This 12-Year-Old Knows What it Takes to Save the Planet

This is a story about a 12-year-old girl from San Diego who loves surfing, art and making the world a better place. One day she contacted San Diego Coastkeeper to share her story, and what we heard was not only impressive, it is an inspiration.

Paige realized that there was a big problem the world faced – ocean pollution. She knew that much of our trash ended up in one of her favorite places, the ocean, making it dirty and unhealthy for the marine creatures that lived there. What she did next proves that anyone could make a positive impact when they take action. Starting with a recycling program at her school, we’re excited to see the impact her newest project will make.

Paige M water bottle braceletSMALLI asked our little ocean hero to share her story and this is what she told us:

Coastkeeper: What inspired you?

Paige M.: “My 4th grade teacher at Del Mar Pines School inspired me to start the recycling program. She asked if I could do one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be?”

CK: When did you start the project?

PM: “I started planning for the project in the spring of my 4th grade year but officially launched the recycling program the fall of my 5th grade year.”

CK: How many students participated in the recycling program?

PM: “Everyone at school – students and their families, staff and teachers – are welcome to participate. We host collection days on campus twice a month where families can bring their recyclable plastic drinking bottles from home. I also placed specially marked collection bins around campus that my committee and I check weekly.

CK: Why did you want to take on this project?

PM: “Our landfills only have limited space. Recycling helps take out a lot of unnecessary waste in the landfills. If we recycled every plastic bottle we used, we would keep two billion tons of plastic out of landfills. It’s also cool to see all the things that recycled bottles can become – like sleeping bags.”

Paige M  DMP recycling committeeSMALLPaige makes her moves

Paige started a recycling program to raise money for her school foundation. She created an education program and recruited a committee of schoolmates to help. In the fall of 6th grade, Paige designed a charm bracelet using the water bottle logo she created for her recycling program. She sold the bracelets and donated the money to water.org, a charity that produces safe drinking water in Africa, South Asia and Central America.

She also wrote and illustrated a short story called “Kayas Undersea Adventure.” The story is about a girl who goes surfing and gets transported to an underwater world that’s polluted. The surfer girl returns home and finds ways to encourage others to correct the pollution she had seen. Paige dedicated her book to San Diego Coastkeeper, because she thinks that our mission of keeping San Diego’s waters fishable, swimmable and drinkable is cool!

She thinks the best way to convince kids to make a difference is to hear it from other kids. Her parents are looking into publishing her story and donating the proceeds from sales to San Diego Coastkeeper. If you want to help just contact us.

Published in Marine Debris

Saving Our Waters and Our Wallets.

When I look at this photo, I see a wave I would normally kill to ride- with the exception of the surrounding wall of trash. I instantly visualize an ocean littered with garbage, paddling through oil and debris during my sunset surf. The amazing feeling I normally get just wouldn’t be the same if I had to dodge water bottles and was paranoid about swallowing the contaminated water.

Trash surrounds us everywhere we go on land. Between all the street litter, garbage days, overflowing trash cans and street sweeping, isn’t the water the one place we can get away from it all?

It is, but at a cost. According to the L.A. Times, San Diego spends close to $14 million annually on coastal cleanup efforts. Can’t you think of about 14 million ways this money could be used better? Yes, I want my waters to be clean so I can swim, surf and snorkel, but why do we have to spend so much money cleaning them up when we can simply prevent the problem in the first place?

One of the biggest inhibitors to keeping our waters clean is urban runoff. This is the water that runs through populated, man-made areas and picks up oil, grease, pesticides, metals and other toxic chemicals as it trickles directly into our water bodies. This not only makes our waters gross, but also harms the marine wildlife.

To do its part in cleaning up the community, San Diego Coastkeeper and Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter get together and host regular beach cleanups throughout the county. In 2012, 4,308 volunteers removed almost 8,000 pounds of trash from San Diego beaches. And still residents pay for regular trash control from the city. Houston, we have a serious problem.

