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Heal the Bay Blog

The consumption of single-use plastic has surged exponentially during the pandemic. Safety concerns make it more challenging to use a reusable cup at our local coffee shop and many stores have policies that complicate bringing your own bag. With everything else in the world feeling a bit defeating, this is the perfect time to double down on what we can control.

One easy and simple way to make your lifestyle more sustainable is by conducting a quick waste audit. Waste audits are the perfect way to evaluate what we use in our day-to-day lives, see where we can replace single-use items with reusables, and get into the habit of buying fewer things made from non-degradable or non-recyclable materials.

So what exactly is a waste audit, and how do we get started? 

A waste audit is an analysis of the trash we produce in our own homes to take note of what is actually being disposed of. This gives us a better understanding of what we’re adding to the waste stream and allows us to get a snapshot of what we use, throw away, and recycle. Waste audits can also help us identify areas we want to improve in terms of consumption and use, and possibly inspire cost saving or upcycling ideas. 

Home waste adults are helpful tools that can bring more environmental awareness and change into our lives. 

Here’s our 5 step guide to a DIY waste audit: 

Audit Prep 

  1. Set a time:  Ask yourself, “how long do I want to do a trash audit?” Remember you can do a trash audit in one day or over the course of a few days. We recommend a 4-5 day window and choosing a date(s) you won’t have any special events to avoid skewing your audit data. Once you pick your start and end dates, set a reminder on your phone or mark your calendar to start your audit. 
  2. Grab a bin: Designate one trash bin in your home to collect waste items you use for your analysis. Make sure to separate out and rinse any containers that have any organic waste materials. Organic waste, like food scraps, won’t be counted in your audit.
  3. Collect trash: let your trash pile up until your designated time to evaluate. 

Evaluation 

  1. Grab supplies: You’ll need your now very full trash bin, something to take notes with, a tarp, and 15-30 mins of time. 
  2. Sort your trash: lay out your tarp and place all your trash on the tarp into categories. Examples include: “paper products,”  “recyclables,” “wrappers,” “miscellaneous,” etc. Tally your waste to document your results. If you want to take your waste analysis a step further use this form to help you categorize your home waste and use this guide or video to help you categorize products and attribute it to the brands that produced it.

When looking through your trash, try to answer these questions to understand the type of waste you’re producing:

  • Can you note how many of the items you’ve thrown away that can be recycled? Not all plastics are recyclable, even if it has a chasing arrows icon. Less than 10% of plastics are actually recyclable, and most will never be recycled. Watch this video to learn what each of the numbers between the chasing arrows icon on plastic containers actually mean.
  • What is your most commonly thrown out item? Is there anything that surprises you about what you collected? (Maybe you have an excess of packaging material, or a certain type of product. Perhaps a particular brand seems to use excessive packaging.) 
  • What items are necessary and what could be replaced with a reusable or more environmentally-friendly product? 
  • Besides recycling, what options do you have for disposal? (Can anything in your bin be composted, like cardboard?)  
  • How did you do? What did you discover? Are there any areas of improvements? What are some other alternatives?

Awareness is the first step. Action is power. Once we know more about our own personal consumption habits, we can make the change that best suits our needs and the environment.

If you want to take it a step further after your audit and challenge yourself, try refusing the top five sources of single-use plastic that we find most commonly on our beaches, parks, and streets.

 



For the first time ever, Coastal Cleanup Day has transformed into Coastal Cleanup Month, a month-long event to celebrate our watersheds and coastline with decentralized cleanups, educational programming, and virtual events.

Every single one of us makes an impact no matter where we are in Los Angeles County. The mission of Coastal Cleanup Month, beyond cleaning up our streets, creeks, trails, and coast, is to show how closely we are all connected by our watershed. What happens in the mountains makes its way through our creeks and rivers, and the litter we see on our streets eventually ends up on our beaches via the storm drain system. 

Heal the Bay has coordinated the Coastal Cleanup effort in Los Angeles for more than 30 years, and we are so thankful to our Site Captains for making the program as successful and impactful as it is. This year, our Captains were tasked with a new challenge: to help us encourage countywide cleanups while also making sure our community stays safe and healthy during these turbulent times. With their support, the role of Site Captains transformed into Regional Ambassadors.

Many of our Regional Ambassadors work for partner organizations that focus on environmental stewardship, conservation, and education throughout LA County, from summit to sea. Today, we are spotlighting some of our amazing Regional Ambassadors from each region!

 

Mountains

Dave Weeshoff, San Fernando Valley Audubon Society

Dave has been a site captain for 6 years. Not only is he this year’s Mountains Ambassador, he is also an avid bird watcher and works on conservation efforts for the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society. He even starred in our 2020 Coastal Cleanup Month video!

