Kaylee Surace ’21 is a student on a mission — she is committed to ocean conservation.
Drawn to the ocean since she was a child, Kaylee finally decided to express her enthusiasm in a public speaking class last semester. Her goal: persuade the audience to believe in what she fiercely embraces.
In her speech, Kaylee stressed ending the use of plastic straws; she underscored that motif to her audience of more than 50 students by repeating the phrase, “Say No More.”
After seeing their reaction Kaylee felt compelled to speak up for the ocean and try and influence her peers to “be the change.”
“I developed the idea a little further, going back and forth between how I wanted to spread the message and how I wanted people to be involved,” said Kaylee.
Kaylee’s best friend Rachel Wandzilak previously took part in an internship with the nonprofit ocean awareness group Lonely Whale, whose campaign Straw-less in Seattle provided inspiration for Kaylee’s No More Project.
The project debuted on June 8, 2018, which coincided with World Oceans Day. In honor of that occasion Kaylee and Rachel joined Surfider Foundation (Eastern Long Island Chapter) and JUST Water in cleaning up Ditch Plains Beach in Montauk, NY.
“The No More Project has helped me realize my true passion for ocean conservation,” said Kaylee. “That’s why I chose sustainability studies as my major at Stony Brook, a school I chose not only for its prestige, but also for its green reputation and commitment to sustainability.”
Since dipping her toe in the ocean of conservation, Kaylee reports that getting people to listen is the real challenge.
“I think the easiest way to get an audience to receive the message you’re trying to relay is to just make it relatable,” she said. “I say the same thing to everyone who says things like ‘but it’s just one straw, ‘I can’t stop eating sushi because I love it too much,’ ‘but I recycle my bottles.’ Everyone has a choice to make and those choices have repercussions. I believe that the people who are stubborn about the issue are either in denial or they just haven’t made the connection yet.”
“Looking at the legislatures we have elected and the laws we enacted in our society today, locally and globally, it’s obvious there is so much progress to be made,” Kaylee added. “We have laws regulating industrialized fishing, but these laws are not being enforced as strictly as they should be and that’s simply because we live in a country that favors de-regulated capitalism. Legislature can make a difference when it comes to climate change and protecting our oceans, but I truly believe that change is vested in popular sovereignty and in the people who make up a society.”
Kaylee describes the The No More Project as a mission to educate students about marine life and plastic pollution, and work with coastal businesses to ensure that sustainable alternatives to plastics are available to benefit both the business and the ocean communities.
Kaylee plans to visit various school districts and use social media to bring her message about ocean wildlife and the effects of pollution to children. She also hopes to hold environmentally informative events that are open to the public and aid all efforts to influence the marine communities to move away from single-use plastics and find more sustainable alternatives.
“Educating children is vital because the younger they are the more curious they are, and curiosity is at the heart of change,” said Kaylee. “Ocean conservation is something that’s easily put on the back burner because none of us here are living in the middle of the Pacific, so we can’t see the damage the way we see a plastic bag on the side of a highway. We aren’t seeing the coral bleaching, ocean acidification, and fish-less ecosystems. That’s the hard stuff to explain to the average citizen.”
With The No More Project, Kaylee aims to educate and encourage students at Stony Brook University to convey these concepts to the public.
Kaylee Surace ’21 Says “No More” To Ocean Waste was originally published on the Stony Brook University website.