As a self-proclaimed water-lover (as I imagine most San Diegans are), I make a point to be aware of how my actions on land effect the waters I treasure and I think others should do the same. To do your part in keeping our ocean, bay and streams pollution-free, please check out some pollution prevention tips. We may live mostly on land, but we need the sea. I can’t imagine a life of polluted waters and trash littered barrels, and I will do whatever it takes to keep that photo from becoming a reality in San Diego.

Published in Marine Debris

Tijuana River Valley

The Tijuana River Valley (Valley) has a decades-long history of water quality issues. Significant
improvements in the arena of wastewater treatment have in recent years improved water quality
on both sides of the border. However, storm water flows continue to bring substantial amounts of
sediment and trash and other contaminants into the Valley from sources in both the United States
(U.S.) and Mexico. The sediment and trash pollutants cause water quality impairments, threaten life
and property from flooding, degrade valuable riparian and estuarine habitats, and impact recreational
opportunities for residents and visitors.
In 2008, the San Diego chapter started the No Border sewage Campaign. Through No B.S. we have
raised awareness, outreach and education of this incredibly overwhelming problem. Additionally,
a Network has formed of like-minded organizations. It is through the Network that consensus has
been built and collaboration to address the conservation and restoration of the entire Tijuana River
Watershed. The TJ Watershed is 1,739 square-miles, with ¼ in the US and ¾ in Mexico. The city of
Tijuana is on average about 300 feet higher than Imperial Beach. During the wet winter season, rain
picks up pollutants as it washes across dirt roads, streets and urban canyons in the outskirts of Tijuana,
where tens of thousands live in ramshackle villages called Colonia’s. Population in Tijuana grows
every day. In 1980, there were 500,000 people and in 2013, it is projected there will be more than
2,500,000 much of whom are not hooked up to sewer lines. Population explosion is fueled by jobs at
the maquiladora plants, which thrived after the US ratified NAFTA, the North American Free Trade
Agreement. Rain from a December 17, 2008 storm caused the river to spew an estimated 3 billion
gallons of contaminated water in the Pacific Ocean in one 24 hour period.
Surfrider has been involved with the Border Sewage issue for over a decade fighting to avoid the
negative environmental impacts and public health risks of discharging any raw sewage and debris
directly into the ocean. One of the main goals of Surfrider’s No BS campaign is to eliminate border
sewage/pollution/solid waste/chemicals and sediment that flow across the TJ River during rain events
and are emptied into the ocean during dry events and close the beaches in IB for half the year. Imperial
Beach has a rich and thriving surf culture and has contributed greatly to the history and roots of surfing
in San Diego. The Tijuana Sloughs (pronounced slew) is a world class big wave break that was a gold
standard for heavy-water surfing in Southern California beginning in the late 1930s. The pioneer wave
riders of the Sloughs include local IB Lifeguard legend, Alan “Dempsey” Holder, Peter Cole, Kimble Daun
and Ron “Canoe” Drummond. Today, the massive and imposing waves still break on a serious Northwest
swell but go largely un ridden because the Sloughs act as the unloading dock for the Tijuana River, on
the receiving end of some of the most repulsive water this earth has wrought. The solution can be
achieved if the US works with Mexico rather than pointing blame at Mexico.
As part of our commitment to improve coastal water quality in the border region, Surfrider is committed
to working with other environmental organizations to operate as a strong united front whenever
possible. Volunteers from Surfrider Foundation Blue water Task Force have been heavily involved in
volunteer activities in the Tijuana River Valley. Through a key partnership with San Diego Coastkeeper,
NoBS volunteers have tracked source point pollution during dry and wet weather events. On a monthly
basis, volunteers hike out to three different locations within the Tijuana River Valley and Estuary and
take water samples that are backed by state-approved quality control standards. During the winter
season we collect samples from Dairy Mart Road Bridge, which is the first natural filter for the trash,
sediment and sewage the flows across the border. Volunteers literally walk through piles of plastic,
Styrofoam, tires and trash sometimes as high as 10 feet to get to the shore line and take the samples.
The mud is largely comprised of sediment which also poses as a danger when walking through it. It
is almost as if you are sinking in quicksand. Other sites include Hollister Street Bridge and Saturn
Road, which is next to Suzy’s Farm. These locations are heavily flooded during rain events due to the
hydrology of the River Valley and lifeguard rescues are a common occurrence. During the summer
season, volunteers hike out to 3 locations within the Tijuana Estuary that are further west than the
winter season locations. The first stop is the Visitor center bridge. On any given day you see a variety of
birds and if you are lucky a glimpse of an endangered clapper rail foraging in the pickle weed. Peregrine
falcons, snowy egrets and Blue Herons also frequent overhead as you collect your water samples. From
there we hike out to the Grove Avenue Bridge and the Oneonta Slough River mouth. The River mouth is
about a 4 mile hike and is breathtaking. The smell of saltwater, breathtaking views of the iconic Bullring
and Lighthouse to the south in Mexico and the beautiful downtown San Diego skyline to the north make
this trip a memorable one each and every time. The trail that leads to the Slough River mouth is named
after Dr. Mike McCoy, who spearheaded the 10 year effort to save the estuary from a proposed marina
created by dredging the Tijuana Estuary. He recognized the importance of preserving it and its wildlife as
one of the last intact salt marsh ecosystems in Southern California.

