Its A Skipper’s Life For Me

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

It has been seven months since I started at Coastkeeper, and it’s cool to look back and think how excited I was to start working for such an amazing organization. Back then, I think the part of my job that I was most excited about was having access to the Coastkeeper boat, and 19’ Boston Whaler, called Clean Sweep. Being new to boating in San Diego myself, I was stoked to meet our only volunteer boat captain, Kevin Straw, and have him show me around San Diego Bay and learn about all the great work  Coastkeeper had done before I arrived. I had visions of scoping out pollution incidents , taking pictures and video, testing water quality samples in our lab, working with our legal team to start a lawsuit against the vile polluters, testifying in court, and bringing justice to our local environment and community.


 I also saw us using our boat to talk to the San Diego boating community  about how they can help to keep our bays and ocean clean. San Diego could become the leader in eco-friendly boating practices. Boaters in San Diego are after all enjoying the clean water we all help to protect. We could cruise through marinas, yacht clubs, regattas, and anchorages talking about how people can properly pump out sewage, pump gas without polluting, scrape their hulls without shedding copper, and reporting pollution incidents themselves. We could come to be so well known in the boating community, the Port of San Diego and the San Diego Lifeguards would throw a water parade for us while boat owners rained cash donations instead of confetti upon Clean Sweep as it passed.


Ah to dream. . .

The reality is though, we’re getting closer. We have recruited two new volunteer boat captains bringing us to a total of three, we’re talking to boat owners about being eco-friendly, we’ve tested potential pollution water samples, commented on the new hull cleaning practices from the Port, and created an outreach plan for boaters in San Diego. We’re making progress, but we need your help.

If you have a Captain’s License, or 5 years of boating experience, we want you to become a volunteer Clean Sweep skipper. We’ve got ambitious plans, and the more we can get on the water, the faster we’ll finish our course.



It Takes a Village to Restore a Watershed

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

volunteer-city-heightsThe Pueblo Watershed is full of diversity in every form possible.  Each neighborhood that stretches along Chollas Creek includes different ethnicities, religions, cultures, music and food.  Whether you’re crossing from North Park to City Heights, or South Park to Barrio Logan, traveling a few blocks in any direction brings you to a completely different community.

Just like the diversity of the people, the watershed encompasses all kinds of ecological communities.  Salt marshes and tidal creeks near San Diego Bay transition to riparian streams which spread into coastal sage scrub and chaparral communities in the finger canyons.  And to me, the true beauty of this watershed is how it provides pockets of nature for the communities to enjoy.  The Pueblo Watershed is very densely populated, and the creeks and canyons provide pockets of nature for tons of people to enjoy.

Because it’s such a densely populated watershed, the creeks and canyons are threatened by trash, polluted water, invasive plants and even illegal activities. The canyons often provide cover for drug use, homeless encampments and gang violence.

walk-watershedOn February 5, more than 300 community members volunteered for the 3rd annual Walk the Watershed. Volunteers took educational tours to learn about the local ecology and volunteered for a variety of projects including cleaning out over 1000 pounds of trash, planting native plants, removing invasive plants and creating a rainwater capture system for the local elementary school. The event wrapped up with a tamale lunch, an address from Councilmember Tony Young and a dance performance from local students.

The event was a huge success, and like the diversity that makes up the watershed, it took a diverse group of community organizations coming together to have such a positive impact.  We partnered and planned the event with Ocean Discovery Institute, Elementary Institute of Science, Outside the Lens, Transcendance, San Diego Canyonlands and the City Heights Canyon and Community Alliance.  We had a bunch of community groups that brought students and volunteers from throughout the watershed.

The event wouldn’t be possible without the support of all the funders. For us, we owe a huge thanks to Think Blue, City of San Diego and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

High School Student Taking A Bite Out of the Coastkeeper World

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper


As a student from High Tech High, I received the opportunity to partake in a four-week long internship immersion to experience the working world outside the classroom. We had the chance to intern at any organization we were interested in as long as they were accepting interns. I was lucky enough to intern with San Diego Coastkeeper, where I would complete a project that I could present at the end. My job was to create five posters that would be used at the Walk the Watershed event on February 5, 2011 in Swan Canyon.

