The Zero-Trash K9

Bigges the litter-retrieving Australian Shepherd.
Bigges the litter-retrieving Australian Shepherd.

Three years ago, Diane Petersen was hiking up the well-worn trail of Mission Peak Regional Preserve in Fremont. Accompanying her was her dog Bigges, a two-year-old Australian shepherd.

Bigges was a relative newcomer to the idea of trekking up peaks, and was, by Petersen’s recounting, “kind of bored by hiking.” To make matters worse, his elder companion, the border collie Josie, was not present. Nevertheless, Bigges walked on, all the while wishing that the hike were over. Then Petersen threw a rock at the slope to her right, and Bigges’ life changed forever.

Today, Bigges is a celebrity in the East Bay Regional Parks District. He was the subject of one of EBRPD’s most popular Facebook posts. In May, Bigges and Petersen were honored by the Parks District Board for their service to our open spaces. The beloved pooch followed that up with a cover appearance and story in the 2016 summer issue of “Compass,” the official magazine for EBRPD’s members. And almost every day, hikers in Mission Peak, the Alameda Creek Trail, Coyote Hills, and many other East Bay parks get to witness his inspirational feats, and invariably burst into applause.

What does Bigges do to garner such recognition? Simple. He leaves no trace, cleans up our parks, and has a blast while doing it.

Bigges, quite by accident, has been trained to pick up plastic water bottles discarded in creeks, crevices, hills, and valleys in our regional parks.

When he was teething, Petersen gave him plastic bottles to chew onto distract him from chewing on her shoes and furniture. Tugging on them soon became his favorite pastime, and today, picking up discarded plastic bottles is still second nature to him.

BiggesBottlePic
Bigges playing a uniquely helpful game of fetch.

So when Petersen throws a rock at a plastic bottle, he runs over and grabs it. “It’s hard to stop him,” said Petersen. “Whenever he sees a water bottle he’ll go out and grab it.” Further training that channeled Bigges’ love of food now motivates him to give Petersen the plastic bottle in exchange for a yummy treat.

“He loves it,” said Petersen. “He thinks it’s great fun. He has a blast.”

Instead of ignoring this ability, or maybe even making Bigges unlearn it, Petersen decided to utilize it in an all-out effort to clean up our open spaces. Even before she had dogs, Petersen did her part to pick up litter and leave no trace. Now, she and Bigges visit Mission Peak, Garin Regional Park, and many of the other trash-filled parks and preserves in the East Bay, seven days a week. The duo always finds something to clean up. They also unvaryingly find tons of appreciation from fellow hikers.

“A lot of times when people see him they clap and seem amazed and go ‘What a good dog!’” said Petersen.  “And I say, ‘yeah, he’s trying to keep the trails clean.’”

In March, EBRPD noticed Bigges when Petersen made some suggestions to the District for a possible bottle exchange program, and included some pictures of the dog in her message. The District, inspired by the photos, asked Petersen if they could feature Bigges in a Facebook post. She assented, and the overwhelming response to the post led to the District promoting Bigges’ story even further. In May, Board President Doug Siden gave Petersen and Bigges a certificate of appreciation; Bigges was also recognized as a Leave No Trace superhero and given a dog-sized cape. He’s also an unofficial celebrity amongst frequent hikers in the East Bay.

BiggesTrashPic
Bigges’ trash haul.

But Petersen isn’t letting Bigges’ sudden fame distract from the true prize: a trash-free Bay.

“It just feels like the Bay Area is pretty darn trashy,” she sighs. “And I know it’s hard on all kinds of species that live out there, the fishermen that go out there, all kinds of different things out in the Bay.”

She pauses. “There’s just so much trash.”

And although committed individuals like Petersen and Bigges are doing all they can, the Bay won’t get cleaned until we all help out.

That’s why Petersen hopes that Bigges’ story will inspire us to go out and clean up after ourselves.

“I feel there are a lot of humans out there who believe we’re the mightiest creatures of all, and my thinking is that if a dog can help keep this place as beautiful as it once was – I feel that if a dog can pick up trash, we humans can do the same thing,” said Petersen.

“I walk along the Alameda Creek, Hayward Shoreline, Coyote Hills, and when it’s low tide, I can just see the trash and I know it’s bad for the animals that live there, for the shorebirds, for the fish, and for our animals – our dogs that swim out in the Bay.

“I know that’s not a good thing, so Bigges and I are doing our part, and I just hope that we can lead by example, and that if everyone pitches in, our parks in the Bay Area will remain beautiful. We get to use these places for free, and what they give us for our physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing is priceless. And the least we can do is try to give back, do our part, and keep it as beautiful as we found it.”

