I love cheeseburgers. Hodad’s, Rocky’s, Five Guys … they’re all my favorites. But for next week, I’ve decided to drop the burgers and go vegetarian during San Diego Veg Week. I invite you to join me and several other staff members here at San Diego Coastkeeper as we go meatless from September 25-October 2.
Here are 5 ways that eating vegetarian can help protect the environment:
- It takes 12,009 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef. That means you can save more water by forgoing one pound of beef, or four hamburgers, than by not showering for a year.
- Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or “CAFOs” are a major source of water pollution around the country. Animal waste and feed cropland dump more pollutants into our waterways than all other human activities combined.
- Meat production is a major contributor to the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico—7,000 square miles where dissolved oxygen in the water is too low to support marine life.
- Cow farts are a major source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.By passing on the burger, you can reduce your contribution to global climate change.
- Nearly half the water consumed in this country and 70 percent of the grain grown is used for livestock, mostly cattle.
This is the tenth of a 10-part blog series examining the nature of ASBS, the threats they face and the actions we can take to protect these biological hotspots for future San Diegans.
Like most of those who reside in San Diego, I love it here and I am proud to be a San Diegan. After a recent 2 year stint in Boston, MA (Yikes! It was freezing), this native Californian could not be happier to be back. So what does it mean to be from San Diego? What is so great about it? Why would you ever leave such a glorious region of an even more glorious state? These are all questions I faced when I left 2 years ago, and not just questions I asked myself, but questions I was faced with upon arriving in Bean Town.
First of all, there are no waves in Boston. Yes, Boston is a port city, the largest city in Massachusetts and surrounded by water; however, there is very little beach action in the immediate area (with the exception of Revere ‘beach’ which is actually just a waveless inlet). The water quality around the port (as it is near almost any port) is poor and downright gross. It led me to inquire how I could become involved in improving water quality in my new surroundings of New England. It did not take long for me to realize that the number of networks and organizations working toward improved water quality as well as environmental advocacy were limited (but still existed), unlike those I had become accustomed to being around in California. Bummer.
Whenever I was asked what there is to do in San Diego, my eyes always lit up and I rambled a millions miles a second – snorkeling around the cove in La Jolla, kayaking around Mission Bay, surfing Windansea, scuba diving around Scripps Institution of Oceanography, hiking the Torrey Pines State Reserve, stand up paddle boarding in Encinitas, sailing around San Diego Bay, The Del Mar Fair, I could go on forever. But it occurred to me I had lived in San Diego for 5 years prior to my move and hadn’t done more than three of those things. I was horrified. Needless to say, I was desperate to get back into the water and ready to dedicate myself to improving what I consider to be San Diego’s most valuable asset – its water.
San Diego Coastkeeper gives people the resources and opportunity to get involved with protecting our oceans, beaches and waterways in a way that is pretty unique. Opportunities to volunteer come in so many shapes and sizes and the best part is the flexible schedules and option to choose the events that are right for you.Wastewater discharge, marine debris and stormwater runoff are major threats to San Diego’s marine environment. I am stoked that I get to work with a network of dedicated and intelligent individuals, who work day in and day out to preserve our underwater playgrounds offshore by spreading the word on low impact development, organizing and supplying the tools for beach cleanups and conducting water quality monitoring.
The successes of San Diego Coastkeeper’s campaigns are incredible, like San Diego’s underwater state parks or marine protected areas (MPA’s) in south La Jolla and in North County at Swamis. I don’t know what to say other than these places are epic. The protected ecosystems are allowing biodiversity to flourish and creating healthy fishstocks to improve productivity. Stand up paddle boarding above Swami’s reef might be one of the most spectacular ways to see it all from above. San Diego’s Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) along the La Jolla Shores and Scripps Institution of Oceanography are two of the coolest places to snorkel and see giant sea bass, leopard sharks and abalone.
It’s up to us as residents of San Diego to take pride in our environment and take ownership in maintaining, preserving and improving our surroundings. Giving my time to a cause that protects coastal and inland waters where I live, work and play is something that I believe in whole-heartedly.
What inspires you?
It may seem strange for San Diego Coastkeeper to call a project happening almost 1000 miles away to your attention, but the Flaming Gorge Pipeline has a strong San Diego connection.
The Pipeline is a water project that would divert at least 250,000 acre-feet (81 billion gallons) of water annually from the Green River and Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming, across the Continental Divide, and down the Front Range of Colorado, a total of between 550 and 580 miles. The Green River is the chief tributary of the Colorado River, where San Diego gets half of its water supply. Check out this map of the area and proposed pipeline. The pipeline, a hydropower project as well as a water transfer, would generate up to 1000 megawatts, and the water is intended for future population growth. (Originally the project was solely for water supply, but it is now primarily a hydropower project.)