This is part 4 of a 5 part series of results from our water monitoring lab. This post was written by the folks over at Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Chapter. If you haven’t read our watershed report, head over here and check it out. In this fourth part, we are going to take a look at the Tijuana River Valley.

The Tijuana River Valley has a decades-long history of water quality issues. Significant improvements in the arena of wastewater treatment in recent years have improved water quality on both sides of the border. However, storm water continues to bring substantial amounts of sediment and trash and other contaminants into the Valley from sources in both the United States and Mexico. The sediment and trash pollutants cause water quality impairments, threaten life and property from flooding, degrade valuable riparian and estuarine habitats and impact recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.

In 2008, the Surfrider Foundation, San Diego chapter started the No Border sewage Campaign. Through No Border Sewage, we have raised awareness, outreach and education of this incredibly overwhelming problem. Additionally, a network has formed of like-minded organizations. Through this network, consensus and collaboration has been built to address the conservation and restoration of the entire Tijuana River Watershed.

tj_river_trash_2_karen_franz

The Tijuna Watershed is 1,739 square-miles, with one quarter in the US and three quarters in Mexico. The city of Tijuana is on average about 300 feet higher than Imperial Beach. During the wet winter season, rain picks up pollutants as it washes across dirt roads, streets and urban canyons in the outskirts of Tijuana. In these canyons, tens of thousands live in ramshackle villages called Colonia’s. Population in Tijuana grows every day. In 1980, there were 500,000 people, and in 2013, it is projected there will be more than 2,500,000, much of whom are not hooked up to sewer lines. Population explosion is fueled by jobs at the maquiladora plants, which thrived after the US ratified the North American Free Trade Agreement. This explosive growth causes signifigant pollution. For example, rain from a December 17, 2008 storm caused the river to spew an estimated 3 billion gallons of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean in one 24-hour period.

Surfrider has been involved with the border sewage issue for over a decade, fighting to avoid the negative environmental impacts and public health risks of discharging any raw sewage and debris directly into the ocean. One of the main goals of Surfrider’s No Border Sewage Campaign is to eliminate border sewage, pollution, solid waste, chemicals and sediment that flows across the Tijuana River during rain events. These pollutants are emptied into the ocean during dry events and close the beaches in Imperial Beach for half the year.

Imperial Beach has a rich and thriving surf culture and has contributed greatly to the history and roots of surfing in San Diego. The Tijuana Sloughs (pronounced slew) is a world class big wave break that was a gold standard for heavy-water surfing in Southern California beginning in the late 1930s. The pioneer wave riders of the Sloughs include local IB Lifeguard legend, Alan “Dempsey” Holder, Peter Cole, Kimble Daun and Ron “Canoe” Drummond. Today the massive and imposing waves still break on a serious Northwest swell but go largely un-ridden because the Sloughs act as the unloading dock for the Tijuana River, receiving some of the most repulsive water this earth has wrought. The solution can be achieved if the U.S. works with Mexico rather than pointing blame at Mexico.

