks for having me on, Sean.
Sean Daily:Well, it's our pleasure and certainly an interesting story, what you guys are doing here with the co-branded project. I guess we see this only in industries like surfing and beer and the wine industry, other industries where people are a little bit more laid back, a little more kumbaya , and I love to see this. Tell us about, I sort of read the ?????? (ERV? at 3.01) review. Give us some more specifics about what prompted you to start this project and exactly how it works.
Vipe Desai:Well absolutely. Well, Sean, I've been surfing for probably about fifteen to twenty years, and along the way I've witnessed first hand some of the issues that are starting to flare up more and more along our coastlines. Years ago I got involved with the Surfrider Foundation and got very familiar with their work and some of the campaigns they were working on, the chapter activism across the world and with Project Blue we wanted to create a campaign that's an initiative and some people confuse us as an organization or a non-profit but were not: Project Blue is a campaign, there's no bank account for Project Blue, no money comes to us, money goes directly to the surfrider foundation.
What's happened is, six brands have joined forces to create specific signature items under this Project Blue initiative and campaign and it's called that on the product where a portion of the proceeds of each of these items goes directly to the surfrider foundation. So it's really a way for the surf industry as a whole to protect and preserve our playgrounds through popular consumer products.
Sean Daily:I see, so the relationship between Project Blue and the Surfrider foundation is that you're just one of the benefactors that's out there collecting money for that organization that is separate, is that correct?
Vipe Desai:Correct, we're separate, but I work very closely with the Surfrider foundation on a number of initiatives. I also have the honor of serving on their board so I'm able to see where there needs to be additional support. Obviously one area of support for any non-profit is funding. The idea was, if there’s surfrider working to protect our coastlines and there's an industry that is dependent upon the health of these coastlines, there have to be more on-ramps whether it's financially or through surfer activism , to put these two groups together. Project Blue has been an on-ramp, its a low friction ask for consumers to get involved helping to protect something that we all enjoy.
Sean Daily: Yes, certainly. I'm just curious here, this sounds to me to be somewhat unprecedented for these, normally what would be very competitors, as it were, to get together and do this. I mean, is this a really unique initiative in the world of big business?
Vipe Desai:Absolutely, I think it's a very unique business and the surf industry and the action sports industry as a whole is a very unique business unto itself. But this initiative I believe could only survive and thrive in this industry. Take the automotive industry for example. That industry is getting beat up left and right for their lack of evolution in addressing oil concerns and fuel and pollution and all that stuff. Yet none of those guys will take the time to get together and sit in a room to discuss the issues that are plaguing their business. The surf industry is completely the opposite, the competitive leaders will get together, put their differences aside and say, “You know what, here are specific issues that, as an industry, we need to address, regardless of competition, we have to work together on all these.” And this initiative is just that. When I'm taking to Billabong, Dakine, Electric, Nixon, O'Neill and Reef, these are brands that are competitive with each other, not necessarily viciously, but definitely friendly competition. But for this they have come together. Take Billabong for example. They own an eye wear brand with their portfolio, yet they were totally supportive of working with a competitor's eye wear brand to be part of this initiative. And they wanted it because they knew that colorful combination of brands was what was going to make this campaign successful.
Sean Daily:This does seem to be one of those characterizing elements of what I would call, sort of , new industry and new business versus old industry and you pointed out the problems in the automotive industry and as we are recording this GM has just recently announced, you know that their stock price is the lowest that it's been since the nineteen fifties, which is, you know, pretty dramatic. And I think that this type of collaboration and this sense that what's good for one is good for all, and that there's enough to go round is a very different mentality, as is the embracing of things such as social networking and the internet and thing like this versus the old stalwart industries, the old school thinking of being very very clandestine and not communicating with your competitors. So it's interesting and I'd certainly love to see things like this; I'm curious about also have there been some challenges early on in this project and putting this together?
