Change Your Habits Archives - San Diego Coastkeeper

Top Ten: Tips for Sustainable Fishing (and Fish Eating!)

IMG 7006San Diego has a deep and rich history as a major west coast fishing capital. So why are so many San Diegans out of touch with where their fish comes from, and how do we reconnect to our roots in the name of sustainability and locavorism? San Diego Coastkeeper is here to help. With a little creativity and a healthy sense of adventure, you can help reclaim San Diego’s heritage and have a positive environmental impact all at once.

1. Know your marine protected areas. By knowing where you can and cannot fish (and for what), you are not only avoiding receiving a hefty fine, but you are respecting the science behind marine protected areas and giving fisheries and ecosystems a chance to rebound and thrive.

2. Know your limits. Size and catch limits are in place for a reason – they pertain to a given population’s ability to reproduce and sustain itself. Don’t stretch these rules to serve yourself.

3. Know how to use your gear. Not only will you be a safer and more effective fisherman or woman, but you’ll prevent unnecessary injury to habitats and non-target species.

4. Practice catch and release. Make sure you only take enough to feed yourself and your family, and learn proper release techniques to increase your fish’s chance of survival. Release isn’t a sustainable practice if the fish ultimately dies from rough or improper handling.

5. Use a descending device. If you’ll be fishing in deep water and plan to release your catch, use a descending device to release the fish at depth. Fish that live at depth control their buoyancy with a swim bladder, and when the fish is caught the bladder over-expands on the fish’s rapid ascent, making it impossible for the fish to swim down after release. A released fish with an over-inflated swim bladder that is not returned to depth will float off and die on the surface.

6. Learn to fly fish with Golden State Flycasters. Think you have to live in Montana to don some waders and find zen (and dinner) in a winding river? Think again.

7. Fish Lake Cuyamaca. Want to pick up fishing but intimidated by the idea of facing the ocean to do it? Trout, bass, and catfish await in Lake Cuyamaca, and if you don’t have any luck, you’re just fifteen minutes away from some Julian and some conciliatory apple pie.

8. Get to know your local fishmonger. Supermarkets don’t always know much about the fish they sell, so take your appetite and your money to someone who does. You are more likely to get an honest, well-informed answer from someone with a closer relationship to the fisherman, and fresher seafood to boot!

9. Try something truly local. Octopus and sea urchin are both fished right here in America’s Finest City, then shipped off to Asia because there’s not much market for them here. We, in turn, buy seafood from far-flung seas to feed our appetite for well-marketed fish like tuna and salmon. With a little boldness and some creativity, perhaps we could harness our inner urchin-lover and help cut back on unnecessary carbon emissions all at once.

10. Eat low on the food chain. This applies on land as well as in the sea, but it’s an easier concept to grasp when we’re talking about a deer and tigers than tuna and sardines. In general, try to avoid large, predatory fish like tuna, swordfish, and sharks, which not only carry high levels of heavy metals, but are slow to reproduce. While you’re at it, support restaurants that support sustainability. Carry a Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide or download the App.


Top Ten: Tactics to Prevent Stormwater Runoff

stop runoff san diegoStormwater pollution is the biggest challenge clean water faces in San Diego County. With over 3-million people living in our county, small amounts of pollution adds up fast. Here are the top ten ways you can reduce your contributions to stormwater pollution.

Stormwater pollution is the biggest challenge clean water faces in San Diego County. With over 3-million people living in our county, small amounts of pollution adds up fast. Here are the top ten ways you can reduce your contributions to stormwater pollution.

1. Don’t dump anything down the stormdrains.
Stormdrains are for stormwater. Not mop water, not your used motor oil, not your car washing rinse water. This water does not get any sort of cleaning treatment before it makes it’s way into our rivers, so help ensure only water from the sky ends in our stormdrains.

2. Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly.
Countywide, we have major problems with too much fertilizer and pesticides entering our water. Make sure your lawn fertilizers stay on your lawn and out of the gutter. Better yet, replant your area with native plants that don’t need chemicals to look good. Stay away from RAID for ants, and use a less toxic borax solution instead.

