From your backyard to the Bay, it’s time to cleanup!

In almost every city, trashy runoff flows directly into the Bay, untreated.

Distressing images of birds trapped in plastic debris and trash fouling beaches have sadly become common news stories. Events like International Coastal Clean Up Day (Saturday, September 16) and National Estuaries Week (September 16-23), bring much-needed attention to the cleanliness of our Bay, coastline, and waterways. But, often overlooked and not often discussed, is where the vast majority of this trash begins its journey to the Bay. When we look for answers we need to look further inland to one of the greatest sources of Bay trash… our city streets.

Trash is a daily and persistent threat to the health of our communities and neighborhoods. Illegal dumping creates chronic blight in many of our region’s neighborhoods, and city departments are struggling to respond in a timely manner. Homeless encampments lack access to trash bins, resulting in unsanitary and often dangerous living conditions. Trash is deliberately thrown on the ground and accidentally blows out of cars, garbage trucks, and trash bins.

The sources of trash are numerous, but the Bay is often the ultimate destination. Our streets are connected to the Bay through our storm drain system. In most places in the Bay Area, the grates you see next to the curb allow water and pollution to flow freely through a system of pipes that empty into creeks, rivers, and the Bay. Since stormwater does not flow to a treatment plant, all of the trash flowing through this system ultimately ends up in the environment.

Save The Bay has been working for almost a decade to keep trash out of the Bay, including advocating for regulations that require zero trash in city storm drains by 2022. Since most trash starts in our cities, our city leaders and local agencies must play a role in the solution.

The road to zero trash in the Bay is a tough one, but we are already seeing the positive impacts of our advocacy. In July, Save The Bay partnered with Oakland Community Organizations to advocate for additional funding in the city budget to prevent and respond to illegal dumping, a chronic problem that primarily impacts some of Oakland’s most underserved areas. Following pressure from Save The Bay, local and regional organizations, and the community, the city council adopted a budget that not only includes an additional $150,000 to address illegal dumping but also $1.6 million to place port-a-potties and clean trash from homeless encampments. The city also committed to installing trash screens in storm drains as a part of transportation projects.

This victory is only the beginning for our Zero Trash campaign. Like Oakland, cities and counties throughout the Bay Area need to secure additional funding to keep trash out of our neighborhoods and the Bay. Save The Bay is committed to advocating throughout the region to make the 2022 zero trash requirement a reality, and we hope you’ll join us by making a personal promise to reduce your trash footprint:

Four Simple Ways Your Can Reduce Your Trash Footprint!

 Thanks for all you do to help keep our Bay, coastline, and waterways, clean and healthy for all life. Stay tuned for opportunities to advocate for zero trash in your city.

Bal Tashchit: Protect Our Bay

7thTzedakah JacobWSaveTheBayCheckJacob W. is a 7th grader at a local school on the Peninsula who selected Save The Bay for his Tzedakah project, which honors the Jewish value of obligatory giving. Each student chooses a Jewish value and a social issue that aligns with the value, as well as an organization working on the issue. Students then commit to volunteering, advocating, and fundraising for the organization.

Jacob chose the value of Bal Tashchit and identified Save The Bay as an organization working to prevent environmental degradation. He fundraised $1271.42 dollars for Save The Bay as part of his Tzedakah project, which he presented to Executive Director David Lewis.

In his own words, this is why Jacob chose Save The Bay for his Tzedakah project:

“The value I chose for the 7th Grade Tzedakah Project was Bal Tashchit (בל תשח׳ת), which means to protect our world. Save The Bay is an organization in the Bay Area that works to prevent water pollution, restore the shoreline and overall protect the Bay from harm. Their work enacts Bal Tashchit because they are caring, protecting and healing the Bay Area. I chose them because they are the largest regional organization working on what they do and because of their success.”

Thank you, Jacob, for your commitment to protecting our world by supporting 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Making an Impact : Bay Restoration

Emily Stanford is a sophomore at Oberlin College studying biology. She is interested in becoming an ecologist and conducting research. During her winter break, Emily visited the Bay Area and volunteered her time to help with the horizontal levee project at Oro Loma.

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Emily working with Save The Bay staff and volunteers at the Oro Loma Horizontal Levee project.

I first heard about Save The Bay through an alumnus from my school who recommended it as a great place to get experience doing basic field work. As an aspiring ecologist, I decided to travel to the Bay Area during my winter break to volunteer with them to see what I could learn and to make a positive impact on the area.

While there, we worked on restoring a wetland that would provide filtration at the Oro Loma water treatment plant in San Lorenzo. The ultimate goal was to plant 70,000 plants. Every day we alternated work by cutting roots and rhizomes from the plant beds, counting them, and replanting them in the mud. It was very dirty work, but it turned out to be very rewarding. I really enjoyed spending the days outside and it was awesome realizing how much work we had accomplished at the end of each day.

However, the best part about working with Save The Bay was being able to spend time with the awesome faculty and volunteers who came out every day. They were funny, enthusiastic, passionate about their work, and great to talk to. I had many awesome conversations with them and we often had fun by playing games while we worked. All in all, it was a great experience and I hope to come back if I am in the area again. I would highly recommend that anyone come out if they have a free day.

— Emily Stanford

Planting begins at Oro Loma

Oro Loma
Volunteers planted 3,200 native seedlings at the Oro Loma Horizontal Levee Project. Save The Bay will plant 70,000 seedlings at this site over the coming months.

Last weekend, over fifty volunteers gathered at the Oro Loma Sanitary District treatment plant in San Lorenzo to kick off an ambitious burst of planting activity in a soon-to-be restored wetland.  Participants included a contingent of local college students, parents and their teenage children, and a few veteran helpers.  Equipped with trowels and picks, attendees placed 3,200 plants into a plot of soil next to the sewage treatment plant.

Though the plants were all put in the ground in about an hour, an enormous amount of planning went into how they were selected and configured.  Save The Bay’s habitat restoration team has been working for over a year to cultivate several palettes of wetland plants that will be planted next to each other.  They will become part of a scientific experiment exploring what combination of plants and soils can best filter excess nutrients from the treated wastewater that will be pumped in from the adjacent sewage plant.

A new kind of levee

This is exciting, because if this pilot project is successful, it could be replicated elsewhere as a means of naturally improving water quality, providing needed habitat for sensitive species, and forming a more durable barrier to flooding from storms and sea level rise.  This horizontal levee is an alternative to steep earthen or rock walls that traditionally separate the Bay from vulnerable land — this marsh will gently slope upwards, enabling it to better adapt to rising tides.

After the planting was completed, participants joined the public open house being hosted by the Oro Loma Sanitary District.  Horizontal levee project scientists and treatment plant workers were on hand to give tours, and Save The Bay staff answered questions about their work.  Also present were local elected officials, representatives of the Castro Valley Sanitary District, which co-owns the treatment plant, as well as UC Berkeley researchers who will analyze the filtering capacity of the wetland once it is operational.

Over the next two months, our goal is to put in 70,000 plants at this site.  If this project sounds interesting and you’d like to pitch in, you’re in luck!  Save The Bay will be hosting 3 more volunteer planting workdays at Oro Loma, on November 21, December 5, and December 12.  Click here to volunteer!