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.

The Three Kings of January 19, 2015: The tide, the location, and one man’s legacy

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January 19, 2015 — A day that could only be described by Martin Luther King Junior himself, “everyone can be great, because anyone can serve…”

Perhaps it was the significance behind this observed holiday, the opportunity to restore the wetlands at Martin Luther King Junior Regional Shoreline, or the anticipation of the King Tides that excited and inspired Save The Bay staff, volunteers, and myself to give back to my community.

My role was to capture still images of the event. During the King Tides walking tour, the volunteers and I learned about the King Tides phenomenon and the vital role our wetlands play in mitigating the impacts of sea level rise.

Not to be confused with climate change, King Tides are the result of a strong gravitational pull exerted by the sun and moon. But, scientists say the high water levels you see in the photographs (above) are projected to become the daily average high tide in the year 2050. This is primarily due to a rise in sea level and destruction of our wetlands which act as a natural buffer. Healthy wetlands help protect coastal communities by soaking up and slowing down water from severe storms, which are expected to become more severe and occur more frequently as sea level rises.

Following the conclusion of the event, I returned to the same restoration site and snapped a few photographs to capture the extremes between high and low tide.

“Who drained the slough?!” I thought to myself.

Within the span of 6 hours the water level fell dramatically, exposing saturated mounds of mud and revealing plants that were once entirely submerged!

As I peered through my camera lens, staring at the muddy puddles in astonishment, the importance of wetland restoration and impact of volunteering became clear to me. Having seen the tide rise as high as the frontage road off of Interstate 880 near the Oakland Coliseum, I know that every acre of restored tidal marsh will help Bay Area communities brace for what is to come – extreme regional flooding over time.

From social to environmental movements, Dr. King taught us that it does not take much to be great. Simply put, a little help will make a lasting impact.

While covering this event is my small contribution to help improve our local region, there is nothing more powerful than seeing what we are capable of together as a community.

To view more photos from this restoration event visit our Facebook Page!

 

 

Guest Post | Restoring the Bay Trail with Acterra

Acterra volunteers
Volunteers restore part of the Bay Trail in East Palo Alto.

Over the past year, Save The Bay and Acterra have been working together to restore part of the Bay Trail at the Faber Tract in East Palo Alto. Talia Kirschner is a Restoration Technician with Acterra who works with volunteers to restore critical habitat. 

Acterra and Save the Bay have joined forces to ramp up restoration and community-based stewardship within the baylands of East Palo Alto.  With funding from the Cosco Busan oil spill settlement and the Coastal Conservancy, we are enhancing a 1.3 mile stretch of the Bay Trail spanning from the Friendship Bridge at San Francisquito Creek to Cooley Landing.   

The Bay Trail in East Palo Alto runs along the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, traversing some of the last remaining salt marsh in the San Francisco Bay.  It intersects with the Faber tract, where Save the Bay has been working for several years now.  This important natural space provides critical habitat for hundreds of species of shore birds, fish, and mammals including the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse and California clapper rail. The trail is part of a larger recreational corridor that will ultimately link the shorelines of all nine Bay Area Counties.

Acterra is leading community efforts to clean up the Bay Trail, remove noxious weeds from sensitive habitat, and landscape key areas of the trail with a diverse palette of locally native plants that provide valuable food and shelter for wildlife.  Save the Bay has been an integral partner to these efforts by co-leading semi-annual community workdays and growing baylands plants for the project at its native plant nursery.  Acterra’s native plant nursery, in turn, provides complementary uplands plants for the project that are sourced from our local watersheds.

The project offers a variety of volunteer opportunities to local youth and adults through community workdays, Citizen Science sessions to monitor water quality, and educational events.  To get involved, please contact taliak (at) acterra.org or check the Acterra website at www.acterra.org for upcoming events.

– Talia Kirschner, Acterra

Prior to joining Acterra in 2013, Talia worked as the development manager at Slide Ranch, an environmental education center in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. She has also worked in the for-profit sector doing ecological landscaping and native plant installation and maintenance.  Her volunteer work in wildlife monitoring at Point Reyes National Seashore fueled her enthusiasm for wetlands conservation and ecology, which she has been delighted to apply along the wetlands of the Peninsula. 

Notes from the Field | Ramping Up Restoration

Eden Landing
Save The Bay staff scoping new Eden E9/E14 restoration site.

I’m of the opinion that ambitious goals are a good thing, especially when they come with a realistic, coordinated plan for attainment. Save The Bay has come a long way since its start 52 years ago, yet we still maintain many of our grassroots values and principles.  In addition to continuing to advocate against reckless shoreline development and Bay fill, we’re dedicating significant effort to restoring wetlands.  This year we’ve set our most ambitious native species planting goal ever: 40,000 plants.

In more than one Notes From The Field blog post I’ve talked about how volunteers from the community can make a difference through Save The Bay’s Community-based Restoration program.  The Bay Area has seen decades of wetland loss due to urban development, agriculture, and industrial salt production, but in recent years we’ve actually regained wetlands around the Bay.  This reversal is certainly due in part to the policy and restoration work of Save The Bay and our thousands of dedicated volunteers. We and our many partners are working to restore 100,000 acres of wetlands around the Bay to keep it healthy for future generations of people and wildlife. To date, there are roughly 45,000 acres of restored and historic wetlands in the Bay Area, so we’re nearly halfway there.

