What’s that Smell? Ani’s Compost Journey

Several members of the ILACSD team compost food scraps at home. While our previous compost blogs have focused on vermicompost, composting organic material with the help of worms, it is isn’t the only option for those with limited space. Ani, our Recycling Programs Manager, recently added a small, easy to turn, worm-free compost bin to her home to make the most of her food scraps. Read on to learn more about her compost journey and one of the trials she faced early on – smelly compost.  

MILACSD holiday party 2015 (41)y journey with compost started about a year ago when my boyfriend and I decided that we wanted to invest in a compost bin for our food scraps. The first step was determining what type of bin I needed that would best suit my schedule and needs. It is important to note that every compost pile and bin is different, for example, I chose to purchase a compost tumbler to limit the time it takes to manually turn the contents in the pile with a shovel. This might not be the case in every household though. My compost bin instantly mixes when I spin it, which is convenient for me and needless to say that it takes less than a minute to turn.

Compost Pile

An look inside Ani’s compost bin showcasing a healthy balance of greens and browns.

When I started collecting food scraps for the bin, I found myself with an overly stinky compost pile. I had missed an important component of composting practices…keeping the ratio of nitrogen to carbon just right. This balance between nitrogen and carbon is key to having a successful compost pile. Carbon-rich materials like leaves, mulch, wood chips and nut shells are referred to as “browns” and nitrogen-rich materials like food scraps are referred to as “greens.” I was so excited to have a place to store my food scraps, or my “greens,” that I neglected my “browns” contribution to the compost bin. To offset the smell, I placed shredded newspaper in the pile as my “browns” because of the lack of “browns” in my backyard.

Composting is definitely a work of art with an environmental twist. Maintaining that balance between “greens” and “browns” is a small component of it and this was just one issue that required some research on my part. It’s safe to say that my experience with composting has been an interesting and informative one.

Compost Bin

Here’s an example of what Ani’s bin looks like – compact and easy to turn.

Remember that every compost pile is different and may require several changes to the formula before it starts to look (and smell) like its processing your organic materials correctly.

Stay tuned for my follow-up blog where I will share my best practices for pest control!

If you’re looking for more composting resources, check out our one-stop recycling database, WasteFreeSD.org!

 

 

Record Breaking Turn-out for Tsuanami Sweepers Cleanup

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Volunteers picking up litter before it is swept away by the tide. We are passion in action.

San Diego’s Tsunami Sweepers were at it again last weekend for our first cleanup of 2016! I Love A Clean San Diego has been named the first responder in San Diego to assist in the cleanup of debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami that is expected to wash up on California’s shores in 2016.

While our volunteers were looking for tsunami debris, there was plenty of litter to pickup on our end, as well. Our coastline is the last stop for litter before it reaches the Pacific Ocean so ILACSD and an astounding crew of 305 volunteers set out to beautify one of San Diego’s most scenic and iconic natural spaces, Torrey Pines State Beach.

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Volunteers ready to cleanup with waivers and even reusable buckets in hand!

Even with a chance of rain in the forecast, hundreds of San Diegans turned-out to keep Torrey Pines State Beach clean and beautiful. Equipped with bags, buckets, trash grabbers and gloves, volunteers of all ages spread out across the sandy coastline and walkways. 

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Volunteers took to the walkways in addition to the sandy beach where they found more Styrofoam and cigarette butts.

Thanks to the full moon, the tide was unusually high, but that didn’t slow down our team of dedicated volunteers. Many of them took to the nearby walkways to capture trash before it reached the sand and tide, as well.

On the beach side of the cleanup, volunteers continued to find small pieces of trash including several pieces of fishing net.

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Rocks and boulders are the perfect hiding spots for litter.

In a matter of only two hours, volunteers collected mostly cigarette butts, bits of Styrofoam and food wrappers. Even though our volunteers didn’t find any tsunami specific debris, volunteers still collected over 500 pounds of litter! 