As part of our commitment to improve coastal water quality in the border region, Surfrider is committed to working with other environmental organizations to operate as a strong united front whenever possible. Volunteers from Surfrider Foundation Blue Water Task Force have been heavily involved in volunteer activities in the Tijuana River Valley. Through a key partnership with San Diego Coastkeeper, No Border Sewage volunteers have tracked source point pollution during dry and wet weather events. On a monthly basis, volunteers hike out to three different locations within the Tijuana River Valley and Estuary and take water samples that are backed by state-approved quality control standards. During the winter season, we collect samples from Dairy Mart Road Bridge, which is the first natural filter for the trash, sediment and sewage that flows across the border. Volunteers literally walk through piles of plastic, Styrofoam, tires and trash sometimes as high as 10 feet to get to the shore line and take the samples. The mud is largely comprised of sediment which also poses as a danger when walking through it. It is almost as if you are sinking in quicksand. Other sampling site sites include the Hollister Street Bridge and Saturn Road, which are next to Suzy’s Farm. These locations are heavily flooded during rain events due to the hydrology of the River Valley and lifeguard rescues are a common occurrence.

During the summer season, volunteers hike out to three locations within the Tijuana Estuary that are further west than the winter season locations. The first stop is the Visitor Center Bridge. On any given day, you see a variety of birds, and if you are lucky a glimpse of an endangered clapper rail foraging in the pickle weed. Peregrine falcons, Snowy Egrets and Blue Herons also frequent overhead as you collect your water samples. From there, we hike out to the Grove Avenue Bridge and the Oneonta Slough River mouth. The river mouth is about a four mile hike and is breathtaking. The smell of saltwater, breathtaking views of the iconic Bullring and Lighthouse to the south in Mexico and the beautiful downtown San Diego skyline to the north make this trip a memorable one each and every time. The trail that leads to the Slough River mouth is named after Dr. Mike McCoy, who spearheaded the 10-year effort to save the estuary from a proposed marina created by dredging the Tijuana Estuary. He recognized the importance of preserving it and its wildlife as one of the last intact salt marsh ecosystems in Southern California.

 

 

Published in Urban Runoff

Power cleaning with Power Scuba

On August 4, San Diego Coastkeeper and Power Scuba joined forces for an underwater and beach cleanup. We had walkers, kayakers, snorkelers and divers participate. The following account from diver Dan Prosperi and photos from his dive buddy Lida Chaipat tell the story.

When I started hearing rumors about an underwater cleanup in Mission Bay, I got pretty excited. On every dive I do, I try to pick up whatever litter I can. And this was an opportunity to have a whole bunch of folks hunt litter with me! So when the event was finally posted on the Power Scuba website, I was all over it!

On the morning of, I showed up a bit early, as usual, but canopies were already set up, snacks were already set out, etc. Raleigh Moody from Power Scuba and Megan Baehrens from Coastkeeper had done an amazing job of organizing this event. By the time everyone arrived, there were about 50 people there! Some planned to dive, some to snorkel, and some to walk the shoreline. But we were ALL there to make the ocean and surrounding environment a little bit cleaner!

Megan talked for a couple of minutes about water quality. It’s important, she said, to have as little water as possible flow from our lawns into the ocean. Inevitably, the fertilizer we use will flow into the storm drains, and largely end up in the ocean. There, it causes blooms of algae. Some of these algae can be directly harmful. But even more important, when all of those algae eventually dies and decomposes, that process takes oxygen out of the water, potentially suffocating the other animals in the ocean. This can lead to the “dead zones” that have started appearing along the US coasts.