“In Los Angeles County alone, we can see well over 270 species of birds each year. Bird watchers enjoy sharing their observations, and so I learn each week where unusual sightings occur, including our seashores, lagoons, harbors, parks, marshes and of course our magnificent San Gabriel Mountains. The additional biodiversity of this high elevation watershed and its forests is easily accessed by way of the Angeles Crest Highway, which begins not far from my home, and is inviting to many resident and migratory birds throughout the year.”

Dave’s favorite cleanup site and happy place, the San Gabriel Mountains, has unfortunately been affected by the Bobcat Fire. While this put a hold on his cleanup efforts throughout Coastal Cleanup Month, he has been enjoying the local parks and cleaning his neighborhood when he can.

Kelsey Reckling, Pasadena Audubon Society

Kelsey and Pasadena Audubon Society are using Coastal Cleanup Month to highlight the Arroyo, the natural watershed that starts in the San Gabriel Mountains and comes all the way down into our neighborhoods. It is home to many species of wildlife, but also a spot where trash often accumulates. Pasadena Audubon Society is encouraging members and anyone else in the area to help clean our mountain areas, the Arroyo, and our neighborhoods.

“I love driving up to the San Gabriels here in Los Angeles because it is so close to us, but it feels like you’re entering a new world. You get to see different plant species and different bird species at higher elevations and also get to have a new perspective,” said Kelsey. “On a clear day, you can look out and see downtown Los Angeles and all the way to the ocean, highlighting our different natural communities.”

 

Neighborhoods & Waterways

Keyla Treitman, Oak Park Unified School District

Keyla has been a resident of Oak Park for 27 years and chaired the Oak Park Unified School District’s Environmental Education and Awareness Committee for 11 years. 

“I feel we all have an obligation to leave a place cleaner than when we got there, a motto the Girl Scouts taught me long ago. Sustainability is a key concept that is important for children to learn so they can do their part to help. By educating them, it can become a natural extension of their daily lives.”

Keyla shared about Coastal Cleanup Month with the school district to encourage families to go out and clean their happy place. They are also working with the County of Ventura and volunteers to refresh the curb signs that read, “Don’t dump. Drains to creek.” at all of the storm drain inlets within Oak Park.

Mika Perron, Audubon Center at Debs Park

Mika is spearheading the Coastal Cleanup Month efforts for the Audubon Center at Debs Park. To help protect bird habitat around the LA River, Mika and her team are participating in cleanups along the LA River in the Elysian Valley and Atwater Village area. They are also cleaning up and maintaining the various habitat enhancement sites along the river, in order to continue building sustainable habitat for birds and other wildlife. 

“Our neighborhoods and waterways provide valuable habitat for local and migrating birds, while also providing a gateway for people to learn more about our urban ecosystem. Even if it’s just observing a few crows outside your window, or catching a glimpse of the rushing LA River when it rains, our neighborhoods and waterways provide a place where people can interact with nature in their everyday lives. Local waterways like the LA River are especially important to us because they connect many different neighborhoods and communities – they are not only an important resource for connecting people to nature, but also for connecting people to each other.”

 

Wetlands & Beaches

Patrick Tyrrell, Friends of Ballona Wetlands

Patrick grew up in Playa del Rey with the Ballona Wetlands as his backyard, inspiring a life-long passion for wetlands and wildlife. He turned that passion into a career by joining the team at Friends of Ballona Wetlands, and is our Wetlands Ambassador for Coastal Cleanup Month.

“Wetlands provide habitat to an amazing array of plants and animals – they are the world’s biological hotspots. They provide food and shelter that are critical to the survival of many species. Every time I travel, I always look up the local wetlands in the area I am visiting, as I know that I will get to see some amazing birds and wildlife.

Patrick and the Friends of Ballona Wetlands staff are spending the month of September picking up trash along the Ballona Creek levees and Del Rey Lagoon. They are also cleaning up near the Least Tern colony on Venice Beach to ensure that they are not disturbed by the beach groomers that would normally rake the beach every morning.

Brittney Olaes, Roundhouse Aquarium

Brittney joined us as a Beaches Ambassador from the Roundhouse Aquarium in Manhattan Beach, where she gets to share her passion for the ocean and marine life with her local community. 

“When imagining the beautiful vast ocean, it’s hard to narrow down its importance. The ocean is home to countless marine life and habitats. It provides comfort and relaxation to those who visit, jobs and security for those who depend on it, and food and supplies for those who survive off it. Even for those who do not directly interact with the ocean, the ocean is making an impact in our lives. From climate regulation to oxygen production, the ocean affects all life around the world.”

The Roundhouse Aquarium is celebrating Coastal Cleanup Month by virtually educating the community about where trash comes from and where it ends up, and encouraging environmental and community stewardship. They are also running a #TrashChallenge to challenge everyone to pick up trash every day in September.

Carl Carranza, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Carl’s lifelong passion for the ocean and marine life led him to become an Educator with 

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. He has been involved with Coastal Cleanup Day for 15 years, and this year, he is one of our Beach Ambassadors.

