Thursday, December 30, 2010

BaitTanks hit Santa Monica Pier

I just returned from the Santa Monica Pier on this clear and cold morning. The pier was empty - it was closed off in preparations for the upcoming Rose Bowl pep rallies. So, I was able to take in the whole pier with the majestic winter sea in the background and check out the BaitTanks. Eric, the pier maintenance manager, showed me around and told me the receptacles are already getting use!

The City of Santa Monica recently banned smoking on the entire pier for several reasons. The main reason is fire prevention. In 2010, there were a couple crazy fires that were started when tossed cigarette butts got lodged in between the pier planks. In order to communicate the new smoking ban AND offer their visitors a safe place to deposit their butts, the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation turned to the BaitTank.

You will notice slightly different messaging on these BaitTanks. On the front, we communicate the dangers of cigarette butts to a wooden pier, and on the side we have the established "Fish-Saved Meter" to communicate the dangers of cigarette butts to marine life. Thanks to all those who helped with the messaging, especially the City of Santa Monica Economic Development Department and Heal the Bay. Thank you also to Neal Shapiro of the Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and Environment.

I am thrilled to have BaitTanks in my hometown, on the world famous Santa Monica Pier, where millions of visitors from all over the world will use them and learn from them.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

post rain butt surfing

pardon me losing my breath as I chase this butt down toward the ocean :) 2011 will bring a stricter exercise routine!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Butt-iful Day

We are on day three of storms in the Los Angeles area - and while the rain is nice, the waterways, ocean, and beach get left with our crap...check out these videos:

While these videos are alarming and disheartening, we have solutions!!
-- We can refuse single-use plastics
-- We can work with companies on product stewardship and extended producer responsibility (Jon and I do this at Greenopolis)
-- We can install BaitTanks to attract cigarette butt litter (they have reduced butt litter by 60% in Capitola and Santa Cruz)

Here is a Camel cigarette butt, produced by RJ Reynolds - Steve Strawsburg, their head of CSR, has admitted to me that butt litter is a problem and I look forward to working with him on solutions.

Thanks to Jon and Dixie for joining me -- together we can all get this gone...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Virgina and North Carolina

Last week I was in Virginia and North Carolina; the focus of the trip was to establish contacts within the tobacco industry, mainly Altria - the leading tobacco company. I was unable to get to the front desk of Altria (see video below) - but I was able to make contact with the person who handles their Corporate Responsibility. I look forward to our future discussions and concrete actions to prevent cigarette litter.

The week was also a great time to visit family in Charlottesville and new friends in Wilmington, NC - the Richardet Family. Danielle and her husband Aaron welcomed me to their beautiful home, with their fun-loving kids. Danielle just won the BRITA FilterForGood contest! She energized her local community (as well as the digital Facebook community) around her 20 minute beach cleanups - which have turned into cigarette butt cleanups; check out her blog here

Danielle took me to gorgeous Wrightsville Beach - surfers were in the water and cigarette butts dominated the sand. I could not believe the amount of butts on the high tide line - considerably more than in Southern California. The two of us picked up 407 butts in 20 minutes!

I met Danielle through Sara Bayles from The Daily Ocean. Sara and I have become good friends as we both live in Santa Monica and love 20 minutes cleanups at Pier 26 (although Sara has completed hundreds more cleanups than me).

Sara and her husband Garen are scheduled to hit the seas to explore plastic pollution firsthand via a 5Gyres expedition. They could use our help with fundraising - so lend them your support in cash here

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Morning Filter

I had a serene walk this morning along the Santa Monica shoreline - a time to chill out ahead of a crazy weekend and unpredictable next week. The little white shore birds, called plovers I think, always impress me. They scurry in and out with the water line - chasing the receding wave, then probing the uncovered sand for food. But then they are uniquely able to sense the oncoming wave; keeping the water line directly at their heals - they scurry to dry. I wish at times I could keep oncoming tides at my heals - able to sense the wave before it takes me under.

Next week I will be in Virgina - I want to engage Altria and Philip Morris in the work we are doing with the BaitTanks. As I work with great cities and passionate environmentalists, it becomes more apparent that we need everyone at the table if we are going knock out butt litter. Those on the front lines of cigarette butt litter agree that the resources and involvement of cigarette companies are essential. And I am confident the BaitTanks give them a vehicle to address this major issue in a long-term, substantive way.