Restoring 55,000 acres of wetlands will be no easy feat. It will require lots of time, energy, money, and cooperation among state and federal agencies, various NGOS, and the public. We’re excited about a new restoration project that could serve as a scalable model for future large projects to help our region reach the 100,000 acre goal. The project is in a remote area of Eden Landing Ecological Reserve in historic salt ponds E9/E14. Working in partnership with the California  Department of Fish and Wildlife and the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, we’ll be restoring our largest area of transition zone (the area of the marsh between water and land that provides wildlife habitat during high tides) ever. To accomplish this goal we’ll be using our tried and true manual planting method in addition to hydroseeding the entire transition zone, a process that involves spraying a liquid seed mix on the ground (essentially applying a layer of organic papier-mâché).   We’ll carefully document our activities and protocols used so that other organizations and agencies can replicate this process.

The future of Bay restoration is looking bright, but like most impactful projects, success is contingent upon the availability of funding. Of the 55,000 acres of wetlands that still need to be restored, 31,000 acres are already publically owned, and await funding. The remaining 24,000 still need to be acquired Save The Bay is working with a broad coalition of local organizations and agencies to support the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority. This is the first regional entity of its kind to focus exclusively on raising and allocating new funds for Bay restoration, public access, and flood control.  Stay tuned…

Notes from the Field: Seth’s Three Cents

volunteers
Exchange students from Singapore removing invasive species at Ravenswood Pond in Menlo Park.

With a new school year recently underway and our native planting season beginning in a few short months, I took some time this past weekend to reflect upon the two and a half years I’ve spent with Save The Bay. Ultimately, I identified a handful of personal opinions formed while leading habitat restoration programs with Save The Bay. Anyone who has spent time with me in the field has probably listened to me harp on some of the themes discussed below, and while I do not intend to come across as prophetic or prescient, I firmly believe in these three ideas:

1. Almost nothing is static. People change, cultures evolve, economies fluctuate, and landscapes are perpetually in a state of transformation, albeit a gradual one. Back in the fall of 2011 I applied Jared Diamond’s theory of landscape amnesia to the San Francisco Bay. Humans often fail to recognize changes when they occur gradually enough to be imperceptible to the human eye. While we may look at the shape of the Bay and assume it remains unchanged, in reality the outline and appearance of our estuary has shifted dramatically—due to geology, climate, and human impact—and will continue to shift due to these same variables.

Though humans’ impact on the Bay has been ecologically destructive in the post-Gold Rush era, this momentum can be reversed through progressive legislation and physical reparation. Our land use advocacy and on-the-ground wetland restoration accomplishes exactly this: changing the shape of San Francisco Bay in an ecologically beneficial manner. Personally witnessing two and a half years of work at our restoration sites has proven to me that our approach really works; degraded wetland areas can be improved at a terrific pace. As we look towards a future challenged by the threats of climate change, water scarcity, and loss of biodiversity, maintaining a dynamic view of our relationship with the California landscape will be critical to finding creative, sustainable solutions.

2. Everyone cares. I’d like to suggest that Community-based Restoration be renamed “Global Community-based Restoration.” The sight of 50 or 60 Bay Area locals showing up to volunteer at 9am on a rainy Saturday morning will never fail to impress me. That being said, even more astonishing are the groups of volunteers from Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and even Singapore we’ve witnessed demonstrating the same dedication and respect for our projects that the locals do. Despite the likelihood that these volunteers will never visit our sites again, they still take the time to plant each native seedling with care, recognizing that while we do not necessarily all share a bay in common, we do share oceans.

Peter Baye
Local wetland ecologist Peter Baye, Ph.D, walking down a bike path flooded by king tides last winter.

3. It’s all about the “watershed” perspective. One cannot talk about the health of San Francisco Bay without also considering the health of the Pacific Ocean, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the polar ice caps. Melting glaciers at the poles are raising ocean levels worldwide, which means that our Bay will also experience a rise in water levels. In anticipation of this change, local scientists are focusing research on wetlands’ ability to migrate vertically and keep up with rising waters. One major variable in determining the success of vertical migration is the availability of adequate sediments (dirt, sand, and other materials) present in Bay water. The majority of these sediments originate from the Sierra Nevada mountains and travel to the Bay via the Sacramento and San Joaquin Delta.

In recent years the sediment load entering the Bay has decreased significantly due to river damming and diversion in the Sierra Nevada and Central Valley. This sediment supply chain connects the future of coastal Bay communities with the water politics of the San Francisco Bay watershed, an area comprising 40% of California’s landmass. As you might guess, this is just one of many complex interrelationships impacting the Bay. What this means is that San Francisco Bay conservation and restoration cannot just be a local issue; effective action will require state-wide participation and collaboration. Everyone will have a role, and the more we can educate ourselves and maintain a big picture view, the better off our state will be.

Care to discuss any of these ideas in person? Come volunteer with us.