This is the tenth of a 10-part blog series examining the nature of ASBS, the threats they face and the actions we can take to protect these biological hotspots for future San Diegans.
Like most of those who reside in San Diego, I love it here and I am proud to be a San Diegan. After a recent 2 year stint in Boston, MA (Yikes! It was freezing), this native Californian could not be happier to be back. So what does it mean to be from San Diego? What is so great about it? Why would you ever leave such a glorious region of an even more glorious state? These are all questions I faced when I left 2 years ago, and not just questions I asked myself, but questions I was faced with upon arriving in Bean Town.
First of all, there are no waves in Boston. Yes, Boston is a port city, the largest city in Massachusetts and surrounded by water; however, there is very little beach action in the immediate area (with the exception of Revere ‘beach’ which is actually just a waveless inlet). The water quality around the port (as it is near almost any port) is poor and downright gross. It led me to inquire how I could become involved in improving water quality in my new surroundings of New England. It did not take long for me to realize that the number of networks and organizations working toward improved water quality as well as environmental advocacy were limited (but still existed), unlike those I had become accustomed to being around in California. Bummer.
Whenever I was asked what there is to do in San Diego, my eyes always lit up and I rambled a millions miles a second – snorkeling around the cove in La Jolla, kayaking around Mission Bay, surfing Windansea, scuba diving around Scripps Institution of Oceanography, hiking the Torrey Pines State Reserve, stand up paddle boarding in Encinitas, sailing around San Diego Bay, The Del Mar Fair, I could go on forever. But it occurred to me I had lived in San Diego for 5 years prior to my move and hadn’t done more than three of those things. I was horrified. Needless to say, I was desperate to get back into the water and ready to dedicate myself to improving what I consider to be San Diego’s most valuable asset – its water.
San Diego Coastkeeper gives people the resources and opportunity to get involved with protecting our oceans, beaches and waterways in a way that is pretty unique. Opportunities to volunteer come in so many shapes and sizes and the best part is the flexible schedules and option to choose the events that are right for you.Wastewater discharge, marine debris and stormwater runoff are major threats to San Diego’s marine environment. I am stoked that I get to work with a network of dedicated and intelligent individuals, who work day in and day out to preserve our underwater playgrounds offshore by spreading the word on low impact development, organizing and supplying the tools for beach cleanups and conducting water quality monitoring.
The successes of San Diego Coastkeeper’s campaigns are incredible, like San Diego’s underwater state parks or marine protected areas (MPA’s) in south La Jolla and in North County at Swamis. I don’t know what to say other than these places are epic. The protected ecosystems are allowing biodiversity to flourish and creating healthy fishstocks to improve productivity. Stand up paddle boarding above Swami’s reef might be one of the most spectacular ways to see it all from above. San Diego’s Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) along the La Jolla Shores and Scripps Institution of Oceanography are two of the coolest places to snorkel and see giant sea bass, leopard sharks and abalone.
It’s up to us as residents of San Diego to take pride in our environment and take ownership in maintaining, preserving and improving our surroundings. Giving my time to a cause that protects coastal and inland waters where I live, work and play is something that I believe in whole-heartedly.
What inspires you?
Are you striving to a better health and sustainable lifestyle? If so, let me introduce you to some ways you can green up your workout. Whether you like to work out in the gym or outside, there are natural ways to make your road to health rewarding in many more ways.
- Choose to reuse. Easy and convenient way to fulfill your thirst is to have reusable water bottle. Avoiding single-use plastics will lessen the plastic waste from your end and encourage others to do the same. Stainless steel or reusable BPA-free water bottles are your best options. Today, you can buy BPA-free water bottles almost anywhere.
- Buy organic clothes. Choosing right clothing for your workout is essential for your skin to breathe and your overall comfort. The best option is to wear 100% cotton jerseys or natural fleece, which will draw away moisture and heat away from your skin.
- Recycling and your shoes. Buying shoes made from recycled materials is a way to go. Plus, if you have old shoes, know that you have options to recycle them. There are recycling programs available and charities that would put them to use by giving it to homeless.
- Fuel up on the green. Skip those sugary or aspartame-filled energy drinks and granola bars – they will slow you down more than energize you. It’s better to snack on organic fruits, vegetables and nuts, or organic energy bars made with real ingredients.