Vipe Desai:The challenges for me were really “could something like this even happen?” As it started to transpire it was almost somewhat surreal in that when I met with John Wilson from Reef and Paul Naude from Billabong my first initial meeting was just to share the idea and the concept with them and out of the gate both of them said “Yes, we're on board” and it was like “ Yes, you're on board and you'd like me to go back and do some more research” or “ Yes, you're on board and let's move forward” and it was “Yes, we're on board, we're going to move forward, we're going to start planning these products into our line. Go get these other guys.” They made suggestions of other brands to get, they would like to partner along with this whole initiative, and have part of the campaign. And once we got everybody together in a room it was just, I hate to even say it like this, it was hippy love fest, everybody was really excited that they could sit across the table from somebody that was in a competitive business but that had the same passion and alignment for something that we all enjoy. So it was really easy and that was the biggest challenge, was convincing people, but once we went past that it was easy, everybody was on the same page, those guys then shared the initiative and the campaign to staff and their collection people and their designers and everybody was really excited because of the story behind it. The opportunity to give back in a manner that also helps support sales and like you were talking earlier, this is a different business, it's a different world and it's a different consumer. You have to get into this new mindset where people are genuinely concerned about what is happening around the world, whether it's environmental or humanitarian. My personal belief is that a business will have a hard time functioning in the future without some sort of environmental or humanitarian corporate policy in place. Just not possible: young people will not allow it. They will hold every brand to the fire and say “If you're going to make money, post profits, what are you going to do to make the world a better place?”
Sean Daily:Yeah, and that really is the modern expectation of businesses and that is definitely beyond a trend, I think that's really a lot of companies are waking up to the fact that they do need to be accountable at all levels and not just, you know, people aren't going to buy the green washing version News at Ten that the PR rep comes up with but there's got to be some real legs and teeth to it. So yeah, that's very cool. That's definitely part of the new wave of the economy. We're going to be back ...
Sean Daily:Sorry, go ahead, I'll let you finish up then we'll take a break. Go ahead.
Vipe Desai:What I was just going to add is that when we talk about this jump or this move to get on board the enviro- or green wagon, the surf industry has been a huge supporter of the environment for many many years. SO this is nothing new. All these brands have been doing stuff on their own, now they're coming together under one banner so it's a really great thing to see more and more participation as opposed to less and now there's new people coming on board. That was my last thought.
Sean Daily:Yeah, I know, that's a good one. And it's interesting because I really see and I suppose it makes sense that we see this in the outdoor industry, with companies such as Patagonia and Marmot, all those companies have really gotten on the, you know, I was going to say they got on the bandwagon, they actually made the bandwagon, a long time before people were even aware of these issues. What I derive from it is that these are people that have been living in harmony with the Earth in terms of their outdoor activities and being in touch with what's going on and they have those concerns and I see a similar thing, it makes a lot of sense to me with the surfing industry, that these are people that are really in touch with the ocean, that care a lot, that have a deep, real intrinsic concern , and they are now extending that and marrying that with the business side. So hopefully we'll continue to see that happen in other industries, even those that aren't maybe directly connected to the Earth, the mountains, hiking, surfing and things like this. It's very inspiring. We'll be right back on Green Talk Radio . We're talking on the topic of Protecting Our Oceans and Beaches and I'm talking with Vipe Desai who's the founder of an organization called the Project Blue, and we'll be right back on Green Talk Radio .
Sean Daily:And we are back on Green Talk Radio . This is Sean Daily and were talking on Protecting Our Oceans and Beaches with Project Blue and the founder of Project Blue, Vipe Desai. Vipe, we were talking before the break about Project Blue and it's underpinnings, of being this sort of collection of competitors in the surf industry that have come together to be a benefactor towards Surfrider Foundation, an organization that's dedicated to protecting oceans and beaches. I'm just curious, before I go onto my next question, I want to clarify, so are you guys an official sort of entity like a non-profit, 501C3 or is it a looser organization than that?
Vipe Desai:For Project Blue? Project Blue is just an initiative, it's not even an entity, it is a campaign, a branded campaign that is working to benefit the Surfrider Foundation; so no 501C3 status, no organization, nothing, just a very powerful message and campaign that is spread by six brands.
