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10 Years of Impact With The Ocean Blue Project

10 Years of Impact With The Ocean Blue Project


Our Story: When did the Ocean Blue Project Start?

Hello friends, fellow volunteers, and those who may be new to the Ocean Blue Project. Welcome one and all! I am honored to introduce you to the nonprofit that set out to clean up our One World Ocean in 2012. 

And since, it has removed over 1 million pounds of plastic and debris from beaches and ocean-bound waterways.

The Ocean Blue Team organizes volunteers and CleanUp Crews around the nation to clean up plastic from the ocean and beaches. Their mission is “to see our One World Ocean, beaches, and rivers be once again healthy and naturally beautiful ecosystems where wildlife, plants, and humans can thrive alongside one another.”

How It All Began



Ocean Blue has been cleaning beaches for over ten years. It all started at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. OSU students started cleaning beaches and shores but met with resistance. The Oregon State Parks department said they needed insurance and permits to continue with the project. 

Richard and his son Fleet saw the need for a nonprofit to help organize student volunteers. They wanted to make it easy and accessible for anyone to help clean our beaches—and they made it happen. 

Richard and Fleet founded Ocean Blue on World Ocean Day 2012. 

It’s been 10 years since this passion project started! Today making an incredible impact on communities, beaches, wildlife, and the environment! 

Meet the Team: The CEO of Ocean Blue Project!


Richard Arterbury, co-founder and CEO, has always been inspired by grassroots efforts to save our planet. When he decided to take a leap of faith with the Ocean Blue Project, he worked towards the 501c3 distinction and organized students—making it easy for them to make an impact on the planet. 

The first stages took a lot of time and effort but were made possible with the support of his son and personal network, who he relied on to launch OBP. 

He spoke at relevant events like Earth Day, World Ocean Day, and in university classrooms. He put in a lot of long hours to help raise awareness of the issues our ocean is facing and get the project off the ground. 

Richard is responsible for cultivating relationships and developing business partnerships and sponsorships. He also oversees client portfolios, program design, and development. He is in charge of staff development as well as project management.

He has worked as a social change agent within diverse communities for over a decade. Richard’s focus is engaging diverse communities in development, consensus-building, and behavior-changing. He leads initiatives to protect clean water rights and healthy streams for future generations.

Meet The Team: Ocean Blue Project’s Director of Operations 


Karisa Arterbury is the Director of Operations. Her path has always pointed toward giving back and supporting clean water rights. Before joining Ocean Blue Project, she was looking for a way to continue her grandmother’s legacy. Her grandmother, Linda Boyce, played a key role in founding Talking Waters Garden in Karisa’s hometown of Albany, Oregon. 

Her inner compass led her to the event where she saw her friend Richard at a table for Ocean Blue Project. “You’re doing a nonprofit for water?” were the words that started it all.

As director of Ocean Blue Project, mother, and facilitator of change, Karisa Arterbury continues to remain a powerhouse. She leads projects rehabilitating and preserving our planet’s rivers, waterways, and oceans. 

Continuing the legacy of her grandmother, Karisa collaborates with schools, agencies, and organizations. She provides the educational and technical resources needed to keep waterways clean.

In her first year as a director, Ocean Blue increased its revenue by 600% and has since continued to grow. Her background taught her that environmental and social justice go hand-in-hand. Karisa educates global communities to engage in the protection of their local waters. 

The History of Ocean Blue Project

The path to launching the Ocean Blue Project was full of curves and uphill battles. As with all nonprofits, it took time and consistent effort to gather the support needed to get started. They needed grants, sponsors, and a change-making board of directors—so they got to work and made it all happen.  

For Richard and Karisa the work was grueling but rewarding. They knew they were in the right place doing work that would create an important and lasting impact on our planet. They were guided by their passion for ecology to restore watersheds and our one world ocean. 


From 2013 through 2017, they partnered with Oregon State University students to restore urban streams with fungus. The project was to use mycelium in burlap bags near inlets like storm drains. The mushrooms filtered out harmful bacteria before they reached the stream. 