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Weighing the litter at the end of the event is one of the most rewarding parts of every cleanup we do.

If you weren’t able to make it to our first cleanup, don’t worry! We have monthly cleanups as well as two countywide cleanups, Creek to Bay and Coastal Cleanup Day. Find out how to get involved by visiting our upcoming events page!

Get to know Sam!

Today, we’d like to introduce I Love A Clean San Diego’s Contract Manager, Sam! Sam hit the ground running when he first joined our team in October. Now that he is more settled in his role, we’d like to take this opportunity for all of you to get to know him better. Read on to learn about Sam’s journey to ILACSD!

Sam DeCapua, I Love A Clean San Diego’s Contract Manager (right)

Q: What brought you to I Love A Clean San Diego?

Before coming to ILACSD, I really enjoyed politics, but since there was such a wide array of issues that needed to be addressed, I realized that this is my chance to hone in on a topic I could really contribute to.

There are so many problems which affect us all in the environmental sphere, so I felt I had a great opportunity to make a positive change in my new-found home (San Diego) and I could work towards something I was passionate about: curbing food waste, educating others on the importance of the world around them. The great office culture that exists at I Love A Clean San Diego is a plus, too.

IMG_1259Q: What environmental topic are you most passionate about?

Although I think they are all important, I think food waste is a BIG one. It is a stark reminder that we have this abundance of food, which if channeled properly, could be a large step forward in effectively ENDING hunger in the United States. What a change that would be! Not only that, but food waste creates methane, which is 25 times more dangerous than CO2 emissions, when disposed at landfills. I’m also very intrigued by the Zero Waste initiatives showing up around the country. I love that California has been so aggressive to reduce the waste we create. It’s a great goal to pursue, and I’m really looking forward to contributing to the implementation of those lofty goals.

Q: What is your most recent environmental goal?
Since joining I Love A Clean San Diego, I’ve seen what a noticeable difference the smallest habits and actions taken daily can make. Therefore, I’ve tried to reduce buying excess packaging which creates unnecessary trash, as well as making sure I plan my portions for food to avoid wasting valuable food by either spoilage or excess. Packing lunches goes a long way in saving the environment and your wallet!IMG_1513

Q: “When I’m not at a the office or a cleanup you can find me…”

I love going to the gym, it is a big part of my life. Additionally, I love doing outdoorsy stuff, and I really want to get into surfing soon! Apart from all of that, I really love reading and watching Netflix. I’m also getting into the local restaurants and breweries, and as a big burrito and beer fan San Diego has definitely exceeded my expectations!

Chula Vista students explore the impact of plastics

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ILACSD Education Specialist, Grace!

Today’s blog is from our Education Specialist, Grace! Grace is apart of ILACSD’s team of educators which leads thousands of students and adults each year in hands-on activities that showcase how our choices impact the environment around us. Read on for highlights from one of our favorite presentations from last year! 

First, a little background.

Plastic has been integrated into almost every facet of our daily lives, from plastic water bottles and grocery bags to polyester clothing and packaged food. It has become so incorporated into our society that often times it is hard to perform routine tasks without the use of plastic. Subsequently, a lot of  plastic makes its way into our environment, travels through our waterways, and often finds its way into the ocean. One of the most notable areas where this garbage collects is the Pacific Garbage Patch.

Various animals are impacted by plastics in the environment, through entanglement and ingestion. One animal in particular that has been severely harmed by this trash is the albatross, a seabird that frequents the Pacific Garbage Patch. Through this ingestion of plastics and other trash, many of these birds become malnourished and starve.

How can we make a difference?

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Grace engaging a group of students in a discussion about what they found during the bolus dissection.

