Over the past few months, British Petroleum has introduced the Salt Life, which celebrates everything ocean related, to a new type of Gulf coast existence – Crude Life.
Recently, you may have also seen bumper stickers, t-shirts and koozies advertising this new way of life.
"I definitely don't want (Crude Life merchandise) to promote negativity," said Gulf Breeze resident Austin Sharp, who envisioned the new line of products.
Instead he hopes to inspire people to get involved.
"We want to encourage people to get involved and help out," Sharp explained. "This, (Crude Life) is our reality now, and we just have to accept it and do what we can."
"I was trying to think of a way to help out, and it just came to me one day – Crude Life," Sharp recalled. "I've grown up here and enjoyed this beach and these waters my whole life."
Sharp, a native of Gulf Breeze, and his wife Tara Ortiz, who has lived here for over 20 years, have two children – son C.J. and daughter Skylar – and a daughter on the way. The family loves the beach and was sickened by the sight of oil covered sand and wildlife.
"I said, 'that's a great idea,'" Ortiz explained. "I was already sick about what was going on and was ready to get involved.
"This was something that really affected everyone. It was very shocking and it made us think that we needed to get involved."
Sharp and Ortiz immediately made the idea a reality by creating a logo and stamping it on bumper stickers, t-shirts, koozies, hats and other merchandise.
"We received the first shipment of merchandise in mid-June," Ortiz said. "Since then we have been selling from our home and at several retail locations in the area.
"I'm absolutely pleased. We've sold or given away over 1,500 bumper stickers so far."
They are currently waiting on a shipment of new merchandise, including backpacks, decals, and visors.
Running the business, as well as the family has been quite a challenge for the couple.
"It's a whole new ballgame," Ortiz said. "I've never done anything like this before.
"The biggest challenge has been positioning (Crude Life) as a positive movement. I don't want it to seem like we're focusing on the negative."
A portion of all Crude Life revenue is donated to helping with wildlife recovery at the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida (WSNF) in Pensacola and the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge (ECWR) in Fort Walton Beach. The WSNR and ECWR are a both nonprofit organizations that depend entirely upon private contributions, memberships, business partners, and grants to support our mission.
"We run completely on private donations," said Patrick Gualt, ECWR assistant director. "We do get some grants, but we are 99.9 percent dependent on donations."
Without contributions from community members, such as Sharp and Ortiz, these organizations would be unable to protect our precious natural resources.
This mission has become vitally important since millions of gallons of oil polluted the Gulf of Mexico.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's most recent Consolidated Fish and Wildlife Collection Report totals the number of oiled animals, both dead and alive, collected during the response effort at
"We decided that (wildlife recovery) would be the best place to contribute," Ortiz said. "We really didn't consider anything else."
Sharp is also contributing to the recovery effort by working in the vessels of opportunity program.
The couple believes that recovery will go on for some time, but wants to encourage those affected to remain positive.
"Everyone here wants to do something an help," Ortiz said. "But unless they're approached, sometimes they may not know how."
By following the example of this pair, it's clear that we all can make a difference if we're only willing to try.
WHERE TO FIND IT
Gulf Breeze: Gulf Breeze Bait & Tackle-Gulf Breeze, Unique Café and Hot Spots Bait & Tackle-.
Pensacola: Outcast Fishing & Hunting, Waterboyz and Cuttin Loose salon.
Navarre: Broxson Outdoors.
Merchandise can also be
purchased online: www.crudelife.net