Owning Her “Seat at the Table:” Meghan Macaluso Champions Women Leaders, Nature Experiences

“People from Colorado are just like folks from the Bay Area: we love to get outdoors.”

Hailing from Denver, our Chief Development Officer is well-versed in breathtaking views. Every summer, Meghan Macaluso and her family would go hiking, biking, and camping in the Rockies. With her wonderfully dry humor, Meghan stresses: in working for Save The Bay, “the irony I had a landlocked upbringing is lost on no one.”

Yet, she fits right in here as a powerful woman leader pushing for change. Save The Bay was founded by three East Bay women who read a troubling piece in The Oakland Tribune and changed the narrative themselves. Outraged about the fate of our Bay should reckless development continue, this trio confronted wealthy landowners, massive companies, and influential politicians.

Meghan knows what it’s like to challenge the system. “I had my ‘a-ha’ moment in middle school. A really creepy outside group came and gave an abstinence-only presentation to our class. My mom was super upset when I told her, and we went down to the principal’s office. We made clear that the presentation was ‘wholly unacceptable,’ and that group never came back to our school.” That was Meghan’s first taste of what it meant to advocate for change and win.

But Meghan didn’t stop there. After college, she carved her own path in the non-profit world, eventually moving up to a leadership position with NARAL Pro-Choice America. It’s where Meghan learned the importance of “empowering women, giving them the tools they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

Meghan speaking at a Save The Bay event
Meghan speaking at Blue 2017

Not surprisingly, Meghan was thrilled to switch gears and lead Development at an organization that champions strong-willed women. She’s moved by all that Save The Bay’s founders, “a small group of caring people,” accomplished to protect our Bay. She finds it “so unusual, too, for women to have a seat at the table at the time they did.”

Now, Meghan truly owns her “seat at the table.” “I’d say I’m a strong leader, generally – but by leading with compassion and inclusivity.” Meghan says our Executive Director deserves some credit for this. “I have an extraordinary relationship with David Lewis, a really special one where he mentors me as a female leader.”

Whether the issue is women’s rights or environmental justice, Meghan firmly believes: “the only times in history when we’ve seen change are when people put aside their differences and work together.”

She feels one of the best ways to inspire advocates for our Bay is to bring them right to the water’s edge. During last year’s Blue cruise, Meghan was glad to see “people breathing deeply, snuggling up with their partner,” having “a powerful experience” on the Bay. “It’s a recharge moment — you breathe in fresh air and it cleans out your system, mentally and physically.”

Meghan's son enjoying the beach
Meghan’s son enjoying the beach!

It’s why Meghan and her husband work hard to show their three-year-old son our Bay’s natural beauty. “We’ve been going on ‘nature walks’ since he was in a carrier, like a little monkey in front of me.” One of their favorite spots? Alameda’s Crowne Memorial Beach, where the water is “super gentle and kids of all ages can splash around.”

But inspiring her own son to value our Bay isn’t good enough for Meghan. She works tirelessly to raise funds for Save The Bay so that every Bay Area family can enjoy the outdoors. “What’s really driving me? Ensuring all children have a clean, healthy environment where they can thrive.”

This Women’s History Month, we are celebrating the courageous women leaders of Save The Bay, past and present. In 1961, Sylvia McLaughlin, Kay Kerr, and Esther Gulick challenged the system and formed a movement to Save The Bay. Decades later, determined women scientists, educators, and policy experts move our mission forward.



Brunch by the Bay: The NextGen of Bay Stewards

Brunch by the Bay Speakers
Brunch by the Bay Speakers


One of the most enjoyable events I get to run in my role is Save The Bay’s Brunch by the Bay. On Saturday, August 19th we hosted more than 60 guests, including many founding members, at the Berkeley Yacht Club to commemorate the organization’s founding and discuss our plans for the future.  We look forward to this event every year as a way to honor the organization’s deep roots and remind ourselves that our founders accomplished “impossible” things against all odds.  Sylvia, Kay, and Esther were three women living in a world dominated by men in the 1950s and 1960s. Their world had no environmental protection laws, and they successfully banded together for the good of the Bay and the communities that call it home.

I have spent my entire adult life and the majority of my decade long career standing up for women’s rights. When I learned about the founding of Save The Bay and the three fearless women who started a revolutionary movement to prevent Bay fill, I immediately wanted to join the cause. I enjoy working for Save The Bay because of our inspiring founding story, my Bay Area roots, and most importantly so I can teach my 18 month old daughter the importance of fighting climate change through proactive and nature-based solutions.

