Category Archives: Rethinking Plastics News

Another successful day at McNear’s Beach

Coastal Cleanup Day 9/16/17: ‘Cleaning Our Minds, Cleaning the Beach’

A report from Maeve Murphy, Beach Captain

As Thich Nhat Hanh put it so simply, We must be aware of the real problems of the world.  Then, with mindfulness, we will know what to do and what not to do to be of help.  If we maintain awareness of our breathing and continue to practice smiling, even in difficult situations, many people, animals, and plants will benefit from our way of doing things.”

In this spirit, Green Sangha kicked off a new action, ‘Engaged Meditation,’ choosing the occasion of the 33rd annual Coastal Cleanup Day, Saturday, September 16, 2017, at McNear’s Beach in San Rafael, where Green Sangha has coordinated the clean-up since 2005.  We meditated in public to ‘bear witness’ to the ugly problem of litter and to help focus our minds on positive action.

Bernard Bouis, Tom Flynn, and I sat quietly together, just feet away from the rhythmic lapping of the waves on the beach.  We breathed, listened to the soft sound of the surf and the harsh cry of the gulls, and felt the gentle breeze on our faces. After thus “cleaning our minds,” we acknowledged and felt solidarity with the thousands of other volunteers all across California, and the world, who were out cleaning their own local coasts and waterways that day.

Soon we were joined by 14 enthusiastic volunteers of all ages who combed the beach and brought back bucket-loads of plastic, fishing line, bottles and all manner of discards – 29 pounds in all.  The most charming item? A tiny plastic toy goose.  The biggest/most unwieldy? A box spring mattress (we flagged that one for the rangers to collect later, exceeding the weight of everything else we collected).  Volunteer Hailey came back again this year with her Girl Scout pals to celebrate her 11th birthday – she celebrated her 10th here last year, too.

Litter in our Bay, on our beaches and in our waterways is a very serious problem for the health and well being of humans and of wildlife.  Coastal Cleanup Day not only calls public attention to the problem of litter, especially ubiquitous and non-biodegradable plastic litter; it also offers people the opportunity to make a real difference to the safety and aesthetics of their local beach or coastline, and to contribute hard data which inform public policy efforts to help stem the flow of trash finding its way into the environment.

Journalist Stephanie Weldy and photographer Alan Dep from the Marin Independent Journal chose McNear’s Beach to cover Coastal Cleanup Day and highlighted what draws local volunteers to clean up the shoreline.  Read their story here: Marin volunteers collect 4-tons.

A shout-out to the Sausalito chapter of the Lion’s Club, who each year lay on a tasty free barbecue for all volunteers each year at the Bay Model in Sausalito after the cleanup.  They now provide veggie burgers, which means that hungry vegetarian volunteers are well catered for and also enables smaller-carbon-footprint lunches!

A heartfelt thank you for ALL our volunteers who used their hearts, hands and minds to improve our coastline.  You are the best!

Maeve and team clean up!

Coastal Cleanup Day, McNear’s Beach, Sat Sep 17, 2016
Maeve Murphy, Beach Captain, reports:

girl-scouts-at-mcnearsWe had a strong turnout for the 31st annual Coastal Cleanup Day. Our 20 keen volunteers, just about the right number for this smallish site, were part of the biggest litter cleanup event in the whole world: 65,000 strong last year in California alone. Park rangers Kevin, Sara, and Justin greeted us warmly and helped us out by providing plenty of buckets and litter pickers.

Volunteer Nancy had arrived early and got a head start, covering a large area and pointing out spots that needed more help. Girl Scout Haley arrived sporting a festive birthday hat and Mardi Gras-style necklace; what a lovely way to celebrate her special day. She was soon joined by the rest of her troop, along with some Brownies, and they efficiently organized themselves into teams. Two Dominican U students, who are studying how trash travels down waterways, arrived in flip-flops for a morning of beach-combing and community service.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne Girl Scout mom, who has taken part in cleanups at McNear’s for years, reported far fewer discarded plastic bags than she ever used to, surely proof that the various bans and actions by the County, business, and advocacy groups such as Green Sangha are having a significant effect. Later, reviewing our data cards, I noticed far fewer polystyrene bits recorded than in years past. Could this especially problematic form of plastic also be slowly on its way out?

