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Are you ready to advocate for your community? Your region? Your planet? Share your passion with decision-makers using this “how-to” on crafting and delivering written and oral comments. Annelisa Moe, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay (who’s given her fair share of public testimony on local environmental issues) shares tips on how to make public comments and advocate for clean water.

Have you ever wanted to make a real impact on an issue you care about? Maybe you want to discuss getting safer bike lanes, smaller trash bins, or clean water for your community.

One great way to connect with policymakers and officials is by submitting public comments. Heal the Bay regularly submits written and oral comments and over the years, we have seen the direct positive impacts of our advocacy on decision making organizations like the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, LA City Council, CA Coastal Commission, CA Fish & Game Commission, LA County Board of Supervisors, and many more.

Here is Heal the Bay’s Step-by-Step guide on how you can write up and deliver your public comments to advocate for the change you want to see in the world. You have valuable experiences and information to provide to decision-makers and you have everything it takes to become a powerful advocate for the changes you want to see in your community. Let’s get started.

Annelisa Moe, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay and advocate for water quality regulation, shares her thoughts at MS4 Permit hearing last summer. Before joining Heal the Bay, Moe worked with the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Step I: Identify Your Influencer

The first step toward constructing the perfect public comment is identifying the right decision-maker to engage. This could include influencers from a wide variety of public offices, from Neighborhood Council Members to Senators. These decision-makers want to hear from the public, especially from constituents like you, and oftentimes this input informs their initiatives.

Step II: Gather Information

Every decision-maker (State Board, Committee, Senator, Council Member, etc.) will have their preferred way for you to sign up to speak or send in written comments, and it can be pretty confusing – even for professionals who give public comments for a living! Once you identify who you want to communicate with, look online for the following:

  1. A meeting agenda for the Council or Committee you are interested in
  2. Detailed information on how to submit written or oral comments
  3. Deadlines on written comments and time limits for oral comments
  4. Contact information for an elected official or decision-making body.
  5. Reach out to Heal the Bay for research help if you get stuck.

Step III: Create Your Comment

Providing Written Comments

Written comments could be a more formal written letter, or something a little less formal like an email or online submission. No matter what the format is, these seven basic elements provide a good place to start:

  1. Address the decision-maker, and introduce yourself
  2. State what you are commenting on and why (provide an agenda # if applicable)
  3. Provide a personal story or anecdote
  4. Add in stats, facts, and figures (if you have them)
  5. End stating your position again and thanking the decision-maker(s) for the opportunity to comment
  6. Ask a peer to proofread your comment and edit for spelling, grammar, consistent spacing, and font type
  7. Emphasize importance by repeating certain phrases, or by adding bold, italics, or underline effects to your text (sparingly)

Keep in mind that you do not have to write a novel. A comment of any length can have an impact, especially if you write in your voice and get creative. It doesn’t matter if there is a small error or something that you missed; the important part is that you are sharing your opinion and your passion with people and organizations who can influence big decisions.

To see a (rather exceptional) example, take a look at this comment letter by a college student (and former Heal the Bay intern) Aminah Grant, sent to the Regional Water Board in 2020 concerning their decision on the regional stormwater permit.

Read Aminah Grant’s Comment Letter

Providing Oral Comments at a Public Meeting 

Perhaps you’d rather show up in person (or virtually, as is common these days) to a meeting and speak directly to the decision-makers. A little bit of prep work can help here, too.

The public comment period at most meetings is usually time-limited, and that time can range anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. To make sure you do not run out of time, or leave out some important information, we recommend writing out your comments to reference while you speak.

Write out a full script and read your comment word for word or use bullet points to guide your comments more naturally. In either case, your oral comment should include the same seven basic elements as a written comment (review in the written comments section above).

Be sure to practice saying your comment aloud with a timer to get comfortable and ensure you are under the time limit. It can be helpful to do this with a friend who is willing to listen and provide feedback. Try to make sure you are familiar with the platform on which the meeting will be hosted (e.g. Zoom, WebEx), how to give public comments at your specific meeting, and if and when you might need to register for that meeting. When it comes time to give your comment at the meeting, remember to be clear and concise, take your time and breathe, annunciate, and speak more slowly than you think you need to (we all tend to speed up when we are nervous).

To hear a (rather exceptional) example, listen to this comment by a high school student (and former Club Heal the Bay member) Bella Wash at a Regional Water Board meeting, concerning their decision on the regional stormwater permit.

Step IV: Submit Your Comment

When you use your voice to advocate for change our policymakers listen, and you don’t have to do it alone. You can inspire others in your community to use their voices and public comments to improve the world around you and as always Heal the Bay is here to help empower you! Contact Heal the Bay when you need help and jumpstart your journey as an advocate today.



(Image by Last Chance Alliance)

The recent oil spill near Orange County is a painful reminder of the dangers associated with fossil fuels.

Oil spills, air pollution, and single-use plastic waste are all preventable impacts from the fossil fuel industry. There is simply no safe way to drill. The only solution is a just transition away from an extractive fossil fuel economy.