“Ever since I was a child, I was in love with the ocean, especially tidepools.  They have always been a source of joy and wonder for me, and ultimately led me to my degree in marine biology.  The ocean is a place I can always reconnect to nature and frees my imagination,” said Carl.

 

A big thank you to all of our Regional Ambassadors for helping make Coastal Cleanup Month a success! If you’re interested in getting involved and helping protect our watershed and coastline from wherever you live, visit healthebay.org/coastalcleanupmonth.

 


More Ways to Get Involved this Coastal Cleanup Month:




Bills Fail to Pass the California Legislature in 2020

It is with a heavy heart that we share that SB 54 and AB 1080, two plastic pollution reduction bills known as The California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, did not pass. These bills would have taken on Big Plastic by reducing single-use plastics across California by 75% by 2032. And because of their transformative potential, the plastic industry pushed back with a $3.4 million lobbying campaign, spending not only money, but an enormous amount of time lobbying representatives.

The public is demanding a coordinated solution to reduce plastic pollution. People are recognizing the harm plastic has on public health, local economies, and the environment. Labor groups, small businesses, and communities are in support, as evidenced by the bill’s formal support list of 325 organizations, companies, and municipalities, as well as Heal the Bay’s support petition, which garnered more than 433,000 individual signatures. 

Despite this overwhelming support, the bills died in the California State Assembly on the last day of the 2020 legislative season. AB 1080 had narrowly passed the Senate, but when it was time for the Assembly to decide, the bills were just 4 votes shy of the necessary 41 needed to pass. We were up against a massive opposition campaign with Big Plastic spending millions to defeat this, and in the end, the bills fell short only by 4 votes. We are thankful to all 23 Senators and 37 Assemblymembers who voted AYE in support of these bills.

A tremendous amount of work went into these bills to strengthen them, rally the support we needed, and get them to the finish line. Never before has the California legislature been so close to passing such a landmark plastic pollution reduction bill. While this is disappointing, it is not a defeat. We know that the fight is not over. We still had major wins this year as we continued to elevate the critical conversation around the full lifecycle impacts of plastic pollution, and gained a bigger and broader coalition of support and more committed legislators working to reduce waste and plastic pollution in California than ever before. 

In her riveting closing argument Monday night, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez reminded us that the issue of plastic pollution is no longer one we can ignore, saying “It’s not a white, coastal problem…I have a Brown community that is dirty […] with your plastics. It’s dirty because there’s nowhere to put them.”  It is thanks to authors Assemblymember Gonzalez and Senator Allen, other co-authors, legislative supporters, and support from the community that these bills got as far as they did.

Looking forward, we will be bringing the plastic pollution fight to the people. Earlier this year, Heal the Bay and other organizations gathered 870,000 signatures, enough to qualify a plastic pollution reduction measure for the 2022 ballot. In 2022, California voters will vote on the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act.  This measure would reduce plastic pollution through source reduction, funding mechanisms, a polystyrene ban, and other tools. This initiative gives California voters the unique opportunity to finally hold the plastic industry accountable for the waste they produce.

In the meantime, Heal the Bay will be refocusing here in Los Angeles County and Los Angeles City, and continue working to push local plastic pollution reduction policy forward. Stay tuned for ways to get involved, and check out Reusable LA for more information.

Thank you to all who called, emailed, posted, and supported over the past year and a half. We could not have pushed SB 54 and AB 1080 this far without all of you, and we are ready to keep fighting. Are you?

#CAMustLead #breakfreefromplastic 


Top photo by @_adventureiscallingme



Foto de Frankie Orrala

En el extremo suroeste del condado de Los Ángeles se encuentra la península de Palos Verdes. Esta área es conocida por su espectacular vista al mar y sus grandes mansiones, pero cerca de la costa hay un área de sedimentos altamente contaminados. El sedimento contaminado se encuentra en el Océano Pacífico a profundidades de 150 pies o más, demasiado profundo para el contacto humano. Sin embargo, los peces que se encuentran en el área de la plataforma Palos Verdes contienen altas concentraciones de DDT y PCB y continúan representando una amenaza para la salud humana y el medio ambiente natural .


Foto de Frankie Orrala

En una visita reciente a Royal Palms, una zona intermareal en la península de Palos Verde, tuve la oportunidad de observar y hablar con pescadores recreativos y de subsistencia. La pandemia del coronavirus parece haber aumentado el número de estos pescadores y recolectores , quizás como fuente alternativa de alimento para sus familias, ingresos alternativos o simplemente un escape recreativo.

La pesca y la recolección son legales en ciertas áreas siempre que se tenga una licencia de pesca y se respeten las regulaciones. Desafortunadamente, también ha habido informes recientes de personas que no siguen las regulaciones, como no tener una licencia, tomar por encima de los límites legales de captura, tomar especies que están fuera de las tallas permitidas o capturar dentro de Áreas Marinas Protegidas (AMP).

