(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Boxed Water expanded its environmental action beyond reforestation and now is aiming to clean up beaches. The Grand Rapids-based paper-packaged water company launched an initiative in mid-August to equip customers with the means to assist in the effort.
“We have a huge plastic pollution problem that is damaging our ecosystem and wildlife,” said Rob Koenen, chief marketing officer for Boxed Water. “By 2050, it’s estimated that there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. It is our goal to provide consumers with ways to make a positive impact.”
Boxed Water cited a 2017 report from Ocean Conservancy, a Washington D.C.-based environmental nonprofit, that said 70 percent of litter collected on beaches is plastic.
Ocean Conservancy in 2016 launched International Coastal Cleanup, a global effort spanning 112 countries with 504,583 volunteers collecting over 18,399,900 pounds of trash along 14,997 miles of beaches.
According to the report’s cleanup index, seven of the top 10 items collected were plastic, including 1,578,834 water bottles, 822,227 bottle caps, 520,900 grocery bags, 419,380 plastic lids and 409,087 straws.
Comparatively, cigarette butts came in at No. 1 with 1,863,838 collected in the effort.
The report also stated roughly 93,000-236,000 tons of plastic might be floating in the oceans at any given time.
Recognizing a problem, Boxed Water decided to partner with Ocean Blue Project, out of Bend, Oregon, under the #BetterPlanet hashtag Boxed Water has used for its reforestation initiative.
Boxed Water launched a campaign with the National Forest Foundation in 2015, pledging to plant two trees for every social media post with the hashtag #BetterPlanet. Koenen said the company originally set out with the goal to plant 1 million trees by 2020 and to date has over 790,000 trees already planted or committed to planting.
Based on this success, Koenen said the company has set another “bold goal” around beach cleanup and has pledged to clean up 3,000 miles of beaches. No timeframe has been specified.
“As a pioneer, you’re always going into the unknown,” Koenen said. “We hope that we’re able to do this in the first couple of years. We have a great consumer base now.”
Effective Aug. 15, customers have two ways to support Boxed Water and Ocean Blue Project. First, a portion of Boxed Water proceeds will help fund cleanups with OBP.
The second method offers a prize incentive. Consumers can nominate their beach for a cleanup by posting a video to social media with the #BetterPlanet hashtag in the caption. Boxed Water will accept nominations until Oct. 31 and will announce its winners in November.
Recently, Boxed Water and OBP conducted a cleanup along Long Beach, California, the weekend of Aug. 25. The two organizations intend to conduct beach cleanups along the East and West Coasts, and also along the Lake Michigan shoreline beginning in September.
“We purposely started calling it our beach cleanup campaign so people in the Midwest know this is anywhere where there’s a beach: lakes, rivers, anywhere where there’s plastic pollution,” Koenen said.
The Lake Michigan beach cleanup currently is pending approval from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Koenen added Boxed Water chose to partner with OBP because it had the lowest overhead cost out of five organizations the company considered, so all proceeds go directly to cleanups.
“The other thing we liked about them is they are very flexible,” Koenen said. “They’ll parachute in anywhere, organizing beach cleanups throughout the United States.”
Koenen also said Boxed Water has a good relationship with OBP because both are members of 1% for the Planet, a global organization whose members contribute at least 1 percent of their annual sales to the environmental causes of their choosing.
“We always love to work within that biosphere,” Koenen said. “We like to support our partners 100 percent.”
All collected plastic will be recycled or upcycled into reusable products. Boxed Water will further the cause by launching co-branded hats made from recycled plastic with a fellow 1% for the Planet member, SHEL USA.