In conjunction with our educational programs, students at High Tech High Chula Vista were given the opportunity to witness this tragedy first hand through their dissection of an albatross bolus. Much like an owl pellet, these birds naturally regurgitate indigestible items including squid beaks, and volcanic rocks that help with their digestion, all components of a typical bolus. However, as the students discovered, today’s boluses tell a different story. Students removed fishing line, bottle caps, plastic and foam bits, and polyester fibers from boluses, highlighting the level of impact that we are having on the albatross and other marine organisms. Plastic has become so ubiquitous in the environment and the lives of these albatross that of the 10 boluses the students dissected, 100% of them contained some degree of plastic fragments.

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100% of the boluses that the students dissected contained plastic.

Although many would feel discouraged by these findings, the students at High Tech High Chula Vista felt further empowered to continue their journey toward having a more positive impact on their environment. If you’re looking for simple ways to start reducing your personal plastic usage, consider refusing single-use straws, investing in reusable sandwich bags, and committing to remember your reusable grocery bags. Get started on the right foot by attending I Love A Clean San Diego’s free Zero Waste Home workshop happening this Saturday, January 9th! 

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Learn the basics of living a zero waste lifestyle at our next free workshop happening this Saturday, Jan. 9!

Also, keep an eye out for our upcoming blog about the students’ 70 Day Shake-up project and how they integrated creative environmentally friendly habits into their everyday lives!

 

 

Sustainable gift wrap solutions

Ani_team15Whether you’re looking for more creative and sustainable ways to wrap your gifts this year or you’ve simply ran out of wrapping paper, Ani, I Love A Clean San Diego’s Recycling Programs Manager, is here with a couple of quick, eco-friendly gift wrap solutions!

Did you know that food waste, shopping bags, wrapping paper, and ribbons all contribute to an additional 1 million tons of waste to our landfills? Here is a quick gift wrapping guide to limit the amount of waste that ends up in our landfills after the holiday season (and beyond):

Start early.  I reuse boxes from my online shopping, food packaging, tissue paper, gift bags and bubble wrap year round to avoid having to buy any additional gift wrapping materials; and it saves me some money as well!

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Community Programs Coordinator, Moriah, reused a paper grocery bag to wrap her gift and it looks great!

Consider wrapping gifts in fabric or newspaper. Unfortunately, festive wrapping paper usually ends up in the recycling bin and is often difficult to reuse. Give the gift of beautiful fabric or simply dig through your recycling bin to find paper to cover a gift.  I guarantee your gift will stand out from the rest!


Furoshiki is a type of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth

Skip the ribbon, skip the bow! These items are difficult to reuse and uncommon to keep. Check out Emily’s gift below!

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Education Manager, Emily, wrapped chocolates in a personalized reusable napkin.

All in all, try to hold on to gift wrapping items or opt out of using items that are hard to reuse and you’ll be on the path to creating less waste in no time! For recycling options, check out our one-stop database, www.WasteFreeSD.org

Happy Holidays from the ILACSD staff! Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest for other creative zero waste ideas!

 

ILACSD Debuts Zero Waste Workshops

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Emily Nelson, Education Manager

Thanks to the generous support of the City of Encinitas and Healthy Day Partners, I Love A Clean San Diego is currently providing free adult workshops as part of our Sustainable Living Series. After a successful kick-off in November, we’re looking forward to our upcoming workshops in January and February. Read on to learn more!

As a San Diego native, I’ve always taken pride in how our community members rally together during a time of need. Most recently, San Diegans responded impressively to our drought crisis. Between June and August of this year, San Diego county residents decreased their water usage by 27%. We’ve all worked together to take shorter showers and limit our irrigation frequency, but is there more we could be doing?

10.7.15 - SLS (33)At our first Sustainable Living Series workshop – What to Know about H2O – I Love A Clean San Diego staff set out to tackle that very question. After reviewing the history of water in San Diego, participants rolled up their sleeves and dug into our repurposed planter activity. Using items salvaged from Goodwill as pots, we planted succulents, saving water and saving items from the landfill in one fell swoop.

