August 26, 2011

Fuel the Fight Against Plastic Pollution in our Schools AND Oceans!

Did you hear the news that the American Chemistry Council's messaging made it into California textbooks?

We might not have the money or the lobbying power that the American Chemistry Council does, but we have the power to educate our youth with environmental truth, organize our community to protect and care for our environment, and to ban single-use plastic bags and polystyrene take-out containers from local jurisdiction and counties surrounding the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. And we will stop at nothing to protect our marine environment and communities from the blight of plastic pollution.

Your $15 donation ensures 1 more student will see how disposable plastics negatively affect marine life. Students who participate in the Save Our Shores Plastic Pollution education program learn first hand how to protect their environment AND their health by limiting their use of disposable plastics. Please donate today!

We attained a great victory this month after grassroots activism influenced community leaders to change their course and pass a polystyrene ban in the city of Salinas. Read the Huffington Post article on our win...

We are still celebrating this victory today, but the plastic industry will stop at nothing to pollute our rivers, oceans, and classrooms with disposable plastics and consumer marketing. Immediately after this win the media released breaking news that through a mountain of pressure and influence, the American Chemistry Council achieved a great feat of their own - the inclusion of pro-plastic language in textbooks and workbooks around the nation. Read the article on the issue and Save Our Shores' response...

August 24, 2011

Grandma, What Was Styrofoam? An Environmental Victory in Salinas, California

Authored by guest blogger Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, Save Our Shores Board member and marine biologist:

Four years ago on a summer night I stood in line at a Capitola, California City Council meeting with my friend Laura Kasa the brand new Executive Director of Save Our Shores. We were waiting our turns, along with dozens of other citizens, to share our allotted three minutes about why a styrofoam ban made sense. Kids, parents, restauranteurs, marine biologists like myself and ocean advocates like Laura each added a grain of sand to the heap of facts, opinions and passionate pleas for our coast and ocean.

If you had to take a poll right then and there, you’d say styrofoam (technically it's expanded polystyrene, or EPS, a kind of plastic) was on its way out.

But then a man in a suit and tie – the only person in the room dressed so formally – stood up. He had listened to what many in this idyllic seaside surf community wanted and had patiently waited all night for his turn to let the council know what the plastics industry wanted.

With the convincing deftness, confidence and experience of a million dollar trial lawyer he described the environmental virtues, future plans for recycling and wholesomeness of a life more plastic. He warned that a ban would cause businesses to fail and mom and pop establishments to suffer. Jobs were on the line if we excluded expanded polystyrene from the menu, and no politician wants to be responsible for killing jobs, right?

His job complete (and secure) he exited through the rear door and headed for another such council meeting.

The city council voted to make its 18-year-old voluntary ban mandatory but delayed implementation for three months to conduct surveys about enforcement and compliance. The ban eventually went into full effect and has worked out well for (almost) everyone.

Four years later, down the road in Salinas, California, Laura Kasa stood in front of the City Council as they considered their own ban on EPS containers. This time there was no man in a suit behind her. This time Kasa had four years more experience and a boatload more political savvy. And while most would have said that the inland, agricultural community of Salinas would be one of the last places to adopt a ban and that the anti-plastic pollution momentum along the coast wouldn’t reach the valley, Kasa made her own momentum.

The Californian newspaper quoted her saying that "groups opposed to the ban risk isolating themselves and becoming irrelevant in this new environmentally driven, high-tech economy, and Salinas can't risk such a narrow vision for its future. By passing the polystyrene ban, the City of Salinas will be taking a huge step forward, and making a statement that Salinas is a leader, not a follower".

A month prior, this meeting had to be postponed. It was rumored the industry lobbyists were trying to get closed door meetings with the mayor. And DART, one of the biggest manufacturers of EPS take out containers, was trying to convince the council members to tour their recycling facility – their preferred, tired and failed solution to the global mess made by their products.

That delay turned out to be just what Kasa and Save Our Shores needed. Through serendipity, she met Matthew Spiegl at a screening of an ocean film, who was interested in the issue and introduced her to folks at the Chamber of Commerce and Restaurant Association, the Old Town Salinas Association and the mayor. A letter writing campaign, non-stop networking, and a flood of media followed.

At the meeting that Thursday night 22 people spoke in support of the ban. The mayor was surprised – he had rarely seen the council chambers filled with members of the public.

“For the first time in 5 years of attending these meetings, the American Chemistry Council didn’t send their reps in suits, Dart Corporation and the Restaurant Association didn’t show up. The council voted 6-1 to pass it and I’m still in shock. It just goes to show you that sometimes a grassroots effort is the only way to make the right thing happen in a community,” said Kasa.

Some day, not too far in the future, your kids and grandkids may ask you questions like “what was styrofoam?” and “what’s a gas station?”

When that happens, tell them the story about the city council meetings in Capitola, Salinas and a growing list of communities around the world.