Heal the Bay is calling on our elected officials and appointed agencies to end oil drilling in state and federal waters, and to decommission existing offshore drilling operations immediately. But it is not enough to ban all offshore drilling, when Big Oil will just ramp up their operations in our neighborhoods and public lands. We must end this harmful practice everywhere.

Let’s turn this preventable disaster into an opportunity to protect communities, our environment, and our local economy.

We echo the statewide demands of the Last Chance Alliance to STOP, DROP, and ROLL. Call Gov. Newsom to support these three actions and sign the online petition.

Numerous elected officials have stepped up to call for an end to offshore drilling – this needs to include an end for existing leases and an immediate decommissioning of offshore oil platforms and operations. We are heartened especially by Senator Min’s vow to introduce this type of legislation for California, by his and Senator Newman’s call for federal representatives to do the same. We will keep you updated on state and federal legislation and how to keep pushing it forward.

TAKE ACTION NOW



UPDATE 10/5: Good news – Gov. Newsom signed SB 343, AB 1276, and AB 962 into law! Thanks for making your voice heard.

Action Alert! Support Heal the Bay’s top 3 California plastic-reduction bills. Call your reps and help get these environmental bills to the finish line. Learn about the bills, contact your representatives, and use our sample script below.

Call My Reps

A few major plastic bills are up for a vote, and we need your help to urge your representatives to vote YES! This year, the California legislature introduced a suite of bills to fight plastic pollution called the Circular Economy Package. While not all of the bills have made it through the long and harrowing process, three are nearing the finish line and are priorities for Heal the Bay. These bills are heading to the floor for a vote, which means we only have a couple weeks left to get them passed! The bills each tackle plastic pollution in a unique way, so let’s break them down.

Senate Bill 343: The Truth in Environmental Advertising Act

Have you ever turned over a plastic cup or container to read the number on the bottom and noticed it’s encircled with a recycling “chasing arrows” symbol, only to then learn that item in fact could not be recycled? Us too, and it’s frustrating. This bill would make that illegal, and only permit the chasing arrows symbol to be used on items that are actually recyclable in California and never as part of a plastic resin identification code (those numbers that tell you what type of plastic the item is made from). SB 343 would help to clarify what items should go in the blue bin, reducing confusion among consumers, contamination, and waste volume while improving diversion rates, meaning less waste is sent to landfill and more is actually recycled.

Assembly Bill 1276: Disposable Foodware Accessories

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all begun relying much more heavily on takeout and delivery to feed ourselves and our loved ones while supporting local restaurants. The downside? Receiving disposable foodware accessories like cutlery, condiment packets, and straws that we don’t need and frequently end up in the trash without ever being used. These items, often made of single-use plastics, are clogging waste facilities and polluting our environment. AB 1276 would require that these food ware accessories only be provided upon explicit request of the customer, so you wouldn’t get them unless you ask.

Assembly Bill 962: California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act

What’s the best way to fight plastic pollution? Tackling the problem from the source. This bill focuses on replacing harmful pollution-causing disposable plastic items with sustainable reusable and refillable alternatives. AB 962 helps pave the way for returnable and refillable beverage bottles in California by allowing glass bottles to be washed and refilled by beverage companies instead of crushed and recycled into new bottles – a much less energy intensive process that encourages reuse and refill. The measure reduces waste and encourages the use of glass bottles over disposable plastic ones. 


All of these bills will be up for a vote soon. Call your representatives and urge them to VOTE YES on SB 343, AB 1276, and AB 962.

Use this handy tool to find and call your reps.

Call My Reps

Use this sample script when you call:

“Hi, my name is __________ and I am a resident of __________ and a constituent of representative__________. As an active member of my community with concerns about plastic pollution, I urge you to vote YES on SB 343, AB 1276, and AB 962. As part of the Circular Economy Package, these bills will reduce plastic pollution in my community and protect my public health. Thank you for your time.”

 


Stay in the loop on the progress of these bills by signing up for our newsletter and following us on Instagram.



The Los Angeles Regional Board has neglected their mission – to protect and enhance our water resources – by making polluting easier for dischargers rather than requiring action. The job of holding polluters accountable will once again fall on us.

GET UPDATES AND ACTION ALERTS

The discharge of polluted stormwater in Los Angeles is regulated by the LA Regional Water Quality Control Board through the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit. The Regional Board had an opportunity this month to improve the MS4 Permit during its decadal update, but in a disappointing decision the Board instead greenlit the continued degradation of waterbodies in our communities by adopting a MS4 Permit with the same loopholes as the ineffective 2012 Permit. This decision continues a pattern of insufficient accountability for stormwater dischargers and will only further delay progress, resulting in stagnant or even declining surface water quality. 

Permittees asked for a weaker permit with fewer requirements and a longer timeframe

The four-day hearing (see our Twitter updates) began with testimony from public officials who once again lamented their limited access to competitive funding sources for stormwater projects. Elected officials represent cities, which are permittees under the MS4 Permit. They are not community voices – they are the voice of the dischargers asking for a weaker permit with fewer requirements and a longer timeframe. 

