07 • 01 • 2020

Activist Spotlight: Molly Hietapelto Palm Beach Volunteer Coordinator

By Ty Smith

Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?

I moved back to West Palm Beach from Tallahassee in May of 2018. Immediately, I reached out to our local Chapter to see how I could get involved. Growing up in Florida, the beach has always been a big part of my life. I loved that Surfrider works hard to protect it and I wanted to do my part to help. Little did I know, they would welcome me with open arms and become a second family to me over the past two years!

Q: What are some local issues that are affecting your ocean, waves and beaches?

One that is so visibly prevalent in our community is pollution and plastics. All throughout Palm Beach County, pollution litters our beaches, oceans, mangroves, parks and more. This deeply affects the health of the ocean. Additionally, we see a reliance on plastics from our businesses including straws, plastic bags, polystyrene and much more. It is my hope over time, PBC will be a trailblazer for more sustainable businesses and trash-free shores. 

Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?

Over my two years with Surfrider, I’ve worked on a lot of our Beach Clean Ups and Community Outreach Events. I love these events because they allow us to make genuine connections with future activists and volunteers by showing them what we do as a Chapter and how easy it is to join in on the fun! I always find it inspiring when kids realize they can make an impact.

Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience (i.e., campaign, program, victory)?

That is tough! I feel like the small victories always bring me joy such as new volunteers, building a new community tie or even a well-attended event. I’m really proud of the efforts we put forth that allowed the Plastic Straw Ban in West Palm Beach to pass and the incredible work and growth of our Blue Water Task Force. We just locked in a third location in Boca Raton. However, amongst all of these victories, I’d say the highlight is the people. The friendships I’ve made with Surfrider’s Executive Committee, volunteers and partners brings me so much joy.

Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?

Anyone can be an activist. It is not as big and scary as I think people perceive it to be! All it takes is learning, sharing and small changes. We have a wealth of resources and programs that are all easily accessible for our volunteers.

Q: Why are you a Surfrider coastal defender (or why is being a Surfrider coastal defender important to you)?

It’s important to me because I recognize the peril our oceans, beaches and coasts face with each passing day we do not change our habits. I feel like we owe it to ourselves and the ocean to do anything we can to help. I want future generations to be able to enjoy clean, accessible beaches and waves.

Q: Anything else?

Starting out, I really knew nothing about sustainability, coastal preservation or protection. Honestly, I still have SO much to learn and genuinely do every single day which is what’s so exciting about being an activist. I encourage everyone to take small steps! Read an article, ditch plastic water bottles, watch a documentary, sit in on a meeting, ask questions. Small changes make big differences.