Tell them about how plastic used to blow and float around on the land and in the ocean. And tell them about how it used to wind up in the stomachs of animals like baby albatrosses and sea turtles. Tell them about oil spills and tar balls, smog and climate change.

Then tell them how people got organized, pulled together the best research and made smart changes to clean up our planet. Tell them how scientists and engineers figured out how to make the same containers out of materials that turn into soil when we are done using them or can be reused over and over and over again. Tell them about fearless and tireless advocates for our coast and ocean like Laura Kasa and Save Our Shores' founding director Dan Haifley.

The Salinas City Council meeting was an important tipping point in the fight to keep plastic pollution out of the ocean. In a city where jobs and budgets are tightly guarded, industry lobbyists voices are loud, issues more urgent than styrofoam abound, and environmentalists are few and far between, a clear decision was made to vote for health, community and a cleaner planet.

Some day, we will live in petroleum-free communities, free of plastic pollution. These are the first steps – these small revolutions – that are building towards that vision. Show some gratitude to the advocates, activists and decision-makers who are leading us in that direction.

Wallace J. Nichols, PhD
Board Member of

August 17, 2011

Victory! Salinas Approves Ban on Polystyrene Foam Take-Out Containers

Breaking News August 17, 2011:

Save Our Shores applauds the decision by the Salinas City Council last night to approve a ban on polystyrene foam take-out containers from food vendors. Polystyrene foam, also known as Styrofoam, is a harmful, petroleum-based, plastic material that is not biodegradable, is ingested by marine species, and is constantly found polluting the waterways surrounding the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The ban passed 6-1 among the City Council members. Of the 19 people who spoke in support of the ban were Save Our Shores, Surfrider, Sustainable Salinas, Sustainable Monterey County, community activist Matthew Spiegl, and Carolyn Rudolph, owner of the restaurant Charlie Hong Kong, which has used biodegradable, ocean-friendly take-out containers for years. Old Town Salinas and the Salinas Chamber of Commerce were also in support of the ban that has taken three years to finally pass into law in Salinas.

Salinas, the largest city in Monterey County, was the last major city around Monterey Bay to pass a ban on polystyrene. Salinas follows the lead of Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Seaside, Del Rey Oaks, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, and the counties of Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Mateo, and others, in passing this ban.

Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue summed up the issue, “This is important to a lot of people in the community and we have postponed this long enough. The national chain restaurants will be just fine. They understand this is going on statewide.”

Save Our Shores has been working with local leaders, businesses, and residents of Salinas for weeks to garner support for the ban. Save Our Shores will continue to advocate for bans on polystyrene take-out containers and will not rest until each jurisdiction and county around the Sanctuary bans this harmful material.

“This shows just how powerful and necessary a grassroots movement can,” says Laura Kasa, Executive Director of Save Our Shores. “Salinas did exactly what we said it could do - make a statement that Salinas is a leader.”

Banning polystyrene take-out containers helps create an economic support system for a flourishing coastal economy while providing protections for our fisheries, marine animals, and environment from the ever growing problem of plastic pollution in our ocean.

August 16, 2011

SOS Pushes for Polystyrene Ban in City of Salinas

Save Our Shores has been working tirelessly to garner support for a much-needed ban on polystyrene (Styrofoam) take-out containers in the City of Salinas. Executive Director Laura Kasa, along with Program Coordinator Lauren Gilligan, have been pounding the pavement, so to speak, going business to business in order to dispel any myths, answer questions, and advocate for support of this important ordinance.

We have also been gathering petition signatures for over a year now through the Save Our Shores sytrofoam ban webpage, as well as taking part in City Council meetings and talking to local media about the issue.

After being revised, tabled, and considered by the City for over two years now - our efforts are paying off, as the City of Salinas will finally make vote on the ordinance this afternoon.

Save Our Shores, along with other supporters of this critical marine protection, are asking YOU to join us at the Salinas City Council meeting at 4pm TODAY, August 16th, in Salinas City Hall, 200 Lincoln Avenue in Salinas.

In the state of California, 47 cities and counties have already enacted their own bans on polystyrene take-out containers, including the cities of Carmel, Pacific Grove, Seaside, Monterey, Del Rey Oaks, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, the counties of Santa Cruz, San Mateo, and Monterey so on.

“It’s not only marine life we’re concerned about. It’s a human health issue,” says Laura Kasa of Santa Cruz-based Save Our Shores. “Why shouldn’t Salinas be banning a toxic material when all these surrounding cities have done it?”

The advocacy energy is in the air this week!

