Get to know a volunteer: Nikki protects where she plays

Nikki Johnston works in communications by day, moonlights as a SUP instructor, and stills finds time to volunteer with the Surfrider Foundation.  Originally from Knowlton Quebec, and now the Snowrider Project Lead, Nikki protects the places where she plays.

Nikki protects where she playsQ. When did your passion for the preservation of our environment begin for you?

Well, I don’t consider myself to be an environmental activist, but I am someone who loves the outdoors and is concerned about keeping it healthy for future generations. The ocean in particular has always been a love affair of mine that has grown over the years, from playing in the ocean as a kid to surfing, SUPing and sailing as an old timer.

Q. What are your words of wisdom for people who are concerned about the state of our oceans?

I think that I’m still learning about environmental issues that are happening in Canada and around the world. They are complex issues, so I try to read about it in the paper and on social media. Probably the best thing to do is to get involved, learn more and become an ambassador for healthy oceans. Start small. I always like to tell people that you don’t have to be an expert in environmental issues to get involved with the Surfrider Foundation.

Q. How long have you been involved with the Surfrider Foundation Vancouver Chapter?

Just over a year. Last year I was the Volunteer Coordinator for the chapter and this year I will be helping with the Snowrider Project.

Q. What is your favourite part of living in Vancouver?

Skiing, mountain biking and paddling all in one weekend. It’s a tough life. I love having the mountains and ocean in my backyard.

Q. How has living in different areas of Canada given you a broader understanding of the current environmental state of our country?

There are different environmental issues faced by different areas of the country – but it seems like many stem from similar problems, like natural resource extraction. In BC, we worry about the Northern Gateway Pipeline, and in Quebec, as we recently saw, we now worry about oil being transported through our small towns.

Q. What inspired you to attend beach cleanups?

They are a good entry point to the Surfrider Foundation. I wanted to get involved with an environmental organization and with people who shared similar interests.

Q. What do you like best about beach cleanups?

The most important part of the cleanups is realizing how much trash is actually on our shores. I was pretty surprised to find everything from kids’ toys, to underwear, to needles. It can be pretty gross. I think cleanups certainly help create awareness about the huge amounts of trash and plastic in our oceans.

Q. What is the Snowrider Project?

The Snowrider Project is a program by the Surfrider Foundation that helps to bring awareness to the hydrological cycle and encourage those who enjoy the mountains to protect them.

This winter from January through March we'll be at Mt Seymour for their Monday night Shred for the Cure, Ladies Ride Free evenings. We'll be talking to skiers and riders, while handing out free hot chocolate in reusable mugs. The campaign slogan is “Snow melts, trash doesn’t”. We are trying to bring awareness to the fact that whatever trash is left on the mountains will eventually make its way to the oceans.

Q. What do you enjoy most about Mt Seymour’s Shred for the Cure series?

Talking about the hydrological cycle, the hot chocolate, the people, and oh yeah, the cheap night skiing.

Q. How long does the Snowrider Project run for?

During the winter, we'll be at Shred for the Cure from the end of January to the end of March on Monday nights. We'll host our annual mountain cleanup in the summer once the snowpack melts. Stay tuned for a firmer date later this spring.

Q. How does plastic accumulation on ski hills affect our oceans?

Plastic finds its way into the ocean through runoff, then photodegrades into smaller pieces and marine life will often mistake it for food. I am no expert, but you can read more about it through the Surfrider’s Rise Above Plastics campaign.

Q. What can people do to reduce their plastic footprint while skiing or riding?

Abide by the golden rule of the outdoors - leave no trace. But mostly, don’t throw your cigarette butts off the chairs.

Visit Nikki and more of our volunteers at the Surfrider Foundation tent at Mt Seymour until end the of March for Shred for the Cure evenings. Ladies, click here to find out where to pick up your voucher.

Follow Nikki at @NicolaMJohnston.