 

 


Foto de Emily Parker

Cuando está saludable, esta zona intermareal muestra una abundancia de vida, que incluye mejillones, caracoles, erizos de mar, anémonas y peces como garibaldi, percas y señoritas. En este día en particular, hubo grupos de familias con niños disfrutando de la variedad de organismos que se pueden encontrar en estas áreas. También hubo varios pescadores que, cuando se les preguntó si sabían que hay ciertos pescados que la gente no debería comer, respondieron que no, y que estaban allí para pescar y llevarse a casa lo que pescaran.

A pesar de los esfuerzos concertados del Departamento de Pesca y Vida Silvestre de California y organizaciones locales como Heal the Bay, LA Waterkeeper y USC Sea Grant, todavía parece haber un obstáculo para hacer llegar información a estos pescadores, muchos de los cuales son personas de color o de quien el inglés parece ser su segundo idioma. Las comunidades de color tienden a ser las más afectadas por la contaminación y los impactos en la salud del COVID-19. Durante mi tiempo allí, compartí información con los pescadores sobre qué peces son seguros para comer y cuáles no.

Entonces, ¿qué peces son seguros?

Qué pescado es seguro para comer depende del área de donde proviene el pescado . Las áreas de pesca en la zona roja (lo que significa niveles más altos de contaminación) incluyen la playa de Santa Mónica al sur del muelle de Santa Mónica hasta el muelle de Seal Beach en el condado de Orange, incluida la península de Palos Verdes. Algunas áreas de pesca en la zona amarilla incluyen los muelles en Ventura, Malibu, Huntington Beach y San Mateo Point. El programa educacional pesquero de Heal the Bay ha educado a miles de pescadores de muelle sobre la contaminación de los peces en el sur de California y tuve la oportunidad de educar a pescadores de la costa en la península de Palos Verdes durante esta pandemia también.

El Programa Educacional Pesquero se ha dirigido específicamente a los pescadores de muelle para la educación porque los muelles concentran a los pescadores más vulnerables a la contaminación, los pescadores de subsistencia, dado que no se requieren licencias de pesca para la pesca en los muelles. Sin embargo, con la pandemia que obliga al cierre de los muelles,  las personas buscan mantenerse físicamente distanciadas y alejadas de los muelles reabiertos, y las dificultades económicas, es posible que debamos reconsiderar nuestro programa educacional para asegurarnos de que los Angelinos nos mantenemos sanos y bien informado sobre la contaminación de peces.


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Photo by Frankie Orrala

In the far southwest of Los Angeles County is the Palos Verde Peninsula. This area is known for its ​​spectacular ocean views and high-priced mansions, but just offshore is an area of ​​highly contaminated sediment. The contaminated sediment lies in the Pacific Ocean at depths of 150 ft. or greater, too deep for human contact. However, the fish found in the Palos Verdes Shelf area contain high concentrations of DDT and PCBs and continue to pose a threat to human health and the natural environment.


Photo by Frankie Orrala

On a recent visit to Royal Palms, an intertidal zone on the Palos Verde Peninsula, I had the opportunity to observe and talk with recreational and subsistence anglers. The coronavirus pandemic seems to have increased the number of these anglers and harvesters, perhaps as they look for an alternative food source for their families, alternative revenue during difficult financial times, or just a recreational escape.

Fishing and collecting are legal in certain areas as long a fishing license is in possession and regulations are respected. Unfortunately, there have also been recent reports of people not following the regulations, such as not having a license, taking above legal bag limits, taking species that are off-limits, or collecting and harvesting in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which are off-limits for this type of activity. While a few of the anglers I spoke with had licenses, knew the rules, and knew which species and how many or the sizes they could take, this doesn’t seem to be the case across the board.


Photo by Emily Parker

When healthy, this intertidal zone displays an abundance of life, including mussels, snails, sea urchins, anemones, and fish such as garibaldi, perch, and señoritas. On this particular day, there were groups of families with children enjoying the variety of organisms that can be found in these areas. There were also several anglers who, when asked if they were aware that there are certain fish that people should not eat, they replied no, and that they were there to fish and take home whatever they caught.

Despite concerted efforts from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and local organizations like Heal the Bay, LA Waterkeeper, and USC Sea Grant, there still seems to be a hurdle in getting information to these anglers, many of whom are people of color or for whom English seems to be their second language. Communities of color tend to be the most impacted by pollution as well as the health impacts of COVID-19. During my time there I shared information with the anglers on which fish are safe to eat and which are not.

So, What Fish Are Safe?

What fish are safe to eat depends on the area your fish is coming from. Fishing areas in the red zone, (meaning higher levels of contamination) include Santa Monica beach south of Santa Monica Pier to Seal Beach Pier in Orange County including the Palos Verde Peninsula. Some fishing areas in the yellow zone include the piers in Ventura, Malibu, Huntington Beach and San Mateo Point. Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program has educated thousands of pier anglers about fish contamination in Southern California and I was able to have the opportunity to educate shoreline anglers on the Palos Verdes Peninsula during this pandemic as well.

