10 • 21 • 2021

Activist Spotlight: Lara Roketenetz With the Northern Ohio Chapter

By Surfrider Foundation

Q: What is your current job or role with your chapter?
I am the Volunteer Coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation Northern Ohio Chapter.

Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?
I have been active with the organization since the summer of 2020. I had been working on learning more about plastic pollution through the National Geographic Plastic Pollution Educator Training. I had worked with a local high school teacher to create a semester-long unit focused on plastic pollution and biomimicry (innovation inspired by nature) and of course, everything with K-12 outreach came to a screeching halt in March 2020. I found the Surfrider Foundation through a contact at the City of Cleveland’s Sustainability Office and wanted to learn more about what they were doing and to find a like-minded community organization to collaborate with.

Q: What are some local issues that are affecting your ocean, waves and beaches?
I am obsessed with our Great Lakes. I am a Midwestern gal and I feel like the GL are our best kept secret. We have issues with toxic algal blooms and “traditional” pollution (the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland is infamous for all of the times it caught on fire), but are seeing an uptick in plastic pollution and nurdles on our beaches. These impact not only beach and lake aesthetics but also the ecological health of humans and wildlife as they degrade over time. In fact, some nurdles from a Cleveland beach were found to have some of the highest levels of DDT in the world - and that alone can have catastrophic effects on the little critters at the lower levels of the food chain and work its way up.

Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?
I started during COVID-19 so right now, I have only worked on beach cleanups and I participated in Hill Day since that was something we could do virtually. I also have been taking Surfrider University courses and the DEI course so I can continue to learn more about the organization.

Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience (i.e., campaign, program, victory)?
Well our little chapter still feels like a work in progress. I am excited about our future victories and working together to find inspiring projects to work on as a grassroots community. We have some things in the works that I am looking forward to, like a surf/lake/water inspired art show. On a personal level, I am pretty stoked about actually getting to finish a semester this year with the high school students and see their advocacy through plastic bottle cap art and artist statements. They made projects that include a whale vomiting garbage, a fish stuck in netting, a bee and flowers since they found research showing bees are incorporating microplastics into their hives, and a sea turtle. We made a huge bottle cap mural of a monarch and milkweed to help spread the word that we are collecting caps to make into a recycled bench for our park.

Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?
Environmental stewardship starts at home. The fact that a large national organization like Surfrider has a chapter in Northern Ohio shows that it values coastlines of all types and recognizes the need for education and action in every corner to help protect our natural resources.

Q: Why are you a Surfrider coastal defender (or why is being a Surfrider coastal defender important to you)? 
I want my legacy to be that I stood up and spoke up for our planet and the plants and animals that inhabit it. I want to inspire the next generation of changemakers by setting a good example of stewardship, sustainability and conservation. As Wendell Berry stated, “The earth is what we all have in common.” This planet and its well-being should be the thing that truly connects rather than divides humanity - in fact, our own well-being depends on it. A platform of earth care and environmental justice can help make our world more inclusive and equitable for all.