A lot of cigarette butt litter finds it way to beaches via the ocean (via storm drains - via your hand!). Here is what they look like without their outer wrap - its just the filter. This filter rests here on the morning shoreline next to a ladybug; buts its toxins have already wreaked havoc on wildlife habitat and water quality...Together we can stop this - together we can keep the number one polluted item at our heals, before it takes us under.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Results...and now Monterey!

Very positive results have emerged from the BaitTank installations in Capitola and Santa Cruz. Save Our Shores ( has conducted before-and-after studies and shown that the BaitTank has helped decrease cigarette butt litter by nearly 60%!

In addition, both city crews have mentioned that their "sweeping" workload has decreased - as well remarked that both smoker and non-smoker have been witnessed reading the BaitTank messaging aloud!

I would like to thank the awesome staff at Save Our Shores for their hard work in taking concrete action to solving this immense problem.

Our partnership continues to grow; this past week Laura Kasa and I met with the City of Monterey to tackle their cigarette butt issues. Here is a photo with Laura, the ED of Save Our Shores, on the Monterey Wharf where a pilot BaitTank was installed two weeks ago. The Wharf loves it and has already seen its impact in decreasing the amount of butts on the wood planks and in the water.

More BaitTanks coming to the City of Monterey and the County of Monterey very soon...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

hey Enterprise Fish Co!

(originally posted September 1, 2010)

Hi Enterprise Fish Co – I found 52 butts in front of your Santa Monica seafood restaurant the other day!

I know you are open to addressing this problem – so lets talk (again)!

Joie de Vivre Gives

(originally posted August 18, 2010)

Since I did a Surfrider beach cleanup with some staff from Hotel Erwin in Venice, CA a few months back – I have been very impressed with the commitment that Joie de Vivre Hospitality has to beach cleanups in their community, and also to Surfrider Foundation (see Frankly, it has made me want to stay at their unique California hotels.

I have had them in my mind for some of my projects – and now after this morning, theBaitTank seems perfect for them…

After a morning bike ride through Santa Monica and Venice, I stopped to do a quick cigarette butt collection – I decided on Hotel Erwin. I walked the perimeter of their building, not venturing more than two feet from their walls. To my amazement I picked up 426 cigarette butts!!

This is a lot of unsightly mess, and a lot of dead fish – just a stones throw from the coast. Something that costs JDV a lot of money in maintenance (and other intangibles…)

Now granted, not all of the blame is on Hotel Erwin and JDV – but it presents them with a HUGE opportunity to directly stop the upstream pollution that plagues communities and oceans – just the thing they are trying to cleanup on their Surfrider outings...

theBaitTank is a cool receptacle that attracts cigarette butts and educates impacts – they would look great at Hotel Erwin and other JDV hotels – and I hope to find someone soon within the organization to discuss how I (and theBaitTank) can help...(maybe I will even get to meet Chip Conley, the founder, whose book PEAK is on my stack of books to read!)

For the oceans!!


Collecting butts in Capitola and Santa Cruz

(originally posted on August 9, 2010)

Over the last 10 days, several BaitTanks were installed in the beautiful coastal cities Capitola and Santa Cruz in California. All had captured several cigarette butts in the few days of operation and I overhead people reading the text “Save some fish, Feed me Butts” out loud. I even heard a few 7 yr old Junior Lifeguards discussing the problem of cigarette butts on the beach!! wow

This project was initiated by Save Our Shores, an amazing marine conservation group (, and funded by the California Coastal Conservancy. The cities of Capitola and Santa Cruz are also taking a leadership role in addressing the several economic, ecological, and social impacts of cigarette litter.

Here are some photos of theBaitTank – lets turn littered cigarette butts from polluting/killing into collected cigarette butts as protecting/saving...

Friday, June 25, 2010

theBaitTank in action!

After 165 butts were discovered littered in front of the Enterprise Fish Co in Santa Monica (see previous post), the management allowed me to setup theBaitTank, a new cigarette receptacle, to test the waters...

It was a success, and theBaitTank was well received - it actually attracted smokers, even from 25 yards away. I firmly feel that people (this case smokers) want to do the right thing - we just need to give them the opportunity...I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

the Fish Enterprise

I picked up 165 fresh cigarette butts in front of the Enterprise Fish Co. - just a couple blocks from the ocean in Santa Monica.

I have been trying to get in touch with a decision-maker at the restaurant so I can help them clean it up and prevent it from happening again...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tap Water Delivers

May 2nd to the 8th was National Drinking Water Week!?