We understand that completing projects is difficult, particularly for cities with smaller budgets. However, the MS4 Permit has been around for 30 years, and we have yet to see a significant reduction in stormwater pollution. We cannot afford to wait another 30 years before we start to see improvements. Luckily, there are funding opportunities available right now through localstate, and even federal programs. Additional resources include opportunities for collaboration between the cities, supplemental work from non-profits and community groups looking to build projects in their neighborhoods, support from Regional Board staff, and information from LA County’s WHAM Taskforce and Watershed Coordinators who are all assigned to identify and leverage funding sources.  

Most importantly, the benefits of compliance far outweigh the costs. Achieving clean water is not just a respectable goal, but a federally mandated law to protect communities and ecosystems from polluted water. Unfortunately, water quality has stagnated, even gotten worse in some areas, as our City and County governments have fallen behind schedule. Yet, there are no penalties for their inaction. 

Members of the public asked for clean water, better regulation, and more transparency

The Board also heard from dozens of community members asking for clean water, better regulation of stormwater pollution, and more transparency in the regulatory process. We heard from Eva Pagaling, whose tribes (Samala Chumash and Yakama) have historically gathered materials, medicines, and food in the Santa Clara River watershed and coastline. Eva reminded us that these tribes shoulder the burden of MS4 pollution, and urged the Regional Board to hold accountable those responsible for polluted discharges. We heard from Itzel Flores Castillo Wang, a community member and organizer from Boyle Heights in East LA, supporting a transparent permit that holds permittees accountable to implement multi-benefit and nature-based projects where they are needed most. We heard from so many folks demanding action now, in the form of a SMMART Permit that holds polluters accountable and that allows the public to follow progress and engage in the process. 

Heal the Bay gave a presentation alongside partners at LA Waterkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council outlining the strengths and flaws of the proposed 2021 Regional MS4 Permit. We supported the watershed approach because water flows throughout watershed boundaries; therefore, the approach to reducing pollution must be watershed-wide without stopping at city limits. The optional watershed management program within the permit framework allows for that watershed approach. However, we did not support the “deemed in compliance” language (also known as the “safe harbor”), which shields polluters from enforcement. A SMMART permit can invest in our communities through multi-benefit projects, but only if it is actionable, with enforceable deadlines so that those benefits can become a reality in our communities and not just a hope for the future. 

“The small list of projects presented by permittees are happening because there are TMDLs with deadlines and consequences built in. There is no justification for maintaining the safe harbors in this permit. Board staff has already allowed plenty of flexibility…” – Dr. Shelley Luce. 

The Water Board is supposed to preserve and enhance water quality for present and future generations; instead, they chose to excuse permittees, once again, for their lack of action. 

The Regional Board voted to allow continued degradation of our waterways

As final deliberations began on July 23, it became apparent that Board members were more concerned about the complaints of the permittees than about the demands of community members. Some Board members went even further to bow to dischargers by proposing motions to extend deadlines (which thankfully failed, but with a narrow 4-3 vote against) and completely remove numeric water quality requirements (which failed with a 5-2 vote against). Finally, the Board voted to approve a 2021 Regional MS4 Permit that includes the same safe harbors that made the 2012 MS4 Permit so ineffective, even after dozens of community members asked them directly for clean water and more accountability. 

Some improvements were made to increase transparency, including a final direction to Regional Board staff to create a single online portal for all annual reports; however, without even the possibility of enforcement by the Board, there is no accountability for polluters. 

It is up to all of us to Take LA by Storm and push for progress together

One board member claimed that “the safe harbors are an expression of trust and confidence in permittees.” But knowing the permittee’s record of inaction, we do not share that trust. By keeping the safe harbors, the Board has effectively decided not to enforce this critical permit. So now, the job of holding permittees accountable will once again fall on us, the concerned residents and nonprofit groups of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. We can take inspiration from Margaret Mead and know that, together, our actions can make a difference. 

Sign up to Take LA by Storm to receive updates as the permittees submit their semi-annual reports. We will continue to search for ways to hold polluters accountable while we track progress. If implementation continues to lag, we will demand action together. 

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Image by Maja7777

Heal the Bay Intern, Yamileth Urias, explores the nuances of a classic environmental slogan. 

As children, we are taught to reduce, reuse, and recycle. At some point in our lives, many forget about the first two R’s, reduce and reuse, and mostly rely on the last R– recycle. As plastic pollution becomes an increasingly alarming issue, we must not forget to reduce and reuse. Here is why that order matters. 

How is plastic produced and why should we be worried?

We consume food and water in containers made from fossil fuels! Yes, that’s right. Plastic is made from oil and natural gas. Through polymerization, resins are created, which allows plastics to be molded and shaped under heat and pressure. This video further explains the plastic production process.