The California Coastal Commission encourages volunteers to bring their own cleanup supplies and reusable drinking-water bottles. Those of our volunteers who hadn’t brought their own were provided with bags and gloves saved from past years, so not one new plastic bag or glove was used. Between us we relieved the beach and picnic area of 12.5 pounds of trash – most individual items being plastic, no surprise there – and 9 pounds of recyclables, 21 pounds in all. That figure will be added to the California Coastal Commission’s database and analyzed, helping inform future educational and policy efforts.

maeve-justinMcNear’s beach is pretty well cared for by the rangers, but it’s an ongoing job to keep on top of the litter and they report that “there’s always more,” whether blown in by wind, dropped by picnickers, or washed ashore by tidal currents.  So they were grateful for the extra help today.  One item they’d love to see far less of is those plastic drinking-straw wrappers that come with juice cartons.  Hmm . . . an item for future ban efforts?

I spotted quite a few of our volunteers at the post-cleanup barbecue generously provided by the Lion’s Club for all Marin CCDay volunteers at CCDay headquarters at the Bay Model, Sausalito.  The Ben and Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream was delicious – and by choosing a cone instead of a paper cup and plastic spoon, my treat produced no additional waste.  As I licked my cone and enjoyed the harbor view, I reflected on how satisfying it felt to be part of a positive community effort to deal with our trash and help beautify our world.


Reported by Maeve Murphy, Beach Captain since 2012

Coastal Cleanup Day, Sep 19, 2015 – McNear’s Beach

ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL DAY!  A report from Maeve Murphy

S'ward viewCoastal Cleanup Day dawned bright and warm at McNear’s Beach in San Rafael, Green Sangha’s adopted clean-up site. We were not short of enthusiastic volunteers ready for a day with friends, family, and teammates to improve their environment and earn some community-service credits for school. As ever, the McNear’s rangers were welcoming and helpful, providing plenty of buckets, bins, and litter-pickers to make our job easier.

Helmet plasticEighth-grader Ruthwik had picked Coastal Cleanup Day for his school’s community service program. He and his dad made an efficient team, coming back with full buckets halfway through the morning and then heading out for more. Their red shirts were easy to spot far down the beach as they combed the rocks and sand. They scored the ‘most unusual item of the day’ – a seaweed-draped plastic frame inside a bicycle helmet – fitting for bike-loving Marin. Volunteers enjoyed its uncanny resemblance to an octopus or squid, with ‘tentacles’ splayed. Perhaps the creative minds at California Coastal Commission would like to use our photo for inspiration in a future outreach campaign, as a fitting visual which makes connections on several levels.

Dominican team w MaeveWe were also joined by the Dominican University men’s basketball team and one of their coaches. During orientation they accurately guessed the number 1 item collected in past clean-ups: cigarette butts, which, sadly, still plague our environment in large numbers. These easy-going athletic guys covered lots of beach and by noon had mastered the art of the ‘small stuff’ – those tiny bits of plastic that are most likely to be missed in other routine clean-ups and can end up far out at sea, absorbing water-borne toxins and/or in the belly of some unfortunate marine creature.

Harvill bldg Sun 10-14-12An important goal of Coastal Cleanup Day is to connect people and communities with their coastlines. It’s an opportunity for local volunteers to show their respect and love for our Bay and its beaches – and to put those sentiments into action. While reviewing what the basketball team had collected I invited their thoughts and impressions of the morning’s efforts and one young man reflected, “I’ll never litter again.” Though the remark earned him a gentle ribbing from his teammates (“of course you shouldn’t litter!”), it made my day – a major score for mindfulness in action. This is what it’s all about.

DUC teamAnother group of young friends, also from Dominican U, arrived just a few minutes before the official end of the day at noon just as I’d begun to tally the results. They set out energetically and 30 minutes later, while I was still counting, arrived back with two buckets full, adding a couple of pounds to our collection. That’s efficiency for you!

One surprise for me was the conspicuous lack of polystyrene or Styrofoam – always a prominent item in past clean-ups – in our tallied results. What could this mean? Are local bans on foam food packaging actually having an effect? It will be interesting to see what state-wide Coastal Cleanup Day results show.

In total, we relieved the beach of 10.5 pounds of garbage (including more than 90 cigarette butts!) and 6.5 pounds of recyclables, dispatched at the end by the appreciative rangers. Great job, everyone!