1-group-shot

Bill Powers (founder of Power Scuba) gave a pre-dive briefing, and we were off. My buddy Lida and I decided to swim a line between and under the boats that were moored in the bay. When we descended, we discovered that the water was about as murky as you’d expect in a bay that doesn’t get much tidal exchange. We could only see 1 to 5 feet in front of us. That made it a bit challenging to find litter! But we did manage to find a few pieces.

I was especially happy that we were able to remove several pieces of plastic from the ocean.

 

2-diver-with-debris

Dan is excited to find his first piece of trash in Mariner’s Basin!

 

As you know, plastic doesn’t ever really break down. But it does break into smaller and smaller pieces. And the bright colors encourage sea life to eat it. Of course, once it gets in their stomachs, it doesn’t supply any nutrition. And since it doesn’t break down, it can get stuck, potentially leaving the animal to starve to death. Well, those couple of pieces that we removed won’t have a chance to do that!

 

3-nudibranch-with-debris

I don’t think that’s good for you, little guy…

 

As we swam along, looking for any trash we could find, I was impressed at how little there was! I guess San Diegans are pretty aware that the ocean they love will only stay that way if they keep trash out of it! Since there wasn’t much litter to see, I started seeing some cool critters on the bottom. There were the critters you’d expect on a sandy bottom, tube-dwelling anemones, sanddabs, and the occasional round sting ray.

 

4-nudibranch

Nudibranch

 

In patches of eel grass, we found a kind of nudibranch we’ve never seen before. (Nudibranchs are colorful critters that look kinda like slugs.) In a few places where the grass was thicker, we found a few lobsters!

 

5-octopus-in-can

Peekaboo!

 

When I saw a beer can on the bottom, I was pretty excited. Another piece of trash to remove! But I knew enough to check it for anyone living inside. Sure enough, when I looked inside, an eyeball was looking back out at me! It was a little octopus, and I could see he was very happy with his little aluminum home. (Kind of like a retiree in an Airstream…)

 

6-octopus-with-diver

After Lida took a few photos of us, I put the octopus and his little house safely back on the bottom.

 

7-kayak-support-team

When we surfaced from our dive, the safety kayakers quickly came to check on us. Another sign of some good organizing! We took our few finds and put them on the pile. The folks that had walked the shoreline looking for trash had had more success than we had when it came to volume of trash. All in all, the group removed over 75 pounds of trash from the water and surrounding beach!

Looking back on the event, there were a few things I took away:

1) There are a bunch of people out there that care about the ocean enough to spend a morning cleaning it up.

2) At least some of our bays are in surprisingly good shape, litter-wise.

3) Even a bay with lots of boats has a pretty good amount of critters living there.

8-trash-station-display

Thanks to everyone who participated. I hope to see you at the next one!

–Dan Prosperi

Published in Marine Debris

Earth Day 2012: Don’t Half-Trash Your Pet Waste

Have you noticed a recent trend of half-trashed pet waste on area beaches, parks, and trails? I’ve seen bags of the stuff left along the shore and have a feeling the owners are never coming back for the bags. Like throwing something towards a trash can and letting the wind take it away, some people take steps to do the right thing, but for some reason can’t complete the action. I call this half-trashing it, and people do it every day. Let’s use Earth Week to tell those people to stop.

My local observation from San Diego is happening all over the world – this BBC article uses cleanup data to cite a 71% increase in the stuff on Scotland beaches. But why?

I have an inkling that many people believe the reason to pick up pet waste is to avoid the embarrassing social situation when someone has stepped in the stuff. They aren’t connecting the waste with water pollution – or if they do, perhaps they they think bagging it up at least gets the bacteria contained so it can’t enter runoff. Haven’t these people heard about plastic bags choking sea turtles!?

Pet waste and plastics cause serious problems for our coastal water quality, so don’t half-trash it. SD county Stormwater has some information and brochures to help you if you need some tips to share with your neighbors.

You could also take it a step further – a 2010 Treehugger post suggests that true Earth Lovers take the bag home and empty the bag to flush the poo. But then do you have to reuse the bag afterwards? I sure hope not.

Just don’t half trash it and you’re on your way to being an Earth Day rock star.