Petersen and Bigges are working hard, but they can’t rid the Bay of trash alone. Help them today.


Pledge your support for a trash-free SF Bay.
 

Make a Difference, Become a Save The Bay Fellow

fellows collage

Join Save The Bay in the office and outdoors at our restoration sites around the Bay, as a volunteer in our Fellowship Program. You’ll support our day-to-day operations and be a part of cool and innovative projects, while gaining hands-on nonprofit experience with mentorship from our talented and passionate staff. This is an excellent opportunity for your professional development and networking, and for the chance to explore roles and responsibilities that could lead you to your next career.

We are currently hiring for our next session which begins in September 2016, and runs for 12-16 weeks after your start date.

What we’re looking for:

  • A go-getter who loves to get his or her hands dirty in the Bay mud and who isn’t afraid to call out friends who aren’t using reusable bottles and bags
  • Someone with experience or knowledge in environmental studies, policy, restoration science, community engagement, communications, or fundraising
  • A team player with an ability to get things done, a great sense of humor, and a passion for San Francisco Bay

What we offer:

  • Professional office space in the heart of downtown Oakland with easy access to BART, amazing eateries, and an extraordinary view of the Bay to inspire you
  • Experience working on our upcoming groundbreaking projects such as the first inaugural Bay Day celebration on October 1, 2016, and the campaign for Yes on Prop 67 to uphold California’s single-use plastic bag ban on the November 2016 ballot
  • Enrichment opportunities galore. Our fellows are active members of the organization and participate in a Bay restoration planting day, attend our all-staff meetings and partake in our staff appreciation events

Program details:

  • Session duration is 12-16 weeks (we’re flexible)
  • You’re committing to 20-24 hours/week
  • This is an unpaid volunteer position
  • Your transportation costs will be reimbursed

How to apply:

  • Select a specific department/position to apply for
  • Email your resume and cover letter with your chosen department in the subject line to jobs AT savesfbay DOT org
  • Check out our website for more information including application deadlines, http://www.savesfbay.org/fellowship-program
  • Save The Bay reserves the right to fill positions before the application deadline passes

Want to know what it’s like to be a Fellow firsthand? Check out these blogs our former fellows wrote about their experience at Save The Bay.

My Journey to Save The Bay

The security guy eyed me with suspicion as I entered the building. He studied me, trying to come up with a reason for my existence in the room.

“You here to see your parent?” he asked.

“Oh, yeah,” I lied.

“All right, then. Have a good day!”

I walked on and waited for the excruciatingly slow elevator. I had a job to get to, and there was no time to explain what the hell a 13 year old was doing volunteering as a Communications Fellow for an eminent grassroots organization working to protect and restore San Francisco Bay.

The Homeschool

That brings us to the following question: what, exactly, is a 13 year old doing interning for Save The Bay?

The story starts when at age 5, I told my parents I wanted to be homeschooled. Over a period of four years, I learned all I could from my parents, mentors, online classes, and books about math, science, English, history, geography, and the arts.

By the age of 9, I passed the California High School Proficiency Exam, giving me the equivalent of a high school diploma, and enrolled at Foothill College, a community college in Los Altos.

Environment, Environment, Environment

At that time, I had no idea what I wanted to major in. Then, in my second quarter at Foothill College, I came upon a passion for the environment.

SaveTheBayJourney_Image2
The aforementioned kid at Foothill College.

That quarter, I took E.S. 1, Introduction to Environmental Studies, at Foothill’s sister college De Anza and its renowned Kirsch Center. I walked in on the first day interested in the subject material, but never assuming the class would turn out to be anything but an intriguing diversion.

I walked out the last day a bona fide environmentalist, immensely passionate about renewable energy, conservation, and stopping pollution.

What happened in that class? To be honest, I don’t know.

All I knew was that our unsustainable practices were fast driving our environment into unholy chaos, and the very traits that got us into this mess in the first place – our pragmatism, awareness of the world, innovation, and remarkable ability to spur fellow humans into action – were the only forces that could stop this from occurring.

The tale of the tape is depressing. An ever-warming climate accelerated by feedback effects and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Rising sea levels. Harsh droughts, heat waves, and wildfires. Superstorms. Ocean currents out of whack. And a political and economic climate with powerful incentives to maintain the status quo.

One thing is clear: After a disruption this monumental, life on Earth will enter a new age. However, based on everything we know about climate change, it’s almost certain that we won’t be part of this new era.