Sean Daily: I see. OK. So my question that I had for you was, and this is a contrarian view of this but, some could say, and accuse you of saying that Project Blue is just encouraging people to buy more stuff. What would your response be to that, to those folks?
Vipe Desai:Yeah, I've had that asked a few times and by no means are we encouraging people to shop more. We're asking people to be more responsible when they shop: if you're going to buy a pair of board shorts, why not consider something that was made from recycled plastic water bottles and is also recyclable after you're done? That's all that we're asking for, consumers are going shop and brands are going to continue to make product. All we're trying to do is give better choices to consumers when they're ready to make that choice.
Sean Daily: Let's talk about the products you've assembled, this team of organizations has assembled to put under this banner. For those of our listeners out there that are interested in surfing or beachwear in general tell us about some of the collection, some of the pieces you have in the collection if you can.
Vipe Desai:Yeah absolutely. So Billabong is our board short participant and they making men's and women's board shorts, and the unique feature about them is that they are made out of plastic water bottles. Ten water bottles make one pair of board shorts. So not only is the product made out of recycled material, but it's also recyclable itself, which is something very unique and different.
Dakine is making backpacks for men and women and what they are working on right now is material that is also made from recycled fabrics as well so the next season of backpacks will have this new material.
Electric is making sunglasses for men and women, and obviously sunglasses are harder to develop with environmentally friendly materials but Electric is taking a few steps to incorporate better practices, from recycled packaging in their product packaging for these sunglasses along with all of their packages and all of their sunglasses that are part of the Project Blue initiative have polarized lenses.
The other brand is Nixon, Nixon is making watches and watches, once again are a little tough to craft in an environmentally friendly manner but its a tide watch which is very close to surfers' hearts. This last holiday Nixon did a collaboration with Barney's New York and did limited edition watches with recycled carbide steel and recycled hemp watch bands. There were some additional steps taken to make a better watch.
O'Neill is our t-shirt and sweatshirt partner, they are making products from organic cotton. Reef is our sandal partner and they are also making sandals from recycled tire treads and EVA mmolded soles.
We're also working with a new accessory company as well that makes surf wax, and that's Famous, and Famous is made from non-petroleum organic wax. Wax is one of the most unfriendly elements to the environment but these guys are doing it with this new surf wax.
Sean Daily:Very cool, and I want to mention for those listening that want to check out the products that the website is betruetoblue.com and there's actually a very cool little Flash animation on the front that rotates around with all the products that Vipe's been talking about on the podcast, so you can click on those and get more information. Another URL I wanted to provide at this point was the Surfrider Foundation which is surfrider.org. I didn't mention that earlier so I wanted to say that. So Vipe, I'm just also curious now, what's the response been like at the retail level to these products?
Vipe Desai:The response has been very very rewarding on any number of levels. The brands got behind it their reps went in, told the story told about the initiative, told the retailers all the brands that were participating and it was exciting because retailers got behind the product they positioned it inside their store they called them out to consumers sales staff have been very knowledgeable and its performing much better than we had even anticipated early on. So we're excited. Retail, online and offline are both performing very well. As is international sales as well.
Sean Daily:Well we're going to take one more quick break. We'll be back with Vipe Desai from Project Blue, they're an organization that's helping to save the world's oceans and beaches through a unique collaboration between multiple vendors in the surf wear industry. And we'll be right back on Green Talk Radio . Thanks everybody.
Sean Daily: And we are back on Green Talk Radio . Hey everybody, this is Sean Daily and just catching back up again with Vipe Desai, we've been talking with him. He's the founder of Project Blue, and they're an organization that's helping to protect the oceans and beaches of the planet; they benefit the Surfrider foundation, which is an organization that is equally committed to that same purpose and Vipe, we were just talking about the retail products themselves that have been developed under this moniker, as it were, to sell to people that are used based on recycled materials and the proceeds of which go to this cause. I'm curious that we've talked a lot about the surfing community and I'm wondering, does Project Blue ultimately alienate non-surfers?