Ranger Kevin

Ranger Kevin carts the trash and recyclables away
By Maeve Murphy, Green Sangha leader and Beach Captain, McNear’s Beach, San Rafael, CA


On the look-out

A message from Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste

GrrrrrCan you help us collect some intelligence this weekend? The plastics industry has deployed signature collectors to bus stops and shopping malls throughout the state in a cynical attempt to overturn California’s plastic bag ban. Early reports tell us that some are disseminating ill-informed, misleading, or downright false information about what the proposed referendum would actually do. We’re trying our best to keep tabs on their campaign mercenaries so we can keep them honest.

Here’s where you come in. Your job, should you choose to accept it, would be to gather intelligence when you encounter these paid-per-signature petitioners:

  • Take note of the name of the retail establishment (if any) where the gatherer is set up.
  • Please note the approximate location (city & street), as well as date & time.
  • What is their pitch? Is it truthful?
  • Don’t feel the need to engage/argue. Remember, they are just normal folks being paid to do a job.

This data will help us focus our time and resources where they will do the most good. We’re not afraid of a public vote – Californians will see through the Plastics Industry’s attempt to keep profiting from the billions of cheap plastic bags they dump into California every year. But if they get enough signatures, it would delay implementation of the ban for 18 months. That’s another 18 billion bags’ worth of pollution—and more than $200 million for the plastic bag makers.

You can help us put a stop to it right here, right now, by one of these routes:
Send an email to:
Text your report to 916-550-3910
Fill out this on-line form.

Thanks for your help!

Mark Murray

PSOMThanks to initial reports coming in over the weekend, we are starting to get a better idea of the scope of Plastics Industry’s signature gathering campaign. But the picture is not complete. We need every useful bit of data that we can get. So don’t forget to report where and when you’ve seen plastic bag signature gatherers in your town. Here are three easy options you can use:

1) report your findings on-line here, 2) or e-mail:, or 3) text us at: 916-550-3910.


Do my personal changes make a difference?

Beth's costumeBeth Terry, in her presentation at Green Sangha’s first Rethinking Plastics conference in 2010, identified eight reasons that our personal changes make a difference.  She posted a transcript of her talk here:  Eight Reasons Why Personal Changes Matter.

Do you still worry, though, that your individual actions won’t amount to enough?  Here’s what Paul Stern of the National Research Council says:  “The potential for reducing carbon emissions through behavioral change at the household level is sufficient to yield a major effect on national emissions if well-designed interventions are scaled up nationally” (in American Psychologist, May-June 2011, p. 304). 

Doing our calcsWe have exceptionally well-designed interventions already set up in the Bay Area.  In the East Bay, you can join Linda Currie in a five-session class on reducing your carbon footprint: In Marin, Tamra Peters has established a similar program that has already helped homeowners reduce their collective annual emissions by over 2 million pounds a year:

Don’t stop there, Linda says. Keep demanding climate action now, and vote for policies and politicians who will lead the way.  For updates on climate legislation, EPA regulation, and other actions, go to the Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Action Center.

And remember that each one of us who takes personal action to preserve the climate, and who shares these actions in a patient and loving manner, sends ripples into the world well beyond our individual acts.

Cloudy lake - KLM

Coastal Clean-up Day rocks again

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Green Sangha leader Maeve Murphy. Sep 20, 2014.  Nine enthusiastic volunteers joined me for Coastal Cleanup Day at McNear’s Beach in San Rafael. Just the right number at this modest-sized site: though it gets regular attention from its ranger staff, they assured us there is always more trash to be found.

McNear’s is a popular city park and, as we did our work, late-summer barbecues were getting started, a wedding was being set up, and a wetsuited triathlete swam back and forth near the shore, carefully avoiding a paddleboard class. Plenty happening here today!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARangers Josh and Dan were on hand with lots of extra buckets and litter-pickers, pleased to have us there to help tackle the never-ending stream of trash that they report finds its way here from land and sea. Five of our volunteers brought their own buckets, gloves and reusable water bottles and several of them had walked or carpooled to the site. Hooray for mindfulness in action!