Following a tour of the Ocean Knoll Farm, the site of the Sustainable Living Series workshops, our educators discussed the benefits of selecting native plants as part of your outdoor landscape design. We demonstrated water-wise irrigation options, exploring the benefits of backyard rain barrels and detailing the process of installing a Laundry to Landscape greywater system. Our youngest participants got to “bling their bucket” with reminders of how to conserve water in their home.

Thanks to generous donations from Walter Andersen Nursery in Point Loma and Home Depot in Encinitas, we raffled off a rain barrel and 10 native plants, among other items. Everyone walked away with something to set them on the path to living more a more sustainable life.

Join us for our upcoming zero waste workshops: Zero Waste Home on Saturday January 9th and Zero Waste Lifestyle on February 20th, offered at no cost to you!  

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Click the image to register!

Visit www.cleansd.org/e_community.php for more information and to register.

 

Black Mtn. Ranch beautified after last year’s wildfires

On Saturday, December 5, I Love A Clean San Diego closed out its 2015 cleanups with a volunteer project and guided nature walk at Black Mountain Ranch Open Space in the 4S Ranch neighborhood.  More than 200 volunteers from the community came out to beautify this natural area, which had been badly damaged by wildfires in 2014.

In just 3 hours, volunteers filled a 40-yard dumpster with things like furniture, exercise equipment, and metal drums—all while learning about the native and non-native plants that grow right in their backyards. Check out these photos from the event.

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Safety first! Our team kicked off the event with a presentation on how trash can travel from this neighborhood out to the coast, local recycling rules, and safety reminders for the cleanup.

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This girl scout knows the importance of picking up small pieces of litter, which animals often mistake for food.

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Our Executive Director, Pauline Martinson, and long-serving board member, Bill Haines, joined forces with our volunteers to beautify the area.

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Our Education Manager, Emily Nelson, and Clean Committee member, Andrew Heath, led a group on a nature walk of the area. The volunteers used field guides to help them identify native and non-native plants. They saw a coyote, too!

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Farther down the trail, some young volunteers helped load bulky items into our truck, which we used to shuttle trash to the dumpster.IMG_2352

Tiny trash is important to pick up, but of course the big stuff matters, too! A team effort helped pull this old fridge out of the ravine.IMG_2363

Two of our board members, Vince Reardon and Michael Page, got their hands dirty alongside our Program Assistant, Vince Rivas, and volunteer Stan Nelson. This is their last haul of debris before calling it quits for the day.

Special thanks to the 4S Ranch-Del Sur Community Foundation for providing the funding to host this project and educate the community about caring for our environment!

Visit CleanSD.org for more information about upcoming 2016 events!

Sustainable Holiday Travels

Khadija - mktg intern 2015Today’s blog comes from our Marketing Intern, Khadija! Lots of us will be traveling out of town, the state or perhaps, even the country this holiday season. When we travel it’s easy to rack up a lot of unnecessary waste. Read on to learn Khadija’s sustainable traveling tips!

Packing:

Whenever I fly my shampoo bottle always springs a leak. To prevent this, store all your toiletries in a reusable Tupperware container instead of disposable bags! It will save you the mess and keep all your toiletries in one place without generating extra waste. Extra tip: if you’re taking your toiletries in a carry-on use a clear container so TSA can easily identify what is in your luggage. Fewer headaches for you and them.

khadija travel blog (1)Flying:

Use E-tickets! Many airlines and the TSA allow you to have your ticket confirmation on your phone. This saves you the hassle of keeping track of an important piece of paper and reduces your paper waste. Just make sure your phone is charged!

Before you go through security, drink the last of any water left in your reusable water bottle. Filled water bottles aren’t allowed through security, however, you can pack an empty reusable water bottle. Once you’re past security, you can refill it. On the airplane, ask the flight attendant to fill it up. This reduces your use of disposable water bottles and you won’t have to worry about whether or not it will be recycled.

