Kids Ask the Darndest Environmental Questions: Why not burn it?

Today’s blog is part one in a series “Kids Ask the Darndest Environmental Questions!”  from our environmental educator extraordinaire, Erika Bjorkquist.Erika-team

During ILACSD’s “Put Waste in its Place” presentation, students learn about waste in San Diego. They are shocked to discover that Southern California leads the country in volume of trash disposed, and are excited to become part of the solution. Many students share ideas of reducing, recycling, and reusing, as solutions, to our trash problem, however, many don’t understand why people should practice these Rs. We challenge students to find ways to deal with our trash problem. One suggestion I frequently receive is, “Why don’t we just burn it?”

San Diegans dispose of 5lbs of waste per person per day!
San Diegans dispose of 5lbs of waste per person per day!

So why don’t we burn it? In the past few years, the debate of incineration v. burial has reached a high, sparked by the success of cities like Oslo, which actually imports trash to convert into fuel for things like heating. In San Diego, and most of the west, one of the main reasons why we don’t burn is economics – it is cheaper to bury than burn. This also why we are trailing other California cities in waste diversion programs like curbside compost; the cost of burying is much lower than building new infrastructure. There are, however, arguments against the economic viability, pointing to transportation costs of waste haulers. In addition, incineration provides less energy than what can be saved through recycling. Incineration plants also have a negative reputation when it comes to air quality. While regulations are in place to prevent pollution, people still do not want it in their backyard.

Waste incinerator
Waste incinerator

All in all, while there are plenty of ideas on how to dispose of our waste, the key is prevention. It is important to minimize the amount of trash individuals produce. By rethinking purchases, like choosing products with limited packaging, refusing unnecessary items like plastic bags for a candy bar, and being ready by having carrying reusable mugs and water bottles, you will make an impact in your neighborhood, city, and state.

waste incineration2
Waste incineration emissions

Learn more about how to reduce waste through recycling, reuse, and repair at!


Top 6 Reasons To Be An Adoptive Canyon Parent!

We are excited to announce the addition of two Chula Vista canyons, Del Rey Canyon and Rice Canyon, that are now available through the Adopt-A-Beach Clean Canyons program! Join us as we work with the Chula Vista Charitable Foundation and the California Coastal Commission to protect our canyons—and ultimately our beaches—from the harmful effects of litter and pollution. Whether you’re an individual volunteer, part of a community group, or a business looking to make a different,  you are welcome to register to adopt these canyons on the website at

Canyons are great places  for humans and pets to enjoy nature! Here's our Program Assistant Barbara's dog Wiley on a walk in Rice Canyon.
Canyons are great places for humans and pets to enjoy nature! Here’s our Program Assistant Barbara’s dog, Wiley, on a walk in Rice Canyon.

Why should you add a canyon to your family? Here are our top 6 reasons:

1. Inland cleanups are crucial to preventing marine debris.  80% of trash that winds up in the ocean starts inland and travels through San Diego County’s 11 watersheds.

2. Be our 10,001st adopter! 10,000 volunteers a year are a part of our Adopt-A-Beach program, making it ILACSD’s most popular volunteer activity.

3. The harmful effects of debris are severe: these include negative economic and aesthetic impacts and harm and risk to human health and safety.

4. Free education presentation! as part of the program, ILACSD offers free education presentations to interested adopters as part of their first cleanup.  These presentations are usually on-site at the cleanup

5. Protecting our local plants and animals: trash causes injury and death to animals through entanglement and ingestion as well as habitat destruction.  Species indigenous to these canyons, such as the San Pedro Martir coyote and the San Diego Sunflower, are threatened by polluted environments.

The San Pedro Martir coyote, local to Southern California
The San Pedro Martir coyote, local to Southern California
The San Diego Sunflower: a native that blooms in sage scrub of these canyons.
The San Diego Sunflower: a native that blooms in sage scrub of these canyons.

