Think Global, Act Local: Meet the Bay Hero Shaping the Future of Sustainability at Salesforce

Photo credit: Rick Lewis

“I think climate change is the biggest, most important and most complex challenge humans have ever faced.”

It’s a challenge Patrick Flynn isn’t afraid to face, and as the vice president of sustainability at Salesforce, he is poised to make an ample difference. “I feel fortunate to be alive at a time when finding solutions to climate change is at the forefront of the [environmental] conversation.”

Patrick’s specialty? Turning a bold vision into tangible change. “In corporate sustainability, we are doing things that just five or ten years ago were dreams.”

Indeed, Patrick has helped Salesforce reach staggering goals in the realm of sustainability. Under his watch, the company achieved net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and began providing a carbon neutral cloud for customers. Recently, he pushed to establish a blackwater recycling system at the new Salesforce Tower that’s set to save 30,000 gallons of fresh water every day.

With each sustainability project, Patrick sees a chance to keep the Bay Area clean and beautiful for his two young children. “Every chance we get, we are outside near the water – the ocean, the bay, rivers, even crossing a majestic bridge over a stream.”

But he wants future generations to enjoy these awe-inspiring moments, too. “I didn’t grow up in a place with this sort of epic natural beauty, and I want to show them all of it and ensure they can show their children and so on for years to come.”

Like Save The Bay, Patrick truly believes simple steps can create meaningful change for the environment. He recommends people start by “reducing single-use plastics, purchasing certified sustainable seafood, and turning off the lights when they leave a room.” Then comes a little communication. “Sharing those habits with family and friends creates a ripple effect that makes those small initiatives incredibly impactful.”

On a company level, Patrick also feels strongly about the power of employee green teams. From organizing volunteering opportunities to hosting educational events, these groups can “ensure everyone is aware of the small steps they can take to live and work more sustainably.”

Despite the massive scale of his sustainability campaigns at Salesforce, Patrick always keeps this message in mind: “think global; act local.” In his view, “there are opportunities to solve environmental challenges all around, and if you start in the areas that you know best, then you can take that solution and share it globally.”

Working in the wetlands with Save The Bay taught him just how rewarding it is to spark change in your community. “I volunteered two years in a row on Earth Day at the same Bay Area site. During the second year, I saw the progress made throughout the previous 365 days and was immediately proud to have had a chance to make a difference.”

Save The Bay’s community-based approach truly strikes a chord with Patrick. When it comes to fighting climate change, he believes collaboration is a crucial piece of the puzzle: “solve, innovate, and share.”

 

***Save The Bay is inspired by Patrick’s work in sustainability. Ahead of our Bay Day celebration, we are proud to recognize him as a Bay Hero at this year’s Catamaran Sail on September 29.

Mother-Daughter Team Protects the Bay: Celebrating our Courageous Women Bay Heroes, Juliana Park and Sasha Youn

Sasha and Juliana volunteering at our Oro Loma nursery site

“You have to take the initiative for yourself — not wait for someone else to come up and ask if you want to do something.”

15-year-old Sasha Youn never needed textbooks or teachers to sense the high stakes of climate change.

“Ever since she was a little kid, Sasha always loved the ocean and the waterways – the whole ecosystem. We would walk Ocean or Stinson Beach, and she always had such a heart for the animals there.”

Juliana Park couldn’t be prouder of her daughter, but she admits: Sasha’s passion for the outdoors came as quite the surprise. “I never, honestly, thought about trying to protect the environment when I was growing up. But seeing how much Sasha cared made me ask: ‘what kind of world am I leaving for her, for her kids someday?’”

So, they started shaping that world for the better — when Sasha was just a 5th grader. They searched online for Bay Area environmental non-profits and Save The Bay popped up. After reading about our public restoration events, Sasha was excited to make a difference out in the wetlands.

“Being in nature, not surrounded by a bunch of cars or noisy cities, gives me peace. I wanted to volunteer with Save The Bay to help solve pollution and climate change, to help protect our Bay because it’s where we live.”

The first time they volunteered by the shoreline, Juliana was moved “to see people ages five to 80 all doing meaningful work. It felt like, ‘wow, no matter what age or socioeconomic background you are, you can experience and do something good for our Bay.’”

The more Juliana and Sasha volunteered in the wetlands, the more they worked to reduce pollution from home as well. “We compost, we’re very mindful of trash, and we try not to buy things we don’t need because it’ll go into landfill.”

Sasha volunteering at Palo Alto Baylands

By the time Sasha took a class on Philanthropy at The Bentley School, she knew exactly which organization she wanted to support. “Save The Bay puts lots of petitions and laws in action, and because it’s a non-profit, we have to donate to them. Otherwise, they can’t do all the things they’re doing to help the Bay stay healthy.”

Inspired by Sasha’s determination, Juliana took action, too. After attending our art gallery fundraiser and Catamaran Sail, Juliana opened up her home this Women’s History Month to honor Save The Bay’s courageous women founders. “It was great for Sasha and me to hear how they weren’t scientists or engineers, they just had the heart to keep the Bay clean.”

