Tips and tricks to celebrate the holidays sustainably

By Alec Lundberg

Trying to be more sustainable over the holidays? We’ve got you covered! There are many things we can all do to greatly reduce our carbon footprint.

Changing your diet AND eating locally can significantly help reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions! Meat and dairy makes up 14.5% of all global CO2 emissions. Beef alternatives like the Beyond Burger and the Impossible burger are around 20 times smaller than that produced by the same amount of beef. For some plant-based foods, production emissions can be below zero. This means that the production of these foods removes CO2 from the atmosphere— This is particularly true for nuts because some nut trees can be incorporated onto agricultural land – increasing its uptake of CO2. Additionally, transporting food by air emits around 50 times as much greenhouse gases as transporting the same amount by sea.

Switching to a vegetarian, vegan, or other type of diet can make all the difference! A switch to veganism, for example, could save almost 8bn tonnes of CO2e a year by 2050, when compared to a “business-as-usual” scenario. (By comparison, all food production currently causes around 13.7bn tonnes of CO2e a year.)

Dairy-alternatives like Oat Milk have significantly smaller carbon footprints in terms of land-use impacts and water requirements compared to regular dairy.

“The latest academic studies find that plant milks cause less than half the emissions of dairy milks, but these could be reduced even further by using renewable energy in production and when recycling the packaging.” Another thing to keep in mind when grocery shopping is that certain vegetables have a lower carbon footprint than others, with zucchini, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and fennel being the lowest. Peas and beans also have a low carbon footprint because they absorb nitrogen. It’s been scientifically proven that eating less meat and dairy helps keep C02 emissions low. This is crucial if we want to meet the standards set by the Paris Climate Accords!

Start a garden and grow your own food! Gardening yourself gives you the greatest amount of control over what goes on your plants and into your soil. By growing your own food, you’ll get peace of mind knowing what you are eating and what has gone into producing that item. Not only does commercial farming emit harmful chemicals into the air as mentioned above, but it also pours harmful chemicals into our soil and water. Conventional farming utilizes an extreme amount of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to grow their commercialized crops, filling our earth and the foods that we are consuming with harmful chemicals, some that have even been proven to cause cancer and other diseases.

By growing your own garden, you are the one to decide what goes on your plants and into your soil, allowing you to reduce the amount of harmful chemicals polluting our environment and waterways. Organically growing your own food is sustainable and nourishes your soil by using safe and natural fertilizers and products. Growing food yourself also eliminates the concern of monocropping, which greatly reduces biodiversity, relies heavily on pesticides and commercial fertilizers, and often involves heavily mechanized farming practices. You’ll also avoid consuming plastic packaging, which often can’t be properly “recycled.” Yes, it’s true, growing a garden is one of the most sustainable practices on the planet!

Travel light, green, and offset emissions! The travel sector accounts for 8% of global carbon emissions. Climate change research by the BBC found that compared to air travel, you can reduce your CO2 emissions between 50% and 80% by taking a train, coach, or even a full passenger car instead. If you must travel by plane, you can still make more climate-friendly choices! Choosing a greener airline can offer greener forms of air travel. Major carriers such as Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines, and JetBlue have each launched sustainability programs to improve fuel efficiency, initiate recycling programs, and adopt the use of biofuels. For a more detailed list of popular airlines, view this list from Packing light can also make a difference— The heavier the plane, the higher the fuel consumption and the bigger the carbon footprint. And if you’re embarking on an action-packed holiday with surfboards, skis, or camping goods, try to rent them locally instead. Don’t forget, if you’re worried about the emissions incurred during travel, there are a myriad of ways to offset them! You can purchase carbon offsets to restore the natural balance at websites like

Live in a bike-friendly neighborhood? Electric bicycles are selling like hotcakes – and they have been for years.

Even in the US where the public has been slower to catch on to e-bikes, new electric bicycle companies have reached over a hundred thousand sales in just two years. The more established electric bicycle companies in the US are raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in funding as investors awaken to the huge surge in e-bike adoption. In Europe, electric bicycles are even more common and are actually projected to outsell cars by the middle of this decade. Not just outsell electric cars. All cars.

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint When You Travel? – Terrapass

Invest sustainably! Did you know that there are all kinds of sustainable funds now offered on investment platforms? Make your dollar truly green with affordable funds that don’t invest in fossil fuels and instead support alternative/renewable energies, water conservation, and companies that have pledged to mitigate climate change!

