Go Take a Walk: A Chollas Creek Tour with Assemblywoman Gonzalez

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Coastkeeper Chollas CreekI had the honor of joining our water quality lab manager and state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the California League of Conservation Voters and Groundwork San Diego-Chollas Creek for a tour of District 80 and a conversation about how we can change the fate of Chollas Creek–one of our region’s most polluted waterways.

As we toured the urban reaches of this 32-mile creek, conversation ranged from monitoring ecosystem health with volunteer testing and our new bioassessment program to invasive plant removal to homelessness. We talked about trail maintenance and the value of residents getting involved with restoration and upkeep of this valuable resource in the community.

Coastkeeper and Groundwork have a project underway to restore a section of the creek and demonstrate water quality improvements. The Assemblywoman and League of Conservation Voters listened intently our optimism for success and our concerns about the difficulty small nonprofits face to effectively work under state grant contracts. We parted ways with enthusiastic pledges to follow-up regularly and plans to continue the important work in District 80.

Bringing together the power of community, activists and legislators like the group we had, Chollas Creek has a lot going for it.


Published in Urban Runoff

Coastkeeper Gets Dirty with Science Education and New Standards

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper


SWELL 19 cropLet’s get dirty!

Well, that’s what I did with 40 other informal environmental educators from San Diego who attended the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) workshop on November 22. This training provided clear and consistent, researched-based standards that engage students in science instruction that will prepare them to utilize critical thinking and creative problem-solving necessary to excel in the global society.

What? Well, that means we want our students to truly understand and appreciate environmental science through experiences, not just memorization.

Kim Bess from the San Diego County Office of Education helped us get hands-on with the new science standards that focus on helping students to be able to do science rather than memorize facts. The NGSS standards or performance expectations give us the opportunity, with programs like Project SWELL, to serve as a resource for teachers looking for curriculum that engage students in critical thinking, and learning scientific concepts by doing science.

The NGSS were just recently adopted by the State of California along with other six states, opening the door to use nature as the perfect case study for hands-on science.

Yahoo! That’s what we say. We love nature and its ability to teach us too much.

Twenty-six states and their broad-based teams worked together with a 41-member writing team and partners throughout the country to develop the standards. The framework comprises eight Scientific and Engineering Practices (asking questions, analyzing and interpreting data, etc.), seven Crosscutting Concepts (Cause and effect, Systems, and systems models, and others), and 44 Disciplinary Core Ideas focus on Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Earth and Space Sciences, and Engineering, Technology & Applications of Science.

What I love about the NGSS is that students will learn by doing and they will be able to build on and revise their knowledge and abilities from K-12. Now everything that they wonder about in nature can be an experience to learn science.

San Diego: A Day Without a Bag 2013

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

plastic bag monsterJust in time for the holiday shopping season, when single-use bags seem the most unavoidable, the City of Oceanside is making good on its annual commitment to participate in A Day Without A Bag. Residents and local businesses alike will participate in a day-long celebration of reusable bags and denouncement of those guilt-inducing wisps of polythene we all hate to love.

Folks who aren’t yet sure if they can live without the convenience of single-use plastic or paper bags are invited to, just for one day, try it out. For people who have already made the change in their own lives, this is a great opportunity to help others try out the BYOB lifestyle as well. Volunteers are needed to help hand out reusable bags to shoppers, staff a Zero Waste Station, and, a task only for the truly committed and perhaps a little deranged, don the Bag Monster costume and show the world just how scary plastic bags can be.

(As a side note, Coastkeeper’s own Travis Pritchard takes particular pride in having instilled life-long fear of single-use plastic bags in the hearts of several young girl scouts once upon a time with a uniquely convincing Bag Monster act, but we don’t like to tell people that.)

Volunteers are needed to help out for three-hour shifts at both the Oceanside Farmers Market and Sunset Market. More information and details on how to sign up to help can be found here and here.

If you are interested in participating but can’t commit to volunteering, it’s easy: On December 19, when asked “Paper or plastic?” simply smile and say, “No thanks, I’ve got my own.”


Published in Marine Debris

This is why we called Cardiff State Beach “dirty”

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

cardiff-2009-012-sWe did it folks, we called Cardiff State Beach dirty.  

Not too much fuss was made when Mission Beach took the dubious honor last year, or Ocean Beach before that, or Pacific Beach before that….  

Most residents probably shrugged and throught, Well, yeah, tourists.  But people seem to feel differently about Cardiff.  They aren’t too thrilled that someone is plugging their nose and pointing at their beach and saying “ewy.”  And they shouldn’t be thrilled.  

San Diego County has 70 miles of beautiful coastline that deserves to be protected, and Cardiff State Beach is a beautiful beach. We love spending time there. We also know from years of experience in the beach cleanup industry (is that a thing?) that just becuase a beach is beautiful, and we love it and have all kind of great memories there, does not mean that there isn’t also trash there.  

People litter.  People throw things in the street, or let their waste bins overflow, and it washes to the beach when the rains come (and then, of course, we blame the rain).  

Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back if you aren’t one of those people, and give yourself another one if you are the kind of person who picks up someone else’s disgusting trash when you find it on your beach. And go ahead an give yourself another pat if you are a little ticked off that Cardiff State Beach was just called dirty. Because you should be.