3. Use a car wash instead of washing your car in the street.
We all like our fly rides, but the soap you are washing your car with is probably contributing to the phosphorus pollution we are seeing in our streams. Take your car to a car wash which has to collect and clean the wash water before discharging it. If only you can give your car that sweet chamois rub down, wash your car on your lawn to keep that water from the gutter.

4. Pick up your dog poop.
Do we need to explain further. Dog poop is gross and has lots of fecal bacteria in it. Just as I don’t want to step in it, I don’t want it running into the river.

5. Throw your trash in the garbage.
Litter will make it’s way into our rivers through the stormdrain system. In addition to being unsightly, trash can harbor bacteria biofilms that encourage the growth of harmful bacteria.

6. Throw your cigarette butts away.
This really should be included with number 5, but some people don’t seem to have second thoughts about throwing butts on the ground. They are gross and contribute to the toxicity of the river. Put your butt away, no one like it.

7. Fix your clunker car.
Oil drips onto the road will wash into the river during the next storm. If you have a puddle underneath your parking spot, it’s time to take your car in for a repair. Your car and the fish will thank you.

8. Consider a rain barrel.
I know it doesn’t rain very often here, but capturing and reusing that rainwater means less of it can carry pollutants to the river. Your garden will be thankful for that sweet chlorine free water.

9. Direct your downspouts back onto your garden.
If rain barrels are not your thing, at least direct the downspout water away from your impervious driveway and back onto your garden. Your plants and the soil will filter that water on it’s way to the river.

10. Sweep your sidewalks and driveways clean.
Don’t use a hose to wash your sidewalks and driveways. This wastes water and sends non rainwater into the stormdrains. Does your driveway really need a late summer bath?

Top Ten: Ways to Landscape Responsibly

native landscaping san diegoSan Diego County uses an enormous amount of water keeping our landscape green even though we live in a practical desert. Here are some ways you can help protect our water while giving you plants the juice they need.

1. Water your plants properly.
Overwatering is almost as common as under watering plants. Too much water robs your plants of the oxygen they need to keep their roots happy, leading to symptoms that look like under watering and starting a vicious cycle.

2. Turn off your sprinklers when it rains.
This should be obvious. Rain is falling from the sky. For free. Don’t use our expensive-pumped-over-a-mountain water to irrigate when you don’t need to.

3. Get a smart controller.
If you don’t have the wherewithal to change your irrigation rates with the season and weather conditions, they now make smart irrigation controllers that do it automatically. THese smart controllers will look at current weather conditions to adjust the irrigation to meet your landscape needs. It’s like a robot that saves you water and money.

4. Mulch your landscape.
Mulch such as straw or bark help retain water by keeping the sun of the bare soil. You’ll use less water, and it looks better anyway.

5. Rip out your front lawn.
Honestly, when is the last time you lounged on your expansive front lawn? Your backyard is where all the BBQing and kids running around happens. Set yourself apart from your neighbors by planting native plants in your front yard. Your house can look like Torrey Pines State Park saving you a $15 parking fee every day.

6. Rain Barrels.
Capture irrigation water for free using rain barrels. You’ll be amazed at how much water runs off your roof. Use this water to irrigate your landscape. Almost every area in San Diego COunty has rain barrel rebates. You should use them.

7. Use drip irrigation for your veggie garden.
Drip irrigation gets water to the plant roots, where they need them. It uses less water to irrigate the garden, and you don’t have the stand there all day with a hose watering the whole area.

8. Manage pests properly.
Learn about integrated pest management to discover ways of managing your garden pests in environmentally sound ways. UC Davis has a great resource here:

9. Reduce your yard waste.
Unless you live in an area that has green trash cans, all the yard waste you throw into the garbage makes its way to the landfill. In addition to clogging the landfill, it decomposes releasing methane, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Compost your yard waste, or use a mulching mower that returns nutrients back into your lawn.

10. Rip out your lawn.
I know I mentioned this already with number 5, but seriously. Get rid of that lawn. Grassy lawns were invented in the 1500s in England. It rains every month there. Grass just grows. Here? We have to use incredible amounts of water and fertilizer and pesticides to help our lawns look green. It doesn’t make sense to pump water up and over a mountain to give it to grass that doesn’t even like it here.