Read the press:

The Dirty Truth about Polystrene:
  • Not only do marine species commonly mistake floating pieces of Styrofoam for food, but workers involved in the polystyrene manufacturing process are exposed to toxic chemicals that increase risks of lymphoma, leukemia, lung tumors, and numerous other forms of cancer.
  • Our public health is at risk! The carcinogenic chemical Styrene used in polystyrene take-out containers migrates from container to food and beverage when heat, acidity, or fatty foods are involved.
  • In California, 47 cities and counties have already enacted their own bans on polystyrene (Styrofoam) take-out containers, including Carmel, Pacific Grove, Seaside, Monterey, Del Rey Oaks, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, and so on.
  • Save Our Shores strongly supports this important piece of legislation because it will help keep this problematic piece of pollution off of our beaches and out of our ocean and watersheds where it continually harms marine life and the ocean food chain.

August 3, 2011

Join us for the Toast to the Coast Celebration on Aug. 21st!

When: Sunday, August 21, from 5 -9 pm
Where: Seascape Beach Resort in Aptos

Please join Save Our Shores and your blue ocean community for the 2011 Toast to the Coast celebration on August 21st. You'll enjoy sweeping views of Monterey Bay, sip on locally produced beer and wine, and delight in a traditional, sustainable clambake dinner that includes vegetarian options. Watch the sunset on the bay then kick off your shoes to dance the night away!

Our popular Toast to the Coast Raffle is bigger than ever this year! Don't miss your chance to win these incredible Grand Prizes:
  • A private charter sail on the Chardonnay II for you and 48 friends
  • A week's stay in a luxury, townhome on the beautiful island of Kauai, HI
  • A 3 day Worldwide Diving Adventures vacation in the Southern Channel Islands of California
  • A week's stay at a 4-bedroom home with private dock on Lake Tahoe's breathtaking north shore
  • A year's worth of gift certificates to the Well Within Spa of Santa Cruz

Raffle Ticket Holders DO NOT need to be present to win. We will notify you of your prize right away!

Purchase raffle tickets by:

The 2011 Toast to the Coast will honor Dan Haifley with our Ocean Hero Award, Charlie Hong Kong as Business of the Year, and Scott Malsom as Volunteer of the Year! We are honored to award these individuals and business for their efforts to promote healthy oceans and a thriving Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary!

Pressure Mounts Over City of Salinas Styrofoam Ban

Editorial by Matthew Spiegl, Salinas Attorney and Community Activist:


Polystyrene beach litter is set to surpass lettuce as the City of Salinas’ biggest visible export if the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce and a small handful of other “anti-government” individuals and disinterested City Councilmembers get their way.

The Counties of Monterey and Santa Cruz already have bans on polystyrene foam food containers, as do the Cities of Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel, Seaside, Del Rey Oaks, Santa Cruz, Capitola, Watsonville, and Scotts Valley. Despite the bans that are already in place in these near-ocean cities, polystyrene litter continues to wreak havoc with the shoreline and marine life of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. As the biggest City on the Central Coast, Salinas also looks to be the biggest single source of the polystyrene litter that is making its way onto the beaches and into the waters of the Marine Sanctuary itself. There are people in the City of Salinas who can put pencil to paper, but who still lack the vision to see how a polystyrene ban can enhance the image of the City. The Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce certainly understand how Salinas’ polystyrene litter problem directly affects their image and, unlike the Salinas Chamber, are voicing their support to the Mayor and City Council asking that the City of Salinas support and pass the proposed ban.

I had the good fortune to meet Laura Kasa of Save Our Shores over the Fourth of July weekend. When she asked me if I could help her get connected with some folks in Salinas and businesses who will support a ban on polystyrene foam food containers, I couldn't say no. From there the synergy just flowed between us to drive this polystyrene ban toward passage, and along the way, we have drawn in more new people with each new meeting.

There is a real renaissance taking place in Salinas with new leaders in elected office, private business, civic organizations and at the neighborhood level as well. This is about the residents taking their city back and reclaiming their neighborhoods and insisting on progressive policies toward the environment and the economy as coexistent, not competing, interests. This is about environmental justice and it is not extreme, it is mainstream, and it is the new face of "Main Street" all across California. It is time to start thinking of Salinas as a "Gateway" to the Bay and the National Marine Sanctuary. It is time to step up to our stewardship responsibility, to embrace the coast as our own, and to protect it. It is good for our image as a City, it is good for the environment, it is good for the economy,

it is most definitely good for the health and future of our children, and it is good for Big Ag as well - people want to see slices of radicchio in their salad, not bits and pieces of polystyrene plastic.

Groups opposed to the ban risk isolating themselves and becoming irrelevant in this new environmentally driven, high-tech economy, and Salinas can't risk such a narrow vision for its future. We need to adopt bold strategies, and look to such innovative and forward thinking organizations as the Silicon Valley Leadership Group for a new way of thinking, and a new model for success. By passing the polystyrene ban, the City of Salinas will be taking a huge step forward, and making a statement that Salinas is a leader, not a follower.

Please attend the Salinas City Council Meeting on Tuesday, August 16th to voice your support.

Editorial by Matthew Spiegl, Salinas Attorney and Community Activist

With help from Laura Kasa, Executive Director, Save Our Shores