Oil and gas industries have only become more powerful in the last century since fossil fuels are crucial in the creation of plastics. Not only do we rely on oil and gas companies for transportation, energy, and heating, but also plastic. However, the fossil fuel industry has encountered a challenge — electric vehicles and renewable energy resources like solar power.  As we become more aware of the exploitation of natural resources like fossil fuels, we have made changes to remedy the situation. With the rise of electric and hybrid vehicles and alternative energy sources, the demand for fossil fuel has decreased, causing oil and gas industries to turn to and invest more in new plastic production. New plastic production is cheaper than using recycled plastics due to weakened oil prices. According to a study by Carbon Tracker, the oil industry plans to spend $400 billion on new plastic and less than $2 billion in reducing plastic waste over the next five years. 

The drastic gap in investments in virgin plastic and effort to reduce plastic waste has created a monster that is becoming more difficult to control. Corporations are producing more plastic despite knowing that most of it will not be recycled. According to a 2017 study, we have created 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste since 1950. Only 10% of all plastic waste has ever been recycled. This means that over 90% of plastic produced is waste that ends up polluting our environment, our water, and eventually items we consume. This is why using recycling as our only means to fight plastic pollution simply will not work. 

Recycling allows for the continued creation of plastics. The best solution is to reduce plastic use in order to stop the harmful effects plastic has on us, our communities, and the environment. We need a permanent solution that will help us transition from relying on plastic to drastically reducing our plastic use.


Image by
meineresterampe 

Reduce first! 

There are several issues with recycling.

  1. There is simply too much plastic produced and we cannot recycle our way out of it. A significant amount of this plastic is single-use plastic that cannot be recycled. 99% of cutlery and plastic plates do not meet the standards to be recycled.
  2. Most of the items we try to recycle are not recycled. Studies have found that only 9% of all plastics produced are recycled.
  3. Plastics are not infinitely recyclable. They are downcycled, meaning it cannot be made into the same thing, unlike glass and aluminum. Each time material is repurposed, it becomes a lower quality that will eventually lose its ability to be recycled. 

For these reasons, the best solution is to reduce our plastic use.  One of the best ways is to reduce the use of single-use plastics. Out of approximately 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic produced, 40% are single-use products like plastic bags and cutlery. By reducing our use of plastic, we also reduce the demand for it. In order to fully make our efforts effective, we must reduce our individual plastic-use and pressure companies to change their harmful practices.

Reuse materials around the home

Our lives are not completely plastic-free. We all have plastic items in our homes, and the pandemic has only increased our plastic use. That is okay! If you must use packaging or single-use products, you can always choose a more eco-friendly option that is biodegradable. This includes FSC-certified paper, wheat straw or locally-sourced materials.  

However, that may not always be an option. It is also important to point out that sustainable products can be expensive. Not everyone can afford to keep buying $50 reusable bottles and filters because the water in their neighborhood is not safe to drink. This is why reusing is the next best action to partake in. You can continue with your plastic-reduction efforts by reusing and repurposing plastics you currently own before disposing of them. This can be done by using a plastic tub of butter to store other food items in your fridge. Another popular usage for plastic containers includes storing away things around your homes like a sewing kit or hair ties and pins. Other items like old toothbrushes can be used as tools to clean hard-to-reach surfaces. There are many ways to get creative and upcycle plastic products you currently own. 

Recycle when there is no other alternative

Simply because there are better alternatives to recycling does not mean that we should stop all recycling efforts. According to a study by Pew Trusts, the plastic in our oceans is expected to nearly triple from 11 million tonnes to 29 million tonnes in the next 20 years. Plastic pollution has rapidly increased over the years and it will only get worse in the next couple of decades. This means that over the next 20 summers, oceans will become increasingly more polluted affecting wildlife and the coastal environment as we know it. The plastic pollution crisis is so big that any effort is better than no effort. 

It is also important to point out that the world is a unique situation that has disrupted plastic reduction efforts. People all over the world increased their plastic use due to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 briefly helped the environment by reducing transportation emissions, but it also caused long-term damages with the massive increase in plastic use. Consumption of single-use plastic increased somewhere between 250-300% during COVID-19. Almost 30% of this spike in single-use plastic is attributed to personal protective equipment (PPE). There is nothing wrong with being cautious and looking out for one’s health, so if reducing or reusing plastic is not an option, the next best thing is to recycle when possible. With that in mind, it is crucial to practice plastic reduction efforts in a hierarchical order. Click here for more ideas on how to reuse and recycle items around your home. 


Image by
Nareeta Martin

What you can do to help

One simple way to reduce plastic use starts with takeout. Next time you are ordering takeout, consider requesting no plastic cutlery or drinking your beverage without a straw and using utensils from home instead. You can also take action by supporting the takeout extras on-request initiative. Due to COVID-19, takeout orders have increased and so has the use of single-use plastic. Sign the petition asking legislators to support #SkipTheStuff. You can also take action by sending an email to DoorDash to #CutOutCutlery. Through this campaign, we can encourage food delivery apps to change their default plastic cutlery option and move to a request-based option.