Trash – The Daily and Unnecessary Function of Our Society

CF000698_16x20Landfills, garbage trucks, dumps, incinerators, recycling centers, waste, sanitation, sewage and rubbish. These words represent a daily and necessary function of our society – trash. In all of its glory, trash is the absolute proof that humans have forgotten how to live like our animal counterparts. Animals of the wild have neither respect nor disrespect for the natural world because they lack the intention to harm or improve the environment. Only humans have the intent and ability to distinguish certain acts or if the species are beneficial or destructive. For instance, compare urban runoff and oil spills in the Mexican Gulf to beach cleanups and Earth Day. The former is labeled as destructive and the latter is beneficial.

This blog post is not meant to say we should live like monkeys nor is my intent to say we should stop protecting the environment and picking up trash from our coasts. I merely aim to bring attention to this daily function – the average American produces 4.6 pounds of trash a day – and how unnatural it truly is. Waste is unnatural because nothing is wasted in nature; every atom is reused on a natural life cycle. Only humans have taken these atoms and created molecules that are unnatural and difficult to reuse and thus created a waste meant for a landfill. And only humans could have the ability to normalize such an alien and perverse idea as trash.

For just a moment, imagine our world without trash. Granted, a world without trash might mean I won’t have a job protecting the environment in the future, but I think it’s a fair exchange to trade my future career for a world where the environment no longer needs to be protected from the danger of trash.

Through Turkey and Trash on the Bike

I took my vacation in Turkey this year. I brought my bicycle so I could ride the back roads through farmland, up into the ruins and down to the coastline. Traveling by bicycle gets me in touch with a country unlike any other sort of traveling. It integrates me into the sounds and smells of a place and gives me the freedom to stop at any moment to take in the sights.

Unfortunately, during my 620-mile through Turkey, some of the sights I took in involved massive amounts of trash.

I can’t say this surprised me as I see trash often while biking back countries. I’ve often thought about rigging a trash bucket to my bicycle so that I could carry one of those long claw-arm trash grabbers to attack litter during my rides. I could then count how much trash one cyclist could recover during work commutes. I bet the amount would be shocking, but I just can’t commit to turning my faved two-wheel ride into the greenest trash truck in the region.

In Turkey, I did a lot of camping, and I am a member of the “leave it better than you found it” team. But like Alicia pondered how to begin removing the massive amounts of debris in the Tijuana Watershed, I didn’t know where to start at many of my one-night camp stops. So much trash covered the remote natural spaces that it felt inconsequential to pick up the litter in my immediate area.

But I still did.

I can’t even fathom how the trash found its way there. Clearly, some polluters dumped piles of plastic water bottles without any care. But in other places, random fast food wrappers, plastic bags, torn pieces of paper and more covered grassy areas, waterways, trees, parks, fields and roadways like fall leaves scatter down country roads.

Just like we experience a “first flush” phenomenon here in San Diego, Turkey’s dry climate and empty river beds lead me to believe that the first rains of the season will wash all that unclaimed litter into the canyons and waterways that will all eventually empty into the Aegean Sea. And just like that, the country will again be “clean” as the large bodies of water will eat up the trash.

But does the Aegean Sea really devour trash like Cookie Monster does a chocolate chip treat? Even though the first flush may appear to heal the scars of a country plagued by litter, we know that this trash eventually breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces and our aquatic friends feed on it.

My travel buddy and I tried refusing plastic bags offered by the merchants. Best we could in our extremely broken Turkish, we tried to say “no bag please” and we’d try to suggest we already had a reusable bag by pointing to the ones on our shoulders. But they just didn’t understand us. Now, I get the language barrier, as I saw how many people giggled when I’d say “thank you” and “hello.” I get it–I need a lot more Turkish practice. However, I saw clear as day that the single-use plastic bag habit has Turkish citizens under its wing like Big Tobacco caught smokers. It also made me realize how well our efforts here have made an impact.