Walk the Watershed is an event that gives students who live inland of the Pueblo Watershed a chance to learn at different educational stations consisting of watershed models, native seed planting, photography and art, recycling, water quality monitoring, green gardening, pollution prevention and watershed ecology.


Before I started the posters, I took a visit to Swan Canyon with Coastkeeper’s Dylan Edward to see what the canyon was like and to get a feel for the improvements needed to better the canyon’s health and ultimately improve water quality in the bay. The posters I created are going to be used to help teach the students at the event about the watershed. The information includes where the toxins and bacteria come from, wildlife in the canyon, tips for keeping the canyon healthy and how wetlands clean out water.

The posters are just a small portion of the learning that will take place at Swan Canyon that day. Coastkeeper and partnerning organizations will offer other educational stations and projects.

There are students from all over San Diego coming to the event but you do not have to be one to enjoy the canyon’s natural beauty, so we hope to see you there!




Top White Elephant Gifts: Go Green

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

I’d like to start the green elephant.

As a young child, I remember my parents participating in the white elephant gift exchange at a holiday party with their friends. At that time, you had to bring something from your house. I’m quite fond of that requirement, as it celebrates recycling and green gift giving in an otherwise very consumerist world.

Through the years, I’ve had the pleasure of watching this white elephant gift exchange grow into a common element at many holiday parties. I’ve enjoyed many a good battle over a bottle of whiskey or a set of stainless steel reusable water bottles. And I’ve also watched as the quality of thought put into the game dwindled, resulting in uncreative gift cards to big box retailers, tacky plastic holiday gifts that will never be used and cheap promotional items that get thrown away.

It’s not too late to reverse the trend or even set the Earth-friendly example at your holiday function. To get the party started, I offer these easy tips to turn your white elephant green:

  • Alcohol: Depending on your industry, this category of gift could be a hot item. Rather than settle for the 2010 promotional set of plastic Jack Daniels shot glasses with a bottle of booze, seek locally grown, bio-dynamic wine or some organic ales from your favorite local brewery.
  • Funky: Check out one of the numerous farmers markets throughout San Diego County. Leave Target and Walmart behind and invest in your neighbor’s creative talent to support local business.
  • Practical: Reusable bags and water bottles are not just a trend, they are here to stay. They also offer a great sense of style: bags so small they fit in your purse, bags displaying funny sayings, bags of all colors, bags made of natural materials. You name it. And some stainless water bottles also come with a year membership to San Diego Coastkeeper.
  • Thoughtful: It goes without saying that handmade gifts show how much you care. A plate of homemade cookies, a drought tolerate plant you’ve grown, jewelery you’ve made. You know your talents–what can you give?
  • Experience: Memories last a lifetime. Rather than give an “item,” give an adventure that your friends won’t forget. Can you give a day out on your boat, surf lessons, tickets to the Padres, a dinner party at your house, free dog / baby sitting? So much better to help our friends and colleagues reconnect with their city than weigh them down with more stuff.

What else makes a great green elephant gift?

Teaching Environmental Awareness to Aspiring Young Lifeguards

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

environmental.educationHave you ever fished in a kiddy pool, participated in a recycle relay, monitored water quality or played environmental Jeopardy? Hundreds of aspiring San Diego Junior Lifeguards did. They got to experience first hand how to recycle batteries, old cell phones and plastic and glass bottles; to experience hands-on how to test our water for pollutants; and what they can do to lesson negative impacts on the environment during a special day dedicated to environmental education.

San Diego Coastkeeper; San Diego Junior Lifeguards; I Love A Clean San Diego; City of San Diego Environmental Services; and City of San Diego Water Department participated in Think Blue, City of San Diego’s 2nd annual Junior Lifeguard Environmental Awareness Day this summer to teach aspiring young lifeguards ways to prevent pollution and keep our coast healthy. In addition to learning important lifesaving techniques, Junior Lifeguards learned how to keep San Diego’s ocean and bays healthy too.

My favorite memory for this year’s event was the enthusiasm each participant brought to the education stations. Their positive energy was contagious!

Junior.lifeguardsCoastkeeper enjoys participating in education and outreach events like Jr. Lifeguard Environmental Awareness Day because we get to interact with more children and families and teach them important conservation information. One of the best things about being an educator is the opportunity to watch kids get it – seeing their eyes widen and watching a big smile crawl on their face.

