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Activist Spotlight: Shelly Ericksen With the San Francisco Chapter

Q: What is your current job or role?

Hold on to Your Butt volunteer

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

A decade ago, I happened on a Surfrider beach cleanup at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. After hauling in my first load of trash, I was hooked. It felt great to do something tangible to help the ocean and beach, and to connect with a community of activists that feel the same.

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

A major focus of our chapter is to protect San Francisco’s miles of coastline from single-use plastic pollution, which includes cigarette butts, the most littered item in SF and on the planet. Our Rise Above Plastics, Ocean Friendly Restaurants, Hold on to Your Butt, and Shotgun Wad Watcher initiatives are all aimed at preventing plastics from entering our ocean and bay, where they can impact water quality and harm marine life. 

Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?

In 2014, I launched our chapter’s Hold on to Your Butt program, and in the years since have worked with dedicated Surfrider volunteers to educate smokers and the public that cigarette butts are plastic and toxic, establish partnerships with San Francisco businesses, nonprofits, and government to install cigarette buttcans and provide pocket ashtrays, and recycle as many cigarette butts as we can with TerraCycle - nearly 900,000 so far.

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

Being the recipient of a NOAA Marine Debris Prevention Grant to prevent cigarette litter, which has allowed us significantly increase disposal options for cigarette butts, increase awareness of the cigarette litter problem, and target behavior change among smokers with community-based outreach and social media campaigns.

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

You don’t have to be a surfer to be a Surfrider - I’m not! Surfrider empowers anyone who loves our oceans, waves, and beaches to make a difference today for a better tomorrow.  At the national level, Surfrider provides the foundational resources and support that allows local chapters to dive in and make a positive impact in our own communities. When you volunteer with a local Surfrider chapter, you join forces with a community of folks that share your passion and commitment to protecting the ocean, our most valuable resource.  

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

I’ve always lived near the coast, from growing up “unsalted” in the waters of Lake Michigan to my current home by the Pacific in SF, and I feel most at peace when I’m in the water. I swim, snorkel, and scuba, and spend as much time on the beach as time allows. It’s vitally important to me that we protect our oceans from human pollution, and that we strive to live in harmony, and not opposition, with all life on our amazing planet.