One complicated detail is the amount of water that will be delivered. Aaron Million, the Colorado businessman proposing the project, intends to transfer at least 250,000 acre-feet. A study by the Bureau of Reclamation, however, found that the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, where most of the water is coming from, has only a 165,000 acre-foot surplus. The remaining 75,000 acre-feet is coming from the Green River above Flaming Gorge. This will drain an approximate 20-25% of the Green River’s flow annually, which has negative impacts on both the environment and the tourist economy. The Colorado River Water Conservation District is opposed to the project, due to concerns about how much water can sustainably be delivered. Million believes that there is plenty of water in the Colorado River Basin for the project, and says that if major environmental problems are found, the project should not go forward. Million also claims that the project will cost only $2.8 to $3.2 billion, while the State of Colorado finds a figure of $9 billion far more likely. The water could cost up to $30,000 an acre-foot, the most expensive water in Colorado history.
A coalition of nineteen conservation groups is opposed to both the project and a $150,000 grant currently under debate that would set up a task force to consider the pipeline. Million himself estimates that $5 million has been spent already on studies, and that $8 million to $12 million more could be needed to finish studying the project. The coalition hopes to avoid spending more money on a project that should not even be considered, due to a number of problems including environmental issues and negative impacts on the tourist industry.
Whether we like it or not, San Diego will be affected by the pipeline. Since we get half of our water from the Colorado River, there is a potential for reduced water supplies or perhaps higher prices due to lower supply, if the pipeline goes through. The pipeline stands to drain all of the water that can be spared from Flaming Gorge, possibly more, which could lead to shortages throughout the Colorado River basin in dry years.
The coalition has a petition at http://StopFlamingGorgePipeline.org that anyone can sign, regardless of where they live. The petition closes September 12, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board votes on whether to fund a study of the project on the 13th and 14th. Sign now to show your opposition to the Flaming Gorge Pipeline!
I was so thrilled when I heard the news that residents of the City of San Diego can now recycle additional plastics in the blue curbside bins that I enthusiastically volunteered to write this blog. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm quickly disintegrated into frustration as I realized much of the recycling information out there is inconsistent or incomplete. There are almost more exceptions than there are rules and answers simply lead to more questions.
Which prompts me to ask, is anyone else as confused by recycling as I am?
Have you ever stared at a disposable coffee cup and wondered whether to throw it in the blue bin or the black bin? What about plastic bottle caps and straws? Why are produce clamshells and pill bottles recyclable, but plastic utensils are not? If a coffee cup is not recyclable, why is frozen food packaging – which is also cardboard lined with plastic – recyclable? And I thought I could recycle plastic cups now, so what’s with this PLA plastic? It says “recyclable” on the cup, but it actually isn’t recyclable?
The rule of rigidity – sturdy plastics are recyclable, regardless of their resin number
Recycling is now less about the resin type (the number inside the recycling arrows) and more about the “rigidity” of the plastic. For example, both a yellow plastic zipper bag containing Trader Joe’s lemon heart cookies and a clear plastic cup show a #7 inside of the arrows meaning they are made of “mixed” or “other” plastics. Following the rigidity rule, the cup is recyclable in the curbside bins, while the bag is not. To put simply, sturdy plastics like cups, produce clamshells, to-go containers, yogurt cups and hummus containers can all be rinsed and recycled. Flimsy “film” plastic like sandwich bags, grocery bags, six-pack rings and other bag-like things should not be placed in the blue curbside bin (though you can collect and return these plastics to various locations throughout the county).
Meet our first three exceptions – cutlery, caps and straws
Plastic utensils definitely meet the rigidity test, yet they are specifically mentioned on the City’s website as non-recyclable items. Why? According to recycling specialists the answer is because of their small size. In theory cutlery is recyclable, but more than likely it will slip through the cracks in the screening process and filter out with the trash. Similarly, the small size of most plastic caps make them difficult to catch during preliminary screening – unless they are screwed back on the bottle. The same goes for plastic drinking straws. Though you could poke them back through the lid, snap the lid on the cup and then the screeners could catch them. So should you include cutlery, caps and straws in blue bin recycling and hope they get recycled? I have no idea because the answer depends on who you ask.
Plant-based plastics and PLA
Imagine you’re at the local farmers’ market enjoying a refreshing smoothie. Your disposable cup looks like plastic, has a #7 and says it’s “recyclable” and maybe even “compostable” so you slurp the last drops of your delicious drink and toss it in the blue bin. Not so fast. Before you throw that clear “plastic” cup into your recycling bin, check the bottom. If you see the letters PLA or if the cup says it’s compostable, made of corn, soy or other plants, that cup isn’t actually accepted in curbside recycling even if it says “recyclable.” So unfortunately, you have to throw it in the trash or take it to an industrial composting facility (worm bins or backyard compost piles do not get hot enough to break down these materials). An exception to this is the new Dasani PlantBottle, which is a disposable water bottle made of “up to 30% plants.” According to recycling specialists at the City of San Diego, this water bottle is actually recyclable because it is “exactly compatible” with #1 plastics.