- Get a biodegradable yoga mat. If you like to workout outside or at the yoga studio, you might like to invest in a rubber or cotton mat that is made from renewable resources. Aside of being biodegradable, this mat will keep you away from the harmful chemicals found in most yoga mats. Invest in a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) mat, which is PVC-free, anti-slip and durable.
- Find more rewards in exercising. Make your routine more rewarding – exercise for an eco-friendly cause. You can attend one of Coastkeeper’s beach cleanups, or volunteer to clean a local park, or plant trees. Also, national parks offer great volunteer opportunities like building or maintaining walking and biking trails. There are also cool opportunities like serving on bike pr horseback patrols.
While caring for yourself, try choosing greener options to care for the environment. Small changes matter. While we can’t ban everything that is polluting our environment, we can act sustainably to do our part. In the end, we will be rewarded in more than one way!
Do you know any other ways that can make your workout greener?
I was so thrilled when I heard the news that residents of the City of San Diego can now recycle additional plastics in the blue curbside bins that I enthusiastically volunteered to write this blog. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm quickly disintegrated into frustration as I realized much of the recycling information out there is inconsistent or incomplete. There are almost more exceptions than there are rules and answers simply lead to more questions.
Which prompts me to ask, is anyone else as confused by recycling as I am?
Have you ever stared at a disposable coffee cup and wondered whether to throw it in the blue bin or the black bin? What about plastic bottle caps and straws? Why are produce clamshells and pill bottles recyclable, but plastic utensils are not? If a coffee cup is not recyclable, why is frozen food packaging – which is also cardboard lined with plastic – recyclable? And I thought I could recycle plastic cups now, so what’s with this PLA plastic? It says “recyclable” on the cup, but it actually isn’t recyclable?
The rule of rigidity – sturdy plastics are recyclable, regardless of their resin number
Recycling is now less about the resin type (the number inside the recycling arrows) and more about the “rigidity” of the plastic. For example, both a yellow plastic zipper bag containing Trader Joe’s lemon heart cookies and a clear plastic cup show a #7 inside of the arrows meaning they are made of “mixed” or “other” plastics. Following the rigidity rule, the cup is recyclable in the curbside bins, while the bag is not. To put simply, sturdy plastics like cups, produce clamshells, to-go containers, yogurt cups and hummus containers can all be rinsed and recycled. Flimsy “film” plastic like sandwich bags, grocery bags, six-pack rings and other bag-like things should not be placed in the blue curbside bin (though you can collect and return these plastics to various locations throughout the county).
Meet our first three exceptions – cutlery, caps and straws
Plastic utensils definitely meet the rigidity test, yet they are specifically mentioned on the City’s website as non-recyclable items. Why? According to recycling specialists the answer is because of their small size. In theory cutlery is recyclable, but more than likely it will slip through the cracks in the screening process and filter out with the trash. Similarly, the small size of most plastic caps make them difficult to catch during preliminary screening – unless they are screwed back on the bottle. The same goes for plastic drinking straws. Though you could poke them back through the lid, snap the lid on the cup and then the screeners could catch them. So should you include cutlery, caps and straws in blue bin recycling and hope they get recycled? I have no idea because the answer depends on who you ask.
Plant-based plastics and PLA
Imagine you’re at the local farmers’ market enjoying a refreshing smoothie. Your disposable cup looks like plastic, has a #7 and says it’s “recyclable” and maybe even “compostable” so you slurp the last drops of your delicious drink and toss it in the blue bin. Not so fast. Before you throw that clear “plastic” cup into your recycling bin, check the bottom. If you see the letters PLA or if the cup says it’s compostable, made of corn, soy or other plants, that cup isn’t actually accepted in curbside recycling even if it says “recyclable.” So unfortunately, you have to throw it in the trash or take it to an industrial composting facility (worm bins or backyard compost piles do not get hot enough to break down these materials). An exception to this is the new Dasani PlantBottle, which is a disposable water bottle made of “up to 30% plants.” According to recycling specialists at the City of San Diego, this water bottle is actually recyclable because it is “exactly compatible” with #1 plastics.
And finally coffee cups
When I learned that PLA cups were not recyclable, my mind wandered to other types of cups and beverage containers. Sure we all know that a soda pop bottle is recyclable (and now the cap technically is as well), but what about a disposable coffee cup? The City’s website says frozen food boxes are recyclable, but isn’t a coffee cup constructed in a similar way – paper with a plastic lining? According to recycling specialists at the City of San Diego, coffee cups are intended for single use so by the time they reach the recycling center they are pretty degraded by liquid. At this point it is nearly impossible to separate the paper from the thin plastic interior lining. However, the lids are recyclable!