A commonly held goal amongst parents is to make the world better for our children and generations to come. This sentiment was echoed at the Founder’s Brunch by Allison Chan, our Bay Smart Communities Manager, who is making real strides on behalf of Save The Bay to help the Bay Area reach zero trash by 2022. One thing that drives Allison is the hope that her baby girl will grow up in a cleaner and healthier environment. Our other speaker, Kenneth Rangel, spoke about his work on the habitat restoration team and how some of the students he takes to the shoreline have never seen the Bay despite growing up just a few miles away. Thanks to Kenneth and his fellow restoration colleagues, Save The Bay leads over 5,000 volunteers to restore the shoreline every year.

Brunch By The Bay 2017

We must honor the unprecedented victories of our founders and continue to protect, preserve, and restore our beautiful Bay, which is at the heart of our Bay Area community. By joining the Save The Bay Legacy Society, you can support this vision! Your legacy can be to leave this beautiful community stronger and more resilient for those who come after us.  I am so moved that Save The Bay has received almost a quarter of a million dollars in legacy bequest gifts this year.  This unexpected funding allows us to hire and retain staff, like Kenneth and Allison, and equip them to engage more volunteers and advocates.

In the spirit of legacy, I encourage you to join us as a member of Save The Bay’s Legacy Society. We are so passionate about our Legacy Society that we’re offering a special, one-time opportunity to receive a beautiful framed photo of San Francisco Bay if you let us know that we are a part of your estate plans.  To learn more about legacy giving and receive your Bay photo, please contact me at kreitter@savesfbay.org or 510-463-6837.

I continue to be inspired by the stories of our founding members—how the Bay was in a dire state before Save The Bay was formed and how our founders’ tenacity and grit helped to transform it. I am grateful to our founding members for making the Bay Area a better place for me, and I am committed to doing the same for my daughter. Thank you for standing with us.


Saving the Bay: a movement started by women


Our founders’ legacy — one of courage, persistence, diligence, and success — has inspired today’s generation of Bay savers to carry on their mission to protect our greatest natural treasure for generations.

Before we celebrated the first Earth Day in 1970 and the first full-length issue of Ms. Magazine hit newsstands in 1972, major progress in the Bay Area was already underway thanks to a trio of East Bay women who dared to question environmental and social norms.

In the early 1960s going green wasn’t hip, nor was the idea of preserving the natural environment. During that time the Bay, often dredged for development, looked like a devastated wasteland flowing with raw, smelly sewage that also doubled as a dumping ground for toxic trash.

Four years after Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Esther Gulick founded Save San Francisco Bay Association (later renamed Save The Bay) in 1961, the McAteer-Petris Act placed a moratorium on additional filling of our Bay and established the first coastal protection agency in the United States called the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC).

The passing of this landmark legislation set the stage for the coming decades of environmental protections. Prior to 1965, few environmental organizations existed and even fewer environmental laws had been passed. But, these women led a grassroots environmental movement — during an age where a woman’s word was undervalued, especially in government.

This was the first of many milestones Save The Bay achieved. A few years after its establishment, the BCDC became a permanent regulatory agency empowered to permit Bayfill and require public access to the shoreline.

Senator Petris among others with Governor Reagan at the signing ceremony for the creation of BCDC.
Our founders and Senator Petris among others with Governor Reagan at the signing ceremony for the creation of BCDC.

Thanks to the courageous efforts led by Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Esther Gulick, this 1960s projection illustration published in the Oakland Tribune, won’t become a reality. However, we must remain vigilant to ensure that our natural environment does not give way to urbanization, industrialization, and big business at home and around the globe.

Bay or River Image
In 1961 the Bay was projected by the Army Corps of Engineers to become a river by the year 2020, as illustrated by this graphic published in the Oakland Tribune in 1960.

Over a half century later, Save The Bay has continued to fight the good fight, educate and inspire the next generation of environmentalists, and remains dedicated to keeping the Bay healthy for all to enjoy for generations.

As they’ve inspired today’s generation of bay savers, the women working to protect our environment today inspire the young environmentalists of the future. Donna Ball, Save The Bay’s Restoration and Habitat Director, is one of those women encouraging tomorrow’s environmental solution developers (both girls and boys) to follow their dreams.

Despite advancements in the American environmental and women’s movements, we have yet to achieve gender equality in the sciences both internationally and here at home. We know of a remedy that may help close that gap: it takes is at least one ordinary individual with extraordinary ideas, courage, belief, and vision.

Will it be you?

A Recipe for Saving The Bay

If you’re a Save The Bay supporter, you may have viewed and enjoyed the award-winning, Robert Redford narrated PBS documentary, Saving The Bay, but many people haven’t. And it’s riveting. When the series premiered in on KQED/San Francisco in 2009, it garnered the single highest rating of any PBS program in the nation the evening of its initial broadcast.

bay or river
Fifty years ago, this image sparked a modern environmental movement

KQED Plus is rebroadcasting the series starting Sunday June 2nd. Why not hold a house party and invite a few friends over to watch?