These projects caught the attention of the Associated Press. This story went viral and Ocean Blue Project was in the national news. Since then, Ken Cullings, Ph.D. of NASA works with Ocean Blue to look at fungi strains of plastic-eating fungi through metagenomics, or DNA analysis. 

Steady Growth

The national attention drew new sponsors. The Ocean Blue Project was able to take its program to the next level. Sponsors and individual donors have always directed growth. By communicating the need in communities all around the U.S.

Where the disaster leads, Ocean Blue Project follows. In the beginning, it was a majority of student volunteers. But as their impact grew, so did their reach. Now, Ocean Blue attracts businesses, youth, and university student groups seeking community involvement. 

Reaching More Volunteers



By 2015 Ocean Blue Project was really taking share and the growth was steady. Just three years after the founding they had more than 5,000 volunteers organized in cleanups. Their main focus was on Oregon beaches—making waves of change in the project’s home state. 

Since then, they’ve organized cleanups in 14 states. First branching along the west coast to include Washington and California, then Florida and disaster relief in Texas. 

Today, through a Ocean Blue’s Create a CleanUp program, anyone can lead a cleanup anywhere in the US. This helps us divert more pollution upstream. The more we can prevent from entering waterways, the cleaner our ocean and beaches will be.   

Catch a Fire

As the impact and nonprofit grew, they found speedbumps to success. They were lucky to have a team of diverse volunteers from early on. But now that they were an established nonprofit with valuable partnerships, they needed to improve their website. Patagonia donated a platform called Catchafire, connecting professional volunteers to nonprofit projects. This is how they grew to keep up with the demands of their mission.

Planting Trees

This new phase of the project was an effort to continue restoring waterways inland. They planted more than 9,000 trees with at-promise youth leading the way. They worked with the Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility’s New Beginnings Garden. The project focused on empowering high-risk youth with horticulture and leadership skills.  

Ocean Blue Project believes young people are the hope for our future.  They want to teach the necessary skills to continue the mission. This is how the OBP Blue Schools program got started. The New Beginnings Garden cultivated the trees planted through Ocean Blue’s River Restoration Program.

Recognized by Oregon Governor

The waves of change OBP was making were continuing to get noticed. Just five years after its founding, the nonprofit was recognized by the Oregon Governor. 

Their mission “to rehabilitate and conserve the world’s Ocean, beaches, and rivers through recovery of plastics from ocean, beach and river clean-ups. Including solutions to keep pollutants from entering ecosystems, collaborative community-driven service learning projects, and youth education,” was recognized as a solution to plastic pollution. 

The Ocean Blue Project helped establish the Oregon Coast Clenaup and Awareness Day. The governor released an official proclamation highlighting the day. Now, every year on April 20th, people gather on the coasts of Oregon to clean up our One World Ocean. 

Ocean Blue Project Extending Reach


With this recognition, the Arterbury’s took their project on the road. Ocean Blue Project led a 2018 National Beach Clean-up initiative. 

This initiative successfully Organized clean-ups along the entire west coast. The project reached over 3000 miles of coastline, from Long Beach WA to Long Beach CA. As successful as they were, OBP learned that traveling wasn’t sustainable. 

A new idea was born: crew-led clean-ups! A new way for volunteers to lead their own groups to clean up our One World Ocean. With this new project, the impact of OBP soared.

Crew-Led Clean-Ups empowers volunteers to lead an impactful clean-up in their community. OBP supports them with all the resources they need. This can be done anywhere in the U.S. It’s a whole new program with a whole new impact of its own.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, in-person events were paused. The Ocean Blue Project took this in stride. They developed classroom materials for a new program called Ocean Blue Project Blue Schools. 

OBP knows that reaching students at a young age is vital for marine debris prevention. The team wanted to raise more awareness about what’s happening in our oceans, so together with a team of Catchafire volunteers, Karisa led the development of a K-12 STEAM (Science, Trchnology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Curriculum. The team continues to develop more lessons and activities. Children are the future. We must educate them to create a clean, healthy future for them and all future generations.

