Hard seltzer and beach cleanups?
At first, the two seem completely unrelated, but for Willie’s Superbrew, a company based out of Cape Cod, business and environmentalism are inseparable. The reason lies in how the company was founded. A decade ago, friends Nico Enriquez and Willie, a surfer and goat farmer, respectively, met and decided to start their enterprise together. On their journey from selling their brew at farmers markets to expanding their markets to nine states, the partners never forgot their pledge to serve their customers and the planet.
Every year the company allows their customers to nominate a nonprofit. Whichever organization is selected receives 3 percent of the seltzer company’s profits. Their most recent endeavor is organizing beach cleanups throughout 500 miles of coastline in New Jersey, Long Island and Cape Cod.
How it works
Organizing a beach cleanup across three states had to be adapted to COVID-19 safety guidelines and suitable for the small team behind Willie’s Superbrew. The company decided to allow its participants to pick from a list of beaches across 20 Long Island towns. Volunteers then form a team of 10 per beach to collect debris. Participants were also asked to record the amount and type of waste they retrieve, data which helps contribute to pollution research.
Organizing cleanups over a wide expanse of land is no easy feat. Willie’s Superbrew CEO Enriquez cites the help the company received from “incredible local nonprofits like Clean Ocean Action, Surfrider Foundation, and the Center for Coastal Studies,” each of which is actively contributing to healthier oceans and dedicated to improving research and education.
The data collected from cleanups will go to the Surfrider organization, a grassroots nonprofit organization that was born in 1984, and for the past 37 years has been dedicated to fighting plastic pollution, ocean protection, increasing beach access, coastal preservation, and protecting clean and sustainable water sources. The foundation currently has 24 active campaigns in the Northeast and 25 in the mid-Atlantic to combat aquatic pollution.
The company is also partnering with the Center for Coastal Studies, a nonprofit that conducts research and supports “education and public policy initiatives”— visit coastalstudies.org to learn more – as well as Clean Ocean Action, which is a diverse coalition that works to protect waterways by prioritizing public health at beaches as well as aquatic life.The numbers
At the core of the cleanups is the community effort put forth by volunteers from Cape Cod, New Jersey and Long Island. The cleanups drew 540 volunteers across 190 miles in Cape Cod in 2020, who collected over 1,400 pounds of trash. In New Jersey, on April 17, 2021, the company organized 5,500 volunteers with the help of the nonprofit Clean Ocean Action. This totaled over 6,000 volunteers in the past year.Why Long Island?
Enriquez saw a connection between Long Island and the company’s home base, Cape Cod.
"Long Island, to me, is a lot like Cape Cod. It's a spit-of-land thrust out there, built around the seasons, flipping from calm, somber, spectacular, and quiet to a beautiful and sometimes hilarious mix of locals, wash-ashores, and tourists,” he said. “The thing that unifies all of us who visit is the sea and the beach. We want to help everyone take care of that resource now and in the future."Willie’s legacy
To others, the company’s choice to prioritize the earth may be inspiring, but for Enriquez, his inspiration came from his friend and former co-CEO Willie, the business’ namesake.
“We started these cleanups last year on Cape Cod as a way to honor Willie, our late founder, and give back to the beaches where our drink was born,” he said. “We want to help people feel like they can make change, build a more sustainable planet, take care of their home, and have fun. The dream is one day we build a movement to clean every beach in the U.S in Willie's name."Looking ahead
In the future, the company wants to expand its reach every year to encompass more coastal areas. The current cleanups will restore over 500 miles of coastline, help analyze the source of plastic waste on beaches, and prevent any damage to aquatic life that has been negatively impacted by improper plastic disposal.
To help Willie’s Superbrew help the earth, sign up to volunteer on their website: https://superbrew.com/long-island-superbeach-clean-signup.