The Angler Outreach Program has specifically targeted pier anglers for education because piers concentrate the most pollution-vulnerable anglers, namely subsistence anglers given that fishing licenses are not required for pier fishing. However, with the pandemic forcing the closure of piers, with people looking to stay physically distanced and away from re-opened piers, and economic hardship, we may need to re-think our outreach to make sure we are keeping Angelenos healthy and well-informed about contaminated fish.


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A note from Heal the Bay President & CEO, Dr. Shelley Luce

SoCalGas has supported Heal the Bay’s programs since 1991. For nearly 30 years they have helped to fund our student curriculum, beach cleanup efforts, and bring students to our aquarium.

It’s never been a problem before. We rely on the philanthropy of companies and individuals to uphold our mission: protect California’s coasts and watersheds, and make them safe, healthy, and clean. We have never allowed any corporate contributor to influence our advocacy, and we never will.

However, after great consideration and consultation with my team, I have made the difficult decision to stop accepting contributions from SoCalGas from this point forward.

Turning down funding is never an easy decision, but it is a particularly difficult time for me to make this announcement. As President of an organization that employs close to 40 people in a year when many of us are forced to tighten our belts, it was not easy, but I know that it is the right thing to do.

In order to mitigate climate change, we must transition to renewable energy systems across the board – including the electricity, transportation, residential and industrial sectors, and we must do so swiftly. Sea level rise, ocean acidification, extreme heat, wildfires, and drought will all be more severe unless we drastically reduce our production and consumption of natural gas and, at the same time, prioritize and invest in nature-based projects that sequester carbon and cool our cities. Such projects include living streets, wetland restoration, and the creation of parks that capture and treat stormwater. The intentional obstruction of these goals will have severe consequences, which will be most devastating to frontline communities locally and around the world. We demand a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels now.

Several recent investigations by the Los Angeles Times have brought to light that SoCalGas is not a good-faith partner in our critical effort to enact sensible climate systems in California. They have sued the state of California to obstruct climate policy and used ratepayer money to evade safety protocols and lobby for the expansion of gas consumption.

This behavior has made it clear that SoCalGas will not take the actions necessary to phase down the consumption and distribution of gas unless they are compelled to do so. It is up to us as an environmental advocacy group to hold them and our public officials accountable so that we continue our progress towards meeting our climate goals. That is why we joined the Los Angeles City Council meeting this morning, to give public comment in support of Councilmembers Bonin, Lee and Koretz in their call for a feasibility study to explore options for the closure of the Playa Del Rey Gas Storage Facility.

We support the feasibility study for three reasons:

  1. Its long-term existence stands counter to the urgent need to address the Climate Crisis.
  2. The Gas Storage Facility is located in a densely-populated area of our city, making it a health and safety risk to the communities of Playa Del Rey, Westchester, Marina Del Rey, Playa Vista and beyond.
  3. It abuts the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, affecting native species and endangered wildlife.

The Playa Del Rey facility stores gas that is used by the Chevron refinery and coastal power plants that deliver electricity to homes across the LA area. It is up to all of us to reflect on our personal consumption habits and do everything in our power to reduce our impact. It is up to our political leaders to regulate the fossil fuel industry and guide us to a renewable-powered, climate-stabilized future.

We would like to thank SoCalGas for their decades of support and ask that they change course to meet the urgent demands of the climate crisis.

Shelley Luce

 

 

 



California is on the cusp of passing a transformative bill to reduce plastic pollution, and we need your help to get there.

Last year, California State Senators and Assemblymembers came together and introduced a pair of identical bills to address plastic pollution. Known as the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, Senate Bill 54 (SB 54) and Assembly Bill 1080 (AB 1080) are now again poised to become transformative legislation in the global fight against plastic pollution.

California is in the midst of a waste crisis. With waste haulers no longer able to export recyclables to countries like China and India for disposal, our plastic trash is piling up, yet our throw-away lifestyle continues to grow. If we continue on with business as usual, we can expect to see a 40% increase in plastic production over the next decade, and more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050.

Plastic pollution isn’t contained to the coastline. Plastic products are made from fossil fuels, and they contribute to air pollution throughout their entire lifecycle, from extraction to refining, manufacturing to disposal. This pollution disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color. This pollution can lead to health impacts such as asthma, respiratory illness, headaches, fatigue, nosebleeds, and even cancer and makes members of these communities more susceptible to COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has also caused an increase in the use of disposable plastics, as industries revert back to harmful disposable products over reusables.

The time for drastic action is now, and SB 54 and AB 1080 can get us there.

Heal the Bay has been closely tracking and supporting this legislation since it was introduced more than a year and a half ago. At its core, the bills function similarly to the greenhouse gas emissions limit bill of 2006 (SB 32) by setting a reduction target for single-use plastic packaging and products of 75% by 2032. Check out our FAQ for the full break down of the legislative language.