Though we haven’t yet achieved a plastic bag ban, we have gotten close. And though not everyone carries a reusable bag, they become more popular every day. And though many merchants still offer single-use plastic bags, many give rewards for refusing them and most understand the need to go without.

Our watershed analyst recently returned from India and mentioned that the country banned bags a while ago and fees are in place to punish violators. To her, she said it seemed strange that our progressive country hasn’t yet made the law when a developing country like India bagged them years ago. I’m looking forward to hearing her perspective, which we’ll post to the blog in a few weeks.

Morning After Marshamallow Mess

The Clean Beach Coalition prepared for last weekend’s Fourth of July madness by putting up 200 extra trash and recycling bins to manage the weekend’s waste as well as tried to get the word out to the community to encourage replacing plastic ware with reusables. Each member organization from the Clean Beach Coalition hosted a cleanup site afterwards as well to assess the trash situation and rid our beaches of the waste!

This “Morning After Mess” beach cleanup happened at 7 am yesterday morning, the fifth of July, to gather up all the discarded waste left over from four gorgeous summer days of care-free celebration. Coastkeeper hosted at Ocean Beach where the annual Fourth of July marshmallow fight had gone down bigger than ever before. This tradition has folks gather on the beach, parks, and streets of Ocean Beach and nail each other with delicious sweets. Apparently this year’s Mallow War was less than mellow as people were selling marshmallow guns and slingshots! We can’t wait for the Youtube videos.

It’s hard not to laugh at people pelting each other with fluffy sugar balls; especially since it originated innocently as a harmless battle between fun-loving neighbors. After our chuckle-fits, we are left to assess the environmental risks from beaches and streets thick with sugary melted goo. The 25 year old tradition lives on in OB with no real reason for the madness, simply for the fun of it! It seems like many people really love this annual fight, and would be sad to see it go. Unfortunately, as the folks who clean up the beach the next day, we see the marshmallows tempting wildlife and oozing into the fragile ocean.

We got out to the beach at 7 am, so the mallows had little time to melt in the rising sun before we got there, but there were literally MILLIONS of marshmallows. Our flipflops were caked with sticky mush and our trash bags sagged with melting sugary goop. One volunteer counted 526 marshmallows just in one hour. A Surfrider volunteer measured a 5 foot by 5 foot square of sand and collected 100 marshmallows on the surface layer, and another 100 in the sand below! The precise environmental impact is unknown, but we can be sure that marshmallows are unhealthy for wildlife and sea life to be ingesting, especially after all the bacteria that is surely growing on these mallows!

Of the 88 volunteers who participated this morning, 6 admitted to being a part of the marshmallow fight the night before. One participant said it was the most fun he’s had in YEARS! Another volunteer said she brought her son to the marshmallow event the night before, but vowed to bring him to the cleanup to “show him the other side” of the fight.

We so appreciate those people who participated in Marshmallow show-down also taking responsibility for their contribution and coming back early in the morning to scrape together the sticky madness that resulted from the fight. The world needs more folks like you!

Published in Marine Debris

Be Eco-responsible this Summer

(c) weareaustin.com

Now that sunny weather is paying us a visit every day, we find ourselves at the beach pretty often. But let’s not forget to care about our waters as much as we like to play in them. Start enjoying your summer responsibly!

  • Start with sunscreen. By avoiding chemical-infused sunscreens on the market, you will do yourself and the ocean a favor. Green you ‘screen and get an eco-friendly brand that will protect your skin and won’t have harsh chemicals making their way into your body and our waters. I would recommend purchasing JASON or Aubrey organic brands for maximum protection and eco-friendliness.
  • Organize your stuff. Before heading out, get your beach gear like towels and toys organized so you won’t lose them. San Diego Coastkeeper volunteers find toy shovels and flip-flops when conducting our cleanups. Today it might be beach stuff, but once you lose it, it’s pollution.
  • Reuse and recycle. If you like to pay a visit to a beach with some beverages or food, don’t forget to bring it in reusable containers. Forget about that Styrofoam cooler and get reusable one that will last you for years to come. In the long-run, it’s a money-saver. Plus, it will stay “eco-cool” for life. Don’t forget to make sure you recycle your plastic bottles and cans, if you have them.
  • Have a trash bag on hand. To avoid multiple runs to the nearest trash can on the beach, bring a brown bag for your convenience.  Remember, you might unintentionally lose small items like used napkins, so be on the lookout.
  • Check beach status. You need to know if your San Diego beach is safe to be at. Coastkeeper makes it easy for you with our interactive beach status map. Updated two times a day, this tool will keep you updated on water conditions at your favorite destination.

