In March of this year, the SF Bay Water Quality Control Board asked their staff to bring back an enforcement order against Caltrans for the agency’s multi-year failure to clean trash from Bay Area highways before it pollutes local creeks and the Bay. Despite this clear and urgent direction, an enforcement order has yet to be presented. That’s why close to 80 local elected officials sent a letter to the Board last week urging them to take action immediately and demand cleaner highways for our region and the Bay.
I moved to the Bay Area almost ten years ago. I was drawn to the region’s stunning beauty, diverse communities, and delicious food. Each year brings special life experiences for my family; we have countless memories of being together by the Bay. The Bay is the heart of my home. It’s why I’ve chosen to set up roots and raise my daughter here.
But the Bay doesn’t just connect my family; it connects us all.
The Bay defines our geography, bridging the gap between quiet neighborhoods and bustling downtowns. When the pace of city life becomes too frenetic, the Bay offers scenic escapes. It’s integral to our daily lives and vital to our local economy. Because the Bay gives me so much, I do all I can to give back. I work tirelessly with Save The Bay’s policy team to protect the Bay – not just for my family, but for future generations.
Your support makes everything we do possible.
What’s at stake? Each time it rains, litter, PCBs, pesticides, and other toxins are carried into local creeks and the Bay, threatening Bay wildlife and habitat. However, advocacy work and powerful partnerships helped us score significant wins this year to keep trash out of the Bay.
Through a collaboration with Oakland Community Organizations and statewide agencies, we:
Exposed the environmental consequences of widespread illegal dumping in Oakland
Pushed City Council members to fund solutions for public health and environmental hazards
Rallied to support SB 231 (Hertzberg), a pivotal bill that enables cities to raise money for their own water supply and stormwater infrastructure projects
Going forward, Save The Bay plans to ensure that Bay Area cities meet a 2022 deadline to eliminate trash from storm drain systems. We will also promote sustainable urban growth practices and preserve access to the Bay for diverse communities across our region.
Our success is your success. Together, we can make the Bay as clean and healthy as possible.
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.
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.
Trash from state roads and bustling freeways is flowing into creeks and, ultimately, poisoning San Francisco Bay. But you have the power to stop this pollution from choking and killing local wildlife. Sign our petition today to make sure the Water Board forces Caltrans to clean up this mess.
What comes to your mind when entering the bath after a long, busy day? Most likely you’ll be feeling clean and relaxed. However, have you ever thought about the contents of your bath water afterwards? After all, the oils, bacteria, and other grime on your body don’t magically disappear after they’ve been stripped off.
Similarly, rain flowing through streets appears to clean the landscape as it washes away trash and dirt. Unfortunately, the first significant rainfall of the year holds an often overlooked dirty not-so-secret. It’s called the first flush, and it’s not just trash and dirt that’s being removed from Bay Area streets. Motor oil, cigarette butts, pet waste, pesticides, and other pollutants are picked up by rainwater and enter storm drains, which flow into creeks and ultimately into San Francisco Bay, which acts as a bathtub for the region that drains into the ocean.
The good news is that North Bay, state, and federal officials have acknowledged this threat to regional water quality and are constructing and planning collection ponds to capture and filter debris-ridden water before it enters creeks. Nevertheless, with the additional burden coming from this tragedy, Bay Area residents should be extra vigilant at preventing trash and other pollution from ending up in the Bay and further poisoning wildlife and water quality.
How Can I Help?
Rain is nature’s way of cleansing the landscape, but first flush serves as a reminder that our urban areas act as nature’s drain and there is still a lot of work to be done to stop the flow of pollution into San Francisco Bay. We can start with simple actions such as not littering, moving cars from the sidewalk on street sweeping days, and using reusable bags and bottles.
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!
Reduce. Avoid single disposable items like take-out cutlery and food containers.
Reuse: Carry a reusable shopping bag and coffee mug (and get a discount!).
Recycle: Recycle everything you can and dispose of your trash properly (remember to tie down bin lids to stop animals getting in!)
California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and other senators today introduced a trio of bills aimed at protecting the state’s natural resources and people against potential threats from the Trump Administration. The California Environmental Defense Bill package includes protections for clean water, endangered species, clean air, climate, public lands, whistleblowers, data, and worker safety.
STATEMENT OF DAVID LEWIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF SAVE THE BAY
“We need the California Environmental Defense Bill package to prevent developers from paving Bay wetlands and allowing more pollution.
These state bills will help protect people and wildlife in San Francisco Bay against the President and Congress gutting federal laws on public health and the environment.
Our local leaders are fighting for clean water that’s essential to our quality of life, because the Clean Water Act and other federal laws protecting the Bay are on the chopping block.
