Tucker Grooms, a high school student in Marin County, California, found that he was constantly picking up litter while surfing on the beach. In September 2018, he launched a nonprofit, Barrel Bag, which manufactures and distributes eco-friendly and reusable mesh bags that make it easier for people to pick up trash while exploring the coastline. His WordPress website, BarrelBag.org, has become the online hub of the organization.
Each year, about 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean. “The problem of plastic pollution in the ocean is enormous,” says Tucker. “It only takes a single person to have an impact, which is exactly why I started Barrel Bag.” Since its launch last year, Barrel Bag has distributed over 6,250 bags, and continues to expand by partnering with socially minded organizations across California and beyond, including local chambers of commerce, regional tourism associations, and nonprofits like 1% for the Planet.
The 18-year-old’s leadership has also built awareness among his peers, mobilizing youth in his community to get involved. “Running Barrel Bag and always picking up plastic around my friends at the beach has certainly been a contagious act,” he says. “Once I explained to my peers the magnitude of the issue of plastic pollution, they seemed to be much more aware of it, and I’ve observed them consciously going out of their way to pick up after someone else or be responsible about their own trash.”
His alma mater, Marin Academy, has implemented Barrel Bag into their service projects, allowing him to make a mark at the high school for years to come. Now a first-year business student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Tucker is applying all he’s learning to his organization back home to keep things running smoothly.
It’s basically the heart of our business. WordPress enabled me to really spread the word about Barrel Bag, and that’s where probably 90 percent of our business comes through.
When it came to setting up a website, the functionality of WordPress was appealing, as was the ability to grow. “I really don’t think Barrel Bag would be where it is today without a solid website to support it,” says Tucker. Today, BarrelBag.org is the nerve center for all of the nonprofit’s operations, from its partnerships page, where companies dedicated to corporate social responsibility can inquire about co-branded Barrel Bags through a contact form, to its online store — powered by WooCommerce — where anyone interested in making a difference can buy a bag.
Other essential features have helped spread the message and mission of Barrel Bag, including embedded YouTube videos on the homepage and a donate page to collect contributions from fans and followers.
In the next year, Barrel Bag hopes to triple their current distribution count. With more partnerships on the horizon and bags currently distributed across the United States, as well as in places like Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and Germany, Tucker continues to march toward his goal. The #barrelbaghaul hashtag on Instagram shows a growing grassroots movement of people with bags doing their part while on the beach. “It’s really important because it shows me that they also are using it out at the beaches and they’re following through it. They’re having their impact on the environment as well.”
Tucker’s ultimate goal? To distribute one million Barrel Bags to beachgoers around the world. Given the progress Tucker has made in just a year, we’re eager to see what 2020 will bring. “The way I see it, it’s our planet that we kids are going to have to grow up in, so the best we can do is look after it.”
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