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Active Ways to Make a Difference

Supporting nature-loving nonprofits in SD is easy and important to the region's bottom line

By Christine Pasalo

As a healthy, fit community, it only makes sense that our philanthropy takes shape outdoors. For one thing, there are a little over 600 local nonprofits focused on our regional environment or our natural wildlife, according to the 2014 “State of Nonprofits in San Diego Report,” an annual study presented by the Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research at the University of San Diego. Eric Bowlby is just one of many San Diegans who turn their appreciation for the city’s natural landscape into action. As founder and executive director of San Diego Canyonlands, the North Park resident helps promote and protect the natural habitats of San Diego’s canyons and creeks. “Canyons are San Diego’s geographic DNA,” he says. “Dozens of canyons are scattered throughout the city, providing access to nature in almost every community.”

“A sustainable, healthy environment yields a sustainable, healthy economy”

Launched in 2008, San Diego Canyonlands accomplishes its mission by fostering education and ongoing community involvement. Perhaps its most prolific program is the San Diego Canyon Coalition, an alliance made up of 49 groups of volunteers who meet up regularly to restore, enhance, and maintain the canyons and creeks that run through their neighborhoods. Practically all the group names begin with “Friends of” (Friends of Rose Creek, Friends of Switzer Canyon), and each one does its part to help solve regional environmental challenges, such as water quality and species conservation.

“San Diegans are taking ownership of their nearby open spaces and transforming them into healthy, serene places to visit nature, providing a new, cherished asset within their own communities,” says Bowlby.

Active Ways to Make a Difference

Active Ways to Make a Difference

I Love a Clean SD

I Love a Clean SD

Of course, our weather also makes San Diego an ideal place to volunteer outdoors. “It never gets too cold, and even though the summer months get hot, most events are in the morning,” says Monica Rosquillas, environmental educator for I Love A Clean San Diego (ILACSD), a nonprofit that organizes environmental education events and programs, such as the annual Creek to Bay Cleanup that takes place in the spring.

“We have beaches, mountains, canyons, and lagoons that, unfortunately, get polluted,” Rosquillas says. “Thanks to San Diegans who volunteer, these resources are kept healthy and clean.”

That’s important, not only for ensuring that locals can continue to bask in the fullness of San Diego’s biodiversity, but also that the 33 million people who visit the city annually continue to come back. According the San Diego Tourism Authority, experiences that influence a traveler’s happiness and relaxation include access to water and beaches, being surrounded by active, outdoor people, and nature and animals.

Active Ways to Make a Difference

Active Ways to Make a Difference

RACEPLACE Chelsea’s Run

RACEPLACE Chelsea’s Run

Not to mention that at least 281 race events—runs, walks, cycling, swimming, and multisport—took place in San Diego in 2013, according to RACEPLACE Inc. Considering that the total economic impact of the visitor industry on the San Diego regional economy was $18.7 billion in 2013, preserving our natural landscape is critical to preserving San Diego’s position in the global marketplace.

“A sustainable, healthy environment yields a sustainable, healthy economy,” says Bowlby. Taking stewardship of our outdoors also improves our wellbeing while helping everyone reap the benefits. “A San Diegan can go for a walk in their neighborhood canyon, escape the bustle of urban life, get a daily slice of peace, and feel rejuvenated for come what may.”

Active Ways to Make a Difference

Active Ways to Make a Difference

How Active People Act

If you’re a surfer:

Surfrider Foundation San Diego

What they do: Protect and preserve our oceans, waves, and beaches

What you can you do: Participate in the annual Paddle for Clean Water event and raise awareness and funds for clean water initiatives in the county.

If you’re a skater:

Tony Hawk Foundation

What they do: Bring free, quality public skate parks to low-income areas around the U.S.

What you can you do: Celebrate a skater friend’s birthday with a tribute donation to the foundation

If you’re a swimmer:

I Love A Clean San Diego

What they do: Lead and educate our community to actively conserve and enhance our environment

What you can you do: Volunteer to stencil pollution prevention messages on storm drains.

If you like sustainable gardening:

The Rob Machado Foundation

What they do: Work with school staff and students to design gardens that can supply school cafeterias, through the Healthy School Lunches program

What you can you do: Donate to the general foundation fund

Active Ways to Make a Difference

San Diego Canyonlands

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