If we don’t clean up our act, and fast, Homo sapiens will soon cease to exist.

That’s why we have to save the environment.

We shouldn’t restore our wetlands because “it’s the right thing to do.” We should restore them because they protect shoreline communities from the impacts of rising sea levels.

We shouldn’t stop dumping toxic waste like cigarette butts, single-use plastics, and Styrofoam into our waterways because it saves the ducks. We should stop because it fouls the Bay’s water quality.

Every single one of us has to pitch in to ensure our species’ survival.

Yes, even me.

The Kid Pitches In

So I did. The summer after taking that environmental science course, I replaced 90 percent of all incandescent light bulbs in our house with LEDs or CFLs. I turned off our sprinkler system. I reduced our A/C consumption. Our house’s energy usage was halved, and our water bill reduced by about 20 percent. I even convinced my family to install rooftop solar. But there was only so much I could do at home. One house cannot solve climate change.

So I got involved in causes and decided to take action.

I collaborated with solar panel company SolarCity to produce a short video concerning the potential of solar power. The next year, I wrote a 15-page report about sustainable agriculture around the world for EnvrionmentCalifornia.

In winter 2016, I participated in the founding of the Sustainable Futures Club at Foothill College, a group dedicated to furthering environmental causes on campus through education and action.

SaveTheBayJourney_Image1
The Sustainable Futures Club in action.

In an effort to curb the amount of plastic consumption and pollution, we successfully launched a campus-wide movement to ban the sale of bottled water in campus bookstores, cafes, and vending machines.

Idealistic and full of courage, we stormed in to student government and presented our reasoning to have these single-use items bared form campus. At a follow-up meeting a week later, the Sustainable Futures Club’s plan almost unanimously won approval.

Encouraged by my success, I looked for a bigger cause to get involved in during the summer. I soon got an email from my professor Dr. Scott Lankford advising me to apply for Save The Bay’s fellowship program.

The Building of Hope                   

And here I am, working as a Communications Fellow at Save The Bay.

I don’t simply view this opportunity as something I have to do. I view it as a platform. A platform from which I can share my story, my passions, my personality, and channel it all for the greater good – for the restoration and protection of the Bay and for the very survival of our species.

Like many, I want to make a difference in my community and the world. Here at Save The Bay, I get the chance to do so.

SaveTheBayJourney_Image3
Me, having a blast at a decidedly non-ordinary job.

In this blog and across social media, inside this office, I get to promote important efforts to make the Bay a better place for all of us. I get to educate others and inspire them to take action to further a number of pressing causes. I get to be a part, albeit a small one, of the global effort to sustain the current state of life on Earth, Homo sapiens included.

And you can take part as well. Because while it may seem daunting, taking part in saving San Francisco Bay and the rest of the world’s natural resources and wild places doesn’t need to be an arduous task. I know firsthand that simplest actions have the biggest impact.

So take five minutes today to tell your friends and family about the great work Save The Bay is doing to ensure a clean and healthy Bay for future generations, and encourage them to stay up-to-date on the environmental issues impacting our region, our state, our nation, and our world. Vote for Prop 67 this November. Do whatever it takes to make sure your vision of a cleaner, greener Bay becomes a reality. Together, we’ll make the planet a better place for all species to live – and a place where we humans can thrive for just a bit longer.

Op-Ed: Prop 67 bag ban stakes are global

The global effort to stop plastic from choking our oceans is under attack Nov. 8.

Proposition 67 on California’s ballot would ban giveaways of single-use plastic shopping bags throughout our state, not just in individual coastal and Bay Area cities.

Passing Proposition 67 would reduce plastic pollution and boost the movement for bag bans throughout the United States. But failing to pass it could crush progress here and around the world.

Plastic bag manufacturers are going for the kill right now, desperate to protect their profits from making throwaway items. When Gov. Jerry Brown signed a 2014 law banning these bags statewide, bag makers paid signature gatherers hundreds of thousands of dollars for a referendum that blocks the law unless Proposition 67 passes. Now they’re preparing to spend millions more to confuse voters. (Take Action: Let’s hold them accountable.)

Novolex and three other out-of-state plastic bag makers know that populous California is not only a huge market, but a trendsetter. If they defeat Proposition 67, they deter other states and countries from banning bags, and global plastic pollution continues to grow. If we pass Proposition 67, we keep billions of plastic bags from trashing our neighborhoods, creeks, bays and beaches, and we encourage other states and countries to do the same.

