I am Lillian Howard, a first-year student at the University of Vermont and 350Vermont’s Media Intern for this spring. My work with 350VT was inspired by the love for the environment that has been instilled in me from growing up on a farm surrounded by nature.

For the last four years, I have been working to make a meaningful contribution to impact the greater good, by helping to address and advocate for the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans. I founded Save the Wave in 2018, as an art and entrepreneurship clothing brand to help raise funds to clean up our oceans.

The concept of Save the Wave hatched because I have seen so much plastic wash onto the shoreline of my family’s farm along the Chesapeake Bay, and when visiting other beaches on my travels. Every year my brother and I work to organize beach clean-ups along our farm’s shoreline, and by the next year they fill up again with literally hundreds of pieces of plastic (mostly single use). Here is a picture from one beach clean up I organized with my classmates:

The impact of plastic pollution is something I experience first-hand and so want to be part of the solution to this global problem. If we do not address the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans, it is projected that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. Our oceans and their creatures deserve better.

Since founding Save the Wave that spring, I have led a student group of artists and environmentalists, and created an array of ocean-inspired fine art t-shirts and products to sell. I organized a network of student friends and artists to help design, produce, and market Save the Wave shirts at school and community events. To date we have designed and sold over 300 student-produced t-shirts, hoodies, and stickers in a variety of styles and raised over $7,500 to benefit ocean cleanup organizations like Oceana and Project Aware.

We now have a growing following on social media, and have received a shout-out from third-generation ocean preservationist Phillip Cousteau (grandson of famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau) about our Save the Wave shirts and our work to help clean up the oceans. We are also planning to grow our Save the Wave product line to include reusable water bottles and tote bags to get the message out about reducing single-use plastics.

It has been challenging being a student artist and entrepreneur, having to figure out how to run a business, how to market our product line, how to design apparel, how to create a website, and how to be a meaningful contributor to ocean clean up efforts. However, it has been one of the best experiences of my life, as I have learned how to do all of those things. Today I continue to work to expand and promote Save the Wave, and have recently designed and launched our new website, to help gain access to a more global market. Save the Wave has helped me learn about the power of art and entrepreneurship to make a positive impact on this world.

Working with 350VT allows me to take more action in making climate justice and a cleaner environment possible. I recently attended 350VT’s Just Transition in Vermont workshop on Earth Day. Here, we got into small groups and discussed the big challenges facing our world and environment today and came up with solutions we can all be a part of. At the end we got together and all shared these goals, while an artist painted representations of our solutions. This was so beautiful to be a part of, as I got to see the way others use art to help us actually visualize these solutions, and make a real difference in the world and our communities.

This Just Transition workshop also inspired me to organize with my local community to take a collective action towards getting policy changes to limit food and plastic waste. This summer I plan to join local climate justice groups and work with them to make change and educate the public about the climate crisis. I am also going to organize tree plantings in my community and beyond, like Rewild VT. 350VT has shown me so many different ways to be a part of the solution, and I am eager and inspired to take action in my community.

350VT has opened my eyes to many aspects of the global climate crisis, and ways we can help and take action. I want to make a difference in the world, and 350VT has helped me learn how to advocate for that every day. In the future I want to explore more ways to be a positive force of change for the greater good and continue to work to help address some of the world’s life-altering problems, and inspire others to do the same. I look forward to studying communications, entrepreneurship, and studio art to further my passions and connect them to a meaningful career path. This is just the beginning, and I cannot wait to see where my journey will go!