We’re grateful that Senator de León and his colleagues are working to protect California’s environment from the Trump Administration, just as they are working to protect California’s diverse communities and immigrant families.”
Today, the U.S. Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
This is a big victory for polluters, and a huge loss for America and our Bay.
The danger Scott Pruitt poses to San Francisco Bay is very real. The EPA has a central role in protecting the Bay, particularly by enforcing the Clean Water Act. For years, Pruitt has been a fierce opponent of that law—along with many other critical environmental protections. As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt attacked the EPA’s cleanup of Chesapeake Bay—a case that’s directly relevant to future of San Francisco Bay.
So much of the progress we have achieved is under threat all over again. Restorable wetlands we’ve fought successfully to protect—like the Cargill Salt Ponds in Redwood City—are newly vulnerable.
The scary truth is, as long as Scott Pruitt leads the EPA, we cannot count on our federal government to protect the Bay. In this new era, environmental progress and protection will be fought and won locally. That’s why Save The Bay’s effective work with Bay cities and state agencies is more important than ever. To beat Pruitt and the anti-environment Congress, we need more resources to block wetlands destruction, create critical habitat for fish and wildlife, and reduce trash and toxic pollution from cities.
We are ready to fight—here’s what we’re doing:
Pushing back fiercely against every effort to undermine environmental protections
Pressuring California’s elected leaders to offset disastrous environmental policies from the Trump Administration with strong statewide protections
Rallying local communities as grassroots activists and environmental volunteers to protect and restore our Bay
It’s a dark time for environmental protection in America, but we’ve been here before and persevered. We’ve been mobilizing grassroots victories since 1961—before the EPA, before the Clean Water Act … before “environmentalist” was even a word. Today, our work is more essential than ever, and we won’t shy away from the fight.
Are you looking for a way to resist the Trump Administration’s assault on the environment? We need your support.
Three years ago, Diane Petersen was hiking up the well-worn trail of Mission Peak Regional Preserve in Fremont. Accompanying her was her dog Bigges, a two-year-old Australian shepherd.
Bigges was a relative newcomer to the idea of trekking up peaks, and was, by Petersen’s recounting, “kind of bored by hiking.” To make matters worse, his elder companion, the border collie Josie, was not present. Nevertheless, Bigges walked on, all the while wishing that the hike were over. Then Petersen threw a rock at the slope to her right, and Bigges’ life changed forever.
Today, Bigges is a celebrity in the East Bay Regional Park District. He was the subject of one of EBRPD’s most popular Facebook posts. In May, Bigges and Petersen were honored by the Park District Board for their service to our open spaces. The beloved pooch followed that up with a cover appearance and story in the 2016 summer issue of “Compass,” the official magazine for EBRPD’s members. And almost every day, hikers in Mission Peak, the Alameda Creek Trail, Coyote Hills, and many other East Bay parks get to witness his inspirational feats, and invariably burst into applause.
What does Bigges do to garner such recognition? Simple. He leaves no trace, cleans up our parks, and has a blast while doing it.
Bigges, quite by accident, has been trained to pick up plastic water bottles discarded in creeks, crevices, hills, and valleys in our regional parks.
When he was teething, Petersen gave him plastic bottles to chew onto distract him from chewing on her shoes and furniture. Tugging on them soon became his favorite pastime, and today, picking up discarded plastic bottles is still second nature to him.
So when Petersen throws a rock at a plastic bottle, he runs over and grabs it. “It’s hard to stop him,” said Petersen. “Whenever he sees a water bottle he’ll go out and grab it.” Further training that channeled Bigges’ love of food now motivates him to give Petersen the plastic bottle in exchange for a yummy treat.
“He loves it,” said Petersen. “He thinks it’s great fun. He has a blast.”
Instead of ignoring this ability, or maybe even making Bigges unlearn it, Petersen decided to utilize it in an all-out effort to clean up our open spaces. Even before she had dogs, Petersen did her part to pick up litter and leave no trace. Now, she and Bigges visit Mission Peak, Garin Regional Park, and many of the other trash-filled parks and preserves in the East Bay, seven days a week. The duo always finds something to clean up. They also unvaryingly find tons of appreciation from fellow hikers.
“A lot of times when people see him they clap and seem amazed and go ‘What a good dog!’” said Petersen. “And I say, ‘yeah, he’s trying to keep the trails clean.’”
In March, EBRPD noticed Bigges when Petersen made some suggestions to the District for a possible bottle exchange program, and included some pictures of the dog in her message. The District, inspired by the photos, asked Petersen if they could feature Bigges in a Facebook post. She assented, and the overwhelming response to the post led to the District promoting Bigges’ story even further. In May, Board President Doug Siden gave Petersen and Bigges a certificate of appreciation; Bigges was also recognized as a Leave No Trace superhero and given a dog-sized cape. He’s also an unofficial celebrity amongst frequent hikers in the East Bay.