Top Ten: Important Ways to Get Involved

volunteer san diego countyWe want you. We want you to use your creativity, passion and dedication to protect and restore fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County. Wondering how you can help? Click to reach these top ten ways to get involved with San Diego Coastkeeper. 

  1. Clean a beach – Big cleanups. Small cleanups. Private cleanups, too. Chose one of a variety of ways to help remove pesky trash from our beaches before it infiltrates our inland and coastal waters.
  2. Learn to monitor water quality – Every month, San Diego Coastkeeper sends teams of trained volunteers out to nine of San Diego’s eleven watersheds to collect samples for analysis. The results from water monitoring go into a reporting system and help us determine if there are issues or changes in our water supply. We train new volunteers one Saturday morning every other month, and January is a training month.
  3. Blog– Your blog or ours. Help us educate the people of San Diego with thoughtful, fun, engaging blog content that spreads the word about protecting and restoring fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County.
  4. Tweet, post and photograph – Your individual social media networks hold a lot of weight. Use your online influence to change the offline world with tips, tricks and ideas to protect the waters of San Diego. Why don’t you start with Facebooking this Top Ten list!
  5. Sign up for our newsletter – You’ll be the first to know about green events, volunteer opportunities, advocacy events and environmental news.
  6. Donate – Just once, monthly or several times a year, your donation goes a long way toward clean and plentiful water in San Diego.
  7. Speak up – Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns with your friends and family, or to formalize your voice by speaking to city councils, water boards and planning groups throughout our region.
  8. Raise funds – Be creative about raising funds for fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego. Throw a cocktail party, run a 5K, save your coins or donate your car–all in the name of supporting your favorite clean water advocate, San Diego Coastkeeper.
  9. Volunteer – Beach cleanups, water monitoring, communications, lab prep or grant writing–regardless your passion and interest, we have a space for you to broaden our reach. Contact us today to tell us how you’d like to help.
  10. Intern – We like to admit it–our interns advance to fantastic leadership roles in all capactiies of environmental careers. From interns to change-of-career adults, we have an intern opportunity for all aspiring environmental leaders. 

Top Ten: Techniques to be a Green Boater

eco friendly hull paintBoating is a great way to get out on the water to relax or go catch a fish. There are simple things that you can do to help keep our waterways clean.

1. Use the proper soap for cleaning your boat.
Use water based, biodegradable, and phosphate free soap to clean your boat. These soaps will help minimize the effects of the soap on the water.

2. Use non-copper based antifouling paints.
With copper based antifouling paints, every time you scrub your hull, copper is released into the water. With so many marinas impacted with copper pollution every little bit helps. Non-copper paints have really developed in the past few years, give them a try. Sure they may be a bit expensive, but lets get real. Did you ever think that your boat would not be a money pit?

3. Consider using a boat air lift.
Here at Coastkeeper, we keep our boat out of the water with an air lift. This keeps the boat out of the water when we are not using it. It’s great, noi hull cleaning at all and we don’t have to use any antifouling paint.

4. Keep your engine working properly.
Nobody wants to be that guy with a sheen leading everyone right to their boat. Keep your engine in good shape and free from leaks.

5. Minimize boat maintenance in the water.
Save the maintenance that needs lots of toxic chemicals for when your boat is hauled out of the water. This help ensure you don’t accidently spill that solvent or sealing in the water. Have you smelled that stuff? Seriously toxic.

6. Pump your head properly.
Make sure you are pumping your sewage properly and not just dumping it to sea. Nobody wants to swim your your sea logs.

7. Clean and drain your boat after freshwater boating.
Help stop the spread of invasives like the Quagga Mussels by preventing them from hitching a ride on your boat.

8. Fuel up properly.
Minimize fuel spills by using an absorbent pad and not overflowing your tank. That stuff is expensive and super bad for the water.

9. Change your old 2-stroke for a 4-stroke.
That old 2-stroke engine is noisy, fumey, and generally dirty. Upgrade to a proper engine to help keep that fuel-oil mixture out of the water.

