Guest Editor: Anna Cummins, Co-Founder The 5 Gyres Institute

Justine Lassoff

Posted on September 01 2016

Guest Editor: Anna Cummins, Co-Founder The 5 Gyres Institute


LOVE GOODLY is honored to introduce guest editor Anna Cummins, cofounder of nonprofit 5 Gyres, a community that fights ocean plastic pollution through education, science and activism. Anna embodies the spirit of our guest editors, powerful women changing the world. 5 Gyres is named after a sailing expedition to research pollution in the North Pacific Gyre. This expedition was where Anna met her husband Marcus.

Why did you start 5 Gyres Institute?

After first hearing about the “great pacific garbage patch”, I was horrified, and vowed to get more involved, immediately starting a “bring your own” project to engage others. ( I then joined a 4,000 mile research expedition across the North Pacific Gyre, as the one woman in a crew of men. One of them – the Director of Research Dr. Marcus Eriksen, proposed to me in the middle of the gyre, with a ring he made from floating plastic. We committed in that moment to take the plastics issue to a global level – starting 5 Gyres with wedding money in 2009.

What is your mission?

Our mission is to stem the flow of plastic pollution that flows to our lakes, rivers and oceans through engaging communities in direct action. For the first few years, our focus was on conducting first hand science across the worlds oceans to elevate the plastics issue to an international audience. In 2014, we published the first estimate on plastics in all oceans, and are now focused on leveraging our findings to drive change on land. Most recently, we saw this to fruition when President Obama signed a Federal bill to ban microbeads from cosmetics, a campaign we spearheaded after finding plastic microbeads in the Great Lakes.

What is the most inspiring part of your job / nonprofit?

Getting to work with amazing people who are as committed as I am to seeing a better future. Being inspired all the time by individuals in our community who are affecting real change on a local, and global level. And watching my soon to be four year old connecting the dots on protecting our environment.

 What was the most challenging thing about starting your nonprofit?

Sometimes the greatest challenges turn out to be blessings! We didn’t have a clue what we were getting into, now if or how it would grow. Had we known how challenging the way forward would be, we might not have ever gotten started!

What advice do you have for other wanting to promote a cause or make a difference?

Ask for help, often! Remember that most people want to be helpful – receiving help/advice/support from your peers gives them a gift too!

  What is the best advice you've ever received?

That its okay, and to be expected, that I will make mistakes, and fail – often. Because out of these mistakes, out of the rubble even when you crash and burn, will come the foundation for even better opportunities.

Name 3 people you admire or are your heroes and why?

These change all the time. Right now:

1. My sister Emily – because as a social worker committed to justice, she is making a profound difference in an LA community that desperately needs more resources 2. Jose Gonzalez from Latino Outdoors, I haven’t met him yet, but admire from far, because he is working to bring much needed diversity to the sustainability movement and leadership. 3. Edward Abbey – because I’ve been on an Edward Abbey kick over the last few weeks, and – violence excluded – the world could use some more hard core disruptors!


How do you stay balanced in your life?

It’s a constant struggle…also as the mother of a small child. Staying active – through walking, running, hiking, or home yoga – helps a ton. When this falls away, I quickly fall out of whack! Girls nights, and date nights (when they happen) are also key  :)

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