In a number of ways, what we choose to wear is one of the most approachable and visible ways we attempt to differentiate ourselves from others in a crowd. It's a very personal form of expression. It represents our atmosphere, how we feel about ourselves, how we spend the hours of the day, and what we value most. Is it comfort we seek? Or is it luxury? Maybe it's functionality above all else. Perhaps a combination of all of these elements.
Although increasingly, we're seeing more people choose to buy items not based on these elements alone but on the brand's ethics. Some people will spend even more to ensure that their purchase leaves behind a legacy of "clean values" for the generations that follow, providing them with more than a product but a purpose.
At Product of the North, we pride ourselves on being a sustainable brand that revolves not around the restless cycle of consumer trends but our shared values as a community. One of the primary reasons we wanted to create with plastic was that it's versatile and, by nature, defies the need to consume and discard. It's this idea of timelessness—our bags are designed to be used year-round, cherished, kept, repaired, and passed down. We want these bags to be the complete opposite of disposable. Its lifespan is crucial to its design.
After establishing a way to produce our bags more sustainably through recycled plastic bottles, we wanted to further our mission to rid the world of disposables—lending 1% of our profits to Sea Hugger, a nonprofit organization "focused on protecting and healing the marine environment from plastic pollution through action and education to drive systemic change that addresses the root cause of the issue."
Aubry Casey is the Digital Marketing Specialist at Sea Hugger. She is one of a handful of activists on their team who are working to protect "Mama Ocean." And although Aubry's degree is in accounting, she's always had a passion for nonprofits, creative work, and educating others. So when the stars aligned and a marketing position at Sea Hugger was available, she jumped at the chase to be a part of their team.
As the Digital Marketing Specialist for Sea Hugger, it is her job to bring awareness to their mission, and her background has prepared her for this work. "It's honestly a culmination of each experience I've had that prepares me for sharing Sea Hugger's mission," Aubry says. "Working in accounting showed me that my passion was creating - I'd make memes for coworkers, spruce up company-wide emails so people would actually read them, and honestly do whatever I could to "enjoy" being in a line of work that did not interest me."
It was in 2018 that she dove deep into living "low waste," though she admits she's still far from perfect. Eventually, that led to her leaving public accounting and the state of Colorado to pursue a more meaningful life on Oahu, specifically to become more connected to Mama Ocean.
There she was able to dive deeper and volunteer with great organizations like Surfrider Oahu and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii to learn more about ocean conservation. "My appreciation for ocean conservation grew immensely after seeing the pounds of plastics accumulating on the beautiful beaches in Hawaii. Even simply getting outside daily to either surf or do flips in the ocean waves helps me connect with Mama Ocean and feel ready to "speak for the seas," as our founder, Shell, puts it."
Eventually, she and her partner moved back to the mainland last year to start a family. But before settling in California, they lived in a built-out 2005 Suburban that they used almost 100% repurposed items to build, many of which came from her parent's barn. "My dad helped my partner build the van since I was pregnant, and he even melted down some aluminum cans to make support beams for our pullout bed! Our road trip helped us live even more sustainably and connect deeper with Mama Nature. During this time, I ran a passion project called "Little Blue Moments," with the goal of encouraging others to take the little steps that make a big difference."
As fate would have it, this was the project that introduced her to Sea Hugger. She stumbled upon them when setting up a giveaway and stayed in touch with the founders, Cass and Shell. Then, when she saw that Shell was on Oahu while she was still living there, she reached out.
"I cannot make this up, we met at a release for a rescued turtle back into the ocean, and both felt this special connection like the stars were aligning for us to meet. So I became one of the leads for a satellite Sea Hugger Hawaii, ran their social page, and organized an awesome Silent Disco event scheduled for March 2020." Obviously, that event didn't end up happening, but the party was far from over. "All-in-all, my current life was pushing me right to this line of work with Sea Hugger, and I couldn't be more thankful!"
Her career path can best be described as "all over the place." She started in accounting, was recruited for a firm, worked at Anthropologie, became a nanny, and now, she's at Sea Hugger. "It might not surprise anyone that my college major changed a lot, too. My favorite of them all was Education," she says when asked how the act of educating relates to her personality and who she is. "I was studying to be an Early Childhood Educator but was spooked into accounting for who knows what reason. I have always loved learning how to make my own anything, finding alternatives for low-waste living, and sharing what I've learned! My path, whether I try to or not, always leads to educating in some way. I love exchanging information to help eachother grow and am inspired by the work and heart behind Sea Hugger to make it accessible to everyone."
When asked if she's always been passionate about educating the public on reducing plastic dependency, she says, "In 2010, friends and I road tripped 8 hours to see Jack Johnson (oh, the irony of that now). Experiencing his activism was so inspiring and something that hit home. That concert was most notably the turning point for me, even though I was a slow starter in changing my mindset. His music still inspires me to this day!"
As a mother, knowing that your child will inherit a planet with more frequent extreme weather events due to climate change affects your emotional connection to the work that you do every day.
"This was difficult to work through emotionally when thinking of bringing someone into this world. It can seem dark and scary when we learn about the issues facing the future of our planet, but knowing that there are amazing people in our Sea Hugger community gives me hope and motivation to continue spreading our message! Knowing my little one has a community like this fighting for our future generations pushes me forward on days ridden by eco-anxiety."
She says that since starting with Sea Hugger, the best thing that's happened to her has been becoming a mama to a little Sea Hugger. "The team has been so supportive and encouraging in this journey of motherhood! Professionally, it has been amazing to see our organization grow over the past couple of years. We are a small but mighty team of all women who bust our bums to make a difference. Seeing the difference we're making is rewarding, and I am proud of the entire team!"
Hundreds of millions of children currently live in countries with high risks of suffering from the impact of climate change—so as caretakers and teachers of the next generation, small actions can help better our chance of a plastic-free future.
"A lot of what we can do as caretakers and teachers of the next generation is to lead by example," she says. "Choose to reuse and say no to single-use plastics whenever possible. One of the simplest ways to do this is to bring your own - whether it's a water bottle, straw, utensil set, or grocery bag. Find one item you can switch out, and the rest will follow."
One of Sea Hugger's global partners is Litter4Tokens, an organization based in South Africa working to provide a circular economy while cleaning up trash in the community. Community members collect as many bags of litter as possible and redeem them for tokens. They can use the tokens to shop for items to feed their families. "Working with them, we have helped feed 5,550 people a month and saved 104,627 pounds of plastic waste (and counting)! Partnering with Litter4Tokens allows us to make a difference from afar and support communities most affected by plastic pollution."
Sometimes it takes a village, but that doesn't mean you alone can't make a difference. Aubry says, "From attending our regular cleanups to hosting your own DIY cleanup or simply donating to our programs, there are many ways to get involved and protect the marine environment from plastic pollution."
So, where can you find Aubry on any given day? "Oh, you will find us at the beach, hands down! We cherish our time at the ocean since having our little one. Being able to share our love for the ocean has been so special. Soon enough, we hope to get some tandem surfing in, but we'll let him learn how to crawl first." And if that doesn't melt your heart, we don't know what will.
We want to thank Aubry and the Sea Hugger team for taking the time to answer our questions and 1% for the Planet for connecting brands with amazing nonprofits like Sea Hugger. We are so thankful for the work you do.