When you arrive:

Eat locally! Whether it’s a home cooked meal or abroad, you can get the best experience when you eat like the locals. When going abroad, each country usually has typical meals and the reason they are so popular is because the food is usually grown or raised in the country. For example, in Costa Rica eating comida tipica (beans, rice and either chicken or fish) is common with the locals and as a tourist to get the full experience you should try it as well. When you eat locally, you support local families and the nearby farmers. 

khadija travel blog (2)We were lucky enough to stumble upon a tour company that supports ecotourism and sustainability. The tour company donates to preserving the rain forest from a portion of the money they make off of us tourists. Use your purchasing power to choose an eco-conscious company to ensure that future generations can visit the place that you just did!

Last but not least, use public transportation – it’s about 100 times cheaper than taxis and keeps your carbon footprint low.

Not ready to drastically change your traveling routine? Start small. You’ll be surprised by how easy it can be to travel with less waste.

Happy holidays and safe travels! 

Recycling brings hope to hospitals around the world

Ani_team15Today’s blog comes from our Hotline Assistant, Ani who enjoys finding recycling resources for even the toughest items and providing those resources to residents across San Diego County. Over the last few months, Ani has developed a strong relationship with Laura Luxemburg, the founder of one of the most unique services in our database, SSubi is Hope. Read on to learn about how Laura and her team of volunteers work to provide medical supplies to those in need around the world. 

The organization SSubi Is Hope collects surplus medical supplies and equipment that is in good condition from  local hospitals, doctors’ offices, hospice care, as well as individual residents to help divert these materials from local landfills. The organization then sends these supplies to medical centers around the world that have limited access to these supplies. Right away I was intrigued by the organization’s mission and thought this was a great way to divert resources from landfills while helping others in need.

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Wheel chairs, walkers, and crutches are some of the top donated items. If you have gently used supplies, consider donating them to Ssubi is Hope.

In just a short amount of time, the organization has received two awards from the City of San Diego, had a day named after the organization, and has diverted 800,000 lbs. of medical equipment and supplies that otherwise may have ended up in a landfill. Led by Laura Luxemburg, SSubi Is Hope receives medical items such as wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers and is completely volunteer-driven.

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Ssubi is Hope also accepts e-waste including computers & other electronics.

Recently, SSubi is Hope has also tacked on electronic waste to their services.  The organization is accepting electronic waste from residents and businesses at no cost to offset the overhead costs and to continue collecting items from hospitals, doctors offices, home care/hospice patients. I met with Laura at the new SSubi Is Hope facility in Miramar to find out a bit more about the organization.

What is “SSubi is Hope” and what does the organization do? How did you get involved or interested in these types of issues?

“The organization is called SSubi is Hope; SSubi means “hope” in Luganda (major language in Uganda) and it started out when I just wanted to make a difference and let my kids know that you didn’t have to be a rock star or movie star to make a difference in this world, you can be a soccer mom. So it began when we started helping a medical center in Uganda and out of our need for medical supplies and equipment, I started wondering, “Where was our old stuff going?” So I started calling hospitals, talking to nurses and they said a lot of this stuff was ending in the landfills.  They said no for a year and then right before Christmas 2013 I met up with Environmental Management System Coordinator, Jean Parkinson from the VA Hospital…the VA Hospital became the first hospital partner in March 7th, 2014. From there we have collected over 85,000 lbs of medical supplies and equipment and diverted it from the landfill.”

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Laura Luxemburg standing alongside donated materials at Ssubi is Hope’s new warehouse in Miramar!

How fast has the organization expanded since it first started?

“Our goal originally was to send supplies to Uganda and spread out from there but also share with other countries and small organizations. Recently, we have partnered with ALS Association to help provide beds to their patients because the quality of the beds they get are very simple and they need something that is more advanced, so we are able to fill  in that gap.”

How does this partnership with I Love A Clean San Diego benefit your organization?

“SSubi is very community-based; we can’t do this project without the community getting involved. We are very big on collaborations because together we are strong. People that are looking for volunteer experiences, have medical supplies, have a home care issue or know a doctor who can share this information with their facilities; let’s get together and make a difference.”