My father tore out this Announcement from one of his journals:

Pretty interesting - highlights how lucky we in the US are, but underscores the challenges and needed investment to keep public water safe and healthy into the future -

I really take for granted the drinking water that flows out of my kitchen/bathroom faucet, my shower, my toilet -

Maybe we should work to keep water flowing cleanly through our taps rather than through the "market"...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

the Smoking Fish

It is well publicized that cigarette butts are the most prevalent litter item found on US streets and beaches. Anyone who looks down as they stride Main Street or their nearest shoreline would agree. Not only are they unsightly, but their filters are made of a plastic, that, yep, never goes away! And now - as of a few months ago (confirming my ignorance), I was unaware of the deadliness that remains trapped within these tossed-aside cigarette butts - "they are just paper!" But a recent in-home science project (as well as sound university research) has proven that they are indeed more than "just paper." When welcomed by bodies of water (rivers, lakes, oceans), cigarette butts spew a deadly dose of toxins that no human (or fish) would want to swim in (let alone drink)!

Ten days ago, I asked myself why I continue to walk the beach and pickup litter - when I could just walk outside my front door, pickup litter, and prevent it from even reaching the open ocean and (on limited occasion) eventually the shoreline. My good friend @easytowrite actually helped me realize this when he picked up enough litter to fill a large garbage bag - just on his residential street near Fairfax and Melrose in Los Angeles. This "urban cleanup" intrigued me even more when dealing with cigarette butts as it would prevent them from touching any water and leaching their nastiness at all.

That day I walked towards the ocean on Ocean Park Blvd in Santa Monica from 7th Street until I reached the beginning of the sand at Santa Monica beach - Google puts it at about 10 blocks or 0.6 miles. I only picked up cigarette butts on one side of the street from either the gutter or sidewalk - 344 cigarette butts in total! I thought that was quite a lot - 57 every 10th of a mile! In Santa Monica, CA! I brought them home, counted them, and separated them into three piles: (a) fresh ones - still firm and round (b) weathered ones - flattened with fraying paper and (c) frayed filters. I then filled four Ziplock bags with three cups of water and placed 25 cigarette butts of type (a), (b), and (c) in the bags. I put nothing in bag four - my control. Magic began to happen right away.

In bag (a), a rich red molasses-color began to snake from the butts and dye the water a burnt orange. Bags (b) and (c) followed suit, although their colors were not as vibrant as bag (a). Without knowing what chemicals were actually contaminating the water, I was disgusted and alarmed. I would never want to swim and surf in this muck! But at least I have a choice to swim or not - we force this spew on fish, birds, mammals, other living things - the entire ecosystem (even the planters, soil, and plants from where I picked up most cigarette butts). In fact scientists from San Diego State University ran much more scientific tests and found that the leaching toxins kill fish!!!!

Smoke all you want people, but when you start killing fish - no bueno!

Here is a photo of the water from bag (a), four days after soaking. I filtered the butts out and transferred into jars.

Today - 10 days after clearing Ocean Park Blvd of cigarette butts - I walked the same exact path and picked up 239 cigarette butts!! and most were of type (a) mentioned above - fresh ones.

We as humans must evolve our culture and restore the connections to other living beings...Will this only happen when all the fish have been smoked out?!?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

39 balloons and one dolphin - what did the ocean receive for Valentines Day!?!

I often wonder how people can hunt whale, hunt turtle, or hunt shark - what overcomes them to track magnificent animals and kill them for particular parts of their body; "parts" that are economically valued higher than the "whole" animal's ecological and social value to Earth. While running along the Santa Monica shoreline tonight, I soaked in a dose of such predatory adrenaline as I hunted plastic balloons - washed up to the beach and resting like deflated sea lions. In front of Pier 26, I watched the first balloon make its way to shore from about 20 yards out at sea - surfing the waves, searching for dry land. And at Pier 28 about twenty minutes later, I watched a hunted dolphin make the same journey - in whole.

First, the balloon - I placed it in a nearby trash can where two other balloons were captive. Three balloons! I run this beach often and find drinking straws, bottle caps, cigarette butts, but never three balloons in such close proximity.

Ahhh, Valentines Day!!

Four days ago these balloons served as gifts of love and compassion, their recipients silently attached dreams and let go - watching the balloon float away, praying the dream would find its reality. However, the balloon floats a few miles above ground, begins to deflate, gravity does the rest - and in the end only finds my wet feet.