I had displayed the California Coastal Commission poster showing amounts of select items found last year, and our volunteers were impressed by the sheer numbers of plastic bottles collected (some 1.3 million!) and amused by other items (40 toilets!? A rubber chicken!?). I mentioned that the few cigarette butts they each might find would be added to the probably millions picked up around the world that day, and that each and every one would be counted. Other park users stopped and asked us what was going on and I was glad for the opportunity to let them know about Coastal Cleanup Day and the significance of what we were doing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMost interesting items? Probably the small plastic bag of what we think was marijuana, the parking ticket, the toy plastic turtle, and a shapeless, rusty chunk of metal that added a few pounds to our final count, 21 pounds of trash and 8 pounds of recyclables – not bad!

Putting the morning’s activity in our little corner of San Rafael into a statewide, nationwide, and worldwide context helped us feel connected to a movement – a big and broad one – helping to restore the beauty of our coastline and protect its wildlife, reconnecting to our mother Earth, and reminding us that what we all do really does matter.

After a record turn-out of over 80 volunteers in 2012 & 2013, Maeve and the Marin County site coordinators agreed last fall that McNear’s Beach could afford to give up some of its helpers to other sites around the county.  There will be room for a few more, though, next year at McNear’s, so mark your calendar:  Sat Sep 19th, 9 am to noon!

McNear's Beach




Coastal Cleanup Day 2014

One long netCalifornia Coastal Cleanup Day may be the largest marine-related volunteer event in the world.  Last year’s slogan was “Help make trash extinct”!  You can help reach this goal and contribute to citizen science while enjoying a day of fresh air and heart-filled service to the environment . . . and who doesn’t love beach-combing?

1. Marin County.  McNear’s Beach, 201 Cantera Way, San Rafael, a lovely bayside park overlooking the northern bay.
2. East Bay.  Next to the Emeryville Fire Station at 2333 Powell St., across from the Watergate Market.

When:  Sat, Sep 20, 9am – noon.  Cleanup starts with a brief orientation and safety talk.  Come early even if you can’t stay the whole three hours.

McNear’s Beach includes about one mile of shoreline, and is a relatively well-cared-for beach, but in 2012 we still managed to collect 91 pounds of trash and 6 pounds of recyclables!  More about McNear’s Beach here.

Emeryville coordinator Marcy Greenhut promises free refreshments, raffle prizes, and chair massage, provided by local businesses!  More about Emeryville cleanup here.


  • Sturdy, closed-toe shoes
  • Hat and other sunblock
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle (no single-use plastic, please!)
  • Jacket in case of wind

Also bring your own reusable supplies if possible, to help cut down on waste and save funds.  This could mean a bucket, trash bags, and gloves if you have.

Directions to McNear’s:  Drive out Point San Pedro Road from central San Rafael; signs will show you the park entrance.  Tell the ranger you’re volunteering with the beach cleanup, then park at the far (northerly) end of the lot.  We’ll be at the picnic tables by the snack bar.  Beach captain:  Maeve Murphy (455-9577).  Click here for a map.  Please consider biking, public transport, or carpooling to the site with your friends. Volunteers who drive to the cleanup can park for free (the normal weekend fee is $10 per car); just tell the rangers at the entrance that you’re a CCC Day volunteer.

You are invited to the Bay Model in Sausalito for an after-cleanup barbecue. To prevent waste, please BYO plate, cup, and eating utensils as only throw-aways are provided.


There are scores of locations around the Bay Area. More information and additional sites listed by the California Coastal Commission here:  California Coastal Cleanup Day.



Plastic-Free July

Plastic lid - Ecology Ctr '14The Ecology Center in Berkeley invites you to take part in “Plastic-Free July,” a challenge to reduce plastic use. Partners include Green Sangha, City of Berkeley Parks & Recreation, and Beth Terry of My Plastic-Free Life.

Special guests at the events below include: Sheila Hollander, a Piedmont mom who knows how to reduce waste with grace; Daniel Maher, recycling guru of the Ecology Center; and Samantha Meyer, who was so successful at reducing waste in her college dining hall, they hired her as Sustainability and Purchasing Coordinator for Dining Services.