If SB 54 and AB 1080 pass, California will be at the forefront of the global fight against plastic pollution and Heal the Bay has been working tirelessly alongside our partners to make that happen. But, now we need your help. The bills will be voted on by September 13 (we don’t know the exact date) and if they pass, they go on to the Governor and need to be signed by him before October 13.

Make Your Voice Heard

Our Senators and Assemblymembers need to hear from YOU now.

Please call your representative and tell them you support SB 54 and AB 1080. A call takes two minutes or less, and it makes a world of difference for our representatives to hear from their constituents.

This phone-to-action page makes it easy: Just type in your information, and you will receive a call from a service that can easily connect you to your representative. Make the call today:

Call Your Representative Today!

Sample Call Script:

Hello, my name is ____________________and I live in _____________________. As your constituent, I’m calling to urge you to support Assembly Bill 1080 and Senate Bill 54, which would reduce plastic pollution in California by 75% by 2030 and reduce the increasing costs of cleanups that are falling on taxpayers.

Plastic pollution is no longer just an environmental problem, it is a financial issue and a public health concern. Right now we are in the midst of a recycling crisis, and California is unable to deal with mounting plastic waste.

Our communities and our environment need to be protected now. That’s why I’m urging you to support AB 1080 and SB 54 in addressing plastic pollution before it’s too late. Thank you.



For the sixth straight summer, Heal the Bay is posting daily water quality predictions for California Beaches on our Beach Report Card with NowCast.

A day at the beach should not make anyone sick. That’s why health officials across the state sample water at the beach weekly during the summer. And when officials detect high levels of bacteria, they issue a public health advisory.

The good news: by measuring the amount of bacteria in the water and sharing information with the public in real time, we can help you decide when and where it’s safest to go to the beach. Plus, it raises awareness about ocean pollution and brings much-needed attention to solving systemic waste and runoff issues.

The bad news: weekly samples aren’t enough. Water quality can fluctuate drastically from day to day, with real implications for people’s health. Heal the Bay believes that we need daily samples in order to better protect public health. In 2015, we launched our NowCast program within the Beach Report Card. NowCast supplements the weekly grades provided by public health officials by bringing accurate daily predictions to the public.

NowCast is able to predict concentrations of bacteria in the water on a daily basis, filling in the time gap of weekly bacteria sampling. NowCast consists of computer models that examine correlations between environmental conditions (such as temperature and tide) and historical bacteria concentrations. Our models then predict how much bacteria could be present in the water given the current local conditions at the beach.

NowCast predictions appear on the Beach Report Card with the symbols seen below. A Blue “W+” symbol indicates that there is a low risk of illness by coming in contact with the water, and a Red “W-” symbol indicates that there is a high risk of illness by coming in contact with the water.

Good Water Quality

Poor Water Quality

Head to beachreportcard.org to find daily predictions for over 25 beaches across California. Or download the free app on your iOS or Android device to get daily predictions on-the-go.

List of Beaches With Daily NowCast Water Quality Predictions

  • Ocean Beach (Balboa St.), San Francisco
  • Ocean Beach (Lincoln Way), San Francisco
  • Candlestick Point (Windsurfer Circle), San Francisco – NEW
  • Main Beach (Boardwalk), Santa Cruz County
  • Leo Carrillo, Los Angeles County – NEW
  • Will Rogers (Temescal Canyon), Los Angeles County
  • Will Rogers (Santa Monica Canyon), Los Angeles County
  • Santa Monica (Pico Ave.), Los Angeles County – NEW
  • Venice Beach Pier, Los Angeles County
  • Dockweiler/Toes Beach, Los Angeles County
  • El Porto, Los Angeles County – NEW
  • Manhattan Beach (28th St.), Los Angeles County
  • Hermosa Beach Pier, Los Angeles County – NEW
  • Redondo Breakwater, Los Angeles County
  • Redondo Beach Pier, Los Angeles County
  • Torrance Beach (Avenue I), Los Angeles County – NEW
  • Long Beach (72nd Place), Los Angeles County
  • Seal Beach (1st), Orange County – NEW
  • Seal Beach Pier, Orange County
  • Huntington Beach (Brookhurst St.), Orange County
  • Newport Beach (52nd), Orange County – NEW
  • Newport Beach (38th), Orange County
  • Aliso Creek Outlet, Orange County – NEW
  • Monarch Beach (Salt Creek Outlet), Orange County – NEW
  • Doheny State Beach, Orange County
  • San Clemente Pier (Lifeguard Tower), Orange County

Don’t see your beach on the map? We’re working on it! Predicting water quality is complex and we want to make sure we get it right. This means we need access to a myriad of data sources in order to make accurate predictions, and when data are not readily available, we can’t make the prediction.

If you’re looking to help monitor and improve the water quality at your favorite beach spots, here’s a few things you can do:

  • Advocate at town halls and city council meetings for increased funding toward ocean and environmental data observation, collection, standardization, and analysis programs.
  • Support Heal the Bay’s staff scientists efforts to expand monitoring programs and directly fund our work.
  • Stay informed about your local water quality and reach out to your representatives in California demanding improvements be made to protect public health and our natural environment.