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Sealed bandages, gauze and other supplies are also accepted and are sent to needy hospitals around the world!

Lastly, how can community members help or get involved?

“We have a new space in Miramar and we are hoping that this is a good location for volunteers to come. There is a never ending supply of things to sort and separate so volunteer opportunities are going to be the longevity of this program.”

For more information about the organization visit, Ssubi.org or to donate e-waste search WasteFreeSD.org.

Introducing Grace! Educator & Ocean Aficionado


We’re excited to welcome Grace as our newest educator!  Get to know Grace and what fuels her passion for the environment by reading our brief Q&A.

What brought you to ILACSD?

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When Grace isn’t in the office or the classroom, you’ll find her scuba diving, stand up paddle boarding and all around enjoying the ocean that she cares so passionately about.

I was very excited to begin working at ILACSD as an Environmental Educator because it allows me to combine my interests in Marine Biology and the ocean with my passion for teaching and conservation. From a young age, I was always inspired by the ocean and could spend hours looking at sea stars in the tide pools. However, it wasn’t until my college internships with Heal the Bay that I realized it was something I wanted to help protect.

During my very first Coastal Cleanup Day I was given the unique opportunity to do an underwater SCUBA diving cleanup under the Santa Monica Pier. We pulled out cell phones, cameras, bike tires, fishing line, and beach toys, just to name a few. Not only did we find trash, but we also found animals, including crabs and sea hares, living among the trash. Seeing how these animals’ lives had become so impacted with this trash was the moment that I knew I wanted to help make a difference. And by working for ILACSD, I get to make that difference by inspiring environmental stewardship in students throughout the county.

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Ocean acidification, caused by excess CO2 being absorbed into the ocean, makes it difficult for corals and oysters to make their shells.

What environmental topics are you most passionate about?

If it wasn’t already obvious, I’m extremely passionate about anything that has to do with the ocean. As an avid scuba diver, and someone who loves experiencing nature. One topic that is close to my heart is ocean acidification. Ocean acidification makes it exceptionally difficult for calcifying organisms (corals, krill, oysters, etc.) to make their shells. It is caused from excess CO2 in the atmosphere being absorbed into the ocean. By teaching students about how we contribute to environmental issues, it gives them the power to make positive changes that lessen their impact on our ecosystems.

What is your most recent environmental goal?

Even during my short time working at ILACSD, I have learned so much about trash. I recently learned $1 of every $10 spent goes towards packaging that is thrown away. My most recent goal has been to buy food with less packaging. This means buying different food items, going to different stores, and making sure fruits and veggies are a big part of my everyday diet.

What do you enjoy most about being an environmental educator?

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Grace engaging students in a discussion about how litter impacts marine animals. The jar she is holding includes bottle caps, a lighter and other debris that was found in an albatross’s stomach.

I thoroughly enjoy interacting with the students that I am teaching! It is fun to experience their personalities as I present and discuss important issues with them. By helping them to see another perspective on the world, they can have a better appreciation for nature, which inspires them to protect it.

Do you have a favorite presentation?

One of my favorite presentations is our Enviroscape presentation, which uses a model of city along with sprinkles to represent different types of pollution. It really allows the students to visualize how pollution can make its way to the ocean and impact the animals that live there. Typically we do this presentation with 3rd graders, which is a really fun age because they are all extremely excited to share their ideas and own experiences.

I also really enjoy presenting our watershed program to AP Environmental Science classes because it allows me to use my background in science to incorporate higher level topics such as ocean acidification and eutrophication.

For more information about our presentations, email our Educator Manager at education@cleansd.org!

Join Grace & the rest of ILACSD team in our efforts to keep San Diego, and the Pacific Ocean, clean and beautiful. Our next cleanup is on December 5th at Black Mountain Ranch – click here to learn more!

Also, if you’re interested in joining the ILACSD team, check out our open positions and internship opportunities

 


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