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.

Quiet Confidence: Why Beckie Zisser Thrives Talking Politics

Beckie takes her boys to Big Basin Redwoods State Park

“Being a quiet, shy person, I hated swim meets as a kid – found them really nerve-racking. But once I was in the water, I knew exactly what I was doing. I loved it.”

Beckie Zisser knows well: she isn’t like most lobbyists.

And that’s precisely why Beckie strikes a chord with politicians. “I’m not naturally extroverted, but I always have that drive underneath to compete.” When it comes to water issues, Beckie’s never afraid to enter the ring. In fact, she’s taken on this fight for most of her career.

Beckie’s childhood in Seattle shaped much of the story. “I lived at the top of a hill, and you could see water on both sides. There were lakes around me, mountains. Being outside was an extremely important part of my upbringing.”

Beckie enjoys a family hike at Mount Rainier

As a kid, Beckie went camping with friends and family; she played soccer and swam for her club team. And, when Seattle’s downpours overwhelmed? She honed her skills at crossword puzzles. Beckie still loves “word games of all kinds,” though she’s recently pivoted toward Settlers of Catan. “I like building cities and getting all my resources, and my husband and I get pretty competitive about it.”

Then, Beckie takes what she’s learned back to work. “I do find pitching to legislators is like playing a game. You have to put the pieces together, find which ones will appeal to a person.” True to her roots, Beckie does her homework for these meetings outside.

“The best lobbying preparation is participating in a staff planting day [with Save The Bay]. I love having a real sense of the work that needs to be done — getting on the ground and seeing the kinds of projects we’re trying to promote. Then, when I’m talking to legislators, I can really picture the wetlands in my head.”

During those conversations, Beckie finds elected officials are typically disarmed by her calm demeanor. “I have a different temperament from a lot of lobbyists – non-confrontational, quietly confident. So, when I ask for something, it’s harder for politicians to say: ‘no.’”

Beckie’s glad for that. After all, our Climate Change and Restoration Policy Program Manager sometimes struggles to sleep worrying about… climate change. “When people ask: ‘What keeps you up at night?’ It’s climate change. I have two little kids, and I’m so worried about what legacy I’m leaving them.’”

Family trip to the Marin Headlands

As someone who uses exercise to “wind down,” Beckie finds that “the slow pace of legislative work can be extremely frustrating.” Still, she works tirelessly to secure funding for projects that will restore and protect San Francisco Bay. Beckie stresses: “It’s such an important task because the clock is ticking. The longer we wait to restore the Bay and adapt to sea level rise, the greater cost we’ll all pay down the road.”

In pushing for new policy initiatives on behalf of Save The Bay, Beckie always keeps her two young children in mind.  “My older son now has some idea of what I do. I tell him I ‘help nature.’ He understands our Prius is ‘better for nature’ than other cars, for example. And when we drive over the Bay, he knows that ‘Mama’ is working to keep it clean and healthy.”

And when Beckie thinks of her favorite views around San Francisco Bay — from Tilden Park to the Marin Headlands to Crissy Field — she reminds herself to keep teaching her boys about our region’s natural beauty. “I want them to spend as much time as possible seeing nature. I want them to have nature built into their character from a young age, just like I did growing up.”

For more on Beckie’s fight for Bay funding on a state level, you can read her 2018 Legislative Agenda here.

 

Mice and Marshes: Protecting the Bay I Love

Arrowhead Marsh, taken by Jim Moyers
Arrowhead Marsh, taken by Jim Moyers

I have loved salt marshes ever since I first stepped into one during a college wetlands class in Washington. I breathed in earthy scents. I felt mud squish beneath my boots. I watched birds fly low over the water. Now, the Bay wetlands nourish my spirit, and I am truly grateful they are the place I call home.

As the Habitat Restoration Director at Save The Bay, I am proud that my work leading volunteer and education programs can directly benefit nearby wildlife. Our efforts provide critical habitat for endangered species like the salt marsh harvest mouse. But we never lose sight of the big picture.

Restoration staff and volunteers working on the Oro Loma Project
Restoration staff and volunteers working on the Oro Loma Project

Recently, we collaborated with other scientists on the Oro Loma Horizontal Levee Project – an innovative levee that mimics wetland habitats. Our expert restoration team joined more than 5,000 Save The Bay volunteers to construct the site’s giant outdoor nursery and plant more than 70,000 native seedlings.

The potential benefits are profound, since wetland marshes act like sponges, soaking up water as it rises. If replicated, this horizontal levee model could provide extensive flood protection and create thousands of acres of habitat around San Francisco Bay.

Right now, our Bay faces a triple threat of pollution, sea-level rise and habitat loss. Scientists estimate it needs 100,000 acres of wetlands to be healthy and sustainable. Today, only 40,000 acres exist.

With help from our generous supporters, we can continue working with partners to make significant progress toward that 100,000 acre mark.

The Bay is the heart of my home. Together, we can protect this beautiful resource and all that it offers diverse communities, vibrant plants, and countless animals.

With sincere thanks,

Donna Ball
Habitat Restoration Director

Building a Better Bay Together

Every day, I’m grateful for the privilege of living and working in the Bay Area: its stunning views, natural wonders, vibrant cities and diverse communities. San Francisco Bay connects us all in one way or the other.

While it would be easy to take our surroundings for granted, Bay Day reminds us of the beauty and uniqueness of the San Francisco Bay and the ecological imperative to take action to protect it. That’s why PG&E is excited to celebrate the second annual Bay Day on October 7, and proud to be a lead sponsor – it’s a wonderful event with an important purpose.

Climate change and rising sea levels threaten San Francisco Bay and the communities that call the Bay Area home. As the ecological and economic heart of our region, the Bay’s resiliency in the face of climate change, extreme weather and population pressures must be a priority for us all.

Here at PG&E, we’re committed to leading by example when it comes to climate change. That means adapting our operations and infrastructure to changing climate conditions, as well as supporting efforts at the local level to make the communities we serve more resilient. We’re also leading the way in providing clean energy to our customers, with nearly 70% of our energy derived from sources that don’t emit greenhouse gases.

PG&E Volunteer Day

Just a few weeks ago I was pleased to lead my team on a volunteer restoration event with Save The Bay at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Shoreline in Oakland.  We were welcomed by passionate and knowledgeable Save The Bay staff, and make no mistake, staffers Kenneth and Silas put us right to work!  Not only did PG&E employee volunteers remove nearly 1,300 pounds of invasive plant species in just a few hours, we also learned about the vital role tidal wetlands play in protecting the shoreline from flooding and rising tides.  Our team was energized by our work, and we left the day feeling proud we played a part in protecting and beautifying San Francisco Bay.  A win-win for all involved!

To help everyone enjoy our amazing Bay Area, PG&E has sponsored My Bay Day Adventure Guide: an interactive, online guide that will help you take advantage of all the Bay has to offer.

The more we celebrate our beautiful Bay, the more committed we will collectively be to its healthy future. As a member of the Save The Bay Board of Directors, a Bay Area resident and a fellow advocate for the environment, I invite you to take time on October 7 to celebrate this important day and give back to the region that offers us so much. Together, we can leave a beautiful and resilient San Francisco Bay for generations to come.