Save yourself the headache and skip the plastic cups and water bottles all together and invest in reusable options. In the long run, you will save money and reusing will become very convenient when put into your daily routine. Although we have these rules, we must stop consuming plastic as much and join forces to fight off plastic pollution for good.
Conclusively, I must thank the City of San Diego for accepting additional plastics in curbside recycling. We are fortunate to be living in the city where people strive to sustainability together.
Both events took place adjacent to two significant bodies of water: San Dieguito Lagoon and San Diego Bay. Let’s not forget to mention the beautiful stretch of ocean that makes up the Del Mar coastline. I mean really, where else does the ‘Surf Meet the Turf’.
To pay homage to these local waterways, let’s take a look at what’s been happening lately around each:
While Opening Day revelers were playing the ponies (46,588 to be exact, the largest crowd ever recorded), the San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration carried on. The lagoon is nestled comfortably in the Fairgrounds’ backyard. My bet is that not too many attendees at the track knew about the immense project taking place just a stone’s throw away.
The lagoon’s restoration project has entered its final stages. As stated on the SDRP (San Dieguito River Park) website “the goal of the project is to preserve, improve and create a variety of impacts within the project site to maintain fish and wildlife to ensure the protection of endangered species.”
Check out a blog post from this past January by San Diego Coastkeeper Lab Coordinator, Travis Pritchard, outlining collaborative water sampling at the restoration site.
Just a day later, Comic Con kicked off its 42nd installment in SD’s Gaslamp. Masses of costumed guests packed the bay-front for the world’s largest pop-culture convention.
The Comic Con guests were most likely unfamiliar with some real-life superheroes currently working to protect San Diego Bay from harmful toxins. Coastkeeper Attorneys Gabe Solmer and Jill Witkowski have been working feverishly to get the Regional Water Quality Control Board to adopt a cleanup an abatement for pollutants in San Diego Bay.
This area, just south of the Convention Center, is in desperate need of some TLC. The Regional Board will hopefully finalize a game-plan for the “Shipyard Sediment Site” by the year’s end.
Big ups to San Diego’s own crusaders, Gabe and Jill, for playing such a crucial role in this process. For those of you who’d like to learn more about the bay’s sediment remediation, San Diego Coastkeeper will host its next ‘Signs of the Tide’ community forum on August 6. This installment is coincidentally titled “San Diego Bay’s Dirty Little Secret.”
For every major event that takes place in San Diego, chances are there’s a body of water not too far away that San Diego Coastkeeper is working to protect. Although our friends who attended Opening Day and Comic Con may not have known it, it’s groups like Coastkeeper, that stand up day-in and day-out, to keep this city clean and beautiful.
Us locals deserve it.
As do those just dropping by to say hello.
In 2009, researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography traveled across to North Pacific Subtropical Gyre to reseach effects of plastic pollution on sealife. During the long periods of sampling and testing, Scripps found that nearly 9 percent of fish caught during the research expedition had pieces of plastic in their stomachs. The number may seem low, but the researchers think it’s an underestimated as many fish may pass the plastic item or even die from it. They estimated that the fish in North Pacific alone ingest 12,000-24,000 tons of plastic pollution a year. However, in 2008, a group of researchers from Costa Mesa and Long Beach conducted tests in the North Pacific Central Gyre to find out that nearly 35 percent of fish ingested plastic, averaging 2.1 plastic pieces per fish. These two studies from different regions of the North Pacific Gyre reveal one fact: plastic pollution is harming marine life on a global scale.
Eighty percent of this plastic pollution comes from land-based sources, from us. The North Pacific Gyre (even though thousand miles away from us) has waste that keeps coming from our shores every day. Plastic can’t and won’t disappear. It hides “somewhere” in the middle of the ocean slowly breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. Marine life, which mistake it for food, suffers unknowingly, and thus begins the process of plastics making it into our food chain.
