By Emily Franc, Grants and Research Associate, and Sarah Martin, Communications Associate, The Ocean Foundation

When you envision your vacation do you picture yourself sitting next to litter or swimming with debris?  Probably not… We all want the fantasy we see in advertisements for resorts of pristine beaches, clear water and vibrant coral reefs. JetBlue and The Ocean Foundation are working together to help bring that dream a little closer to reality.

Lets get down to the business of trash and the ocean. It has long been assumed that island communities that rely on tourism dollars bear the responsibility for conservation and waste management. But when tourists leave behind 8 million tons of trash per year on Jamaica alone, an island the size of Connecticut, where do you put the trash? How do you calculate the cost of keeping a beach clean and put it in a business plan? This is just what TOF and JetBlue have partnered together in a Clinton Global Initiative to illustrate, the real dollar value of clean beaches.
Extensive studies have been done around the world, confirming that people value our natural world and want it to be preserved and taken care of.  We intend to take this emotional investment to the next level by proving that there is statistically relevant evidence that airline revenue is affected by the cleanliness of beaches. Then, we will work together to develop a plan to strengthen ocean conservation in the Caribbean by making it easier for businesses that operate in the Caribbean to calculate their profit margin from a clean, healthy natural resource. One aspect of this will be taking the research and finding local partners to work directly on the issue of cleaning up marine debris in these areas, and more importantly how to prevent it from getting in the ocean in the first place.  For example, airlines and travel companies, who would profit more by sending people to clean beaches rather than dirty ones, will be able to see the profitability in solving the solid waste management, and indirectly the marine debris problem if they see how it helps grow their business.

We are not forgetting that marine debris is a global problem.  Not only does it dirty our beaches but also it kills marine mammals. As it is a global problem, all countries must address it. We hope that by providing a strong economic case showing the value of clean beaches in the Caribbean that we will continue to find new partners and develop more solutions to combat this issue on a global scale.

This is also relevant to any industry because what we are doing is removing the greatest barrier to corporate engagement with eco-systems.  That invisible barrier is the absence of measured dollar value assigned to the benefits and services we receive from an eco-system; in this case a swimmable ocean and clean beaches.  By translating conservation into financial language, we can put a universal business concept, Return On Investment (ROI), on sustainability.

You can take steps now to help promote ocean conservation.  Through JetBlue’s TrueGiving program TruBlue points can be truly blue by directly helping The Ocean Foundation and JetBlue tackle the issue of trash in the Caribbean.  And by taking this brief survey you can play an active role in our research and help save the ocean.

Help us turn the tide for ocean philanthropy!