Using Conservation to Combat Pollution

As clean water people, we talk a lot about water quality here at Coastkeeper. Because we also care about where our water comes from and how much of it we are using, we also talk a lot about water supply and conservation. Below, we’ll take a deep dive into just how water quality and qualtity are connected, and explore the science behind how wasting water leads to increased pollution in our communities.


Urban Drool

Over-watering leads to urban runoff that picks up pollutants like fertilizer, pet waste, and motor oil, and transports them to our waterways and ocean.

Outdoor water use like watering your lawn, washing your car, and running sprinklers significantly affect our watersheds. Because water doesn’t know where your property line ends and a river or the ocean begins, the waterways downstream of your house (called “receiving waters”) are exposed to variety of stressors from the untreated runoff seeping out of our communities. Though a lot of runoff occurs all at once when it rains, most often that runoff is created not by big winter storms, but by what officials call “dry-weather flows,” “nuisance runoff,” or my personal favorite – “urban drool.” This is the wasted water from over-watered lawns, leaky pipes, hosing down driveways, and so on. This wasted-water-turned-urban-drool not only strains our water supply, but creates a convenient way for pollution to reach our local waterways. You know all that nitrogen your neighbor put on his lawn last weekend to keep the grass green? It’s now feeding a frenzy of algae growth in the San Diego River. 


The Pollutants

Eutrophication starts when algae – fed by excess nutrients in the waterway – blooms excessively then dies out, causing oxygen levels to plummet.

Excessive nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus found in fertilizers and detergents are major contributors to a condition called eutrophication in our rivers and streams.

Eutrophication occurs when naturally occurring algae are stimulated to bloom by excess nutrients in the water. Basically, we’re unintentionally over-feeding them with the fertilizer from our lawns and golf courses, and they are growing out of control. Dense algal blooms reduce water clarity, limit the amount of light that can penetrate the water, and choke narrow waterways with masses of algae. That’s just the beginning. When the overfed mass of algae eventually dies, it decomposes rapidly, creating bad odors and severely reducing dissolved oxygen levels. Dissolved oxygen (one of the things we measure in our water quality monitoring program), is necessary to sustain aquatic wildlife like fish. Without it, the fish die. 


Let’s recap.

The extra water dumped on an over-watered lawn carries excess nutrients into our rivers and streams, where those nutrients stimulate crazy algae growth, which blocks out light and chokes waterways, and upon decomposing, smells terrible, looks bad, and kills a bunch of aquatic wildlife. Whew! Got it?  


The Monitoring Program

Fish kills like this on in the San Luis Rey River can occur when eutrophication depletes the oxygen levels in a waterway, causing aquatic wildlife to suffocate.

Volunteers with San Diego Coastkeeper’s water quality monitoring program see all these impacts first hand. They have been measuring nutrient concentrations at fixed sites in local waterways since 2010. While many local streams see spikes in nutrient levels during the winter rainy season (see Box 1 below for a deep dive) when rainwater carries pollutants throughout our communities, several watersheds have sites that show consistently high nutrient levels regardless of the time of year. Our volunteers frequently witness the signs of eutrophication when they’re out collecting samples, such as seeing the slimy green or brown sheen of dense algal growth in the water, smelling their noxious odors, and even occasionally encountering fish kills on stream banks (from rapidly depleted oxygen levels).


How You Can Make a Difference

Recent research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that residential sources dominate nutrient inputs in urban watersheds. In fact, the study found that nitrogen loading from household lawn fertilizer exceeded the combined inputs from golf courses, parks, schools, and other non-residential vegetated areas. Check it out here.

So, upstream solutions, or individual practices that stop or limit the problems of urban runoff in the first place, are key to managing urban eutrophication. You can limit the excess water and nutrients running off your property with a few simple steps:

  • Choose landscapes that need little or no fertilizers and water to thrive. Many native, drought tolerant plants are already adapted to low nutrient soils and the dry southern California climate, and as a bonus, provide habitat for native wildlife like birds and butterflies.
  • For plants that need a little extra water, try compost or mulch to help your soil store water and replenish nutrients more slowly than chemical fertilizers.
  • Use properly installed drip- or other water-efficient irrigation systems and check them frequently for breaks or leaks.
  • Sweep debris from decks or driveways, rather than using a hose.
  • Wash vehicles at a professional car wash, which recycles water, instead of washing them in your driveway.