Unfortunately, the three balloons turned to 10 then to 16 - it was amazing, I was hunting!! My heart raced, my eyes scanned for more and more plastic balloons and my legs hastened to chase them down and scoop them off the beach. I ended up with 39 in total within 250 yards of the Santa Monica/Venice shoreline. I gathered my last clump of about 23 and marveled at the assortment: red ones printed with "I love you," an orange one with "Happy Birthday," a clear one with red writing, "Be Mine." I then realized this grouping of puffed-up plastics was not the "killed," but the "killers." Balloons, along with other plastics, strangle seabirds and sea lions, get eaten by whales and dolphins, eventually degrade and threaten our food supply. Indeed, cupid's arrow signifies so much more now.

I had to stop and catch my breath after shoving the last 23 in the trash can, before turning around and heading back to where I started, and then home. Almost dark, would I stumble upon any newly washed ashore balloons? Fortunately, no more - but just there, what is that in the waves? sloshing back and forth...a freshly deceased Common dolphin. What an unfortunate, yet invigorating evening - I have hunted both balloon and dolphin. In ankle high water, the dolphin attempts to find some solid ground. But only after alerted lifeguards pull her out of the water is she resting - her dorsal fin covered with the same sand that hides my toes. She will be picked up in the morning by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles to be autopsied. The lifeguards mentioned that they rarely do this, but I spoke with the Marine Mammal Center and unfortunately several dolphins have been pulled in the last few weeks.

What will be her cause-of-death? A plastic balloon clogging her intestines, nasty pollutants spawning cancers? I will follow this dolphin and report back.

But as the dolphin traveled away from me, I recollected the 39 balloons that I tracked - and wondered at a coincidence? Funny how we watch Whale Wars and the Cove and condemn the Japanese for hunting whale and dolphin with harpoon, yet each day we continue our Gulpable lifestyle of disposable plastics and toxic chemicals, we all hunt them the same with our disconnected waste, our pollutants, our greed - even our compassion, on this post-Valentines day.

Monday, February 1, 2010

lighter, golf ball, & toothbrush

In talking to family and friends about the "gulpable" plastic in the ocean that often ends up in the stomach of marine wildlife (most notably the images of dead baby albatrosses on Midway Atoll), one family member asked astonished, "How does a golf ball and toothbrush end up all the way out there?"

A few days after that question, I interestingly stumbled upon a golf ball and toothbrush just inches away from plunging down a Santa Monica storm drain - no doubt on their way to meet our Midway friends.

And today, during a walk along Melrose (between Fairfax and La Cienega) in West Hollywood, this cigarette lighter looked up at me. With rain in the weekly forecast, off it goes - to kill.

Yes, I picked it up - but I couldn't clean every adjacent cigarette butt and drinking straw. Also, I walked over nine blocks and there was not one trash can or ash receptacle. Litter is definitely not the cities fault, but research says the more trash cans present, the less litter...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

in need of rescue

On a brief trip to San Francisco for New Years Eve, I confirmed the reports that "sea lion packed Pier 39" was unusually empty! However, on the evening of January 1st, one large male sea lion remained at the dock - suffering. He was suffocating - strangled with fishing line (or plastic wire of some sort) around his neck and snout.

A group of tourists watched as the sea lion fought for every breath, and news reporters and their cameras publicized the general concern of the assembled crowd. A passionate few phoned the Marine Mammal Center to alert them of a needed rescue, but subsequently criticized Erin Brodie, the centers on-duty representative, for deciding not to launch a rescue until morning (because of animal and human safety).

I was shocked at how some lashed out at Erin, called PETA as if to motivate her to launch a night rescue - some "out of towners" were even devising plans to rescue the animal themselves (sneaking up on a wild animal in distress and snipping off fishing wire did not seem like a realistic plan of action to me! considering the plastic line had most likely grown into the skin and was in need of surgical removal!)

On the first night of the new year, when hundreds of resident sea lions had departed Pier 39 - one injured remained on the dock nearest to the pier - sending a message. The message is not one criticizing the plans of dedicated rescuers - the message is one of education regarding trash and plastics in the oceans (and other human impacts on wildlife).

While I was upbeat at the outpouring of support for the suffering animal, I was disheartened to see many of the onlookers throw their cigarette butts directly onto the pier - and then counting the amount of waste and plastic in the gutters near the pier on my walk back to the hotel. We may not be able to save that brave sea lion (who jumped off the dock and swam away around 7am the next morning) - but we can look to ourselves, shoulder the blame for our gulpable life, and prevent future wildlife/ecosystem impacts.

My appreciation goes to all those involved that evening (even those with crazy ideas) - maybe this will propel us to educate ourselves a little more and act; main appreciation goes to Erin Brodie of the Marine Mammal Center for turning a tense situation into an educational one - not to mention her every day, on-the-ground work.