For more guidance on how you can repurpose and recycle items around your home, conduct a waste audit. This guide on waste audits is the perfect way to reevaluate your home waste, plastic usage and find creative ways to repurpose items. It’s the perfect activity just in time for spring cleaning that will also keep you busy during the quarantine. 

 


 About the author

Yamileth is a graduating senior at the University of Southern California studying public relations and political science. Her internship with Heal the Bay communications encompasses branding, research and social media. Growing up in a coastal town sparked her passion for environmental conservation, environmental justice and marine life protection. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting with recipes, gardening and sewing.

 



Funcionarios electos de Los Angeles están tomando acción legislativa para reducir la basura que se genera con la comida para llevar tras un gran incremento en el consumo del plástico de un solo uso. ¿Pero qué significa “Deja el desperdicio”? ¿Y cómo ayuda a luchar contra la contaminación por plástico? Vamos a verlo.

Deja el desperdicio es el último empujón legislativo de Heal the Bay junto a la coalición Reusable LA. #DejaElDesperdicio requeriría que los extras de la comida para llevar y a domicilio — como los utensilios de un solo uso, popotes, condimentos, servilletas y demás — fuesen facilitados a petición del usuario. Si los necesita, los puede tener. Y si no, no hace falta desperdiciar.

Añada su nombre a la petición

El consumo de plástico de un solo uso se ha disparado debido al COVID-19, incluyendo aquí en Los Angeles, donde nuestros queridos restaurantes locales se han visto forzados a depender principalmente de los pedidos para llevar y a domicilio. El consumo de plásticos de un solo uso se ha incrementado entre un 250% y un 300% desde que comenzó la pandemia, con un aumento de un 30% de basura atribuido en parte a utensilios de usar y tirar. En toda la nación, billones de accesorios para la comida se tiran cada año, muchos sin haberse utilizado siquiera. (Muchos de nosotros incluso los guardamos en el temido cajón de los extras, esperando utilizarlos algún día).

La amplia mayoría de estos objetos de un solo uso no se pueden reciclar. Suman a la crisis de basura plástica, ensucian nuestros vecindarios, ríos, el océano, y atascan los vertederos. El uso de combustibles fósiles para producir objetos de plástico que ni siquiera se usan es lo último que necesitamos durante una crisis climática. Estos efectos también presentan problemas de justicia medioambiental, con las comunidades en primera línea sufriendo desproporcionadamente por el cambio climático, la extracción de crudo, y la incineración asociada a plásticos de un solo uso.

Heal the Bay y Reusable LA están abogando por legislar #DejaElDesperdicio en la ciudad y el condado de Los Angeles. En Enero de 2021, los miembros del consejo de la ciudad de Los Angeles Paul Koretz y Paul Krekorian introdujeron una moción para un borrador de ley para #DejaElDesperdicio. Requeriría que en los casos de comida para llevar, servicio a domicilio o servicios de entrega a domicilios de terceros, todos los accesorios estuvieran disponibles únicamente bajo petición. La Junta de Supervisores del Condado de Los Angeles siguió el ejemplo y en Febrero de 2021 pasó una moción similar de forma unánime tras ser introducida por Sheila Kuehl, miembro de la junta.

Esta legislación reconoce que los miembros de la comunidad pueden necesitar pajitas/ popotes/pajillas, utensilios y / u otros accesorios para alimentos de un solo uso. Es crucial que los restaurantes y las aplicaciones de entrega de terceros promuevan y brinden opciones para todos. Este modelo “a pedido” está estructurado intencionalmente para cumplir con todos los requisitos y adaptaciones de la ADA para garantizar un acceso equitativo para disfrutar fácilmente de comidas en el lugar, comida para llevar o entregas en los restaurantes de Los Ángeles. Según esta ordenanza, las empresas pueden proporcionar accesorios para alimentos a los clientes que los soliciten.

Restaurantes y aplicaciones de entrega a domicilio deberían por defecto, no entregar accesorios de un solo uso para los pedidos, a menos que el cliente los solicite. Cambiar a este modelo de accesorios “bajo pedido” elimina basura innecesaria y ahorra dinero a los establecimientos. Los Angeles ha hecho esto antes con los popotes bajo pedido. En un momento en el que los negocios pequeños y los restaurantes están luchando por mantenerse a flote, esta es una solución simple para recortar costes excesivos y contaminación por plástico. Apoyamos estas ordenanzas porque son una solución donde todos ganan, las comunidades de LA, los negocios y el medioambiente.

Contamos con su apoyo para pasar esta ordenanza, así que pase a la acción mediante los enlaces de aquí abajo y manténgase a la escucha para más novedades de #DejaElDesperdicio.

Pase a la acción!

Firme la petición

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Elected officials in Los Angeles are taking legislative action to reduce takeout trash after a steep increase in single-use plastic consumption. But what does it mean to “Skip the Stuff”? And how does it help fight plastic pollution? Let’s dive in.