In spreading the word about our work, Juliana sends a message about gratitude. “On a personal level, I feel sharing Save The Bay with others, showing that we have something so beautiful here, our Bay – whatever we do to protect it is enough. It’s a start!”

This summer, Sasha took a significant step in that direction, securing her very first internship as a Development Fellow with Save The Bay. She says she enjoyed the mix of restoration fieldwork and outreach projects – plus the opportunity to learn even more about our founders.

“Knowing three women founded Save The Bay inspired me to take further steps toward environmental activism, because they showed if you’re passionate enough about something, you can do anything, no matter who you are.”

 

***Save The Bay is deeply grateful for all that Juliana and Sasha do to protect our beautiful Bay. Ahead of our big Bay Day celebration, we are proud to present these Bay Heroes with a special Courageous Women Award at this year’s Catamaran Sail – September 29th.

Saving The Bay through Meaningful Partnerships: Meet Bay Hero John Bourgeois

John exploring Alviso Slough

“Fishing was a part of my childhood. We’d hop on our bikes and go fishing for hours. It was a nice way to spend a weekend day, and there were always lots of bayous to explore.”

Even as a little kid growing up in southern Louisiana, John Bourgeois knew he wanted to do more than just marvel at wetlands. He wanted to protect them.

“This sounds weird, but I feel deeply wronged by what we’ve done to the environment… and it’s always informed how I interact with the natural world.”

Decades before he took the helm as Executive Project Manager for the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, John set his mind on studying biology and ecology in his home state. To him, Louisiana faces “no bigger environmental issue than wetland loss.”

Initially, John hoped to solve the state’s challenges as an environmental lawyer. Spending one college summer as an intern in Washington, D.C. was all it took to change his mind.

“Seeing how the sausage is made in D.C…. I decided I would rather go into the technical side than the legal side.” John sensed the path toward significant wetland restoration would be “very long and political” if he spent his career in Washington. He also found it disheartening to watch “really bright people, a year or two out of law school, doing pretty menial work in congressional offices.”

Bedwell Bayfront Park, one of John’s favorite SF Bay views (photo credit: Michael Macor, San Francisco Chronicle)

So, John shifted gears to research, eager to build up wetlands on a faster scale than policy work allowed. He carried out studies in the “mangrove swamps of Micronesia” among other locations, gaining more and more experience in coastal restoration.

Ultimately, in joining the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, John says he landed the “perfect combo of what I thought I’d be doing — it unites science, policy, and has the applied aspect all in one.”

In many respects, the role of Executive Project Manager puts John at the center of a spider web. On a daily basis, he communicates with “regulatory agencies, local municipalities, utilities, research institutions” and a range of other groups.

Gaining support for a project with multiple phases and mighty goals presents a variety of challenges. But John says the secret to forming meaningful partnerships is quite simple: you just have to be honest. “We’re on a long-term path to success, but you might have to admit to some short-term failures, and it’s really appreciated, that transparency.”

John says he’s found it truly rewarding to collaborate with Save The Bay throughout the years. “I engage with Save The Bay on multiple levels – including working closely with [Habitat Restoration Director] Donna Ball addressing on-the-ground restoration efforts or salt pond sites.”

John alongside Donna Ball, Save The Bay’s Habitat Restoration Director

He’s also far from disappointed at the pace – or impact — of Save The Bay’s policy efforts. “Save The Bay’s work is not just an important part of our project, but so critical to the Bay Area restoration community.” John says Save The Bay’s decade-long push for Measure AA proved “fundamental” for the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project to move forward.

John is grateful for this, as he enjoys the chance to share its story with diverse crowds. “Throughout high school and into college, I was active in debate and acting. I think both have helped me tell a story, tailor my message to difference audiences so it sticks.”

Now, with help from long-time partners like Save The Bay, John gets to watch his favorite kind of wetland story unfold: “the bulldozers moving dirt, local species coming back, Bay waters flowing again, habitat establishing — I’m the most excited seeing these on-the-ground results.”

 

**Save The Bay will honor John Bourgeois as one of a select group of Bay Heroes during our third annual Bay Day celebration – October 6, 2018. Learn how you can dig in, vote, or donate like a true Bay Hero: bayday.org

Turning Trash into Something Beautiful: How Artists Richard and Judith Lang Fight Plastic Pollution

 “Judith is absolutely the most generous, open-arms-to-the-world person. But when we’re out on the beach looking for trash, she is ruthless (laughs).

“No, no! That’s not true!”

“She’ll find a beautiful piece of plastic, look back at me, and just wag it in my face!”

Teasing aside, Richard and Judith truly enjoy their fierce competitions to find the “rarest” piece of plastic on the sand. In fact, it’s their way of making up for lost time together.

On their first date in 1999, Richard and Judith discovered something startling: for the last three years, they’d both been combing North Bay beaches for plastic trash, turning their hauls into artwork – without ever crossing paths.

They’ve now spent just under 20 years scouring the same 1,000 yards of Kehoe Beach together. Richard says there’s a good reason why they rival each other to find the most compelling plastic. “One has to make a game of this … or you could fall into a deep pit of despair.”

