Top 5 Reasons to Celebrate World Oceans Day

Its that time of year again! Next week we will celebrate our favorite holiday, World Oceans Day! On June 8, the world will take a moment to recognize the ocean and all of its greatness. There are thousands of reasons to join in on the celebrations. Since I do not have time to create a list of a thousand, here’s five to get you amped on Oceans Day!

1. Raise awareness for the World’s Oceans: Whether you live in San Diego or China there are issues facing our world’s oceans that need attention. This national holiday will help raise global awareness of the challenges our oceans face and help people get the information to get involved!

2. Oceans give us life: Oceans are essential to food security, climate control and are a critical part of our biosphere.

3. Oceans are awesome: Not only are oceans essential for survival, they play a huge role in fun, especially here in San Diego! What would the world be without “sick days” (aka beach days), surfing and snorkeling?!

4. Help conserve our oceans: Not only does World Oceans Day spread the word about the needs and challenges facing our oceans, it also gets people to be proactive about conserving our coasts and oceans. There are tons of things you can do to help. Attend a beach clean up, buy sustainable seafood or become a Coastkeeper member!

5. You can party with us! It’s no secret that we love the ocean.We want you to join in on all our fun by participating in a week long party to celebrate our world’s oceans.

  • World Oceans Day: Go blue with Coastkeeper and our official celebration of World Oceans Day on June 8. Come out to Hennessey’s in La Jolla and enjoy live music, a tasty meal and even learn how we conserve beautiful places like La Jolla’s ASBS. Enjoy a beer for the ocean from 6-9 p.m.
  • Give our ocean the best gift you can give by picking up trash and debris along the coast. Join us at Buccaneer Beach Cleanup June 11 at 9 a.m. Help clean up one of Oceanside’s most prestigious beaches and celebrate the beauty of the sea.

Everyd ay Coastkeeper celebrates our local ocean by preventing plastic pollution with beach cleanups, conserving areas of special biological significance, monitoring waterways for toxic chemicals and much much more.

Happy World Oceans Day everybody!!

Beach Cleanups Exposed: Beyond the Beach

As mentioned in yesterday’s blog post about the Ocean Conservancy’s 25-year report, the data extracted from beach cleanups can influence political, industrial and social change.  Take a long walk on this beach with me…

GOVERNMENT and POLICY

Cigarette butts have long since been the number one item found by Coastkeeper on San Diego’s beaches.  This is the same the world over, and has held its number one spot for the past 25 years.  Because of this statistic, garnished from our data collection, this hard evidence was used to support a smoking ban on our beaches and parks which passed in 2006.  Our cleanup data allows us to identify problems, track their the source, design solutions and take action by advocating for the solution.  

So, what are the sources?  Nine out of the top ten items of the past 25 years were disposable consumer items.  These items clearly do not belong in the environment.  They are threats to local and global eco-systems as they entangle wildlife, infiltrate the food chain and photodegrade into microplastics that can never be cleaned up.  We try to eliminate the source of these items, but we as consumers create the demand for them.  Fortunately, they are not a necessity.  We can easily bring our own bag, bottle or to-go ware; it is simply that we are so comfortable with the convenience of these disposable plastics, we can’t be bothered to remember.  In order to help us along, we must influence the supply to lessen the demand, thus eliminating these one-time-use, wasteful items as an option.  Policy change in response to single-use plastic has been happening all over the globe to reduce the land waste and hazards to the ocean.  This is a solution to eliminate the “source” of marine debris.

Policy change:

  • As of 2008, it is illegal to give away single-use plastic bags in China—previously the TOP consumer of single-use plastic bags.
  • A 2002 bag levy in Ireland led to usage drop of 90%.
  • Washington, D.C., implemented a 5 cent bag fee and a saw usage drop significantly from 22.5 million bags in 2009 to 3 million bags in 2010.
  • Italy became the first country to outright BAN the single-use plastic bag on January 1, 2011.
  • San Francisco was the first U.S. city to ban the single-use plastic bag in 2007.
  • In 1990, Virginia volunteers picked up 30 pounds of balloons; by 1991 a law was passed to prohibit mass balloon releases.

top-items-beaches-international

INDUSTRY

Another way to track the source even further back is by working directly with the industries that manufacture these items.  Decreasing landfill space in Europe sparked a trendy tactic called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), designed to promote the integration of environmental costs associated with goods throughout their life cycles into the market price of the products.  Basically necessitating that the manufacturer covers the costs of recycling or proper disposal, and makes sure it happens.  

Innovative Industry changes we have seen:

  • Coca Cola created a 30% plant-based soda bottle in 2009.
  • Pepsi launched their 100% plant-based soda bottle in March.
  • Electrolux is making vacuum cleaners out of photo-degraded plastic bits from the Eastern Pacific Gyre.
  • Nike gave their 2010 World Cup soccer teams jerseys made from 100% recycled polyester.  They collected 13 million plastic bottles from Japanese and Taiwanese landfills, melted to produce yarn, converted to fabric for about 8 bottles per shirt.
  • Jack Johnson displaced 55,000 plastic water bottles on his 2010 US summer tour by providing water stations with filtered water.

