Long Island-grown organization Relic Sustainability is working to make a huge impact on the wellbeing of Long Island’s shorelines and overall environment.
With a handful of their cleanup stations already implemented at beaches across the Island and many more to go, the organization has big plans to make a change.
Relic got its start back in 2016, when brothers Alex and Aiden Kravitz began drawing up nautical designs. After encouragement from family, they decided to screen print the designs on t-shirts from their garage, and sell them to family and friends.
Eventually, the t-shirts progressed to their next stage when Alex had the idea to partner with the Moriches Bay Project, which operates out of Westhampton and focuses on restoring oyster reefs and eelgrass in Moriches Bay. For every shirt sold by Relic, they put five oysters back into the bay. Partnering with the Moriches Bay Project led to joining trade shows, which the brothers say was a great learning experience.
“It was an incredible experience for us because we got to meet people and discuss the products in person and get a lot of feedback on what characteristics of what we were doing mattered to people,” Aiden said. “I really attribute a lot of where we are right now to that time period where we were able to really collect a lot of feedback and improve our product and our mission and what we were working on.”
Relic continued to operate for a couple more years as an online business, until the brothers moved back home from college. Then, they were ready to focus more heavily on their business and joined forces with Jack Fink, who helped to push Relic in different directions related to their mission, such as their ongoing beach cleanup project.
Relic’s beach cleanup stations are crafted out of reclaimed wood, and are equipped with basket holders-- which Fink likes to call basket docking stations-- which hold recycled plastic baskets. The stations are finished off with a sign with directions to take a basket, pick up what you find, empty and return.
Relic relies on the generosity of not only community members, but also local organizations and businesses to get these stations up and running. They rely on local businesses who want to see certain environmental changes in their communities to make a donation and sponsor a beach cleanup station.
“With that donation, you get a 22 by 4-inch advertising space, and for some businesses, it’s a high-visibility location where there is no other advertising. So it’s sort of unique in that way, where it's kind of an exchange. We have that value offer there so it makes it a little easier to start the conversation with local businesses,” Aiden said. “We put ourselves out there as much as possible and are open to working with anybody who cares about the cause.”
“I think the simplicity of our idea and the ease of integration into the towns’ current systems allows it to be a pretty unanimously adopted program,” Alex added.
On Saturday, June 12, Relic and the Village of Port Jefferson convened at Centennial Park to discuss sustainability, clean the shoreline, and celebrate the implementation of a new beach cleanup station. The ribbon-cutting ceremony welcomed guests like Mayor Garant, the Port Jefferson Board of Trustees, Legislator Kara Hahn, and the Port Jefferson community. This cleanup station in particular was sponsored by The Fox and Owl Inn.
“We like to think of the whole process as a full circle. Right now we have small businesses sponsoring stations providing the resources for us to build the stations and put them in the ground, we have the community members taking the baskets and cleaning the trash off the beaches, and then we have the municipalities actually facilitating the garbage disposal,” Alex said.
In addition to the new station in Port Jefferson, Relic has two more stations going up in the next few weeks.
“We’ve gone from pitching a beach cleanup station to Westhampton Village to having 10 of them established and a deal with Suffolk County to put them up at county parks,” Aiden said.
“Obviously it's dreamy to think that we could have them all over both coasts, but I think for the next two years or so we want to stay somewhat local and really focus on the less glamorous pieces of the program like maintenance, and improving what we’re doing locally before we scale beyond the borders of Long Island,” he added.
By the end of the summer, Relic hopes to have anywhere from 40 to 50 stations under their network. They have other big goals toward educating people on keeping the coastlines clean as well, including a software platform that would allow those using their beach cleanup stations to report what they found to help build a pollution monitoring network.
While working toward getting their beach cleanup stations placed around the Island, Relic has also been hard at work establishing themselves. Around three months ago, Relic added Kasey Chockalingam to their team, who has helped them work on the non-profit side to grow and expand. In the last year, the team has formed a non-profit and is currently in the process of getting federal 5013c status.
Even with so much already done, Relic still has so much more that they would like to do. Currently, they are working to kickstart community-sponsored cleanup stations. Relic has started a Gofundme campaign to get the donations going for the project. Every donor that contributes will get their name on a beach cleanup station.
“The idea of that really excites me... being able to show the community that this was made by the community and that we’re just sort of the facilitating group connecting people back to the cause,” Alex said.
Relic also has a ribbon-cutting ceremony coming up to celebrate three cleanup stations being implemented at Smith Point Beach, as well as the kickoff to Relic’s relationship with Suffolk County. A date for the event is still being determined, but Relic says it will be a great celebration.
To learn more about Relic Sustainability and what they do, visit their website.