A Central Oregon Native Hopes to Create Global Impact in the Fight Against Plastic Pollution


+ entrepreneur, activist

Growing up in Bend, Mimi Ausland learned at an early age that little actions can be part of bigger solutions. At the age of 12, Mimi and her family created the interactive website By answering a daily trivia question, whether the answer was right or wrong, visitors to the site would trigger a donation of 10 pieces of pet food to The Humane Society of Central Oregon. Today, they attribute 25 million meals for animals at shelters around the country to the site. “It showed me that if you take small actions every day, consistently, it has a big impact,” Mimi says. Fast forward a decade and 23-year-old Mimi, who was American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ 2008 Kid of the Year, has set her sights on plastic pollution. When she moved to Southern California two years ago and saw the issue of plastic pollution first hand on its beaches, it triggered the next generation of an interactive, cause-based website: “Now, more than ever, the environment is center stage in our lives,” says Mimi. The site statistics point to the need for change: 100 million marine animals will be killed by plastic waste each year, with an estimate that in 25 years there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. Reading news on a global scale can be overwhelming. Yet visitors to can be part of positive change by answering a trivia question each day and for each question answered, Free the Ocean will facilitate removal of one piece of plastic (from bottle caps and plastic straws, to bags or smaller particles). They give 100 percent of their advertising revenue to their cause partner, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, a 501c3 nonprofit that works on physical clean up and stewardship of the oceans. It’s an equation that has already surpassed three million pieces of plastic removed from the ocean and coastlines. Cleaning up plastic is just the first step for Free the Ocean. “The larger mission is to ‘turn off the tap,’ of single-use plastic,” says Mimi. Free the Ocean has a shop for not only bags, but for the accoutrements of daily life that allow everyday actions to mimic the commitment to consistent, small step of daily trivia. It’s also rewarding to see the feedback from the site’s community, from all 50 states and 140 countries.  “The goal is that wherever you live, you can be part of change,” says Mimi. “Small actions can be part of a global solution.”


“The goal is that wherever you live, you can be part of change. Small actions can be part of a global solution.” 

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