Indeed, “despair” got them started in this line of work. Judith was teaching art at the College of Marin, and she often ate her lunch on a bench facing Richardson Bay. But she was saddened to find the “lovely view of San Francisco” obscured by “plastic debris that would wash in.” One day, Judith started collecting some of that plastic and turning it into art – her way of transforming waste into something beautiful.

Richard had his “a-ha” moment when he was building a nine-foot sculpture out of aluminum for his M.F.A project at the University of Wisconsin. “At the end of it, I was in great despair because the U.S. had just celebrated the first Earth Day in 1970, and I attended at the National Mall, and I was aware of what was going on in the planet, and I thought: ‘I’m using all these materials — for what?’”

Now, like Save The Bay’s plucky Restoration team, Richard and Judith brave “blazing heat and blistering cold” as they work to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the way they know best. The couple also embodies Save The Bay’s spirit of collaboration, hashing out every idea until they feel strongly about the same vision. Judith admits this can entail a bit of “stomping around the house,” but the end result is well worth a little tension: “we both sign our names on every single piece we make.”

Their teamwork certainly bears fruit: the couple’s artwork has been showcased in more than 70 exhibitions across galleries, museums, and educational centers. During Save The Bay’s Bay Day celebration last year, the Langs donated a big pile of plastic so that people of all ages could try their hand at turning trash into art. Judith and Richard were delighted to hear that: “people took to it immediately – no instruction needed.”

Judith and Richard are always glad to see these scraps transform, as the artists believe deeply: “if you don’t give style to something painful, you’re just going to depress yourself.” Indeed, humor has been the driving force in their work on plastic pollution.

As Judith puts it, “we joke that we’re the world’s smallest NGO and we’re not even that well-organized. We’re just people who’ve devoted their lives to 1,000 yards of beach.”

 

From Dodging Cows to Driving Policy: Meet Jody London, Bay Role Model

Jody at Save The Bay restoration event

“There was a dairy ranch between my house and the middle school. I had to cut through the field every day, and on foggy mornings, I would sometimes not see the cows until they were just a few feet away.”

But Jody London was only dodging cows as an eighth grader. The following year, that San Jose ranch turned into a subdivision. Our former Board President says she couldn’t help but wonder: “where all those cows went.”

With development more and more on her mind, Jody refined her writing skills, reporting for her high school newspaper and majoring in English at UC Berkeley. All the while, she was “finding a way to use those communication skills for a higher purpose.”

Soon after college, Jody found her foothold in environmentalism, “working with the EPA on Superfund sites, one involving mercury in the Guadalupe River” running through San Jose. However, like Save The Bay’s courageous women founders, Jody wanted to drive change – not watch as others made the tough calls.

“As a consultant for the EPA, I would submit my best work to the decision-maker, who would modify it. One day, I thought: ‘I want to be the decision-maker.’” That’s when Jody turned the tables, earning a master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbia University and starting a job with the California Public Utilities Commission.

Jody’s favorite view, Claremont Hotel

Jody says her work on Save The Bay’s Board (1999-2008) profoundly shaped her leadership style. “I think a lot about [Save The Bay founders] Sylvia, Esther, Kay, and their willingness to keep pushing: ‘you don’t wanna do this? Who else do I talk to’?” Jody says Executive Director David Lewis served as quite the model of tenacity.

“For Measure AA, David had that vision for 15 years and just kept working on it. He would let it go and pick it up again, putting pieces in place over a very long time, drawing on all the resources he could. It was brilliant.”

Jody showed similar patience – and persuasion – fighting to reduce plastic pollution as an Oakland School Board member. The goal: get Styrofoam out of school lunches. “I did my research and figured out where the contract was, and I framed the issue very simply to my colleagues on the School Board before our vote: ‘look, there’s a giant patch of garbage in the Pacific, and you don’t want to contribute to that.’” They got the message: Styrofoam was banned in a 6-1 vote.  

As Sustainability Coordinator with Contra Costa County, Jody now spends much of her time working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — also a focus area of Save The Bay’s Bay Smart Communities vision. She’s promoting idle-free driving as a simple first step for everyone behind the wheel.

Volunteers from Temple Beth Abraham

But Jody doesn’t stop at steering policy campaigns; she’s also empowering the next generation of environmental advocates. For more than 15 years, our former Board Member has been bringing young people from her synagogue, Temple Beth Abraham, out to the wetlands for volunteer events.

The groups have pulled non-native plants, collected seeds from our nurseries, and removed harmful trash from the shoreline. Jody says it’s been really rewarding to “see Arrowhead Marsh change, with the growth of native plants – what a feeling of accomplishment.”

In true Save The Bay style, Jody says the collaborative aspect is the most invigorating part: “the satisfaction comes in how you were able to bring other people along with you, so they understand the environmental issue and how important it is.”

***We are thrilled to feature Jody and other Bay role models at a special event honoring Save The Bay Executive Director David Lewis on August 30 in San Francisco. Learn more at sfbayactionfund.org.