Touching Base: Marissa Miller ’17

As a lifelong surfer with a passionate love of the ocean, Marissa Miller ’17 now devotes herself to protecting it. A junior at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, she leads a very active Surfrider Club at the school – a group with some 500 core members that she founded as a freshman as part of the international Surfrider Foundation network.

She spends up to 20 hours a week on volunteer efforts, cleaning up local beaches and initiating numerous other projects. With an email list of about 1,500 people, Miller says the club has no trouble attracting fellow college students to help out. “This is the earth that we are inheriting, and we need to speak up loud and clear to let everyone know that it’s time we treat this earth better than we previously have,” she says. “Young people know that and can lead the way.”

The 20-year-old’s advocacy for the environment began at Punahou, where she founded the Sustainable Living club, organizing beach cleanups among other efforts. She also was part of Hawai‘i’s Surfrider Club and a member of Punahou’s surfing club. When she got to college, she only grew more committed, particularly as she learned about coastal issues and threats to th environment as an environmental management and protection major.

Along with beach cleanups, the club leads an active coastal water quality monitoring program, conducting weekly tests of bacteria levels at three local beaches, then posting the results on Surfrider’s website. They recognize local restaurants for sustainable practices, adding them to a nationwide map of other ocean-friendly restaurants. There’s also a Rise Above Plastics campaign to build awareness of plastic pollution and reduce single-use plastic consumption. Additionally, Miller and other students visit local elementary schools and Boys & Girls Clubs to inspire children to take action.

After college, Miller hopes to work for a nonprofit, possibly back in Hawai‘i, utilizing her community -organizing skills. “It’s important that we take care of each other and take care of our environment because we rely on others and on the resources this earth provides us in order to survive,” she says. “We have a responsibility to care for the earth. This is a reciprocal relationship in which we should be giving as much as we are taking.”

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