What does this mean for San Diego? Even though Coastkeeper, volunteers and partnering organizations conducted numerous beach cleanups over the years, we still need to make a substantial effort to stop pollution for good. It’s important to mention that beach cleanups are not just calls for volunteers to help the community, they are calls on a broader scale – to end pollution, preserve marine life, take responsibility and educate ourselves to be proactive, not just reactive. We need to learn to be responsible Earth residents and to stop ignorantly polluting our beaches, bays and rivers. Coastkeeper helps in this proactive cause by collecting data at each cleanup and translating that into a serious need for policy change when it comes to plastic pollution.
The reality is that we can’t travel to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to get all the garbage out, but we can stop the source. Remember, the era of plastic only began in late 1900s and what’s collecting in our ocean consists 90 percent of plastic.
Another way to stop pollution is to speak up to your elected officials. And convince business owners to do the same. When the #3 item counted at our cleanups is plastic foam pieces, and after the cleanup you get some food to-go in a Styrofoam container, it’s worth it to speak up to the restaurant and tell them what you see on the beach. With small acts of education, and getting business owners to care about the same issues, we will make the gradual change we want to see in the world.Can you think of anything you do every day that might be a threat to our oceans? For example, I used to buy a big plastic case of water bottle every week. But when I joined Coastkeeper and learned the real facts about plastic and its pollution, I decided to change my tactic. Being a big (clean) water drinker, I wanted to have a bottle with me all the time. So I bought a reusable water bottle and started to fill it up from big gallons I fill at the local water store. Not only did it became cheaper in the long-run, it was (and still is) also very convenient.
Surely, we all have something we can think of every day that may be a threat to the ocean. It might be something small and insignificant, but it all adds up in a good way. Start small and over the time the deeds will accumulate. Plus, don’t forget to remind your friends and family how important it is to avoid polluting, showing that you have their best interest at heart.
Let’s start making impact every day!
Congratulations to San Diego Coastkeeper, San Diego Region’s Bike to Work Month Corporate Challenge Winners!
As part of SANDAG’s Bike to Work Corporate Challenge, staff members hopped on their bikes to reduce pollution, conserve energy and burn some calories. Here’s a few stats from our participation:
- 73% of staff biked to work at least once during May.
- 112 miles: The award for most miles logged in May by a member of our staff goes to Jen Kovecses. Double kudos for Jen, who was sidelined with a wrist injury for half the month!
- 40 trips. The award for the most number of bike trips in May goes to Jamie Ortiz.
- Every day! We had at least one Coastkeeper employee bike to work every day in May.
Here’s how we helped the planet by riding our bikes:
- 16 gallons of gas saved
- 315 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions avoided
- 8,670 pounds of carbon monoxide emissions avoided
- 591 pounds of hydrocarbons saved
- 90 single-occupancy vehicle trips avoided
- 395 single-occupancy vehicle miles avoided
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.
- Is your beach clean?You might be a responsible beachgoer but not everyone is. Last year, Coastkeeper and our volunteers and partner organizations collected 635,000 pounds of trash from San Diego beaches and waterways. To keep your beach healthy, join in with other ocean lovers for several beach cleanup opportunities this summer including “Morning After Mess” at OB Pier, Encinitas Moonlight Beach, South Mission Beach, Tamarack Beach and Pacific Beach cleanups.
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.
Let’s face the facts, sometimes it’s hard to get motivated for a gym sesh. But here in sunny San Diego we really don’t have an excuse to be inactive. Our county offers so many fun and relaxing outdoor activities that we can do all year long. So now that it’s officially summer, it’s time to get moving so you can squeeze into that tiny bikini! Hooray!
Sport Psychology and Wellness Counselor Erin Bartelma of BE Balanced Studio created a way for us San Diegans to get fit and healthy together while enjoying the beautiful backdrop of our outdoor environment. Three years ago Erin celebrated her birthday by inviting family and friends to join her for the “Surf & Turf,” which involved a run on Torrey Pines State Beach followed by surfing in Del Mar.
Over the past three years, Erin expanded her vision and brought on additional Surf & Turf team members Lisa Bercik, Sarah Alexander and Shari Baurle to help the event reach a wider audience and positively impact our environment. The team wanted Surf & Turf to enable people interested in healthy lifestyles to come together and promote not only personal wellness but also support efforts to create a healthier environment. San Diego Coastkeeper’s staff is comprised of scientists, lawyers and environmental experts who are also surfers, snorkelers, runners and bikers dedicated to protecting our coastal environment–making them the perfect organization to benefit from the event’s first grassroots fundraising efforts.