The final episode, Bay in the Balance (1906 – Present) is in large part about Save The Bay’s three founders, Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin, and Esther Gulick, who set out to stop the City of Berkeley’s plan to double in size by filling in the shallow Bay off-shore, and rallied fellow Bay Area citizens to stop San Francisco Bay from becoming little more than a narrow, polluted river.

The three women initially met in their living rooms over tea and almond cookies. They started small, with people they knew, and soon had thousands of active members. This initial cookie-fueled act was the start of a modern grassroots environmental movement in the Bay Area, and it sparked a couple of revolutionary changes: it forced the State of California to acknowledge that the Bay belonged to the public and it proved to ordinary  citizens that they have the power to make a difference.


Bay in the Balance Episode airs on KQED Plus:

•    Sun, Jun 2, 2013 — 5:41pm
•    Wed, Jun 5, 2013 — 10:41pm
•    Thu, Jun 6, 2013 — 4:41am

Plan to watch or set your DVR. Then bake these delicious (and simple) almond cookies courtesy of local food blogger, Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy and put on the kettle for tea. You never know. It could be the start of something big.

Easy Almond Cookies
Makes 14 cookies

Courtesy of Cooking with Amy
adapted from a recipe published in Gourmet magazine, 1997


1 cup blanched almonds, whole or slivered
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1 egg white
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
14 whole almonds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor combine the almonds, sugar and salt. Process until very finely ground. Add the egg white and almond extract and pulse until the dough comes together. Roll the dough into 14 evenly sized balls, and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Press one almond into the center of each cookie, pressing down slightly.

Bake for 10 minutes or until just starting to show a hint of gold. Let cookies cool on the pan, then transfer to an airtight container.


Guest Post | Bay Area: What Could Have Been

We are excited to share this guest blog post by Victoria Bogdan about her new project Bay Area: What Could Have Been, which will tell the visual story of what the Bay Area would look like without the environmental heroes who fought to preserve some of our most precious, iconic open spaces. 

Anyone who hikes the hills of the San Francisco Bay Area can see a panorama of environmental history. From atop most tall vantage points, one can look in every direction and see land and waters that were fought for and saved.BogdanV photo

In other words, the large stretches of green space and sparkling Bay waters that make this such an incredible place to live weren’t always guaranteed as open and protected. The stories of many of our favorite places are hidden or forgotten. They’re the stories of what isn’t there.

Huey Johnson, of Resource Renewal Institute is a living conservation legend and the person who first introduced me to Save the Bay’s co-founder, Sylvia McLaughlin. He’s the person who first shared the idea of these missing stories with me. He gave me Dr. Marty Griffin’s Saving the Marin-Sonoma Coast, which tells the stories behind many of these battles. After reading this book, my perspective on the Bay Area was never the same.

There are countless stories of large development projects that nearly changed the Bay Area landscape for good: the lagoon at Bolinas that didn’t get turned into high rises and hotels. The nuclear power plant that doesn’t sit at Bodega Head. The 30,000 person town that isn’t our view across from the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay that didn’t get reduced to a canal, and many, many others.

There are also films, including Rebels with a Cause, and books like New Guardians of the Golden Gate, in which advocates tell the story of our region. There are history projects like Forces of Nature, as well as individual renderings of the doomed developments, many of which were done by the architects or proposing agencies at the time.

Even with all this history, one piece was missing for me. I wanted to see what the view from the top of a Bay Area hill would look like had all of the projects from the 1950s-70s actually happened. I wanted to see, put together in one place, what isn’t there.

In all of my searches at the Anne T. Kent California Room, and in books, no such view existed. I had no choice: if I wanted to see this complete picture, I would have to do it myself.

I found a talented illustrator and spent a year researching and gathering stories. Now I’m ready to launch The Bay Area: What Could Have Been into the world– or the fundraising piece, anyway. My illustrator and I need to raise money to pay him, to print copies of what we create so that we can donate them to the local environmental groups that continue to steward our lands and waters, and to create a project website to make What Could Have Been accessible to the public.

With any luck and some goodwill, we’ll present our gift to Bay Area environmental history before the end of the year. I can’t wait to see the result, and I hope others use it as a teaching tool and reminder of the important advocacy and activism stories that sometimes lead to what we don’t see.

Victoria Bogdan is a fundraising consultant working with environmental nonprofits around the Bay Area, including Yosemite Conservancy, Pepperwood Preserve, Fair Trade USA, Resource Renewal Institute, and Earth Day Quebec. She worked with the California chapter of The Nature Conservancy, where hiking with botanists, biologists, and other -ists strengthened her love of the environment and dedication to working on its behalf. She lives in Oakland, is a co-founder of Nerds for Nature, and can’t wait to hike again in the rainforest.
Twitter: @victoria_bogdan