Single-use plastic shopping bags create some of the most visible litter in our communities and they harm and kill wildlife every day. In our oceans, sea turtles, otters, seals, fish and birds are tangled in plastic bags. Many animals mistake bags for food, fill their stomachs with plastic bits and die of starvation. Bag pollution also costs our state and local communities $107 million dollars annually for litter cleanup. Less than 5 percent of plastic bags in California are recycled.

In the 150 California cities and counties that have banned single-use plastic bags, these laws have already proven successful. Shoppers quickly adjust to bringing reusable bags to stores, and communities see deep reductions in plastic bags clogging creeks and storm drains. San Jose banned plastic bags in 2012 and currently reports 69 percent fewer plastic bags in its trash screens and 71 percent fewer plastic bags in its creeks.

But in most of California, bags are still distributed free by stores, and those bags don’t respect boundaries. Millions of plastic bags from other cities still blow and flow into our shared waterways or are carried to beach destinations like San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Monterey to become marine debris.

More than 1.3 million plastic bags were picked up from California beaches on just one recent Coastal Cleanup Day. So it’s no surprise that 90 percent of floating ocean debris is plastic, which never biodegrades.

For all of us who treasure California’s creeks, bays and beaches, and the fish and wildlife who live in them, Proposition 67 is a crucial opportunity to prevent billions more plastic bags from becoming toxic, deadly litter throughout the state.

Voting Yes on 67 is also our chance to show the nation and the world how to stand up to the plastic bag industry, so other states and countries follow our example and rescue the world’s oceans from the plastic trash that is choking them.

This Op-Ed was originally published in the San Jose Mercury News on 8/9/2016. 

5 Great Spots to Learn About SF Bay

As the mom of an inquisitive 7 year old, I’m always looking for fun and beautiful places for my family to learn more about San Francisco Bay.  Here are 5 of my favorite places to learn, play and explore:

  1. Exploratorium: Science-based learning is a huge part of our mission here at Save The Bay.  And the Exploratorium located at Pier 15 in San Francisco shares that value. With hundreds of exhibits to explore and engage with, The Exploratorium has many Bay-related exhibits. Check out the Bay Observation Terrace on the upper level where you can uncover the history, geography and ecology of the Bay Area.  Plus, walk right outside and enjoy the beautiful vistas of San Francisco Bay.

    Exploratorium photo, save the bay staff
    The Exploratorium’s waterfront location offers stunning Bay views. Photo: Save The Bay staff
  2. CuriOdyssey: If learning about wildlife interest you, CuriOdyssey has many exhibits dedicated to animals that call San Francisco Bay Area home including the river otter and the black crowned night heron. Walk through a 4,000-square-foot aviary and see if you can spot a snowy egret or a golden eagle.

    3453-2 Snowy Egret Arrowhead Marsh
    Snowy Egret at Arrowhead Marsh in Oakland. Photo: Rick Lewis
  3. Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge: Visit the nation’s first urban national wildlife refuge on the southern end of San Francisco Bay in Fremont. Don Edwards NWR has 30,000 acres that host millions of migratory birds and endangered species. There are numerous recreation activities to choose from including wildlife viewing and interpretive walks. If you are lucky, you might spot two endangered species endemic to San Francisco Bay: the Ridgway’s rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse.

    Newark Slough, Photo: Paul Crockett
    Newark Slough, Don Edwards NWR Photo: Paul Crockett
  4. Aquarium of the Bay: Committed to protecting and restoring San Francisco Bay, the Aquarium of the Bay is a great place to discover more about marine animals. Get up close to some of the native shark species that call the Bay home like the leopard shark and the sevengill shark. Check out these fun “shark-tivities” including feeding the sharks, a shark touch pool and an exciting walk through the underwater tunnel.

    sevengillshark
    The Broadnose Sevengill Shark is one of six shark species that live in San Francisco Bay.Photo: Monterey Bay Aquarium
  5. Bay Area Discovery Museum: With expansive views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito is a great way to play and learn about the Bay.  Play outdoors and feel the rush of cold-water tide pools, climb around iconic Bay Area landmarks or be a ship captain in Lookout Cove. Play indoors in Bay Hall with boats, ships and a Fisherman’s Wharf model.  This is a fun destination to be inspired by the Bay’s beauty and let your imagination run wild.

    Golden Gate Bridge at Sunset - Photo: Jill Zwicky
    View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Cavillo Point. Photo: Jill Zwicky

These 5 great spots to learn about SF Bay, have my 7 year old’s seal of approval!

Ollie Seal2

Looking for more ways to celebrate and enjoy the beauty of our Bay? Check out top spots to celebrate the bay, curated by our friends at Yelp!