And finally coffee cups
When I learned that PLA cups were not recyclable, my mind wandered to other types of cups and beverage containers. Sure we all know that a soda pop bottle is recyclable (and now the cap technically is as well), but what about a disposable coffee cup? The City’s website says frozen food boxes are recyclable, but isn’t a coffee cup constructed in a similar way – paper with a plastic lining? According to recycling specialists at the City of San Diego, coffee cups are intended for single use so by the time they reach the recycling center they are pretty degraded by liquid. At this point it is nearly impossible to separate the paper from the thin plastic interior lining. However, the lids are recyclable!
Save yourself the headache and skip the plastic cups and water bottles all together and invest in reusable options. In the long run, you will save money and reusing will become very convenient when put into your daily routine. Although we have these rules, we must stop consuming plastic as much and join forces to fight off plastic pollution for good.
Conclusively, I must thank the City of San Diego for accepting additional plastics in curbside recycling. We are fortunate to be living in the city where people strive to sustainability together.
Last month I went to Chicago for the annual International Waterkeeper Alliance conference. I packed up to the last minute, alternating throwing clothes into my suitcase with frantic last minute emails and calls to make sure Coastkeeper would survive until my return. Spoiler alert: Coastkeeper survived my two-week absence.
The Alliance keeps nearly 200 Waterkeepers connected, uniting our voices as we take on major global water issues together. Our annual conference is a homecoming; a place to share your ideas with folks who understand your passion for a stretch of river or coastline. It’s the best and worst of a family reunion, all the squabbling, the cousins you haven’t seen in a few years, the cool uncle that’s taken on mountaintop removal coal mining… well it’s an interesting family.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the best thing about the conference. Certainly meeting some of the stars of our movement, like WKA President Bobby Kennedy Jr. or Rick Dove, a former Riverkeeper in North Carolina who’s taken on the destructive hog farming industry was inspiring. Sleeping just 12 hours over four nights so I didn’t miss the impromptu jam sessions or late-night discussions (on the dance floor no less) about ocean acidification was exhausting and exhilarating. And I got a lot of practical tips from the sessions led by experts in our field – everything from engaging volunteers, to better fundraising, to testifying in a water pollution lawsuit.
However, I think my favorite moment of the conference came from the talk by the newest Waterkeeper program, the Upper Tigris Waterkeeper, a project of Nature Iraq. Meeting Waterkeeper Nabil Musa and Nature Iraq CEO Dr. Azzam Alwash was so uplifting and inspiring. We might think of Iraq as a warzone or a desert, but you’d be hard-pressed to describe it as the Garden of Eden, or a marshland. Yet that’s what it has been, and, thanks to the work of this Waterkeeper program, that’s the future. When we saw the pictures of restored marshes and returned species (including communities who depend on the reeds), there wasn’t much hope of a dry eye. Knowing what’s possible with drive and determination (and a little bit of denial of the impossible) is extremely empowering.
So it’s not hard to say what the best thing about coming back to San Diego was: returning with that same sense of empowerment and walking into my office with a renewed sense of purpose to protect San Diego’s beautiful coastline and waters. I can’t wait until next year’s conference. Although I will start packing a little earlier.
San Diego Coastkeeper and the San Diego chapter of the Surfrider Foundation have been working together for years to organize twice-monthly beach cleanups. Plastic foam (expanded polystyrene, known by the trade name Styrofoam™) has been one of the major contributors to marine debris for as long as we have been counting. The problem is getting worse, too. In 2009, volunteers picked up 12,000 plastic foam pieces. In 2010, that number climbed to 25,000, more than doubling in just one year.
Currently, California uses 165,000 TONS of plastic foam food containers annually, none of which are recycled. SB 568 is a bill currently in committee that would ban the use of plastic foam containers to hold prepared food by January 1, 2016. School districts get until July 1, 2017 to comply. The ban applies only to containers for food or beverages that have been “served, packaged, cooked, chopped, sliced, mixed, brewed, frozen, squeezed, or otherwise prepared for consumption” – and excludes only raw meats, which can still be sold in plastic foam containers. There is also an option for a municipality or school district to continue using plastic foam containers so long as at least 60 percent are verifiably recycled.
SB 568 would go a long way toward reducing the amount of plastic foam found on our beaches
and the amount mistaken for food by wildlife. It would also reduce the risk of cancers associated with using containers made with styrene, a carcinogen that leaches into food when it comes into contact with oils, grease, or acids or is heated. When was the last time you had takeout that wasn’t greasy?