Skip the Stuff is the latest legislative push through Heal the Bay’s plastics work with the Reusable LA coalition. #SkipTheStuff would require takeout and delivery “extras” — like single-use utensils, straws, condiments, napkins, and more — to be provided only upon request. If you need them, you can get them. If you don’t, no need to waste.⁣

Add Your Name to the Petition

The use of single-use plastic has skyrocketed due to COVID-19, including here in Los Angeles, where our beloved local restaurants are forced to rely primarily on takeout and delivery. Consumption of single-use plastics has increased by 250% – 300% since the pandemic began, with a 30% increase in waste attributed in part to disposable foodware. Nationwide, billions of food accessories are thrown away each year, many of which aren’t even used once. (Many of us even keep them in that dreaded drawer of takeout “extras”, hoping that they’ll be used one day.)

The vast majority of these single-use items cannot be recycled. They add to the plastic pollution crisis, litter our neighborhoods, rivers, and ocean, and clog already overfilled landfills. Using fossil fuels to produce plastic items that aren’t even used is the last thing we need during a climate crisis. These impacts also present significant environmental justice issues, with frontline and fenceline communities bearing a disproportionate burden of the impacts from climate change, fossil fuel extraction, and incineration associated with single-use waste.
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Heal the Bay and Reusable LA are advocating for #SkipTheStuff legislation in both Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County. In January 2021, Los Angeles City Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian introduced a motion to draft city-wide legislation to #SkipTheStuff. It would require all foodware accessories to be available only upon request for takeout, delivery, and third-party delivery apps. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors followed suit in February 2021 and unanimously passed a similar motion after it was introduced by Boardmember Sheila Kuehl.

This legislation recognizes that community members may need single-use straws, utensils, and/or other foodware accessories. It is crucial that restaurants and third-party delivery apps readily promote and provide accommodations for all. This “on request” model is intentionally structured to meet all ADA requirements and accommodations to ensure equitable access to easily enjoy dine-in, takeout, or delivery from LA eateries. Under this ordinance, businesses may provide foodware accessories to customers who request them.

Restaurants and food delivery apps should default to no single-use accessories for orders, unless the customer requests them. Switching to foodware accessories “upon request” reduces unnecessary waste and saves restaurants money. Los Angeles has done this before with straws on request. At a time when local restaurants and small businesses are struggling to stay open, this is a simple solution to cut down on both excess costs and plastic pollution. We support these ordinances as a win-win for our LA communities, businesses, and environment.⁣⁣
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We’re counting on your support to get this ordinance passed, so take action below and stay tuned for updates on how you can #SkipTheStuff.

Take Action!

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VOTE!

UPDATE: Originally published on October 6, 2020. Last update on December 21, 2020 with the election results.

Heal the Bay Voter Guide 2020 results - Los Angeles California

Download Graphics and Share Voter Guide 2020 Results

 

Yes on Prop 16: Affirmative Action / State of California

Notes: Failed

A success in Los Angeles County, but didn’t gain enough support from California voters to pass. The fight to allow people the option of considering equitable access to opportunity in the workforce of government agencies, contractors, and universities continues.

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Yes on Prop 17: Restored voting rights for felons / State of California

Notes: Passed

Finally possible for people who are on parole for felony convictions to vote. Voters also passed the potential for people who are on parole for felony convictions to run for office in California. People who have served their time deserve to participate in democracy.

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Yes on Prop 18: 17 year old people vote in primary / State of California

Notes: Failed

First introduced 16 years ago, would have allowed 17 year old people to vote in primary and special elections, if they turn 18 by the subsequent general election. This modest effort to expand voting rights and increase youth civic engagement failed. There are already 18 states and Washington D.C. where this is legal.

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Yes on Measure J Reimagine LA County / Los Angeles County 

Notes: Passed

Investments in programs that respond directly to local needs is how we move toward healthier communities. Heal the Bay advocates for prioritizing equitable access to green jobs and a clean environment across Greater Los Angeles.

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Yes on Measure RR / $7B Bond for LAUSD / City of Los Angeles

Notes: Passed

All children in Los Angeles County deserve clean water, improved school safety standards, asbestos-free facilities, and classrooms equipped with technology for the 21st century. This funding for the Los Angeles Unified School District was deeply needed to protect students, families, teachers, and faculty.

[END OF UPDATE]

 


 

If you want to make waves, you have to get in the water. With voting season upon us, make use of these handy resources to create your ocean of change. 

  • Dive into Heal the Bay’s Voting Guide (below)
  • Vote early!

Did you know California is one of a few states that allows “Conditional Voter Registration?“ This means you can register to vote conditionally all the way through Election Day on November 3. Contact the Los Angeles County Election Office for more information if you still need to register to vote. Early Voting takes place October 5 – November 2. If you are voting by mail-in ballot, the USPS recommends that you do so no later than October 27

Heal the Bay’s missionto make our coastal California waters and watersheds safe, healthy, and cleanis affected by issues of environmental justice.