Join us for the following events:
Film & Discussion:  Plastic Paradise, Thursday, 7-9 pm, 6/26/14
A screening of this short (one hour) and pithy ocumentary “Plastic Paradise” gives a clear view of the problem of plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean.  Beth Terry, Green Sangha member and author of My Plastic-Free Life, will lead the panel discussion afterwards. More details:  Click here

Workshop #1: Introduction to Plastic-Free Living, Sunday, 1-3 pm, 6/29/14.  Author and activist Beth Terry will discuss strategies for reducing our use of disposable plastic consumer goods. Discover the whys and hows of reducing your use of plastic.  More details: Click here

Workshop #2: Plastic-Free Show and Tell, Sunday, 1-3 pm, 7/13/14.  Collect plastic items from your day to day, and bring them to this workshop. Beth Terry and participants will share tips and strategies for eliminating or replacing these hard-to-avoid items going forward. More details:  Click here

Berkeley Marina Shoreline Clean-Up, Saturday, 9:00-11:30 am, 7/19/14.  Meet at the Shorebird Nature Park Center to view a brief indoor presentation on the problems of plastics in the marine environment. Then, the group will set out to clear trash from a particular area of the marina shoreline. More details: Click here

I will refuse - Van Jones

Plastic-Free Potluck Celebration, Sunday, 1-3 pm, 7/27/14.  Beth Terry will host a plastic-free potluck. Bring your favorite potluck dish to share. Show off your plastic-free lunch strategies and share tips you have picked up during Plastic-Free July. More details: Click here

Bag ordinance hearing – Tue Feb 18


Iris Salin, dragging the equivalent of 6 months' plastic used by the average American.  Photo:  Sierra Salin

Iris Salin, dragging the equivalent of 6 months’ plastic used by the average American. Photo: Sierra Salin

Good news!  The City of San Rafael will hold its first hearing on a proposed single-use bag ordinance on Tuesday, February 18.

Here is the official agenda item:  “Consideration of Final Environmental Impact Report, EIR Addendum and Ordinance Regulating Retail Establishment Provisions of Single-Use Carry Out Bags (CM).”

Note the RECOMMENDED ACTION:  “Adopt Resolutions (2). Pass Ordinance to print.”  To see the staff report:  Single-Use Carry-Out Bags EIR

We first discussed this ordinance with Charles McGlashan and his aides eight years ago.  Fairfax passed, by popular vote (79% in favor), a plastic bag ban in 2009.  The County of Marin passed an ordinance in 2011.  Now at last the City of San Rafael is in line to pass a similar law.  We expect other municipalities to follow soon after.

Please come show your support!  Your warm presence speaks volumes to the Council, and adds one more stitch to the fabric of coherence which holds our community together.

The meeting begins at 7 pm, but the item is likely not to be heard before 7:15 pm, as a number of resolutions precede it on the agenda.  Bring your notepad, a good book, or simply your pure somatic awareness to drink in all that is happening while you wait.

Sita Khufu, Green Sangha activist, to speak at San Rafael City Council meeting

Sita Khufu, Green Sangha activist, to speak at San Rafael City Council meeting


Damon Marsh clean-up

CCCD 09 - Katie Noonan, Oakland HS sciCalifornia Coastal Cleanup Day may be the world’s largest marine-related volunteer event, but every day we need to keep our coastline clean.  This year’s Cleanup Day slogan was “Help make trash extinct”!  It’s a long-term project, and every communal effort takes us a step closer to safer, more beautiful beaches and waterways.

Join us at Damon Slough in Oakland on Sat, Dec 7, 10 am – noon.  The Marsh is at MLK Jr. Regional Shoreline, a 741-acre park protecting the remainder of a once-extensive wetland on San Leandro Bay.  The park includes the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Grove, completed with community support and dedicated in 1993.  The 50-acre Arrowhead Marsh is a stop-over on the Pacific Flyway and is part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.


  • Sturdy, closed-toe shoes
  • Hat and other sunblock
  • Layers for changeable weather
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle (no single-use plastic, please!)

Also bring your own reusable supplies if you have any of the following:  bucket, trash bags, and gloves.

RSVP to confirm your participation:  (510) 532-6574 or

Damon Slough is located at the very end of Edgewater Drive.  From Hwy 880, take the Hegenberger Rd. exit, go over the overpass (toward airport) and turn right on Edgewater Dr.  Proceed 1.1 miles; Edgewater will reduce from 4 lanes with a median to a narrow 2-lane road.  Proceed to the end of this 2-lane, continue through the gate, and on the left you will see the Garretson Point parking lot.  We will park and gather there at 10 am.

This event takes the place of the East Bay chapter’s monthly retreat.  Restore yourself from within while restoring the world without!