10. Recycle your fishing line.
Some marinas have fishing line recycling. Use these instead of throwing your never to biodegrade monofilament line into the trashcan, or worse, the ocean.

Top Ten: Ways to Teach Kids About the Environment

environmental education san diegoChildren are our future. That future can be bold and beautiful or dark and dreary. You mean the difference between a generation of environmental leaders who love and respond the environment, making choices to live, work and play in a way that respects our natural spaces. And uninformed adults who don’t think beyond selfish needs and desparate profit. Follow these simple tips to teach environmental lessons to the children in your life.

  1. Lead by example. Have you heard that a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, an action is worth millions. The same way your kids could learn an inappropriate behavior can be used to develop environmental awareness.
  2. Take your kids outside. Learning to enjoy nature is the first step to care about it. Also, ask your doctor if more outdoor activities could improve your health? Studies show it could reduce obesity and others diseases.
  3. Teach children to use the appropriate receptacle for their waste: reduce, reduce, reduce, reuse, reuse and recycle as much as you can. Little things, like packing a waste-free lunch, can make a powerful lesson for your children, especially in these difficult times of plastic. Some useful tips: get a favorite character reusable lunch bag, fork and spoon that your child can reuse; encourage your little one to drink water from the water fountain; buy more organic fruits for snacks.
  4. Give them chores, like helping you classify your recyclables. As a reward, they can save money earned by recycling to buy a cool toy.
  5. Work together in a garden or compost project. If you can’t, buy one plant for them to learn to take care of; it’s a fun way to learn how plants need sun, water and soil. Use your senses, and enjoy the flowers. Take them to a compost garden to see the worms in action. They will learn how the worms can decompose…say what??? Yeah, science and environment, they are an important part of the life cycle.
  6. Teach them to close the faucet while brushing and bathing. Water is precious. Keep a water cup for brushing your teeth and a container to pour water to wash out the soap and shampoo. You can use stickers as a reward for remembering to turn off the faucet.
  7. Turn it off! When you are out of the room, your toys don’t need the lights on. You can order a free sticker to remind you to switch them off. Better yet, make your own sticker.
  8. Participate in a beach cleanup. Better yet, clean up (at least after you) when you go to the beach. Show them that this is the home of lots of beautiful ocean creatures. Tidepooling, and other beach activities can help them realize the importance of keeping the ocean clean. Who likes yucky water? Not me.
  9. Give away to others the toys and clothes that you don’t use. Sharing is nice. Take your kids with you when you donate to make them aware of the people in need, while keeping more items out of the landfill.
  10. The same way you teach kids to respect others (humans), you can teach them to respect nature. In your bedtime story, incorporate environmental books (The Lorax, by Dr.Seuss, Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean, by Arthur Dorros, etc.). Make a movie night more fun with a movie that teaches about the consequences of destroying the environment (“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. –The Lorax. -YES, I like the Lorax!!!). You can also download a cool app (ebooks or games) to teach little ones about environmental conservation. Remember kids learn by playing!

Top Ten: Fun Ways to Responsibly Use the Ocean

eco friendly ocean habits

San Diego may be nationally famous for the success of our sports teams, but we also have an often overlooked geological feature called “beaches.” (#jokable)

Our beaches draw tourists and transplants from all over the world, and as a result our coastal ecosystems take a heavy hitting day in and day out. Next time you take a dip minimize the stresses human activities (such as littering, polluting and crowding of wildlife) put on our waters by giving back with some of the simple tips below.