We love helping children learn how to personally take action to protect our natural resources to make San Diego’s beaches, ocean and bays healthier places to live and enjoy.

Save water, save energy, save polar bears

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

polar_bearSaving polar bears directly by conserving water may be a stretch, but an incredible amount of our state’s energy, and the associated carbon footprint, is used on transporting water.  California’s Energy Commission estimates that water related activities use “19 percent of the state’s electricity, 30 percent of its natural gas, and 88 billion gallons of diesel fuel every year – and this demand is growing.”

San Diego Coastkeeper will be part of the Center for Sustainable Energy’s Family Energy Day on this Sunday, September 12.  We’ll be talking about the important connection between water use and energy and how people can get involved in local water issues.

Check out all the cool things happening at Family Energy Day and see you there.

Kindergarten Students Learn About Pollution Prevention

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

San Diego Coastkeeper and the City of San Diego recently launched the Project SWELL Kindergarten curriculum in San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). Through these lessons students learn about the different plants and animals living in San Diego’s aquatic environments and about storm drain pollution. 

Project SWELL (Stewardship: Water Education for Lifelong Leadership) promotes awareness of clean water and fosters a sense of environmental stewardship by engaging children in improving the health of our ocean and waterways. This unique environmental education program enhances the existing science curriculum with hands-on lessons to teach students about pollution prevention in their local environment. 

Including the Kindergarten lessons, Project SWELL will be taught to approximately 50,000 students in five grades in SDUSD and one grade in Oceanside Unified School District annually. Ultimately, the City of San Diego and San Diego Coastkeeper plan to develop Project SWELL in all K-12 classrooms in SDUSD and continue to expand the program into other school districts in San Diego County.

Educating the Environmental Caretakers of the Future

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Educating San Diego’s youth about the importance of clean water and healthy marine ecosystems is a priority for San Diego Coastkeeper. Thanks to our environmental science education program, Project SWELL (Stewardship: Water Education for Lifelong Leadership), more than 50,000 students are personally involved in protecting San Diego’s natural water resources annually.

Project SWELL is hands-on, K-12 water quality and pollution prevention curricula that teaches children about the importance of our recreational waterways and human-water interaction from both environmental-conservation and environmental-science standpoints.

Most children (as well as their parents) are unaware that our bays and beaches are dangerously polluted, and ever fewer understand the role we play in this problem and must play in its solution. This unique San Diego-based education program supports progressive change by educating students on ways they can minimize impacts to this sensitive coastal environment and address environmental issues pertaining specifically to our region.

Project SWELL is in Kindergarten,  2nd, 4th, 5th & 6th grade classrooms in San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) and in 5th grade in Oceanside Unified School District (OUSD). In 2011, we will launch the 1st grade curriculum in SDUSD and the 6th grade lessons in OUSD.

Coastkeeper is working to expand the program county-wide to enhance environmental awareness among every K-12 student in San Diego County. Through Project SWELL, we can help empower and educate these future leaders of America to understand and improve the condition of San Diego’s coast and waterways. Read more about Project SWELL.

Fighting for Science in San Diego Schools

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

This past year, San Diego Coastkeeper has been leading the fight for strong science programs in San Diego schools. Since 2000, science education and performance has improved dramatically in San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). The district is the second largest school district in California and it now ranks competitively with coastal districts and is currently the most proficient urban district in California in science performance.

However, severe state and district education budget cuts, a change in focus and three major reorganizations at the district have changed the way science is taught in SDUSD. SDUSD Board of Education members Richard Barrera and John Lee Evans asked Coastkeeper’s Executive Director, Bruce Reznik, to convene and chair a Science Advisory Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) to evaluate SDUSD’s science curricula and its delivery to the classroom.

The BRTF developed a final report and presented their findings and recommendations to the Board of Education in December 2009 to help SDUSD stay on track to create a world-class science program. In 2010, the BRTF and SDUSD senior staff had three joint meetings to develop an implementation strategy to ensure strong science in San Diego schools  to best prepare students for the educational and job opportunities in the 21st Century economy. Coastkeeper will continue to work with SDUSD on implementation of the recommendations.