If you can’t find daily NowCast predictions in your area, you can still see the latest water quality grades issued to over 500 beaches on the Beach Report Card Website. In the meantime, we are working to improve and expand the NowCast system so check back frequently to see if your favorite beach has water quality predictions.



Photo by Mayra Vasquez. Courtesy of Los Angeles County.

Beach Programs Manager Emely Garcia shares where marine debris and ocean pollution start, and how Heal the Bay uses community science, data collection, and science-based advocacy to develop solutions.

Ocean pollution begins at our front doors.  Each year thousands of pounds of trash and plastic waste are discharged through the storm drain system, ending up on our LA County beaches. Before trash makes its way into the storm drain system and on to the beaches, it litters our local streets, waterways, and parks, harming wildlife and impacting their habitats. Scientists estimate that about 80% of marine debris comes from our neighborhoods and communities.

To understand the problem of marine debris more completely, we need to collect local litter and pollution data in order to develop data-driven solutions. Now more than ever, we need remote support with data collection. We encourage curious, passionate Heal the Bay volunteers to take part in a DIY cleanup and data collection. Gathering valuable litter data around your neighborhood helps us continue to battle ocean-bound litter.

Photo by Venice Paparazzi. Courtesy of Dockweiler Youth Center and LA County Dept of Beaches & Harbors.

Heal the Bay uses our beach cleanup data to inform critical environmental and public policy. For example, in 2014, the City of Los Angeles’ plastic bag ban went into effect, following years of advocacy by our Science and Policy team. Thanks in part to that effort, we were able to implement a state-wide California bag ban in 2016, and eight more states have implemented bag bans since then. Since these bag bans went into effect, our data shows that the number of plastic bags picked up at cleanups has decreased drastically. This data makes a difference. With marine debris data and your help, we can continue to tackle clean water issues and toxic plastic pollution with science-based advocacy.

Turn the Tide: Tracking Data

If we want to see change, we need to combine personal action with collective action. Volunteers can participate in scientific research to fight ocean pollution by joining the community science marine debris data movement. Follow these steps to participate in community science on your next neighborhood walk.

 

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Get Involved

Heal the Bay has partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to offer our official cleanup data cards digitally. With the Marine Debris Tracker app, you can capture location through GPS, record debris items, attach photos, and track statistics in real time. Join the thousands of community scientists from all over the world who have logged more than 2 million pieces of litter on the app.

To begin collecting valuable debris data in your community, download the mobile Marine Debris Tracker app on a smart phone or tablet through your app store or Google Play. Here are some helpful cleanup tips and step-by-step data tracking instructions to get you started:


Download

How to Track Data

Step 1. Decide where you will collect your data. Find a location that is accessible to you and walking distance from where you live. Open the Marine Debris Tracker app and select “Start Tracking”.

Step 2. Next, select the Heal the Bay icon from the list of partner organizations. Selecting Heal the Bay allows you to participate in local LA County marine debris tracking efforts. 

Cleanup Pro Tip –Gather your materials and stay safe

    • Cleanup supplies: A mask, work gloves, and an old bucket or bag to collect trash in.
    • Pack essentials: Pack items like a first aid kit, a filled reusable water bottle, and some of your favorite snacks to stay fueled and hydrated.
    • Watch our Cleanup Safety Video or read our Cleanup Safety Talk, and remember to NOT pick up anything you are not comfortable picking up.

Step 3. Once the Heal the Bay page is selected you will see a list of top community trackers. Log plenty of debris items and get your name to the top of the ranking list. You can also encourage family and friends to participate for some friendly competition. 

Cleanup Pro Tip-

    • Adhere to county guidelines and respect any recreational space closures.
    • Limit your cleanup group participants to only the people in your household to accommodate physical distancing and help reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you see other people while you are outside, make sure to stay at least 6 feet away.

Step 4. Track litter!  The icons in orange are debris categories you can hit the each category to bring up the list or scroll down to see all items listed on our digital data card. Be sure to hit the add button to track your find. 

Cleanup Pro Tip-

  • You can collect data for as long as you’d like. We recommend two hour cleanups. One hour going out, and one hour coming back to your start location. 
  • Be aware of the elements. Wear closed-toed shoes and protective sun gear, like sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen. And stay hydrated with you reusable water bottle.

Step 5. Before submitting your data, enter in any details that might apply by filling out the Heal the Bay Volunteer survey. Here you can include details that apply to your group by checking the boxes or typing any information that may apply.  

Cleanup Pro Tip

    • After filling out the survey, submit your data by hitting save and toss your collected trash in the nearest waste receptacle. 

Remember, your observations could lead to the next breakthrough. Finding ways to take individual and community action makes the fight against pollution more effective. Thanks for tracking valuable debris data, and being a part of this amazing cleanup effort.