  1. Commit to picking up three pieces of trash whenever you visit the beach. Fortunately — and unfortunately — it will probably take you less than a minute. Consider it a sun and sand tax, and make it a habit to leave the beach cleaner than you found it.
  2. Attend a beach cleanup. You can hang out with new friends afterwards and bask in the sun and the knowledge that the beach is cleaner than when you arrived.
  3. Use an alternative to copper-based hull paint. The copper leaches into the water and harms wildlife. Luckily, the Port of San Diego has suggestions, resources and possible grant opportunities.
  4. Wear natural sunscreen. Your sunblock may be poisoning the water. Here are a few good brands that will protect both you and our marine friends. 
  5. Follow the rules of marine protected areas. San Diego has 11 beautiful MPAs (like underwater state parks) that are protected for a reason. Learn more about them so you can enjoy responsibly.
  6. Throw away your butts. If you smoke, don’t litter your butts. They are not biodegradeable like many think, and because of our storm drain systems, they tend to end up in the ocean no matter where you litter them. Once in the water, they leach powerful toxins that kill wildlife. We picked up 75,069 cigarette butts in 2014. Take a look at our most recent beach cleanup data
  7. Check our beach advisories before going into the water. Especially if it has rained recently, urban runoff might turn a short swim into a rough sickness.
  8. Don’t take any shells, pebbles or organisms with you. An empty shell could be someone’s home one day. A rock or two might not seem like a big deal, but thousands of people visit the beach daily. If a few of those people take a few rocks, every single day, it has a major impact on the environment. Be an advocate, not a taker. You’ll feel better.
  9. Don’t feed animals. Seagulls and squirrels look cute when they beg, but your food might kill them, which is not so cute. Even if you feed them vet approved squirrel food, feeding wildlife artificially inflates the species’ local population, disrupting the ecosystem’s food chain and making them dependent on humans. 
  10. Don’t jump off cliffs. A no brainer that could literally save your brain. Shadows, murky water and constantly changing tides make it impossible to accurately judge a cliff jump. Your friends and family will miss you. Don’t be stupid. There are better ways to catch an adrenaline rush. 

Top Ten: Quick Ways To Conserve Water

h20drop-sIn San Diego, a typical household uses about 10,472 gallons of water a month. What can you do to use less this month? Whatever your conservation goal is – 15 percent, 25 percent or more – the more of these steps you take, the more water you’ll save. The more water you save, the more money you’ll save on your water and sewer bills.


  1. While waiting for hot water to come through the pipes, catch the cool water in a bucket or a watering can. Use this water later to water plants or run your garbage disposal.
  2. Hand wash dishes once a day using a minimal amount of detergent to cut rinsing. Use a sprayer or short blasts of water to rinse.
  3. Save up to 250 gallons of water a week when watering your lawn! Water your lawn and landscaping before dawn or after the sun sets when there’s less evaporation. Adjust your sprinklers so they don’t spray on sidewalks, driveways or streets.
  4. By replacing your regular showerheads with low-flow showerhead you can save up to 230 gallons a week.
  5. Turn the water off while brushing your teeth or shaving.
  6. Channel your inner plumber. You can save more than 150 gallons for each leak that you fix inside and outside of your home. Think about faucets, fixtures and pipes.
  7. Flush the toilet only when necessary. Never use the toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket.
  8. Adjust your car washing methods: When taking your vehicle to a car wash, take it to a place that recycles its wash water. If washing your car at home, use a bucket of water and sponge. Rinse quickly at the end, never allow the hose to run continuously.
  9. Never do laundry or run the dishwasher with less than a full load. This simple method can save up to 30 gallons per week.
  10. Always use a broom when cleaning your patio or balcony; never use a hose.

Remember, if you see someone wasting water, please report them to us using this secure, anonymous online form.

Top Ten: Tips to Make Your Neighborhood Pollution Free

reduce pollution neighborhoodNeighborhood pollution comes in all forms – cigarette butts on street corners, dog remnants on the grass, food wrappers and bags blowing by and pesticides and fertilizers in our yards. Luckily, a few easy adjustments in habits can snowball into a community effort to make your neighborhood cleaner and healthier for everyone. Try out these ten suggested steps to make your neighborhood pollution free.