Ocean Blue Schools

So far, materials in OBP Blue Schools K-5 STEAM Curriculum were made possible by volunteers, donors and sponsors. The materials reach students in the classroom and align with common core and next generation science standards to help busy teachers juggle it all. And take them outside for hands-on stewardship projects. 

Ocean Blue Project provides the curriculum to help teachers navigate the material easily. The team caters to each teacher’s needs and grade level. 

Changing with the Tides


The Ocean Blue Project website invites you to donate money or time to support their mission. Don’t have either? You can still make a difference with their social media campaign #CleanUp3ForTheSea. The hashtag is an invitation to clean up trash in your own backyard, local park, river, or anywhere that’s accessible to you. 

The #CleanUp3ForTheSea challenge works on your own schedule. You’re encouraged to pick up three pieces of trash and post about it on social media to inspire others to do the same. With your help, we can get more people involved and grow our impact! 

To make this challenge even more fun and impactful, OBP is developing a web app! Look for it in the app store and Google Play later in 2023!

Riparian Restoration


The Ocean Blue Project believes that to support clean waterways and oceans, we must restore all ecosystems. To make this happen, they have planted over 9,000 native trees in 10 years. 

These projects lead to revitalizing the ecosystems supporting the ocean and its waterways. It is important to understand the entire life cycle of the system. Trees and native plants help keep the waterways clean.

Growing together

Ocean Blue Project continues to take its mission on the road. In 2019, they piloted their Create a CleanUp Program. Their team organized 36 successful volunteer-led clean-ups around the US that first year and aim for 200 this year. They also took their mission all the way to Hawaii to work with volunteers there. 

In 2022, OBP Blue Schools program was recognized by UNESCO. This recognition earned them the distinction of Green Citizen Initiative Project for their innovation and impact. What a wonderful gift for Ocean Blue’s 10th birthday!

What is the Ocean Blue Project Doing Now?


Currently, we are working on disaster relief and restoration in Fort Myers Florida. Then, the team is heading north for plastic removal along the east coast including Chesapeake Bay. 

We have volunteers working all over the nation, volunteers just like you! Anyone can join our project. Anyone can organize their own CleanUp. Anyone can donate their time to restore the ocean. Check out our website today and see how you can get involved.

Ongoing Research

The Ocean Blue Project has never forgotten its roots and its passion. They continue their research through generous sponsorships. 

Their current project is testing soil to identify fungi to help break down plastics. This will lead to a breakthrough in removing plastic from our One World Ocean. 

Their long term goal is to remove more plastic from the ocean than what flows in each year, which is over 8 million metric tons a year. When we prevent plastic from reaching the ocean, think of the impact!

The generous donations from sponsors empower Ocean Blue Project to remove more and more debris from the ocean. At the beginning of our mission, we were able to remove 1 pound of debris for every dollar donated. Today every dollar donated removes 5 pounds of debris from the ocean, that’s a 500% increase. 

Our new goal is to reach 5 million pounds removed from beaches and ocean-bound waterways by 2025. The original goal was to remove 1 million pounds by 2025, we are well ahead of schedule and beat that goal by 2 years!

Following the Tide


It is incredible the momentum this movement has gathered in 10 years. Richard and Karisa have poured their heart and soul into this project. They have given their lives to the mission and they have inspired and empowered others to join them. 

Now their organization has thousands of volunteers from all over the world. They have a full team of dedicated staff behind the scenes working to reach so many more beaches, waterways, and people.

Stay in the Current!

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates about all things OBP. This ocean pearl in your inbox will remind you of our mission. We give updates on current projects, impact, and special events. Plus, you’ll stay connected to our One World Ocean core values—see you there!

Make an Impact on The Planet

Take action today! Organize your own volunteer event. Not near the ocean? No problem! You can organize a CleanUp in your local park, near any waterway. 

The vision of the Ocean Blue Project is to have all ecosystems restored. The ocean is one part of a larger system. Every tributary, estuary, inlet, river, stream, or brook all over the world connects to the ocean. Get outside and clean up for our shared future.

Author bio: 

Kellie Sperle writes for sustainable brands and for-purpose organizations. Working towards harmony with mother nature. She writes to increase sustainable living.