And there you have it. Simple choices that will save you money on your water bill, and end up protecting the waterways and wildlife downstream. 

Box 1. Eight years of nitrate concentrations in area streams as measured by San Diego Coastkeeper’s volunteer water quality monitoring program. Each square in the matrix represents one site by one month.  Watersheds are arranged north to south, and within each watershed sites are arranged west (downstream) to east (upstream).  Warmer colored squared indicate higher nitrate concentrations

New Year’s Resolutions for the Conscientious Homeowner

Stephanie loves hikingWater in San Diego County

San Diego County imports over 80 percent of our drinking water from far-away sources such as the Colorado River and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. We use about half of that drinking water for outdoor uses, such as watering our lawns. This dependence on energy-intensive imported water and water-intensive uses is unsustainable, especially in the face of longer, more intense periods of drought and dryness.

It’s no secret that water is at the heart of San Diegans’ lifestyles. Water is a vital resource in our lives as it’s used for everything from hygiene to recreation to enhancing aesthetics. It is important for us, as community members, to be cognizant of our local environment and natural resources, and become environmental stewards by reducing our water consumption. Many of us are hungry for ways to make a difference and to take action to make our community a more sustainable one. The good news is that if you are a homeowner, there are many steps you can take to have a gentler impact on our environment, and use our precious waters more lightly. The New Year is a great time to commit to making the changes you may have been putting off.

10 Resolutions for a Mindful New Year

  1. Transform your water-intensive lawn into a beautiful garden with native and drought-tolerant plants. This not only helps preserve the unique local beauty of our region, but provides a rich habitat for local wildlife, all while saving water.
  2. Want to keep a section of your lawn for your kids or pup? Make sure to adjust your sprinklers to water your landscape, not the pavement.
  3. Plant an edible garden and water it in the early morning since cooler morning temperatures means losing less water to evaporation. Amazingly, an edible garden generally takes less water than a lawn, and turns the water you do use into
  4. Install a rain catchment system, such as a rain barrel or cistern, in order to capture and reuse rainwater. Free what from the sky, anyone? Look to local company H2OME for San Diego’s resident experts.
  5. Identify and repair broken irrigation pipes, dripping faucets, and broken sprinkler heads. Maintenance like this can make a huge difference.
  6. Install faucet aerators, low-flow toilets, and water efficient shower heads, or appliances that have the WaterSense label.
  7. Turn off the tap while completing tasks, such as washing your dishes and brushing your teeth. It’s a simple habit worth building.
  8. Always make sure you’re doing a full load in your washing machine and dishwasher! Water isn’t doing any good washing empty space.
  9. If you need to wash your car, take it to a professional car wash – where wash water is recycled! – rather than washing at home with the hose.
  10. Teach your family, friends, and neighbors how to conserve water by setting a great example in your own life.


Thirsty for more? Find a whole plethora of other tips for lighter living here.



Let’s Make Conservation a Way of Life in San Diego

Earlier this month, I attended a meeting of the San Diego Conservation Action Committee on the State of California’s plan to make water conservation a way of life, and was disappointed to hear a familiar refrain from our regional water wholesaler, the San Diego County Water Authority: why is the State asking us to conserve water when we can build our way out of our water supply woes?

It was a position that the Water Authority took at the height of one of the worst droughts California has ever seen. Now, as the State considers legislation to make conservation a way of life in California, the Water Authority has mounted a full-fledged lobbying campaign to overhaul the painstakingly-developed water conservation and efficiency framework.

For months, San Diego Coastkeeper and our partners have worked alongside water suppliers, businesses, state agencies, and other stakeholders to fulfill Governor Brown’s vision for a sustainable water future in Executive Order B-37-16, to maximize efficiency and conservation and minimize water waste. Legislation is required to implement certain elements of that framework, and lawmakers are currently considering alternative approaches to manage California’s limited water supplies for long-term reliability.

The new framework puts a long overdue emphasis on water conservation and drought response planning while allowing flexibility for water agencies to determine how to best serve the needs of local customers. Each supplier would have an achievable target based on efficiency standards for indoor and outdoor water use, and leak repair, taking into account variables like population and climate to address local needs.

