Emelia Von Saltza, a spring 2013 alumna, was featured in The Traveling School’s 2019 Impact Report as an Alumnae Changemaker. 


Her story below: 


Changemaker Status: 

Environmental Economist and Big Wave Surfer, Oahu, HI

Her Passions: 

Climate Change

Carbon neutrality

Surfing epically big waves

The Traveling School Spark:

“The Traveling School taught me to think critically about systems. I remember studying the Guatemalan civil war on my semester, which founded some of my principles. When we learned about the U.S. connection to the Guatemalan genocide and the neoliberalism behind those foreign policy decisions, it deeply politicized me for the first time. 

I never would have majored in economics if it weren’t for The Traveling School. I came back from my semester so riled up over the ways that our capitalist approaches had decimated countries we traveled through. I knew I wanted to understand that system inside and out so I could make positive change. After high school, Mom encouraged me to take a gap year before college, but I had so many questions about economic theory, free trade (and Chiquita bananas) that I couldn’t wait. I owe that love of learning – and probably my college degree – to The Traveling School.”

Her Impact:

“Shortly after graduating with a degree in environmental economics from Pitzer College, I moved to the island of Oahu with two dreams: to apply my degree towards Hawai’i’s renowned transition to carbon neutrality and to learn from the growing movement of female big wave surfers on Oahu’s fabled North Shore. 

Today, I am working as a freelance economist managing projects related to green finance, carbon pricing and natural capital accounting in Hawai’i. I sit on a state carbon pricing committee to develop a state carbon tax that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars to be recycled back to low income families and green energy initiatives. I’m also project managing a visitor green fee initiative, the revenue from which we hope to package into a multi-billion-dollar green bond for natural climate-based solutions. If successful, it would be the largest bond issue of its kind. 

In my free time, I’m riding some of the biggest, most awe-inspiringly beautiful waves of my life. One of my idols told me I was charging like some of the female big wave riders in the Waimea Queen of the Bay contest, the first ever all-women’s surf contest. Another dream of mine is to be invited to that contest, so her feedback made me really proud.” 

Thank you, Emelia, for sharing your story with us!