We can only keep our rivers and oceans clean and accessible when we support and invest in all of our communities. That is why we are recommending yes votes on ballot initiatives that enact reforms that support communities most impacted by environmental injustices. Environmental justice is inextricably linked to social justice, and improving equity improves the health and environment across our communities. 

Heal the Bay Voter Guide: 

The Heal the Bay team created this brief voter guide for the November 3, 2020 election in Los Angeles County.

Heal the Bay Voter Guide

Yes on Prop 16: Affirmative Action / State of California
Yes on Props 17 & 18: Increasing Access to Voting / State of California
Yes on Measure J Reimagine LA County / Los Angeles County
Yes on Measure RR / $7B Bond for LAUSD / City of Los Angeles

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Proposition 16: A vote to allow the consideration of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin to address diversity in public employment, contracting, and education.

The issue:  This proposition repeals Prop 209, a ban on affirmative action in the California Constitution. This will allow for the consideration of diversity as a factor in public employment, public contracting, and public education decisions.

The stakes: Proposition 16 would diversify the composition of the workforce and the hiring pool available to government agencies, contractors, and university collaborators that work with Heal the Bay. As members of the environmental NGO community, we recognize the lack of diversity in leadership and staff within environmental organizations. Diverse perspectives provide a wider array of creative solutions to the environmental problems we face. With our commitment to advance environmental justice, Heal the Bay has taken strides to increase internal diversity, including updating our hiring policies. This proposition would help other agencies and universities to do the same in an effort to increase diversity at all levels. 

Our recommendation: Cast your ballot to advance equity. Vote YES on Prop 16.

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Propositions 17 and 18: Votes to increase access to voting. 

The issue:  Proposition 17 would amend the Constitution of California to allow people who are on parole for felony convictions to vote. Proposition 18 would allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary and special elections, if they will turn 18 by the subsequent general election.

The stakes: The issues confronting our state, including climate change, the resulting intensity of wildfires, and the human right to clean water, affect everyone, and everyone should have a say in them. The felons who’ve served their time and are on parole, as well as our youth in California, have to live with our decisions and should be able to participate in making them. 

Our recommendation: Cast your ballot to increase voting access. Vote YES on Props 17 and 18.

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Measure J (Los Angeles County): A vote to dismantle systemic racism by investing in health, housing, and jobs.

The issue: Los Angeles County spends vastly more money – 42% of all revenues – on law enforcement and the legal system, at the expense of other community needs including the environment. Measure J will permanently allocate at least 10% of the county’s unrestricted general funds to community counseling, mental health services, youth development programs, small businesses, job creation, career training, and affordable housing. These much-needed investments move us toward healthier communities and can support green jobs and a cleaner environment for low-income communities and communities of color in Los Angeles. 

The stakes: Heal the Bay wrote a comment letter in June 2020 supporting the People’s Budget to increase investments in community health in Los Angeles. Measure J includes programs and values similar to those we advocated in Measure W two years ago: good jobs, career training opportunities, and equity.

Our recommendation: Cast your ballot for the health, housing, and jobs of the communities who need it most. Vote YES on Measure J.

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Measure RR (Los Angeles): A vote to upgrade LAUSD schools and increase school safety.

The issue: Heal the Bay believes deeply in the value of education. We must invest in our children and our future. LAUSD infrastructure requires upgrades to aging buildings that aren’t safe for students. This Measure would authorize $7,000,000,000 in bonds at legal rates to address real infrastructure issues at LAUSD schools. It would include independent audits and citizens’ oversight, with none of the money going to administrative salaries. 

The stakes: Heal the Bay works with LAUSD schools regularly, and we have seen first hand through our Speakers Bureau program the inequities and lack of resources between different school districts. We believe that all children in LA County deserve clean water, improved safety standards, asbestos-free facilities, and classrooms equipped with technology for the 21st century.

Our recommendation: Cast your ballot for long-needed upgrades and safety measures in LAUSD schools. Vote YES on RR.

 

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As the sun sets on Coastal Cleanup Month, we are looking back with gratitude and appreciation for everyone who participated in a cleanup, helped us spread the word, raised funds, and joined a virtual event over the course of the month. At a time when it’s easy to feel isolated from one another, it is inspiring to see how we came together across the County, from summit to sea, to protect what we love.

A New Take on 2020

Heal the Bay has been the LA County coordinator for Coastal Cleanup Day for more than 30 years, and 2020 proved to be a completely different cleanup effort than years past. In an effort to prioritize the health and safety of the community, the re-imagined concept was expanded to become an entire month of individualized cleanups close to home and virtual programming to educate about the impacts of trash and pollution and how we can work together towards solutions. Our Heal the Bay Aquarium education team engaged 437 LAUSD students with virtual programming about protecting our watersheds. This was also the first year that we asked for volunteer fundraisers to support our clean water mission. Fundraising teams and individuals raised close to $2,000, and we are grateful for their support.

Each week of Coastal Cleanup Month focused on a different region, starting at the top of our mountains, working through our neighborhoods & waterways, and culminating at our wetlands & beaches. The weekly programming featured a series of panels, webinars, and Instagram Lives with partner organizations that explored the various community and environmental issues facing Los Angeles County. 

