BY Leorah Gavidor
From small acts to big movements, there are many ways to get involved in mitigating climate change in San Diego. Here are a few local orgs that welcome volunteers, encourage and undertake action, influence policy, and educate the public.
Art by Kyra Black
Founded in 1954 to fight San Diego’s “war against litter,” ILACSD deploys thousands of volunteers throughout the county for monthly community clean-ups. It’s super easy to sign up for one in your neighborhood, on the beach, or in a park, and during the pandemic ILACSD has adapted the format to offer virtual clean up events. Environmental educators also fan out to local schools with presentations for kids on watersheds, recycling basics, zero waste, composting, and more. For San Diego residents, ILACSD offers webinars on topics like “Save Your Scraps” and “Green Business Solutions.” The non-profit also maintains the WasteFreeSD website, which provides resources on how to recycle stuff like tires, batteries, and mattresses. ILACSD Education Manager Emily Nelson recommends college students, especially those who live off campus and don’t have a meal plan, join a Buy Nothing group to receive (or give) food that would otherwise be wasted.
Want to start a compost? Solana Center will help you start your own—or accept your scraps from home if you don’t have room. The organization provides community education and professional services to reduce waste, conserve water, and build healthy soil. Read the Low Waste Takeout Guide to learn how to capture rainwater at home and get meal prep ideas for you and your roommates to reduce food waste. Solana Center also provides consultations for businesses on how to separate and recycle food waste to comply with California laws.
A volunteer-driven, grassroots, non-partisan, non-profit organization working to empower people and organizations in North County to act now on climate change. NCCCA hosts and participates in community events and presents talks by scientists, climatologists, renewable energy experts, project planners, community activists, and civic leaders to share expertise and inform people on how they can make a difference. Volunteer with NCCCA for bi-weekly pond maintenance at Alta Vista Gardens (in San Marcos) and the entrance fee is waived! Check the website for seminars and educational events.
Working to make the San Diego climate movement bigger and better. SDCAN maintains a comprehensive calendar with links to events from San Diego’s many climate advocacy organizations. As a volunteer-driven organization, SDCAN offers opportunities to get involved—most of the work can be performed virtually.
The mission of Climate Science Alliance is to safeguard natural and human communities in the face of a changing climate. Instead of the usual San Diego Climate Summit this year, CSA is hosting the virtual Southwest Adaptation Forum from April 6-8, featuring an interactive experience exploring connections to wildlands and hand-on training experience for cultivating meaningful and authentic collaborations with indigenous communities. Current projects include Resilient Restoration with tribal nations of Southern California and Resilient Roots, focused on climate-smart food systems that elevate the role of local agriculture as part of our region’s climate solution.
San Diego Bike Coalition advocates for better bikeways around San Diego to make biking a safe and attractive form of transportation. SDBC offers smart cycling classes, free bike safety classes for employers and schools, resources on bike pathways throughout the city, and group riding events. Look for CicloSDias events, where SDBC collaborates with city neighborhoods to close the streets to cars and open them up for bikes, pedestrians, and dancing. This organization successfully lobbies the city and works with San Diego policy makers to create bike pathways and ensure that bicycling is part of the region’s transportation plan.
Founded in 1980, EHC builds grassroots campaigns to confront the unjust consequences of toxic pollution, discriminatory land use, and climate change. Known for its work in San Diego’s South Bay communities, such as National City and Chula Vista, the coalition has succeeded in securing transit-oriented, sustainable, affordable housing. EHC contributed to the passage of a new plan for the Bayfront that prioritizes fish and wildlife protection—and much more. Initiatives include Healthy Kids, Climate Justice, Leadership Development, and Toxic-Free Neighborhoods. EHC provides resources in English and Spanish.
SanDiego350 is part of a worldwide climate change movement founded by climate author and activist Bill McKibben in 2008. The San Diego chapter has 14 volunteer teams that work on public policy, community education, youth engagement, organizing, and fundraising. 350 organized San Diego’s “People’s Climate March” in 2017 and the climate walk outs in 2019. Most recently, SanDiego350 youth leaders drafted a resolution that calls on Governor Newsom to end oil drilling in California. San Diego Unified School District passed it—and it’s headed to other districts and cities with the goal of getting them to hold the governor accountable for his commitment to transition the state to renewable energy.
With a country-wide focus on stopping climate change, creating millions of good jobs, and passing a Green New Deal, the Sunrise Movement works on addressing local environmental and social justice challenges in San Diego. Sign up for the weekly Empower Hour to find out how to take action. The goal is to build a loud, energetic base of young people to make climate change an urgent priority. Check the site for a rundown on how San Diego local elected leaders are doing in regards to prioritizing climate change issues and policy.
Surfrider posits that our ocean and coasts are at the center of the climate crisis. The San Diego chapter advocates for community choice energy, the San Diego Green New Deal, building electrification, and climate conscious commuting. Surfrider also works with the California Blue Carbon Collaborative, seeking ways to tap the carbon dioxide sequestering potential of coastal wetlands. It’s easy to get involved: volunteer for a beach clean up, attend climate committee meetings, or sign up to be a liaison for the Rise Above Plastics campaign.
Find out more about local efforts on our Regional Organizations page.