Q&A with Eco Activist Dory Miller

Meet a changemaker

  • by April Hardwick
  • 7 min read

At sk*p we are passionate about raising awareness around the importance of environmental literacy and advocacy. In our continuous celebration of Earth Month, we are excited to spotlight all the changemakers who are making a difference for our planet.

Meet Dory Miller, an 18-year-old climate activist from San Francisco, CA. who is the social media lead and a core member of the Bay Area Youth Climate Summit. Dory just wrapped up an exciting weekend where she attended the People’s Earth Day climate strike in downtown San Francisco and helped her organization, BAYCS spread climate literacy at the Bay Area Science Festival. When she isn’t educating others, and attending climate strikes, she is a normal high school senior who is excited to graduate and begin a new chapter of environmental activism at UC Berkeley.

How did you get involved with the Bay Area Youth Climate Summit (BAYCS)? What do you love most about the mission?

During my sophomore year of high school, I joined my school’s Green Team. When my school transitioned to distanced learning, I managed the Green Team Instagram account. In June of 2020, I was invited to join a Youth Advisory Council to plan the first Bay Area Youth Climate Summit. I was immediately drawn to how the initiative would be entirely youth-run, as well as its mission of inspiring the wider Bay Area community to get involved in activism. Though I appreciated my school’s Green Team, none of our goals fit the magnitude of BAYCS and its hope for increasing youth involvement in the climate justice movement.

Were you always passionate about climate change before becoming an activist? What environmental issues are you most passionate about? 

Growing up, my family and I spent a lot of time outdoors, whether at home in San Francisco or traveling to places like Hawaii, Yosemite, and Lake Tahoe. My mom grew up on a lake in Minnesota, so I’ve spent many summers exploring the area where she lived. As nature has always been an important part of my life, climate change has always been a concern and something I wanted to learn more about. In eighth grade, I became a vegetarian with the hope of minimizing my carbon footprint. From there, I became very interested in the importance of plant-based eating and environmentalism on a larger scale, which later inspired me to join Green Team. However, it wasn’t until I joined BAYCS that I understood the meaning of environmental justice, or the intersection of social justice and environmentalism. While issues surrounding conservation and sustainability are still incredibly important to me, I have worked hard to educate myself and center my activism around environmental justice. I hope to amplify how systemic inequities cause marginalized communities to be disproportionately affected by climate change.

As the Social Media Lead of the BAYCS and a true Gen Zer, how has social media helped you have a positive impact and spread the word about your work as an activist? What are some ways our sk*p community can use their voice on social media to help the environment? 

Social media is an incredibly powerful tool in any sphere of activism. Though it can easily become performative and a way for people to “keep up” with trends—social media spreads information, whether educational or pertaining to an upcoming event, through a simple repost or retweet. Our BAYCS social media, primarily Instagram, accomplishes both. Whether we’re promoting an upcoming workshop or featuring the latest piece of climate news, the BAYCS social media team does our best to make sure our community is always informed. Since Instagram is so popular among Gen Zers, the BAYCS team takes advantage of our personal Instagram by reposting BAYCS posts and other related accounts. My Instagram stories are constantly flooded with BAYCS content.

The sk*p community is already doing a wonderful job with using social media to highlight youth activists like myself. Amplifying youth-led organizations like BAYCS is a crucial way to help my generation be seen and heard in the climate justice movement. Sharing community stories is an especially great way to humanize the movement and allow users to feel connected to sk*p products and the sustainability behind them.

Are you involved with any other environmentally focused organizations that have inspired your work? Why is restoring native plant restoration so important for our future? 

