Local EARTH Awards on April 26

by Carolyn Chase


I believe that our success as a global community depends upon our ability to see how everyday actions impact our natural world - and then to do what we can to reduce those impacts. Earth Day is a good annual occasion to consider our progress and learn how we can next improve.

    In celebration of Earth Day 2001, San Diego EarthWorks has announced this year's winners of the EARTH (Environmental Action & Restoration That Helps) Awards. The EARTH Awards recognize San Diego businesses, government agencies, community leaders, and non-profit organizations that are making a positive difference for the environment.

    This year's recipients are as follows:

Individual Award Winner

Lori Brickley is a teacher at Rancho Bernardo High School and has been an educator for 21 years. For ten of these years she has been teaching civic environmental volunteerism in her classroom. She has taught about 150 students each year with each responsible for 24 service hours. About 36,000 hours have been spent in service to the community. She also started a peer mentoring program at RBHS, led an Outward Bound trip to Costa Rica, inspires her students to make a difference. More than a 100 of her students volunteer for the EarthFair in Balboa Park each year.

Business and Community Award Winners

Sustainable Earth Enterprises (SES) is a non-profit organization that teaches home-builders the proper methods for "green" structure designs, including building straw bale homes and solar electric systems. These structures are energy efficient and utilize straw bales, which are usually a waste product. SES is about to break ground on San Diego's first public-use straw bale structure in the City Heights area and will soon be the model for Habitat for Humanity's low-cost community constructed homes.

The San Diego City Wide Canyon Sewer Maintenance Task Force is made up of 33 community groups, including city representatives, regulatory agencies, non-profit organizations and community leaders that are evaluating options and alternatives and developing a citywide policy for operating, maintaining and accessing a sewer collection system where environmental health and public safety are protected and impacts to San Diego's urban canyons is eliminated or minimized.

    To take advantage of gravity flow, the City's sewer lines historically were constructed in canyons in certain areas of the City. Of the 2,850 miles of sewer in the city, 140 miles are currently situated in the City's canyons. While much of the city's sewer infrastructure has been upgraded, most sewers located in canyons have not been. In order to replace or redirect the existing sewer lines, the Metropolitan Wastewater Department needs access to the canyons, many of which contain highly-sensitive ecosystems. To meet this need, MWD proposed building roads in the canyons to access and maintain sewer lines. Faced with the threat of the construction of permanent access roads in canyons, community groups across the city sprang into action and the Task Force was formed and met over the last nine months.

    They have recommended policies including:

  1. Developing plans for appropriate emergency and scheduled access into canyons and other environmentally sensitive lands
  2. Replacing deteriorated sewer infrastructure as soon as possible
  3. Employing low environmental impact practices and procedures for all sewer repairs, replacement or routine maintenance
  4. Expanding the City's equipment fleet to include low impact, canyon proficient vehicles that can safely access natural areas, while minimizing impacts to sensitive resources
  5. Stabilizing erosion that could threaten the integrity of existing sewer infrastructure, water quality and habitat value
  6. Implementing timely and effective restoration procedures when impacts do occur
  7. Establishing and enforcing high performance standards for contractors and City crews
  8. Implementing measures that minimize the need for unscheduled maintenance due to erosion, storm drains, vandalism and other factors that contribute to general deterioration of habitat due to sewer operations in canyons
  9. Developing a public outreach plan

    Their complete report may be found at www.canyonsewer.com. The city is currently evaluating the proposed policies and the matter will be heard later this year at the City's Natural Resources and Culture Committee.

Solana Recyclers' Recycled Products Purchasing Cooperative has established a cooperative effort to buy recycled-content paper in bulk while at the same or lower cost than paper made from virgin fiber. Price is usually the biggest barrier for businesses buying recycled paper, so co-op members, about 85% of which are recent converts from virgin fiber paper, will buy more than 50,000 cases, or 1,250 tons, of recycled paper this year with a goal of 200,000 cases by 2003. By proactively switching from virgin fiber office paper to recycled-content paper, their members purchasing practices have:

  • Conserved 2.5 million kilowatts of electricity
  • Conserved 3.8 million gallons of water
  • Saved 12,000 full grown trees
  • Kept 37,500 lbs. of pollution out of the airshed.

    The Co-op is a now a national nonprofit program which is available free-of-charge to any business or public entity. Members include: City of San Diego, Axiom Electronics, Sea World, Del Mar Fairgrounds, Ancile Pharmaceuticals, Union Bank, UCSD, Baxter Healthcare, BioQ, Aloha Printing, Harvard University, Swinterton & Walberg, and hundreds more. Contact the RPPC at (800) 694-8355 or visit www.recycledproducts.org for more information.

Youth Award Winner

Tiffany Tran is a new student this year at Rancho Bernardo High School. She planned, organized and implemented a school-wide recycling program for paper. The National Honor Society and Key Club members are responsible for collecting the paper and bringing it to the recycling center every week. She saw a problem and created a solution, she is reducing waste at the same time recycling a precious resource.

    The EARTH Awards will be presented at San Diego EarthWorks' Very Important Planet (VIP) Reception, on Thursday, April 26th at the City's (Green) building at 9601 Ridgehaven Court in Kearny Mesa.

    San Diego's Mayor Dick Murphy will be presenting the EARTH and the City of San Diego's Waste Reduction and Recycling Awards. County Board of Supervisor's member Pam Slater will be presenting Clean Air Awards on behalf of the San Diego Air Pollution Control District, as well as the Regional Energy Office Energy Leadership Awards.

    Preceding the awards presentation there will be a silent auction with Earth-friendly products and services and the "World Buffet" contributed by local restaurants. San Diego EarthWorks is a year-round, volunteer-run non-profit and organizes the EarthFair in Balboa Park. For more information, call the 24-hour Earth Day hotline at (858) 496-6666 or find out about upcoming events online at www.earthdayweb.org.