None of this would have been possible without our Coastal Cleanup Month sponsors, and we would like to thank Water for LA, Blue Shield, K-Swiss, Ford, and West Basin Municipal Water District for their support.

2020 Impact

This year, we set a goal of collecting 31,000 pieces of trash throughout the month of September. Thanks to our dedicated Regional Ambassadors and 2,334 registered cleanup volunteers, we surpassed this goal with a total of 40,101 pieces of trash collected!

The top 10 items found across Los Angeles County in the month of September were:

Download our full Coastal Cleanup Month Wrap-Up Book for 2020

The Effects of PPE and the Pandemic on Our Environment

Coastal Cleanup Month was the first initiative of this scale to track the impact of the improper disposal of single-use personal protective equipment (PPE) in LA County. In the first year of tracking this item, PPE was one of the top 10 items found by our volunteers, surpassing common items like glass bottles. 

Through our data, we can clearly see the effects of the pandemic on our waste stream. Another observation is that people are relying more than ever on takeout, delivery, and outdoor dining at beaches, parks, and other public spaces. Disposable foodware accessories like utensils, straws, and takeout containers were some of the most common items found during cleanups.

The Plastic Problem

Looking at the data collected throughout Coastal Cleanup Month, it’s obvious that single-use plastic is the top offender. From utensils and straws to takeout containers and grocery bags, our lives are filled with plastic – and so is our environment. Unfortunately, the effects of COVID-19 have worsened these single-use habits and curbed a lot of progress that we’ve seen in Los Angeles over the last several years. 

Plastic grocery bags were a common item found during cleanups until California became the first state in the nation to impose a statewide bag ban in 2014. Before the pandemic hit, we were making great strides in reducing our single-use plastic waste. We could bring our reusable bags to the grocery store and refill our reusable coffee cups at Starbucks, and our environment and community were all the better for it. Now, plastic producers are using the pandemic to push disposable plastics as a safer option, a position that has no scientific merit. They were able to undo the work of the state bag ban, and grocery stores statewide have not only reintroduced single-use plastic bags, but many have banned reusable bags from entering stores. This year, we saw plastic grocery bags, cups, and lids in the top 10 items found by our volunteers during Coastal Cleanup Month.  

We also found that other than cigarette butts and PPE, the top 10 items are all food and drink-related. With the increasing reliance on takeout and delivery, plastic cutlery and other accessories are becoming a bigger and bigger issue. Restaurants often throw these items in takeout bags regardless of whether the customer needs them or not. To put this in perspective, 40 billion plastic utensils are thrown away each year in the United States. Plastic foodware items, like straws, utensils, and condiment packets cannot be recycled, so they are destined to end up in a landfill, incinerator, or polluting our oceans and communities.

How Can You Help?

Plastic pollution may seem like something that is out of your control. However, there are easy ways you can help make waves of change, from using reusable products when you can to supporting environmental legislation. Here are 3 easy ways to make a change:

  • Go reusable!

From grocery bags and utensils to water bottles and coffee cups, there are reusable replacements for almost all single-use plastics. Check out our Heal the Bay Shop for some ideas! If you’re ordering takeout or delivery, make sure to tell the restaurant “no plastic, please!” and use your own utensils instead. Check out Reusable LA and Habits of Waste for easy ways to help combat this issue, like sending an email to third party delivery companies asking them to make plastic cutlery and accessories optional rather than the default. If you’re unsure where to start, conduct a home waste audit to evaluate your daily habits and see where you can replace single-use items with reusables.

  • Pack it out. 

As a result of limited staff and the increased need to sanitize the bathrooms as a result of COVID-19, Los Angeles County Beaches & Harbors only has the capacity to empty the public trash cans once a day. Combined with the surge of beachgoers picnicking on the sand, this has led to an overwhelming problem of overflowing trash cans and increased beach litter. Similar issues have been observed throughout the County, so if you are enjoying our public spaces, make sure that all trash gets disposed of properly, and pack it out if trash cans are full.

  • Use your voice. 

Every single person has power! You influence the people close to you by voicing your opinion, you influence companies with the purchases you choose to make, and you can influence policy and legislation with your vote. The California bag ban is a good example of local change leading the charge and turning into statewide change, so don’t underestimate the power of advocating at your local City Council or with the County Board of Supervisors. At its core, plastic pollution is not a consumer problem; it’s a producer problem, and you can use your voice to support plastic policies that make plastic producers responsible for the waste they create.

Get Involved with Heal the Bay

We are excited with the results of Coastal Cleanup Month, but protecting our watersheds and coastline is an everyday effort. There are ways you can continue to stay involved and support our clean water mission year-round with different programs like Adopt-a-Beach, Club Heal the Bay, and MPA Watch. If you’re ready for more action to protect our oceans, join our virtual Volunteer Orientation on October 12. And don’t forget to save the date in September 2021 for next year’s Coastal Cleanup efforts!

 



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.