So what can you do to help? On a personal, immediate level, try to avoid using or buying products in plastic foam containers. This might mean eating takeout less often. Try to talk to local business owners to convince them to switch away from plastic foam to reusable, more easily recyclable or compostable alternatives. For a more long-term solution, help change policies by letting your representatives know that you support SB 568. Click here to send an editable form letter in support of the bill. You can always contact Coastkeeper if you want to get more involved in our advocacy and outreach efforts about plastic foam.
I can fully declare the Coastkeeper boating outreach program is officially in action. After months of arming ourselves with knowledge about environmental issues involving and impacting the boating community, recruiting a team of five volunteer boat captains, and learning how to find boaters to talk to on the water, our figurative anchors are away and we’re full steam ahead. Pardon the nauti talk if you will (as in nautical of course).
Last week, we had what you might consider our first day of formal outreach on the water. We had some great conversations with recreational boaters, talked to three underwater hull cleaners about the best management practices for reducing copper pollution and even talked with a suspected sewage pump out violater about how dangerous that habit really is.
It was one good day and the boating world, even in San Diego, is a big place. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but we’ve got the right blend of legal advocacy, empowerment and education to keep the ship on course and an eye on the horizon.
If you are a member of the boating community and want to get involved with our program, please get in touch. We are always looking for more volunteer boat captains and business/organizations with which we can partner to improve environmental awareness in this important community.
Let’s face the facts, sometimes it’s hard to get motivated for a gym sesh. But here in sunny San Diego we really don’t have an excuse to be inactive. Our county offers so many fun and relaxing outdoor activities that we can do all year long. So now that it’s officially summer, it’s time to get moving so you can squeeze into that tiny bikini! Hooray!
Sport Psychology and Wellness Counselor Erin Bartelma of BE Balanced Studio created a way for us San Diegans to get fit and healthy together while enjoying the beautiful backdrop of our outdoor environment. Three years ago Erin celebrated her birthday by inviting family and friends to join her for the “Surf & Turf,” which involved a run on Torrey Pines State Beach followed by surfing in Del Mar.
Over the past three years, Erin expanded her vision and brought on additional Surf & Turf team members Lisa Bercik, Sarah Alexander and Shari Baurle to help the event reach a wider audience and positively impact our environment. The team wanted Surf & Turf to enable people interested in healthy lifestyles to come together and promote not only personal wellness but also support efforts to create a healthier environment. San Diego Coastkeeper’s staff is comprised of scientists, lawyers and environmental experts who are also surfers, snorkelers, runners and bikers dedicated to protecting our coastal environment–making them the perfect organization to benefit from the event’s first grassroots fundraising efforts.
The Third Annual Surf & Turf is on Saturday, June 25, 8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at Cardiff Reef, and includes a 5K run/walk, beachside yoga with Lauren Duke of Green Flash Yoga, recreational surfing and beachside games with small prizes for the 5K run/walk. Participants are welcome to participate in one or all of the day’s activities. Registration is free but participants are encouraged to buy a Surf & Turf t-shirt for $20 (designed by artists Ash Francomb and Kris Boline of the Green Flash Gallery in Cardiff) with all proceeds going to San Diego Coastkeeper.
Come Surf & Turf & help save the environment with us!
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.
- Go Blue Day at Padres Stadium: Wear your blue and root on the Padres with cool people who protect the ocean every day. Become a member today and get Padres tickets for June 9. If you are already a member, join in for only $10. Shout loud and proud for our oceans at the 7:05 p.m. home game start against the Nationals.
- 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!!
Water – how to get it when you want it, keep it until you need it and survive on what you have is one of the oldest and most fundamental challenges of human civilizations. In San Diego, many of us probably don’t think about the vast network of pipes, canals, and reservoirs that snake out behind our taps to move water hundreds of miles – crossing mountain ranges, the Central Valley, and several large urban areas before flowing out of our taps. But the certainty of our water supply is increasingly being called into question.
Clearly, we are not the first group of people to face these troubles. Our neighbors to the south apparently figured it out a long time ago. Recently, archeologists working in Mexico discovered a 1,500-year-old water reservoir the size of a soccer field in the middle of the Mexican rainforest. While large ancient reservoirs have been found before in Mexico, the Mayans who built this one apparently figured out a clever way to help ensure that the water lasted – the floor of this reservoir was lined with ceramic shards, which helped seal the reservoir. In this way, the ancient Mayans managed to locally capture and store water for a population of at least 2,000 through the 3-month dry season.
Now, most of us are not going to run out to convert our backyard swimming pools into our own local water supplies. But, we can capture water on a smaller scale right in our own backyard. Backyard rain barrels or cisterns are a great way to help reduce our reliance on imported water and help reduce the impacts of urban runoff at the same time. And now the County of San Diego will help you do it! On September 26, the County of San Diego will host a Rain Barrel Outreach and Sales event at the Fallbrook Village Square from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. For more information, check out our Green In San Diego calendar.