The Third Annual Surf & Turf is on Saturday, June 25, 8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at Cardiff Reef, and includes a 5K run/walk, beachside yoga with Lauren Duke of Green Flash Yoga, recreational surfing and beachside games with small prizes for the 5K run/walk. Participants are welcome to participate in one or all of the day’s activities. Registration is free but participants are encouraged to buy a Surf & Turf t-shirt for $20 (designed by artists Ash Francomb and Kris Boline of the Green Flash Gallery in Cardiff) with all proceeds going to San Diego Coastkeeper.
Come Surf & Turf & help save the environment with us!
Its that time of year again! Next week we will celebrate our favorite holiday, World Oceans Day! On June 8, the world will take a moment to recognize the ocean and all of its greatness. There are thousands of reasons to join in on the celebrations. Since I do not have time to create a list of a thousand, here’s five to get you amped on Oceans Day!
1. Raise awareness for the World’s Oceans: Whether you live in San Diego or China there are issues facing our world’s oceans that need attention. This national holiday will help raise global awareness of the challenges our oceans face and help people get the information to get involved!
2. Oceans give us life: Oceans are essential to food security, climate control and are a critical part of our biosphere.
3. Oceans are awesome: Not only are oceans essential for survival, they play a huge role in fun, especially here in San Diego! What would the world be without “sick days” (aka beach days), surfing and snorkeling?!
4. Help conserve our oceans: Not only does World Oceans Day spread the word about the needs and challenges facing our oceans, it also gets people to be proactive about conserving our coasts and oceans. There are tons of things you can do to help. Attend a beach clean up, buy sustainable seafood or become a Coastkeeper member!
5. You can party with us! It’s no secret that we love the ocean.We want you to join in on all our fun by participating in a week long party to celebrate our world’s oceans.
- World Oceans Day: Go blue with Coastkeeper and our official celebration of World Oceans Day on June 8. Come out to Hennessey’s in La Jolla and enjoy live music, a tasty meal and even learn how we conserve beautiful places like La Jolla’s ASBS. Enjoy a beer for the ocean from 6-9 p.m.
- Go Blue Day at Padres Stadium: Wear your blue and root on the Padres with cool people who protect the ocean every day. Become a member today and get Padres tickets for June 9. If you are already a member, join in for only $10. Shout loud and proud for our oceans at the 7:05 p.m. home game start against the Nationals.
- Give our ocean the best gift you can give by picking up trash and debris along the coast. Join us at Buccaneer Beach Cleanup June 11 at 9 a.m. Help clean up one of Oceanside’s most prestigious beaches and celebrate the beauty of the sea.
Everyd ay Coastkeeper celebrates our local ocean by preventing plastic pollution with beach cleanups, conserving areas of special biological significance, monitoring waterways for toxic chemicals and much much more.
Happy World Oceans Day everybody!!
Summer is coming. We’ve had at least three consecutive days of sunshine in the last two weeks and a few days when I actually wore short sleeves with no sweater! Festivals are on the rise: World Oceans Day with One Drop dropping some sweet summer tunes hits Hennessey’s on June 8 and Kona Brewing Company’s Liquid Aloha Fesitval with Dirty Heads heads our way on July 9.
Last week the City of San Diego voted to ban single-use plastics at its meetings (way to go, Alicia !). Because of the energy use involved in producing those bottles, the new policy helps San Diego save a lot of energy as San Diego’s decision makers sip their way through summer meetings. But what can we do as individuals? I’m looking at SDG&E ’s energy efficiency calculator . I do it in part to figure out what my energy use is and also because the calculator tells me how much money I can save towards a fantastic international trip to fun summer destinations. It turns out that I normally spend about $200 per year on air conditioning. The Summer Saver program makes my cold air practically free. The standard $46 per year is a huge discount. And if I could earn $194 with 100% cycling, including weekends, I’d end up paying less than the cost of a Whamo Frisbee game (perfect for summer). That’s practically free A/C.
I’m still watching Google Power Meter to see how my energy use fluctuates. As it turns out, I’m super boring–which was predictable since my apartment is the size of a peanut and I’m only home and using power for a couple hours each day in the morning and evening. Come summer heat, I’ll sign up for SDG&E’s summer saver program and take my energy use down to Frisbee level. Welcome Summer Savings in San Diego!