4OCEAN FOR A BETTER WORLD
Every year, 1.4 billion pounds of garbage ends up in the world’s oceans, and in every square kilometre of the deep sea, there are approximately 4 billion plastic microfibers. This is killing over 100,000 marine animals and 1 million birds yearly. What is worse, since plastic takes so long to degenerate, one plastic bag can kill multiple creatures at the same time.
The stockpiling of more and more trash in the world and the worsening effects of plastic contaminating our oceans are thus in need of serious review from many world players.
If a large group of individuals stand together, though, there is hope!
Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze, founders of 4Ocean, have seen the problem of plastic contamination in our oceans first hand; hence, their initiative to help our world’s oceans.
Together, they launched their company, 4Ocean, in January 2017 with the goal of cleaning the garbage from the world’s oceans. It is based in Boca Raton, Florida, but operates across the globe.
Yet, to actively do something, they needed funds to support their initiative. As such, Cooper and Schulze came up with an idea. They began recycling the garbage they collected and made bracelets to fund their endeavours. Today, the purchase of one bracelet helps clean one pound of waste.
But who are these two “oceantrepreneurs”?
Alex Schulze spent his childhood on Marco Island, most of the time in or around water. At the age of five, his family gave him a 16-foot Carolina Skiff. After that, the passion for the ocean started. During his teenage years, he got his license and became a captain, doing fishing charters. Meanwhile, scuba diving, fishing and surfing became an everyday passion for him. He went to Florida Atlantic University, knowing he had to be close to water while continuing the operation of fishing charters.
Andrew Cooper also grew up in Florida, in Orlando to be specific, and also has a deep connection with the ocean. “My mother once said I was born an hour too far away from what I am,” says Andrew. As the captain of a 100-ton sea boat and a sailboat, he also spent time on yachts. He did not venture inland, as he got his degree from Florida Atlantic University along with Alex.
The two had travelled together to places such as Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and Indonesia, seeking adventure while free diving, scuba diving, surfing and spearfishing.
Then, while on a surfing trip in Bali, they came to a dreadful realization that the paradise beaches they saw advertised in pictures were all but an illusion. Frustrated, they had to walk over beaches completely covered in garbage, and while trying to surf, had to paddle through trash drifting just off the coast.
“The first thing I did is, I walked up to a lifeguard and I said: ‘Hey, dude, how come no one’s cleaning up this plastic?’ and he said, ‘Oh, we clean it up every morning.’ And he’s like: ‘by afternoon, though, it just washes back up since there is just too much of it,” says Andrew.
Alex and Andrew realized that they wanted to help solve the problem. They had just completed their degrees in marketing and entrepreneurship and realized they were in the perfect position to live out their passion for ocean preservation. Soon, they created 4Ocean, not as a charity begging for money, but as a business turning the garbage they fished out into their livelihood in service to the world’s oceans.
Though the thought of selling trash to people at $20 a pound does not seem viable, 4Ocean has made it a reality.
“We had a problem we had to deal with,” says Andrew. “In the beginning, it was hard since too many people argue that if you can’t see it, it’s not a problem. ‘Out of sight is out of mind.’ But we are happy to say we found a way that works.”
Only ten months after launching, 4Ocean collected more than 231 thousand pounds of garbage from the ocean. From there, the company went from only the two founders to 43 permanent employees.
The plastic and glass collected are repurposed into beautiful bracelets that are sold across the globe. Glass is melted down to form the beads and plastic is turned into a cord to keep them together. A bracelet is sold at $20.00 a piece and helps clean one pound of trash.
“What has resonated with both of us is the amount of support we have received from customers and supporters from around the world. People are becoming more aware, and we want to educate on simple actions such as changing daily habits,” says Alex.
In an interview, Andrew said: “Luck has played a significant role in our personal lives and our business’s success. I would never say that ‘luck’ is something that Alex and I possess; however we both feel that we have been very ‘lucky’ to be able to grow up so close to the water, come from incredibly supportive families, and have the educational opportunities that I’d say less than 90% of the world has access to. These ‘lucky’ personal circumstances played a huge role in the success of our business.”
SUPPORT CLEANER OCEANS
Supporting 4Ocean helps with cleanup efforts. Find more information from their website here if you would like to get involved.
SOURCES & REFERENCES
· Collective Evolution – https://www.collective-evolution.com/2017/09/06/how-two-young-surfers-are-cleaning-up-the-ocean/
· Seven Seas Media – https://sevenseasmedia.org/going-above-and-below-the-surface-with-4ocean/
· Voyage MIA – http://voyagemia.com/interview/meet-andrew-cooper-alex-schulze-4ocean-based-boca-raton-boats-picking-trash-form-west-palm-beach-north-miami/