Locally, businesses can get involved in being a part of the solution and data collection effort by sponsoring a beach cleanup through Coastkeeper.  In April, Earth Month, seven of our 11 cleanups are with local organizations or corporations (Pepsi, Peregrine Semiconductors, Cox Communications, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Source 44, 31st Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, as well as partnering on an event with Whole Foods.

SOCIETY

All marine initiatives depend on residents who understand why the ocean needs to be protected and preserved in order to build the connection and motivation for how.  The Ocean Conservancy’s report is a wonderful resource to help inform communities and it is available to be shared. Coastkeeper makes cutting edge ocean and water-related information readily available both online as well as through our quarterly Signs of the Tide outreach events. Fortunately, because of our data from inland and coastal beach cleanups, coupled with the geographically broad data supplied by the International Coastal Cleanup Day, our approach to tackling marine debris has become much more sophisticated.  As long as the volunteers keep coming to help collect this essential data, we can continue protecting and preserving our waterways.

Published in Marine Debris

Whole Food Donates for Clean Beaches

If you’ve ever considered stocking up on supplies, do it APRIL 6 at the Hillcrest Whole Foods. You never know when disaster might strike!  It’s best to stay safe with tons of vitamins and canned organic soups stocked deep in your cupboards.

Why April 6?  Well, Whole Foods is making good on their commitment to their community and the environment by donating 5% of their sales to Coastal Cleanup Day .

Coastal Cleanup Day is an event held every September that unites more than 10,000 San Diego volunteers at 85 coastal and inland sites to round trash across the county.  In 2010 over 148,000 lbs of garbage was intercepted before hitting the ocean. San Diego Coastkeeper and I Love A Clean San Diego , two leading San Diego environmental nonprofits, in partnership with the California Coastal Commission, organize this massive grassroots event to engage individual communities in the protection of their local “backyard;” whether that be a beach, a creek, or a street with storm drains that drain to the ocean.

Apparently enough shoppers and employees have expressed concern for San Diego beaches, because Whole Foods reached out to Coastkeeper to get involved.  Then again, Whole Foods is not your average grocery store.  Yes, they are a “chain” business, but what sets them apart is their common commitment to their local community and real concern for the environment.  The market was founded on a set of core values that keeps each store accountable and responsible to their greater, holistic goal of keeping their community healthy.  CCDcleanup2_MeierOne of the ways they show how they care is by reaching out to local organizations and giving a minimum of 5% of their profits every year to support their neighborly non-profits.  Whole Foods has been donating to the Coastal Cleanup Day for the past 5 years, allowing the event to have a greater impact by preventing marine debris from entering our waterways.

In supporting Whole Foods on Wednesday April 6, you will really be investing in a cleaner San Diego.  When you buy your Earth Day party favors or Coachella snacks, your money will go further than the expiration dates on your perishables.  It will be supporting the beaches that you love to frolic on and the sea you dip in.  Give back with Whole Foods this month and help make the 2011 Coastal Cleanup Day a WHOLE lot better!

Published in Marine Debris

Hardcore Bridgepoint Heroes brave rain to clean up Mission Beach

bridgepoint-heroes-cleanup-credit-ALLER-BEAUCHAMP

Photo credit Allen Beauchamp

I don’t know what you define as “hardcore,” but I think showing up for an outdoor volunteer event during a rare San Diego downpour fits the bill. The team from Bridgepoint Education did just that for a beach cleanup on Oct. 30 in Mission Beach. They showed their enthusiasm for working together and helping their community when participating in the inaugural volunteer event of the Bridgepoint Heroes program. I couldn’t believe so many people braved the weather to show their support for their coworkers, company and ocean–they’re a great team!

Although it rained, it was actually perfect timing to get trash that had washed up onshore after the infamous “first flush,” the first rain event of the season that transports pollutants, litter and debris downstream from our urban neighborhoods. These eager volunteers collected over 2,472 cigarette butts, 780 pieces of plastic, 480 pieces of (wet) paper, 280 plastic food wrappers and 245 plastic lids, cups and straws (Collecting data in the rain = HARDCORE!). In total, over 115 volunteers collected 370 pounds of trash and plastic pollution from the sidewalks, alleyways, beaches, and parking lots around Belmont Park. They even found some unusual items including a boat ladder, a bra, a tiki torch can and a toy sword (from Halloween revelers, perhaps?).

The volunteers were well rewarded for their efforts. While the hot coffee station was an extremely popular spot in the chilly weather, volunteers also received an extra layer to keep warm (a Bridgepoint Heroes t-shirt), and they even got some Belmont Park roller coaster passes that were leftover from Coastal Cleanup Day (Riding a roller coaster in the rain = HARDCORE!).

