Saving our Ocean: Rachel Miller and the Rozalia Project

This interview is a followup to Rachael’s Lecture sponsored by the HEEC last Friday, October 30th.

The Rozalia Project’s mission is simple: “to clean and protect our ocean.” Rachael Miller, co-founder of the Rozalia Project, leads the organization along with her husband James Line. The Rozalia Project filed for status as a 501 © (3) nonprofit corporation in December of 2009. Rachael Miller has a multitude of responsibilities within the organization. She coordinates volunteers on the “American Promise”, the schooner that The Rozalia Project uses to collect data for research on microfiber pollution, and for active ocean cleanup utilizing ROV technology and divers. Rachael Miller also oversees the work of Brooke Winslow, the technical designer of the microfiber catcher the organization is developing. The microfiber catcher is a 3-D printed sphere approximately the size of a small cantaloupe that collects microfibers in consumer washing machines, shown below.

The microfiber catcher prevents 2,000–9,000 microfibers from draining per load of wash. Currently, the average American family drains the plastic equivalent of 14.4 water bottles out of the washing machine a year.

The last, but not least of Rachael’s responsibilities is serving as the face of the Rozalia project, giving public lectures, like the one hosted by our environmental club this past Friday.

Rachael’s story and the story of the Rozalia project started when she was a child. She never planned to campaign for ocean conservation, rather, her intimate relationship with the ocean throughout her life led her naturally to protect it. As a child, she was on vacation with her grandparents in Bermuda when she noticed the captain throwing hundreds of full garbage bags off the back of the boat into the ocean. She was so upset by this that her grandparents had to physically restrain her from going to have a stern talk with him.

Rachel was always part dolphin: she started swimming at an early age and in college joined competitive teams for both swimming and sailing. In fact, after college, she went on to pursue her dream of becoming an Olympic sailor. In college, she began to study advertising, but later changed her major to underwater archaeology. She also was fascinated by science during and after college and took advantage of many opportunities to take part in scientific expeditions studying marine biology.

Immediately after college, Rachael spent over two years attempting to qualify for the US Olympic sailing team. She never made the team, but she met her husband and the co-founder of the Rozalia Project, James Line on her journey. After her Olympic campaign she quickly moved on to start two bootstrap for-profit ventures, one teaching windsurfing, and later, leading ROV shipwreck tours. After around five years of making a mediocre profit leading shipwreck tours, all of her experiences came to a head while on vacation with her husband on Matinicus Isle, Maine. The beach was covered in trash and she knew what she had to do. She remembered the captain of the boat on her vacation to Bermuda, she remembered stepping around hypodermic needles on Miami beach during her campaign to be an Olympic sailor, and she remembered all of the stretches of polluted ocean floor she explored on her ROV tours. She knew in that moment that something needed to be done to keep the ocean clean and passionately felt that she needed to be part of it.

The most important takeaways from Rachael’s story are twofold. Firstly, the path towards sustainability change agency is not always straightforward and one should attempt to leverage all of the skills and experiences they have gained throughout the course of their life in order to determine how they can achieve the greatest impact. Secondly, change agents should not think too small with the scale of their project. The foundational work one achieves, however small, has the potential for rapid and widespread adoption if proper data and compelling rhetoric is presented to key decision makers.

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