But Petersen isn’t letting Bigges’ sudden fame distract from the true prize: a trash-free Bay.
“It just feels like the Bay Area is pretty darn trashy,” she sighs. “And I know it’s hard on all kinds of species that live out there, the fishermen that go out there, all kinds of different things out in the Bay.”
She pauses. “There’s just so much trash.”
And although committed individuals like Petersen and Bigges are doing all they can, the Bay won’t get cleaned until we all help out.
That’s why Petersen hopes that Bigges’ story will inspire us to go out and clean up after ourselves.
“I feel there are a lot of humans out there who believe we’re the mightiest creatures of all, and my thinking is that if a dog can help keep this place as beautiful as it once was – I feel that if a dog can pick up trash, we humans can do the same thing,” said Petersen.
“I walk along the Alameda Creek, Hayward Shoreline, Coyote Hills, and when it’s low tide, I can just see the trash and I know it’s bad for the animals that live there, for the shorebirds, for the fish, and for our animals – our dogs that swim out in the Bay.
“I know that’s not a good thing, so Bigges and I are doing our part, and I just hope that we can lead by example, and that if everyone pitches in, our parks in the Bay Area will remain beautiful. We get to use these places for free, and what they give us for our physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing is priceless. And the least we can do is try to give back, do our part, and keep it as beautiful as we found it.”
Petersen and Bigges are working hard, but they can’t rid the Bay of trash alone. Help them today.
The global effort to stop plastic from choking our oceans is under attack Nov. 8.
Proposition 67 on California’s ballot would ban giveaways of single-use plastic shopping bags throughout our state, not just in individual coastal and Bay Area cities.
Passing Proposition 67 would reduce plastic pollution and boost the movement for bag bans throughout the United States. But failing to pass it could crush progress here and around the world.
Plastic bag manufacturers are going for the kill right now, desperate to protect their profits from making throwaway items. When Gov. Jerry Brown signed a 2014 law banning these bags statewide, bag makers paid signature gatherers hundreds of thousands of dollars for a referendum that blocks the law unless Proposition 67 passes. Now they’re preparing to spend millions more to confuse voters. (Take Action: Let’s hold them accountable.)
Novolex and three other out-of-state plastic bag makers know that populous California is not only a huge market, but a trendsetter. If they defeat Proposition 67, they deter other states and countries from banning bags, and global plastic pollution continues to grow. If we pass Proposition 67, we keep billions of plastic bags from trashing our neighborhoods, creeks, bays and beaches, and we encourage other states and countries to do the same.
Single-use plastic shopping bags create some of the most visible litter in our communities and they harm and kill wildlife every day. In our oceans, sea turtles, otters, seals, fish and birds are tangled in plastic bags. Many animals mistake bags for food, fill their stomachs with plastic bits and die of starvation. Bag pollution also costs our state and local communities $107 million dollars annually for litter cleanup. Less than 5 percent of plastic bags in California are recycled.
In the 150 California cities and counties that have banned single-use plastic bags, these laws have already proven successful. Shoppers quickly adjust to bringing reusable bags to stores, and communities see deep reductions in plastic bags clogging creeks and storm drains. San Jose banned plastic bags in 2012 and currently reports 69 percent fewer plastic bags in its trash screens and 71 percent fewer plastic bags in its creeks.
But in most of California, bags are still distributed free by stores, and those bags don’t respect boundaries. Millions of plastic bags from other cities still blow and flow into our shared waterways or are carried to beach destinations like San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Monterey to become marine debris.
More than 1.3 million plastic bags were picked up from California beaches on just one recent Coastal Cleanup Day. So it’s no surprise that 90 percent of floating ocean debris is plastic, which never biodegrades.
For all of us who treasure California’s creeks, bays and beaches, and the fish and wildlife who live in them, Proposition 67 is a crucial opportunity to prevent billions more plastic bags from becoming toxic, deadly litter throughout the state.
Voting Yes on 67 is also our chance to show the nation and the world how to stand up to the plastic bag industry, so other states and countries follow our example and rescue the world’s oceans from the plastic trash that is choking them.
The debris you see on the shoulders of our Bay Area roads is more than just unsightly. It’s also a threat to our environment and natural habitat. I co-founded Marin Clean Highways to help address this issue in Marin County. I’m also excited to partner with Save The Bay to highlight the failure of Caltrans—the agency in charge of our state highways—to keep Bay Area roads clean and prevent trash from polluting the Bay.