Living in beautiful San Diego, it is vital for us to prevent pollution in our primary all-year destination. It takes responsibility and consistency, but with cumulative effort we can protect our waters from unnecessary pollutants today and in the future.

Play responsibly!

World Water Day: Lessons from Nicaragua

In honor of world water day, I wanted to share what I learned in my recent week-long trip to Nicaragua.  Nicaragua is a beautiful country, and everyone we met was friendly and helpful.  My cousin and I stayed at a wonderful resort, Mango Rosa , located just outside of San Juan del Sur, on the Pacific coast approximately 2 hours from the Managua Airport.  

On the drive from the airport to the resort, there was one thing I could not ignore: the miles and miles of trash lining the road . And while there were various types of trash along the road, it was clear that the vast majority of the trash was plastic—plastic bottles and Nicaragua’s ubiquitous pink plastic single-use bag.

3990449-Trash_on_a_Typical_City_Street_of_Nicaragua-Managua

Trash on a Typical Street in Nicaragua

The second thing I noticed after all the trash along the road was the countless number of people walking along the road and carrying a pink plastic single-use bag.  Nearly everyone had one; no wonder they were scattered along the roadside.

Later in the week, I was fortunate enough to take a horseback riding trip to Playa Majagual and Playa Maderas, two of the local beaches. I was stunned by the number of plastic bottles along the dirt road leading from the beach, particularly since there were only a few houses dotted along route.  In fact, in a 400-yard stretch, I counted 33 plastic bottles along the road.

As I glanced at these plastic bottles marring the otherwise-stunning landscape, they smiled back at me proudly with their American labels:  Coca-Cola™, Powerade™, Sprite™…

When I tried to talk about the litter issue with some of the staff at the resort, they were quite defensive. They explained that most parts of Nicaragua do not have trash collection services and most people do not have cars.  Mango Rosa was less than a mile from the local dump, where they collected and burned trash, but it was up to individuals to bring the trash to the dump.  If people did not have a way to get the trash to the dump, it would often end up scattered along the side of a road, or across the countryside, or lining the beaches.

San Diego Coastkeeper has long-recognized the connection between inland trash and litter issues and marine debris issues.  In fact, our last Signs of the Tide event, “The Great Trash Migration” explored this very issue while I was traveling in Nicaragua.  If you missed the event, you can still see all the presentations here.

What I took away from my Nicaragua trip was that, whether we realize it or not, we as Americans set an example for the rest of the world.  We’ve exported to Nicaragua our concept of a throw-away society, one where our lives are full of singlplastic_bottlese-use plastic bags and bottles.  But in Nicaragua’s case, they do not yet have the infrastructure—the trash collection and recycling facilities—to handle the massive volumes of plastic such a lifestyle generates.  The result?  Our American throw-away habits are shamefully on display along the roadsides and hillsides and beaches in Nicaragua.

On World Water Day I challenge each of us to set a better example for our neighbors.  Bring your own reusable bag to the grocery store and say “No!” to single-use plastic bags.   Carry your own refillable water bottle.   Support Coastkeeper’s work to clean-up trash along our coast and in our waterways and to convince the City Council to stop using City funds to buy bottled water, except in emergencies.  By becoming a member of San Diego Coastkeeper, you can support our work and get a free “I bottle my own” reusable water bottle. Only once we set a better example for our neighbors, can we help our neighbors to take the first step to solving their trash and marine debris problems.

Published in Sick of Sewage