6. Because YOU love a clean San Diego! 

A bit commitment shy? If you would like to try out a canyon cleanup before deciding to adopt, you are welcome to attend our launch cleanup at Del Rey Canyon on Saturday, December 14th from 9AM-12PM.


Our thanks to the Chula Vista Charitable Foundation for their financial support to expand the Clean Canyons program into Chula Vista. We look forward to increasing volunteer engagement in Chula Vista as a result of their generosity!

We’re Storming the Drains! Storm Drain Stenciling Day, Nov 16

November 16 is Storm Drain Stenciling Day! You can help to prevent storm drain pollution in the City of San Diego through storm drain stenciling, a great program we offer sponsored by Think Blue. By marking the drains with a pollution prevention message, you are educating the public that no oil, soap, or debris should go down the drains.  We’ll have a big event on November 16th at Polaris Breen Park in Mira Mesa, but check out our website for how you can sign up any day. You may be wondering why we’re running around with stencils and buckets of paint, and what a storm drain even is. Read on for some quick facts and how you can get involved (you can also check out this brief video about the program)! Think-Blue-Stencil-9-2009reduced So why is storm drain stenciling important? Urban storm-water runoff is considered the biggest contributor to coastal marine pollution.   Both human forces (irrigation runoff and illegal dumping) and natural forces (wind and rain) move trash and other pollutants into our natural waterways, storm drains, and flood control channels.  By stenciling the drains with the pollution prevention message, we remind people that oil, soap, gum, food wrappers, cigarette butts, and chip bags don’t belong in the storm drains.

Here’s how a storm drain works

Umm, what IS a storm drain? The storm drain system is designed to prevent flooding by carrying rainwater from city streets to the ocean.  Yet, chemicals, trash, and oil that have been spilled between rains can also enter the storm drain system.  From here they enter pipelines that are not connected to the sewer system, and the water from the storm drains eventually flows, untreated, into the ocean, causing large amounts of pollution.

A storm drain (that needs stenciling!)

Why should I participate? It takes the help of our volunteers to get these storm drains stenciled; without you, this project cannot succeed!  The few minutes it takes to stencil a storm drain provides years of reminders to our neighbors that they must be careful about what goes into the drains.  I Love A Clean San Diego encourages you to think green and Think Blue!This sounds great!! How do I sign up? You can check out our website for all the details.  For more information about this program, or to schedule your own stenciling project, please email 

Making a Difference, 1,000 Pounds of Trash at a Time

Today’s blog post comes from our wonderful Marketing Intern and cleanup expert, Bri Lobato! image

This past beautiful fall morning in San Diego, we came together with Karl Strauss to host a cleanup along the Rose Canyon bike paths and surrounding San Clemente Canyon. Tucked between an active railroad and the I-5 freeway, it offers pleasant views of Rose Canyon’s coastal sage and chaparral-covered hills. It is a car-free space to exercise and unwind without the dangers and sounds of road traffic. San Diego is a very hilly region of Southern California, so during and after rainfall events trash and debris collect in canyons such as this one. Not only does this cause an eyesore for anyone using the paths, but eventually the collected debris is bound to reach storm drains and our ocean.


Community members of all ages were invited to help clean up and join a fun mixer at the new Karl Strauss tasting room (planted just about a football field away from the start of the off- road bike path) directly following. 21+ volunteers were given a voucher for a free brew immediately following the cleanup, and able to choose from their 20-tap array of options! The most impactful and fun cleanups bring people together. The outdoor patio suddenly became a place where everyone was talking about the crazy items they found, sharing information on how they like to stay involved in the community, and enjoying a cold one while they were at it!image_3

The results! Thanks to our 134 volunteers who cleaned up 750 pounds of trash and 158 pounds of recycling!
The results! Thanks to our 134 volunteers who cleaned up 750 pounds of trash and 158 pounds of recycling!

134 volunteers, 908 pounds of trash and recyclables taken care of, 1 HUGE difference was made! A huge thank you to ecoATM for sponsoring the event and bringing out lots of helpful individuals, and big thanks to all of the families, cyclists, and other San Diegans who took a couple hours out of their Saturday to participate! We hope to pair up with more of San Diego’s breweries in the future for cleanups such as this one.