Learn more about our newly adapted Adopt-A-Beach cleanup program and challenge.

 



Heal the Bay’s MPA Watch and Outreach Associate, Heather Leigh Curtis, breaks down the science behind pollution bioaccumulation in marine ecosystems, and how local anglers can safely consume fish.

The first time that I was told that the skin of fish caught near Los Angeles could be toxic to eat, the scientist in me was intrigued. Because it is said that fish’s skin can become a “reservoir for toxins,” I wondered if that were additionally true for human skin and I wanted to know what biological mechanisms allowed fish skin to perform this weird function. Perhaps toxins in the water absorb and accumulate in the fish skin? Let’s dive in and investigate. 

The toxins in question here are various molecules known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which include the chemicals (DDT) and (PCBs)DDT is an industrial pesticide, and is no longer allowed in the US. PCBs can be found in today’s electrical equipment, but used to be very common and found in insulation, coolants, adhesives, ink, pesticides, and other products. POPs are known for their long-term resistance to decomposition, also known as persistence, as well as their organic nature that allows them to accumulate in the bodies of plants and animals.  

There are many well-documented health and cultural benefits for eating fish, and POPs do not prevent locallycaught fish from being beneficial, but their presence means that local anglers need to be mindful with the types of fish they eat and how they prepare them. Los Angeles is home to many subsistence anglers who rely on fishing for their main source of protein, and these communities are the most vulnerable to POPs.  

It is unfair to ask anglers to change their behavior to protect themselves from pollution that they had no part in creating, and this is a direct example of an environmental justice issue. Where pollution goes is a calculated decision corporations and lawmakers make, and those decision-makers are fully aware of the impacts of those decisions. While POPs are a global concern, it is clear that the majority of public health impacts from this pollution, including cancer and reproductive disorders, are disproportionately experienced by frontline communitieswhich are comprised largely of BIPOC and people of lower socio-economic status.

So, how did these pollutants get in the environment in the first place? 

POPs are a result of local contamination of LA’s sediment, soil, and groundwater. The largest example in LCounty was caused by the Montrose Chemical Corporation, near Torrance. From the 1940s to the 1970s, this factory manufactured DDT and disposed of its waste, including DDT and PCBs, into the sewer system for 28 years, which at the time, released directly into the ocean without treatment. Hundreds of tons of DDT and PCBs were released into the ocean off the Palos Verdes PeninsulaWhile the manufacturing and untreated disposal of DDT has been banned in the United States, the molecule itself still persists in our local water and seafood.  

Now, back to the question about fish skin. POPs are a particular threat in fish because marine and freshwater ecosystems are significant reservoirs for persistent pollutants. POPs are brought to aquatic locations by runoff, wind, or other means, and they stay in those ecosystems sequestered in organic sediments. These sediments are sometimes known as “sinks” because they can harbor POPs for hundreds of years.

These POPs are brought into the food chain by bottom feeding fish. Pollutants accumulate up the food chain, concentrating to levels that can be thousands of times higher than in the water around themotherwise known as bioaccumulationIn addition, plastic pollution is widespread, and further exacerbates the issue. If microplastics are present in the water, POPs adhere to the plastic, concentrate further, and lead to the risk of even higher concentrations of POPs entering the food chain. 

Fish mainly absorb POPs from sediment. Bottom feeding fish stir up sediment to find food, absorbing POPs through their food and digestive tracts as well as their gillsOnce inside the body, POPs dissolve into the fish’s fat for long-term storage. Normal fat stores in fish (and in humans) are located in the liver and the subcutaneous fat, which is the layer of fat directly under the skin. That said, it’s not technically the skin of the fish that stores the pollutants, but the layer of fat just below the skin. When eating potentially contaminated fish, removing the fish skin also removes this layer of fat where the POPs are stored. And that’s why it is recommended to skin certain types of fish caught in LA before eating. 

How does this relate to Heal the Bay? 

Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program educates pier and shore anglers in Los Angeles and Orange County about the risks of consuming fish contaminated with DDT and PCBs. Created in 2003, the program is a component of the Fish Contamination Education Collaboration (FCEC) and managed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of a far-reaching public education and outreach program. 

What can we do about this pollution? 

Los Angeles is taking measures to reduce pollution. It’s nearly impossible to remove POPs from our environment and wildlife, so the goal is to stop any more from entering. The next storm drain permit, also known as the municipal sperate storm sewer system (MS4) permit, could be strong enough to enforce and reduce local pollution via the regulation of industrial discharge of wastewater into storm drains. A recent supreme court decision  reinforced MS4 permit regulatory standards. 

Individually, the best first step is to educate yourself on which fish are safe to catch and eat   in Los Angeles and how to prepare them safely. To advoate for clean water, you can contact your local water board and share your support for a simple, transparent, measurable, and enforceable MS4 permit that reduces the amount of new pollutants that enter our environment. Read our recent blog on the MS4 permit to learn more and sign up to stay updated on MS4 calls to action.  


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