It’s probably a good time to explain how we arrive at that conclusion. San Diego Coastkeeper and Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chaptercardiff-2009-021-shost a few dozen cleanups each year.  At every single cleanup we host, volunteers keep data sheets with records of the items they find.  There are several catagories, such as “Cigarettes/Cigarette Butts” and “Plastic Food Wrappers” and “Plastic Bags.”  Additionally, at the end of the cleanup, we weigh all the bags of trash that have been collected.  Each cleanup gets its own weight number.  If we return to that beach again later in the year, that number grows.  At the end of the year, we pull up all the data we have collected over the past twelve months, and start running the numbers.

Now, let me say that beach cleanups are not a perfect science.  As with most pursuits, there are a lot of factors involved that we can’t control.  Each beach is different.  Even trash levels flucuate throughout the year, peaking during tourist season and after winter storms.  This is why we use metrics like “pounds of trash per volunteer effort” to help us understand the data we collect.  By normalizing the pounds of trash volunteers collected to the number of people who volunteered, we get a sense of trash density.  This is our only way of correcting for effort, given that we have different numbers of volunteers show up each time we host a cleanup and that the beaches we attend to are all different sizes.  In 2013, Cardiff State Beach had the highest trash density.  That is to say, the most trash found per volunteer effort.  That magic number was 4.06 pounds per volunteer.

For those folks out there who have continued to ask us questions about this, allow me to break it down.

When San Diego Coastkeeper and Surfrider San Diego host beach cleanups, they are open to the public.  Fifty people might show up to a cleanup at Beach A, while 250 show up for a cleanup at Beach B.  If we were to take the results from the big cleanup of 250 people and look only at the total weight of the trash they picked up, we might see a number like 100lbs.  That’s a lot of trash.  Let’s then say we head over to that 50-person cleanup at Beach A and find that they have collected 70 lbs of trash.  Well, 70lbs is not as much trash as 100lbs.  So should we say Beach B is “dirtier” than Beach A?  No.  Because when we use our handy dandy pounds/volunteer equasion, we find that Beach A has a higher trash density.  

In 2013, Moonlight Beach came out on top as having the highest total trash weight at the end of the year.  That number was 1,011 pounds.  So why didn’t we name Moonlight the dirtiest?  Because it took a heck of a lot more volunteers to pick up all that trash than it took to pick up Cardiff’s trash total. And that is why we called Cardiff State Beach “dirty.”

Allow me one last caveat.  Maybe Cardiff stood out in our end-of-year analysis because the people who showed up for the cleanups there just love that beach so gosh darn much that they really dug in and went the extra mile.  They pulled out over four pounds of trash per person.  Considering that most of what we find are small items like cigarette buts, plastic bags, and plastic foam, that is no small feat.  

So maybe “dirtiest” can mean “most loved” too.


Published in Marine Debris

10 Clean Water Resolutions for the New Year

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

sdc029-sIt’s nearly the New Year: what goals will you set to be the best You possible? In our quest to protect and restore fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County, we think about clean water goals every day. We share with you our approach on high-level policy and long-term projects that take decades to achieve, but we also want you to participate in your everyday life. We all should. In the spirit of this New Year and keeping San Diego sensational, we offer you these 10 clean water resolutions for the New Year.

  1. Try a new recreation activity in, on or by the water. Here part one in our I Love My ASBS blog series to get you started with some fun ideas in La Jolla.
  2. Pick up someone else’s trash off the ground. Every day, of course, but you can also sign up for a beach cleanup once a week.
  3. Learn the name of the waterbody nearest my home and workplace. And then volunteer to do Water Quality Monitoring and learn what’s in the water.
  4. Stop buying water in plastic bottles or using single-use plastic bags. These pollute our beaches and natural spaces, and also you.
  5. Spend more time with your family. San Diego is primed for together time as you tide pool, kayak, dive or volunteer.
  6. Explore all 11 San Diego marine protected areas. These are our underwater state parks; you shouldn’t skip any of them.
  7. Bring your own take out containers to avoid using StyrofoamTM. Not only is Styrofoam a single-use item (see resolution idea number 4), but it is also terribly harmful to the environment and your health.
  8. Take shorter showers. Or shower with a friend more often.
  9. Watch more beach sunsets. Really, people, why do we live here? It’s not enough to cleanup beaches without truly appreciating the beauty that San Diego has to offer. Do you know how many millions of people travel here every year to do just that? You can do it every day of the year, if you wanted.
  10. Donate to a good cause like environmental education, water monitoring or beach cleanups. Sure, a one-time or monthly contribution to clean water in San Diego is helpful, but this year, make it a challenge to donate often. Sponsor Coastkeeper during your 5K events, throw a cocktail party with a fundraising component, save your change.

What resolution will you add to the list?


Top Ten: Tactics to Prevent Stormwater Runoff

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

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?

Published in Change Your Habits

Top Ten: Ways to Landscape Responsibly

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

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: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/

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.

Published in Change Your Habits

Top Ten: Important Ways to Get Involved

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

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. 
Published in Change Your Habits

Top Ten: Techniques to be a Green Boater

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

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.

Published in Change Your Habits

Top Ten: Ways to Teach Kids About the Environment

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

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!
Published in Change Your Habits