It is imperative that we make our region more resilient to drought and future water shortages which are expected to result from a changing climate. Yet the Water Authority has continuously attempted to water down the well-vetted approach to make conservation a way of life. Its efforts have sought to delay adoption of sensible efficiency targets, undermine the development of a uniform methodology for setting targets, exempt recycled water from efficiency standards, and limit accountability and enforcement. This approach may benefit the Water Authority, but it doesn’t benefit San Diegans.

On behalf of our thousands of members throughout our region, San Diego Coastkeeper has been working for over twenty-two years to make San Diego County more resilient to climate change, to protect our waters, and to keep our community progressing and thriving. Unfortunately, the position the Water Authority has taken on conservation measures does not – and should not – represent the interests of San Diegans who care about our waters – and water rates. While San Diegans have made considerable progress in conserving water over the past twenty-five years, our region – and the State – must continue to build upon that success in order to adapt to the expected impacts of climate change and population growth. In the Water Authority’s own words, “water conservation is the cheapest new source of water.”[1]  As such, meaningful conservation targets and measures incorporated within the framework should be prioritized above any and all other water supplies, each of which carries tremendous environmental and economic costs.

Here is our agenda to make water conservation a way of life in San Diego:

  1. Don’t delay or start over.

    The Water Authority wants to start a new stakeholder process to establish urban water use targets, but the State’s framework already reflects substantial public input, including a broadly representative Urban Advisory Group. A new stakeholder process would unnecessarily delay implementation of meaningful standards and targets—potentially by three years or more. We simply cannot afford to wait that long.

  2. Base water conservation targets on efficient use.

    The approach that the Water Authority has championed specifies that the new stakeholder process should build upon the existing requirements that the state achieve a twenty percent reduction in urban water use by 2020. Experience has shown that differing conditions across the state make it hard to come up with a workable baseline from which to calculate a percentage reduction. In order to be consistent with the State’s proposal, adopted legislation should direct the State Water Board to develop a single method to calculate targets based on standards of efficient water use, with input from a stakeholder group, by a date certain. Basing new targets on efficiency means that agencies that have invested in conservation will receive credit for previous conservation. We believe that a uniform method for setting targets is central to the State’s framework. Using the same standards for efficiency statewide means that the approach will be fair. It will also be flexible, allowing each water supplier to meet its water use target by means it determines to be locally appropriate. Furthermore, the water use targets are proposed to be dynamic, which means that if the population grows or temperatures rise, the water use targets would also increase.

  3. Ensure recycled water is used efficiently.

    The Water Authority’s approach would create a massive loophole in future water efficiency by providing a thirty percent credit towards meeting the target for use of recycled water. The State of California already provides numerous incentives for investments in recycled water, including $625 million in funding from Proposition 1. When the Board made low interest loans available for water recycling projects from the State Revolving Fund, applications far outpaced existing funding, demonstrating that there is already substantial interest in developing potable recycled water supplies. Water efficiency and water recycling are complementary – not competing – strategies to achieve a safe, affordable, and locally-reliable water system. Using water efficiently is generally the most cost-effective, environmentally-sound, and fastest way to meet our water needs. It saves energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and helps to stretch available supplies so that we can defer or even prevent the need to build costly new water infrastructure. With climate change increasing the variability of precipitation and impacting water supplies, it is critical for California to ensure that all water supplies, including recycled water, are used efficiently. Including recycled water in the efficiency standards helps to protect ratepayers and promote affordability, reducing unnecessary investments in costly new infrastructure. In short, water efficiency and savings should come no matter what the source. Our wallets and our environment will both benefit when conservation is applied across the board.

  4. Trust, but verify.

    In order to make sure everyone does their part, we need effective enforcement for water efficiency targets. The Water Authority’s approach would delay enforcement and hamstring the ability of the State Water Board to ensure efficiency targets are met. The Board should have progressive enforcement authority, as well as the ability to update the standards as changing circumstances dictate without returning to the legislature.

California has been reeling between extremes of drought and flood. Climate change models forecast that we will continue to see these extreme conditions. It is imperative that the State finalize and implement a strong and consistent conservation and efficiency framework to help assure a resilient and secure water future.

San Diego Coastkeeper will continue to work with our environmental partners, state agencies, the Governor’s office, and those water agencies who support the new conservation framework to make water conservation a way of life in San Diego and beyond.

[1] San Diego County Water Authority “Blueprint for Water Conservation FY 2007-2012, May 2007 Public Draft”.  Accessed July 2017 at:

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.