We had the good fortune of connecting with Emily Briceno and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Emily, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own 501c3 nonprofit?
Since we all live very close to bodies of water, which are abundant throughout Florida, we see the issue of plastic waste and pollution first hand. We all grew up watching its growing impact not only on our ecosystem but also in our school system. With its increasingly dangerous impact, plastic pollution has become a common topic in our classrooms, further exposing us to its consequences. The more we learned, the more we felt the need to help and create change in our home.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Surface 71 is a student-drive nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about plastic pollution and keeping our cities and oceans cleaner and more beautiful. We partner with members of the community to get more people involved, from sustainability groups to student volunteers. Our beach clean-ups offer an opportunity for students to get involved and learn more about plastic’s impact on our environment while also making change. We also actively work toward raising money to install water refill stations in local schools to reduce plastic water bottle use throughout the campuses. This organization began in 2018 through when we received a grant for being a finalist in Philanthropy Tank. This afforded us the budget we needed to implement our initiatives into the community. From there, it grew in the number of members involved, organizations partnered with, and schools impacted. We were met with an open community that was willing to work with us and learn from us, but we of course met obstacles through the way the further impassioned us to push harder.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
A huge piece of our organization is the bodies of water we are surrounded by. Our favorites spots in the city are the beach and parks we clean up, working with members of the community to create change. Overall, our favorite part is to embrace the beauty a clean environment has to offer. Additionally, we would suggest that in addition to participating in a beach or park clean-up, we encourage visitors to contact us at surface71wpb@gmail.com or surface71.org as we plan monthly bike rides and clean-ups as well in different parts of West Palm Beach. We would love to schedule a bike tour and clean-up for your group.  We partner with Juan Orellanos at Upcycle to provide all of the equipment and materials needed and what better way to spend time enjoying the outdoors in beautiful West Palm Beach.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are many organizations that have helped and partnered with us to get us to where we are and the impact we’ve had. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the kickstart Philanthropy Tank afforded us in 2018. The City of West Palm Beach and their Sustainability Department has been a thorough support system for us, in addition to Youth Service America, who’ve broadened on our reach and furthered our initiatives in our community. Keep Palm Beach County Beautiful is also integral in maintaining our resources to continue with the nonprofit, through water refill stations and volunteer opportunities. Another collaboration that is a huge part of our organization is with Strawfish, who provides sustainable alternatives to plastic dining wear. Strawfish, that provides sustainable alternatives to plastics including straws, containers,bags, cups and lids (take out or to-go containers and cutlery). Additionally, this past year, we have expanded into other areas including our art sculptures so we have partnered with Loggerhead Marine Center in Juno and our (3) art sculptures have been on display at Loggerhead Marine Center and Loggerhead Marine has been so supportive with educational awareness and has donated water bottles for local schools.   Most importantly, we would love to give a HUGE shout out to our teachers and our schools who provide constant support and guidance.  We began Surface 71 in our 7th grade science classroom under the direction of our science teacher, Mrs. Stephanie Killingsworth and she is still one of our mentors and our biggest supporters.  We have been so fortunate to have Mrs. Killingsworth’s guidance as she networked and partnered with Friends of Palm Beach for clean-ups and many other projects during our first few years as we started our organization.  Friends of Palm Beach, Diane Buhler, is also a huge part of our success helping us with clean-ups and sharing our organization with others so they can get involved, too.  This past year, we have worked closely with our School District or Palm Beach County, Lisa Toy,  Keep Palm Beach County Beautiful, Lourdes Ferris and Upcycle, Juan Orellanos and Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department as we planned several clean-ups in our county.   Our next clean-up will be on April 24 @ Dreher Park in West Palm Beach from 8-11 a.m. and our partners are:  Rob Long, District 4 Soil and Water Conservation, South Florida Science Center, City of West Palm Beach, Keep Palm Beach County Beautiful, and Loggerhead Marine Center.  If interested to volunteer, please visit our website or email us for more information.

Website: surface71.org

Instagram: @surface71wpb

Twitter: @surface71wpb

Facebook: @surface71

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutMiami is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.