Bridgepoint Education (NYSE: BPI), is a provider of postsecondary education services focused on providing higher access to higher education. This cleanup was part of San Diego Coastkeeper’s sponsored cleanup program. Coastkeeper is proud to have partnered with Bridgepoint and hopes to continue working with other companies like them to bring their employees to an outdoor volunteer opportunity, which helps the San Diego environment. (Giving back to your community = HARDCORE!)

Published in Marine Debris

How Qualcomm Does It

Not everyone gets to spend Friday afternoon on the beach and then enjoy a delicious cookout with a bunch of cool people and call it “work.” I love my job! At the end of June, I headed down to Mission Bay for a sponsored beach cleanup with about 60 employees from Qualcomm.

These folks know how to do team activities right!

They showed up together, had team colors and a scavenger hunt, and then all hung out for lunch and some pickup football afterwards. Everyone was really engaged, asking questions about marine debris and plastic in the ocean. Luckily, I had San Diego Coastkeeper’s outreach intern with me to answer the really detailed questions. The most common comment was, “When we got here I thought the place looked so clean! But then when we started picking trash up, I couldn’t believe how dirty it was!”

All told, we collected 156 pounds of trash in about two hours, got a good tan and met some new people. Pretty phenomenal.

Published in Marine Debris

The problem of trash in our ocean starts inland

Marine debris in the Pacific Ocean is increasing at a startling rate! Studies of have shown that millions of birds, fish, marine mammals and other wildlife are impacted every year from ingesting or getting entangled in plastics and other debris.

It is not solely the cities and counties on the coastline that contribute to the accumulation of trash in the ocean, but also inland communities.  This means actions taken by residents in neighborhoods such as Uptown, Escondido and El Cajon and throughout San Diego can impact the quality of our coastal waters. In fact, up to 80 percent of marine debris comes from land-based sources before it is blown, swept or washed out to sea.

As a North Park resident myself, I know not everyone makes the connection between our everyday choices and the health of our ocean. But the growing plague of trash in our ocean beckons us to leave a smaller footprint at our house, at work and when we’re playing.

Have you ever noticed that our neighborhoods seem clean after it rains? While the natural cycle of rainstorms brings life to our gardens, it also washes scattered debris from around the neighborhood directly into nearby creeks and streams. This is what we call urban runoff. Urban runoff from rainwater and landscape watering transports litter and toxins from our yards, driveways and streets down stormdrains and into our bays and ocean without any treatment.  Yes, cigarette butts, Styrofoam containers, plastic bottle caps and other debris from inland neighborhoods end up in San Diego Bay, Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

Many residents from across the county and Coastkeeper volunteers are really making a difference. Last year in San Diego, volunteers helped remove more than 680,400 pounds of trash from our local beaches and inland waterways. That’s a lot of debris that could have found its way into the infamous Eastern Pacific Gyre, where trash from many cities is accumulating in one of the most remote places on the planet, the open ocean.

San Diego Coastkeeper’s volunteers also do water quality monitoring on surface water across the county. These local community members volunteer their time to collect monthly water samples that we assess in our lab for a variety of pollutants such as pesticides, bacteria, copper and more. Data from our regular monitoring efforts show that many creeks and streams are highly impacted by urban runoff due to urbanization. Not only is this a problem for natural habitat in our neighborhood ecosystem, but these creeks and streams empty into lagoons, bays and the ocean.

The good news is that we have many options to help improve the situation.

  • Attend a cleanup in your neighborhood or along the coast.
  • Plan your own neighborhood cleanup and get your supplies from us.
  • Advocate for improved local policy about commonly littered items such as plastic bags, bottles and Styrofoam take-out-containers. Coastkeeper works hard to communicate the environmental and health impacts of single-use plastics, and you should too. Your phone calls and letters to your elected officials help encourage the adoption of more sustainable practices.
  • Vote with your pocketbook. Patronize stores and restaurants that have eliminated wasteful single-use plastics, such as Styrofoam containers. There are plenty such places to choose from in Uptown!
  • Make lifestyle changes. If each resident in Uptown used reusable shopping bags at least a couple times each week, this would save thousands of plastic and paper bags from entering our landfill. Or bring your own reusable container to restaurants for leftovers. We don’t all have to be No Impact Man, but we can all make more sustainable choices to improve our future.
  • Use alternative ways of transportation such as biking and walking to take advantage of Uptown’s design as a pedestrian-oriented retail center and residential development. If we each park our car for just one day a week, we’ll collectively lessen the number of cars on the road and release less brake dust, improving the health of our oceans.
  • And of course, the next time you see a piece of trash on the ground, pick it up and help stop debris before it reaches the ocean.

Small changes can make a big difference, especially if we all do this together.

Published in Urban Runoff