VP:No, actually, far from it. Surfing and action sports have gone past the coast, they've now penetrated mainstream America in the Mid West and whether you surf or you don't surf you have an affinity and a connection to the brands and we're not trying to alienate non-surfers at all, it's to incorporate anybody that enjoys this lifestyle at all.
Sean Daily:OK, and certainly I understand that it is not your intention to do so, I was just wondering if, as a by product it was maybe too surfer centric and if other people hadn't caught onto it. If that had been your experience at all.
VP:Er, no not really, there's a lot of people with boards shorts, a lot of people are wearing board shorts whether they surf or not, so we haven't seen any alienation from that point.
Sean Daily: So, I own a few pairs myself and I've never gotten on a surfboard though I do intend to change that soon. My family goes to Saladita Mexico, at least, well we try to go once a year and every time we are there I promise myself “Next time I'm going to start the surfing.” I just got to get in the water and do it, but so many things, so little time.
Have you ever been to Saladita?
Vipe Desai:No I haven't. Where is that located, I've heard of it?
Sean Daily:It's about an hour from Puerto Vallarta and supposedly I've just heard that it's one of the surfer destinations on the planet. I'm digressing, and as long as I'm digressing I think I should mention that my Mom was a private tutor of three of the top surfers, three brothers, that live in Hawaii, do you know those kids?
Vipe Desai:The Florence brothers?
Sean Daily:That might be the name. I just know that there are three, I don't know much about them. I just know that two of them are surfers and one of them does wave boarding or something and they're apparently on the all covers of all the magazines. So they'd get to lead the surfing lifestyle and then my Mom would be private tutoring them so that they can continue to have their professional surfer lifestyles.
Vipe Desai:That's too funny. I'm not sure who it would be, but there's a few brothers and families out there but my guess would be it might be the Florence kids, John-John Florence and his brothers and siblings.
Sean Daily:Yeah, their based out of Hawaii, I'll have to find out the name from Mom next time I talk to her. So anyway, lastly, we're just about out of time Vipe, so what's next for you guys at Project Blue?
Vipe Desai:Well, we are continuing to expand the product line. Our brand partners are adding a few more items to their offerings. But now what's happened is all the products have become part of the brands' seasonal cycle so there will always be a Project Blue board short next season. It's just not a one off. So we're in that cycle, we're in that pipeline, distribution and everything is set product is available. The other portion of it is we're growing internationally as well, we're starting to focus on Australia and Europe. We're working our brands and their partners, the distributors or licensees in that area to support them . Then we're also working with Surfrider Foundation on those same continents to connect them with the brands to keep this process growing so what's happened also is funds that are generated here in the United States under Project Blue stay here in the United States to protect coastlines here. Funds that are generated in Australia or Europe stay in those areas as well so people there aren't just giving money towards Surfrider here in the US. It's actually staying within their country to help their coastlines.
Sean Daily: That's great. Well very cool. I love the initiative. WE certainly applaud you on putting it together, and having the vision and we wish you much success in the future. I'm going to remind everyone out there, if you're interested in these products or finding out more about what Project Blue is doing you can find them online at betruetoblue.com and you can find out more about Surfrider Foundation, who they are the benefactor for, at surfrider.org.
My guest today has been Vipe Desai, he's the founder of Project Blue and Vipe, I just want to thank you again. Vipe I've just got to mention before we leave you, I think you have the coolest guest name of any guest I've ever had, I was was watching Pulp Fiction, er Kill Bill, and, you know everybody's named after a snake in the movie so it just seems that if you ever need another career you can just become an extra in Quentin Tarrantino's movies as one of the crazy eighty-eights or whatever their team was there.
Vipe Desai: Yeah, I may have the name but I definitely don't have the acting experience so I don't know if Quentin's going to be calling me.
Sean Daily:Well Vipe, thanks again, again we wish you much luck with Project Blue and we look forward to hearing more from you in the future.