Powerful Results, Positive Trends: California’s Bag Ban One Year Out

A little over a year ago, California voters became the first in the United States to approve a single-use plastic bag ban. With the passage of Proposition 67, Californians took a stand to protect our state’s diverse and fragile environmental systems from being further harmed by plastic bag litter. One year later, we are proud to say that the ban has been successful in reducing the amount of plastic that reaches local waterways and harms wildlife and water quality.

Data from Coastal Clean-Up Day shows that there has been a 72% decline in plastic bag litter from 2010, and plastic bags now account for only 1.5% of total litter compared to 10% seven years before. Furthermore, it cost the state $400 million, or about $10 per resident, to clean up littered bags prior to the ban.

Far from going unnoticed, California’s plastic bag ban set a trend. Hawaii decided to implement its own statewide bag ban, and municipalities across Massachusetts and Washington have taken the same step to protect waterways and wildlife. While many states have yet to follow our example, Californians should be proud of the fact that we have proven ourselves once again to be leaders in protecting both local and global waters from toxic plastic pollution.

Going Big: Building an experimental habitat for a better Bay

Horizontal Levee
A “Horizontal Levee” is under development at Oro Loma. Rendering courtesy The Bay Institute.

This spring, Save The Bay’s Habitat Restoration team laid the groundwork of an enormous and unprecedented effort to create new habitat at a sewage treatment plant in San Lorenzo.

The 10-acre project at the Oro Loma wastewater treatment plant will eventually include a manmade wetland basin and a new type of levee. It’s all part of a giant experiment to mimic historic wetlands and address three crises that loom over San Francisco Bay’s shorelines: declining water quality, threats to wildlife habitat on the Bay, and destructive flooding caused by rising seas and increasingly powerful storm surges.

Braving long days in the hot sun at the treatment plant, our native plant specialists have already constructed the site’s giant outdoor nursery. With help from an army of our amazing corporate and community volunteers, we have already begun to propagate the 70,000 native seedlings needed to establish this new ecosystem. The site will double as an outdoor laboratory for researchers who will conduct field tests to better understand how treated wastewater and this new kind of levee can address critical issues facing the Bay. Continue reading “Going Big: Building an experimental habitat for a better Bay”

5 Reasons Why Our Bay Wetlands Are Important

Photo by: Judy Irving

Happy World Wetlands Day!

San Francisco Bay was dubbed a Wetland of International Importance in 2013 under an international conservation treaty called the Ramsar Convention.

Wetlands serve vital functions, but are also at risk of destruction. In fact, over 64% of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed since 1900. Fortunately, local activists around the world and here in the Bay Area have been working to protect and restore wetlands for future generations.

Often referred to as the “lungs of the Bay,” here are 5 reasons why our Bay wetlands are important.

1. Wetlands help purify and counterbalance the human effect on water quality.    

Wetlands trap polluted runoff before toxins can reach open Bay water. This natural filtering process actually purifies the waters of the Bay.

Photo by: Vivian Reed

2. Wetlands help curb global warming and protect communities from sea level rise.

Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, released into the atmosphere are captured, stored, and filtered by our wetlands.

Traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge
Photo by: Vivian Reed

Healthy wetlands also act as sponges capable of soaking up large quantities of water from rain storms and high tides, including King Tides.

King Tides nearly flood this Interstate 880 frontage road by the Oakland Coliseum around 10:30 am.

King Tides nearly flood this Interstate 880 frontage road by the Oakland Coliseum. Photo by: Vivian Reed
Photo by: Vivian Reed

The tall pillars supporting the same frontage road by the Oakland Coliseum are revealed during low tide around 5:30 pm.

Tall pillars supporting the same frontage road by the Oakland Coliseum are revealed during low tide. Photo by: Vivian Reed
Photo by: Vivian Reed

3. Wetlands provide habitat for endangered species.

Healthy tidal marshes provide food and shelter from predators for a number of endangered and threatened species.

San Francisco Bay’s Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse is the tiniest endangered species.

The Ridgway’s Rail is one of the Bay’s endangered species that depends on healthy wetlands to survive.

California Clapper Rail
Photo by: Dan Sullivan.

They also offer migratory animals a place to rest and reproduce along the Pacific Flyway.

A pair of Canada Geese rest along the Bay shoreline during their migration across North America.

Photo by: Vivian Reed

4. Our wetlands are beautiful areas of open space around the highly urbanized Bay Area that provide residents with many recreational opportunities.  

Like this:

In the mid 2000s, Save The Bay’s Canoes In Sloughs (pronounced “slews”) program offered Bay Area students a unique way to learn about and have fun on the Bay.

Canoes in the Sloughs
Photo by: Judy Irving

Or this:

A bicyclist admires the Bay views as he pedals along the Bay Trail.

Bike rider on the Bay Trail
Photo by: Vivian Reed

Or even this:

A family of three enjoy an afternoon stroll at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Photo by: Vivian Reed

5. The Bay’s wetlands support our local economy by providing jobs in shipping, tourism, fishing, recreation, and education. 

A large cargo ship travels underneath the Bay Bridge toward the Port of Oakland.

Photo by: Dan Sullivan

We all need a healthy SF Bay. 7 Million Bay Area resides, 400 native species, our economy, and quality of life depend on it . Wetlands are vital to the health of wildlife and humans everywhere.

Help us restore and protect our wetlands by signing up for our volunteering programs today!

Restoration volunteers plant native seedlings into the ground
Photo by: Vivian Reed











Great news! Thanks to a groundswell of support, Bay Area voters will now have a chance to vote for a Clean and Healthy Bay this June. This is the greatest opportunity in a generation to restore our Bay for people, wildlife, and our economy. Are you in?

Take Action Now

UC Berkeley is “Gettin’ the Butts Out!”

Tim Pine is an Environmental Protection Specialist with UC Berkeley and is the Surface Water Quality Program Manager for the University.  He has more than 20 years of professional experience in the discipline of water quality protection in California.

This April, UC Berkeley resurrected a long time tradition when it held a campus-wide Cal Clean-Up Day to engage the students of Cal to take the time to spruce up the university’s grounds and creek.The theme this time was called “Gettin’ the Butts Out!” to celebrate and tie in Berkeley’s first year as a Tobacco Free Campus (as of January 2nd, 2014).

Limited edition t-shirts were given to all participants and there were prizes for the individuals and teams that collected the most cigarette butts on campus. In just a few hours, nearly a gallon of butts were picked up as well as other litter found around campus and along the banks of Strawberry Creek, which flows the length of the university and then out to San Francisco Bay.

The event was organized and staffed by members of the UC Berkeley Office of Environment, Health & Safety, the Campus Department of Refuse and Recycling, and the Grounds Department, demonstrating a campus-wide commitment to a trash- and tobacco-free UC Berkeley.

Our enthusiastic volunteers made a real dent in the number of butts on UC Berkeley grounds and sets the stage for a more robust effort coming in the 2014 Fall Semester.

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