Interested in volunteering for an event? Check out our upcoming volunteer projects!


Breaking Down Coastal Cleanup 2013!

Today’s blog post comes from our new marketing intern, Bri Lobato. Bri is currently studying environmental science and loves cheese enchiladas and English imageBulldogs. We’re thrilled to have her helping out at ILACSD!

As of September 21st, San Diego is free of 75 tons of debris thanks to each and every one of our 7,500 volunteers this year at I Love A Clean San Diego’s Coastal Cleanup Day! Families, friends, students, sponsors, locals, visitors, and even some loyal pets took some time out of their Saturday morning to help keep San Diego beautiful, and everyone involved made this event more successful than ever. Across a record breaking 102 sites in San Diego County, volunteers of all ages came out to give back to the city they love by picking up litter, participating in service projects, and storm drain stenciling.

Volunteers cleaning a creek bed near Gompers Park
Volunteers cleaning up Chollas Creek near Gompers Park

Kickoff started at 9am at the Gompers Park site where 250+ volunteers heard from Supervisor Greg Cox, Mayor Todd Gloria and Councilmember Myrtle Cole, as well as I Love A Clean San Diego’s very own Executive Director, Pauline Martinson, to get them fired up before going out into the neighborhood and local creek to hunt for waste. News crews were there to capture their influential words about why events like Coastal Cleanup Day are important to both the environment and the community. Volunteers at this site were able to choose among creek cleanup, mulching, invasive plant removal, painting a mural made of tire scraps, trail building and stenciling storm drains, so everyone was able to take part in their own way. No matter the task, every volunteer across the County was given a free Chipotle coupon as a reward for their efforts…and who doesn’t love Chipotle!?  When 75 tons of trash is involved, you bet there were some unusual and interesting items we heard about:  bowling balls, a rooster, a steering wheel, and even a sweet female pit bull puppy were recovered! (She has been rescued and is on the road to recovery).  There was also a “Bling Your Bucket” contest, where kids decorated their own reusable litter hauling bucket.

We found bowling balls! One of ILACSD's staff managed to shot put these guys into the dumpster
We found bowling balls! Some of ILACSD’s staff managed to shot put these guys into the dumpster
"Bling Your Bucket" contest entrants, each doing their part to "make this world happier"
“Bling Your Bucket” contest entrants, each doing their part to “make this world happier”

Shout out to our site captains who were instrumental in making the event run smoothly and effectively. BIG thanks to our sponsors San Diego Gas & Electric, the Country of San Diego, Think Blue San Diego and MANY more for making Coastal Cleanup Day an event that so much of the community could participate in and enjoy! A very special big thank you goes to all of the volunteers who made Coastal Cleanup Day worthwhile, and who made a difference by taking part in the largest volunteer event that San Diego County has to offer. It wouldn’t be possible without you guys! We will see you all next year for CCD 2014!!

Bringin’ in the Bins!

Today’s blog post comes from ILACSD’s Director of Development & Marketing, and beach lover, Morgan Justice-Black. MJB-2010-Rounded-Corner

Were you one of the many who braved the traffic and parking struggles to hit the beach over Memorial Day weekend? Well, if you happened to be along Mission Bay, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach or Ocean Beach, you probably saw these big cardboard bins on the sand.

Belmont Shores, Memorial Day
Memorial Day at Belmont Shores, before…

I Love A Clean San Diego and worked together again this year to order hundreds of temporary trash and recycle bins for the big beach holidays over the summer. This year is the first year that we were able to place the bins in time for Memorial Day weekend, and man were they popular!

Memorial Day at Belmont Shores- after!
Memorial Day at Belmont Shores- after!

