10 • 24 • 2019

Activist Spotlight: Olivia LaRiccia of the Connecticut Chapter

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

I got involved with the Surfrider Foundation in the spring of 2019. I decided with my friends that we would make a company selling bracelets and donate the proceeds to the Surfrider Foundation Connecticut Chapter. Cleaning up our beaches is something that is very important to me.

I love the beach and being able to enjoy all of the sea life. The first time I encountered a sea turtle in the wild, I was six years old. I can't imagine a world where these amazing creatures don't exist.

Since I was little, I would walk along the beaches collecting seashells and I always made sure I had a bucket to pick up trash, too. I chose the Surfrider Foundation and my local chapter as the organization I would raise money for because of the work being done to increase awareness about the plastic pollution problem in our ocean, and Surfrider's work in ocean preservation. I really hoped to participate in one of the beach cleanups that Surfrider Connecticut organized, too. Fast forward a couple of months… and Rachel, the volunteer vice chair of the Connecticut Chapter, reached out to me and invited me to a beach cleanup!

What are some local issues that are impacting your ocean, waves and beaches? 

One local issue that is impacting the ocean around me is the overuse of single-use plastics. We must eliminate our dependence upon plastic NOW!

What Surfrider projects have you worked on? 

I got a chance to work with volunteers, Rachel and Jack, from the Connecticut Chapter, on a beach cleanup at Veterans Park in Norwalk, CT. This was especially exciting because it was also on International Coastal Cleanup Day, September 21, 2019, and I knew that people like me from all over the world who care about the ocean would also be out cleaning their beaches.

At the cleanup, I counted how many single-use plastic items we found in just two hours and it was shocking!  I knew I had helped to make a big impact but I also knew I wanted to do more. That's when Jack told me about a meeting being held at the Norwalk City Hall to hopefully pass an ordinance making plastic straws available only upon request and banning the use of plastic stirrers. I knew I had to go and speak at that meeting to do my part.

So I went to the meeting that Tuesday with two bags full of plastic straws that we found littered at the cleanup and I addressed the City of Norwalk's Common Council, showing them the gross litter from straws we found at just this one location in town.

The Council thanked me and Rachel before voting unanimously to pass the ordinance, and referenced the Youth Climate Strike that an estimated 4 million kids from all over the world, including me, participated in just days before this hearing (striking to demand change in the uncool way nations are responding to our climate crisis was a great experience and it has motivated me to do more to help save our planet because there really is no Planet B!!).

I am so grateful for the encouragement from Jack and Rachel, and also Betty from Skip The Plastic Norwalk. They have been working hard on this issue for a long time, and have been a big inspiration to me!

What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience thus far? 

Definitely speaking at the Council meeting and having the ordinance PASS!!! That was an experience that I will never forget.

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

The most important thing I tell people is how encouraging Surfrider volunteers have been in helping me become an activist. Surfrider has made a really big impact on me and I look forward to doing more work to help our ocean, waves, and beaches!

Why are you a Surfrider activist? 

I am a Surfrider activist because through my experience, I realized that activism works!!! I'm concerned about our future and the lives of all ocean wildlife. I would love for my eventual kids to experience what I have been so lucky to be able to see in the ocean. But at the rate we are going, by the year 2050, experts say we will have more plastic in our ocean than fish by weight. This is so not okay. I will never stop speaking up for what I believe in because I know my voice is being heard, and I know it is more important than ever.