In the summer of 2018, environmental management and protection junior Marissa Miller set a goal to surf 100 days in a row. This year she redirected her goal to give back, setting out to pick up 100 pieces of trash every day for 100 days.

The avid surfer and president of the Cal Poly Surfrider club not only held true to her goal but also exceeded it. Working on her own and with the non-profits Surfrider Oahu, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Parley, Miller collected enough trash to fill a shipping container.

“I pick up trash all the time anyways, and if no one knows I’m doing it, then yeah, I’m just picking up trash,” Miller said. 

Video by Leanna Newby

San Luis Obispo beaches tend to have litter rather than pieces of plastic floating ashore like in Hawaii, according to Miller. This is due to ocean gyres, or a large system of ocean currents formed by global wind patterns and forces created by the earth’s rotation, according to National Geographic

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has the semblance of a giant soup of plastic, and it is this giant mix of trash floating through ocean gyres that is deposited in Hawaii through trade winds and currents, according to Miller.

Miller posted her self-goal on Instagram to raise awareness and challenged 100 other people to pick up 100 pieces of trash and send her a photo or video of the trash.

“I was really inspired and also really happy,” environmental management and protection junior Amanda Gersoff said. “Not only was she making a huge difference cleaning up all of the beaches with these different organizations, but [she] also spread a lot of awareness.” 

Marissa Miller | Courtesy

Gersoff recalled that after seeing Miller’s project, she decided to pick up 100 pieces of trash while at the beach. She not only noticed the diversity in trash styrofoam, cigarette butts and balloons  but also the flaws in waste management.

Having worked trash cleanups for the Cal Poly Surfrider chapter, Miller noticed the difference in the types and the quantity of trash on beaches between California and Hawaii. This created the foundation for her project.

Miller said the Surfrider club is a non-profit not only working to keep the ocean and beaches clean but to also spread awareness and educate others on pollution.

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