The City of San Diego Parks & Recreation Department provides major help in this endeavor, both placing the bins and removing them, and hauling all of the trash to the landfill. They also calculate how many tons of debris the bins collected. Thanks to the efforts of these bins, we avoid handing out beachside next to images like this… mb_visitorscenter4

To make sure that these bins are durable enough to stand up to the crowds (and the sometimes inclement weather), the bins are double-walled for strength. The cost for these bins certainly adds up. Thankfully this year, we had great support from Think Blue San Diego, Pacific Beach Shore Club, Typhoon Saloon, car2go, SeaWorld and many other sponsors who are recognized on the bins.

If your Fourth of July plans involve a little beach action in PB, MB or OB, make sure you tell your friends that the bins are out there for you to use. As the Clean Beach Coalition motto states, Enjoy the Scene, But Keep it Clean!


Local Boaters Take to the Seas for Coastal Cleanup Day 2012

Adam enjoying the ocean air on his home, the Betty Jean

The main focus of Coastal Cleanup Day is picking up trash on our beaches, along local creeks and rivers, and in local canyons. But what about the trash that’s already in the water? This year we’re attacking that water-logged trash as well. Adam Hopps joins us for his first Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday, September 15th, as the volunteer Site Captain at our Shelter Island cleanup site.

Partnering with the Silver Gate Yacht Club, Adam hopes to get local boaters involved in cleaning up areas of our waterways that aren’t accessible by foot. Using grabbers and nets, these sea lovers will cleanup trash that is already floating in the water and even use tools to absorb oil that’s floating on top of the water. But enough from us, we’ll let Adam tell you more about it…

What motivated you to volunteer as a Site Captain for Coastal Cleanup Day?

I live on a sailboat in a marina on Shelter Island. Every day I witness the effects of litter and water pollution on our Bay. On a daily basis I see trash (usually plastic bottles and bags) floating on the surface of the water in and around in the marinas, in the Bay and out in the ocean. In the marinas it’s especially bad during low tide when trash has been brought in with the tide and becomes trapped in the shallow areas and in the sand – only accessible from a water craft.

Coastal Cleanup Day is California’s largest volunteer event focused on the marine environment but up until this point boaters haven’t been extremely involved in this event. When I was approached by ILACSD to coordinate a joint land and on-the-water cleanup site, I was thrilled at the idea of engaging boaters to make a difference in our own backyards as well as expanding the reach and environmental impact of this Cleanup.

How long have you been volunteering with ILACSD?

This is my first event and I’m excited to be partnering with the Silver Gate Yacht Club who will host the meet up location.

Why is that site important to you?

Living on a boat in San Diego is a blessed life. We have a dynamic marine & aquatic community, a gorgeous Bay to sail in and beautiful weather year round. It’s really hard to see the Bay tarnished with trash and oil. Even though approximately 80% of marine debris comes from inland communities, many of it makes its way into the open water which beach cleanup volunteers simply cannot access. The boating community is a natural fit for Coastal Cleanup Day because we have access to those areas from our boats, dinghies, kayaks and docks. Also, for the first time, we’re supplying on-the-water volunteers with oil absorbent sheets to use on surface level oil slicks.

We’re immensely lucky to have a magnificent natural resource like the San Diego Bay to call home and need to do our part to conserve and protect it.

What are you most looking forward to at Coastal Cleanup Day?

I’m looking forward to seeing a bunch of great people come together for a common goal. I think it’s inspiring. Also, it wouldn’t be a boater event if it wasn’t followed by a dock party!

Why do you think events like Coastal Cleanup Day are important to keeping San Diego healthy and clean?

Well, not only are tons of trash and debris collected and removed from our greatest natural areas, but the people involved become more and more aware of the harmful effects of litter and pollution and band together to make a difference. Volunteers tend to get their own families and friends involved which is why this event seems to grow every year!

What is the strangest piece of trash you’ve found out on the water?

I can’t speak for CCD, but we’ll pull trash out of the water when we’re sailing in the ocean and we’ve found half a dozen birthday helium balloons over the years.

Have you registered to volunteer at Coastal Cleanup Day yet?
Click here and sign up for any of the over 85 cleanup sites across
San Diego County!