Mission Nonprofit Spotlight: Olympia Surfrider Foundation

Each month, Thurston Community Media (TCMedia)’s Mission Nonprofit connects with local organizations and agencies that are making positive impacts in our communities. This month, Mission Nonprofit host Robert Kam sat down with Christine Rayburn and Liz Schotman of Olympia Surfrider Foundation to talk about cleaning up and preserving our local beaches.

The Olympia Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit chapter of the national Surfrider Foundation, which was founded in “1984 by a group of surfers that were responding to a threat to one of their favorite surf beaches, a threat of development,” explains Liz. “And so, they sort of banded together and tried to stop some unfortunate development from happening and then it just snowballed from there into this national grassroots network.”

Since then, the organization works to “ensure beaches are accessible, keep our water clean, protect our ocean, preserve our coasts and keep plastic from polluting our waterways.”

The Olympia chapter focuses on our west coast beaches, including areas like Westport and Ocean Shores, working closely with Washington State Parks and Recreation. One of their main places they clean up is Twin Harbor State Park in Westport. “We also do cleanups near the jetty by the lighthouse, which is a little north of Twin Harbors, because that’s a really popular surf spot, one of probably the most popular surf spots in Washington I think,” explains Liz.

But they don’t just clean up, they also sort, count and weigh the trash. This information goes into a national database that keeps track of the types of trash found most at beaches. This data is then used to advocate for better policies to address those common pollution problems, Liz continues. For example, they were one of the advocates for the plastic bag ban in Washington State, as plastic bags were one of the most-seen trash items on our beaches.

In addition to cleanups, they have a couple programs geared at helping local businesses and residents be better stewards of the environment. have an Ocean Friendly Restaurant program, which is geared toward reducing plastic in the ocean. It offers restaurants options to be more sustainable when it comes to their to-go containers from restaurants. “There are seven criteria restaurants must meet, and then some optional criteria,” explains Christine. A list of Ocean Friendly Restaurants can be found on the Olympia Surfrider website.  Olympia Surfrider meets with restaurants and helps them meet the criteria to get on the list. Interested restaurants can email ofr@olympia.surfrider.org to become part of the program.

Another program, called Hold On To Your Butts, is about getting people to dispose of their cigarette butts properly. In Olympia, they have six containers throughout the city for people to throw their cigarette butts in. Olympia Surfrider partnered with Downtown Olympia Clean Team, who set out and maintains the containers. “We have cleanups downtown that are just cigarette focused,” Christine shares, “and sometimes we collect anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 cigarette butts in an hour!” Cigarette butts are the most-littered item on the planet and they are made of plastic and have lots of chemicals in them, adds Liz. Since 2020, they have picked up over 22,000 cigarette butts in Olympia. They sell the containers for any business that would like to have one outside their building.

The Surfrider Foundation helps on large-scale issues nationally. They recently won a case in the U.S. Supreme Court that strengthened the Clean Water Act.

Local chapters get to focus on what is most important for their coastal region. For Olympia, their primary initiatives are clean water, fighting climate change and healthy beaches by fighting pollution. They do many beach cleanups throughout the year, including a big one on July 5, after the Fourth of July holiday.

For more information, watch the full video above and visit the Olympia Surfrider website.

You can watch Mission Nonprofit on channel 77 on Sundays at 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. You can also watch on TCMedia.org, Video On-Demand or our Roku channel. To learn more about what TCMedia does, visit the Thuston Community Media YouTube channel or the TC Media website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


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