  1. Lead by example. The number one thing you can do to keep your neighborhood clean is set a litter-free example for others. Pick up after your dog, don’t flick cigarette butts onto the ground and if you see litter lying around, grab it.
  2. Tie your trash bags. When you put your trash in the cans for pickup, take a moment to tie your bags and secure your lids. This prevents stray pieces of trash from falling out and blowing around your neighborhood.
  3. Give back. Become involved in a community cleanup, or better yet, organize one yourself. Everyone wants to live in a clean neighborhood and we love getting involved in group cleanups. Get your family and friends together, bring some music and snacks and spend an hour or two tidying up the place you call home. Check Coastkeeper’s beach cleanup schedule for your next monthly opportunity to pick up trash in your coastal neighborhood – the beach.
  4. Landscape responsibly. Try this top ten list to reduce your fertilizer and pesticide use. 
  5. Go to a carwash. Another way to prevent urban runoff is to take your car to a carwash where it recycles water. When you wash your car in your driveway, the water carries toxins from your yard and the cleaning chemicals into storm drains, which flow directly to our waters. Plus, a car wash that recycles water conserves water, too!
  6. Ride your bike. By riding your bike, taking public transit and carpooling, you reduce your contribution to air and water pollution in your neighborhood and the region. 
  7. Reuse. Reuse wrapping paper, gift bags, plastic containers and anything else as much as you can. Recycling is important, but reusing is even better and saves you money, too.
  8. Stay away from StyrofoamTM. StyrofoamTM is one single-use material that cannot be recycled. Styrofoam is harsh on the environment and is often found at beach cleanups and in our waters. Choose alternatives to Styrofoam cups, egg cartons and miscellaneous other supplies that will inevitably end up on your street or in a landfill.
  9. Find your voice. Learn how you can join friends and have a voice in the decision-making in your community to support clean, healthy neighborhoods on a legislative level.
  10. Get outside. The only way to want to keep your neighborhood clean is to love and appreciate it, and the only way you will love your neighborhood is if you spend time in it. Get up and take a stroll around your community to remind yourself what you love and why you want to keep it clean.

Top Ten: Simple Ways to Drive Your Car Less

drive car less san diegoThe massive amount of cars on San Diego County’s roads greatly contributes to water and air pollution. We breathe the chemicals from autos, which irritate our lungs, resulting in asthma, bronchitis, lowered-lung capacity and other respiratory illnesses. Cars also cover our streets with pollution, like copper dust and oil, that rain and runoff carry into our waters. Follow these tips to drive your car less and help reduce runoff and carbon emission pollution in San Diego. 

  • Get on your bike. We are lucky to live in San Diego – a bike-friendly city with paths, routes and lanes solely for biking. Take advantage of these. Instead of always relying on your car, try to make the shorter trips by bike. You will get exercise and won’t have to lose your parking space.
  • Don’t sweat the sweat. It’s ok to sweat. Really, it’s ok- it’s actually good for you. Make a small bag of personal hygiene items to freshen up when you get to your destination.
  • Shop local. Have you explored all the shops within walking or biking distance of your home? Give up the big shopping center and try nearby local businesses and farmers market.
  • Public transit. You can get almost anywhere in San Diego with the extensive public transportation systems. Our Metropolitan Transit System covers a total of 3,240 square miles of San Diego County and serves approximately three million residents. There are also our Greyhound Lines, the North County Coaster and the Big Bay Shuttle to get you to any location, from any location.
  • Carpool. Going somewhere with all your friends? There’s a lane for that. Save yourself the cost of gas and hitch a ride with people going the same direction as you.
  • Have a block party. Want to go out, but don’t feel like driving? Good news is you’ve likely got friends all around you, and you don’t have to go far. And if you don’t know your neighbors, now is your chance. Organize a block potluck, or simply sit outside with your dog or someone you know for a fun night at home.
  • Plan ahead. Instead of jumping in your car and running errands across town, take a minute to think about where you are going to get what you need. Maybe you can find all the things you need in one shopping center, or perhaps you can run one errand next week when you are in that part of town. Plan your errands to combine trips and save time and gas.
  • Daily car rentals. If you don’t drive your car much but need it on occasion, consider a carshare. You use it when you need it and stick to biking and public transit the rest of the time. 
  • Set goals. For most of us, cutting driving cold-turkey wouldn’t work for very long. Make short-term and long-term goals and take it one day at a time. Try just one day a week when you find an alternative to driving.
  • Enjoy it. Getting out of the car and biking, walking or riding the bus is a nice change from the stress of everyday driving. Driving is easy but there are other ways to commute that are healthier for you and the environment. Give them a try- you may be surprised how much you don’t miss your car after all.