Outside of BAYCS, I do a lot of environmentalism-related work within my school community. In addition to Green Team, I am the Ecological Justice Committee Leader in a social justice group on campus. Through both this group and Green Team, as well as through collaborations with BAYCS, I’ve organized events like community beach cleanups, documentary screenings, phone-banking sessions, and an eco-friendly hygiene product drive. At the start of the new year, I began volunteering at Alemany Farm, where I discovered my passion for gardening and nature-based solutions to climate change. At Alemany, I spend most of my time weeding, harvesting, and learning about the importance of urban agriculture and how it can both restore colonized land and combat food insecurity. Through another local organization called Sutro Stewards, I have come to understand the importance of native plant restoration in San Francisco and the role it plays in preserving biodiversity. At a recent event held by Sutro Stewards and other local organizations, I learned about San Francisco’s Green haristreak butterfly and how its population, as well as those of other insect and wildlife, depend on native plants for habit and food preservation. Native plant restoration and gardening together are essential to maintaining local ecosystems and ensuring that such plants can continue to thrive and sequester carbon to mitigate climate change.

At sk*p, we encourage people to make sustainable swaps in their lifestyle. Whether it’s replacing plastic shampoo bottles with our recyclable BeautyCarton™, or drinking from a reusable water bottle, what are some sustainable swaps you have made in your own life? 

While I’m certainly an avid reusable water bottle user (Hydroflask specifically), I’d say one of my biggest environmentalist accomplishments is how I’ve involved my family in my quest for more sustainable living. Though my mom has always been environmentally conscious, my activism encouraged her to purchase products like Stasher bags and beeswax wrap, which can now be found nearly everywhere in our household. Our kitchen is a prime example of this, as nearly everything is stored in either a mason jar or old plastic takeout containers that have been reused instead of thrown out. I’m also a huge proponent of minimizing food waste. My fridge is constantly filled with half-used avocados in silicon food covers and other stored leftovers to be eaten the next day. A misconception about sustainable living is that you need to buy the newest sustainable product and throw out all plastic products. It’s much more sustainable to use up products entirely before buying new ones. So, use what you have before buying something new!

As a busy student, what do you like to do in your spare time? What is on your bucket list, whether its somewhere you want to travel to or an event you have always wanted to attend? 
I’m a huge yogi, so when my schedule allows, I try my best to fit in a yoga class or even a YouTube yoga video. I work at a yoga studio, so I’m fortunate to be able to take free classes when I don’t have to do my homework. In addition, I spend a lot of time outdoors, either going on hikes or just a quick walk. I live five minutes away from the beach, so I try to go as often as possible. I’ve always felt particularly connected to the ocean. Due to its rich culture and ecological biodiversity, I have always wanted to visit Costa Rica. During the lockdown days of the pandemic, I participated in some online workshops with Bodi Surf and Yoga, located in Costa Rica. I took a Costa Rican cooking class, a virtual surf lesson, and a yoga class, so I could at least pretend I was vacationing there. In college, I hope to spend a semester or summer abroad there participating in conservation and sustainability-related service work.

Where do you see yourself in five years, what do you hope to be doing? 

In five years, I will be graduating from UC Berkeley. Directly following my graduation, if I do not have a job or internship already lined up, I hope to spend at least a year living in Hawaii teaching environmental education to youth. Teaching has always been a dream of mine, but since I don’t plan to purse it as a long-term career, I figured I could find a way to combine it with my environmental activism. My family has consistently traveled to Hawaii as our main vacation destination, and I have fallen in love with it over the years. However, I also recognize how the tourism industry has negatively impacted locals and the greater environment, so in contributing to environmental efforts there, I hope to ensure that my presence leaves a positive footprint. While I’m there I will likely be applying to either law school or the UC Berkeley Investigative Reporting graduate program.

For those who may not already be involved in environmental advocacy work, what are some ways they can celebrate Earth Day? 

Go outside! Sometimes, celebrating Earth Day is not about some big work of advocacy or activism, but more about feeling grounded and connected to nature. Environmental activism must come from a place of true compassion and concern for the world around you and the people affected by it, so spending time outdoors is the easiest way to build a foundation for your work. In addition, most local environmental organizations host some sort of Earth Day event, so be sure to check their websites and newsletters.