Lastly (and maybe most importantly)… Call and email your politicians! Demand that your senators and representatives pass sweeping environmental changes. Keep up the pressure and let your voice be heard! It’s important to know that just 100 of all the hundreds of thousands of companies in the world have been responsible for 71% of the global GHG emissions that cause global warming since 1998, according to The Carbon Majors Database, a report recently published by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). Only your politicians can hold these companies accountable and enact laws that enforce climate accountability! Remember, Climate Change affects us all, some more disproportionately than others—particularly minorities and indigenous people. Often, minorities live in areas that are more prone to destruction due to Climate Change. Everyone is entitled to a clean and healthy planet. Go Green this Thanksgiving!–

Sustainable Habits (Into the Unknown)

By Mariaisabel Blancarte

How It Started

Sustainable habits are vital and essential to our everyday lives and to the way the world operates. Although not always easy to adapt to, they allow us to make replacements that contribute to the overall health and conservation of our planet. In all honesty, prior to learning about the effects of plastic, specifically with straws, I was hesitant about using paper straws myself. They felt odd to drink out of, and I didn’t like the way they became soggy. I definitely was…not a fan. However, I later came to see that the small compromise of drinking out of a paper straw far outweighed the negative effects that plastic straws, and plastic overall cause to our environment. Similar to many of you all, I saw the negative effects that plastic straws have on marine life during a class at my university. The video displayed a helpless turtle who was struggling to breathe due to a plastic straw that had become stuck in its nose. It was extremely saddening to see, and it led me to looking deeper into plastic straws and the way that they not only harm animals, but the environment as a whole. What makes plastic straws so detrimental to our environment? They are “one of the most common types of single-use and overproduced plastics… and are also not biodegradable”. This means that once we finish using them, if not disposed of correctly (if not recycled), they can end up in wildlife habitats. This then leads to toxins being released into environmental and marine systems and also poses a physical danger to those animals that may consume the products by accident.

In efforts to curb these negative effects caused by straws, there are great alternatives. As previously mentioned, paper and metal straws are swaps that can prevent use of non-biodegradable material. However, there are many sustainable habits and products that aren’t so common. In this blog, I’ll cover commonly known sustainable practices, but also go into practices and habits that aren’t as widely known.

Covering the Basics

Reusable Water Bottles and Masks

Before getting into the less common and known sustainable habits, it’s always essential to cover the basics. One great way to avoid using plastic products, aside from metal straws, is through the use of reusable water bottles. Reusable water bottles are a great option because they require less oil use for production and hence, “release less carbon dioxide”, which is amazing for our atmosphere and environment as a whole. Along with other noteworthy reusables, are masks. Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, masks were a concern for the environment. This is because the “majority of masks are manufactured from long-lasting plastic materials, and if discarded can persist in the environment for decades to hundreds of years”. By making use of reusable face mask options, especially with materials such as cotton, it can help reduce plastic used, and hence avoid landfill and toxic chemicals in the land and sea.

The Less Common Sustainable Practices

Eat Less Meat

Many individuals may not know that meat consumption is directly related to the conservation and sustaining of water. According to Footprint, “A single pound of beef takes, on average, 1,800 gallons of water to produce”. By limiting the meat purchased and consumed, everyone can take part in conserving water. By sustaining water that is clean, it can allow us to put water to better uses that are good for our environment. 

Buy Used Items

Another great sustainable practice is going the “used” route. For example, as mentioned by Arcadia, there are many items that we use in our daily lives or as household items that can be bought used. For example, these products include “furniture, clothing, tools, and more”. Major companies that are known for selling used items include Goodwill, as well as the Salvation Army. What makes using “used” items such a great sustainable practice is that by re-using an item, it prevents it from being disposed of improperly and ending up in a waste system that can directly negatively affect wildlife and cleanliness in the environment. 


Finally, voting is an amazing way to participate directly in the sustainability of the planet. In order to ensure the safety of our communities, and our environment as a whole, it is vital to be politically involved. As mentioned by the Center for Biological Diversity, we should “vote for candidates with strong environmental platforms. Urge your representatives to pass stronger policies to limit greenhouse gases, fight climate change, and protect our wildlife”. By voicing out our concerns and demands as a community, we can ensure that our views and earth are represented in critical policies. As humans on this earth, it is our responsibility to keep it safe, one sustainable practice at a time!


“How Do Straws Hurt the Environment?” Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Accessed October 13, 2021.

KOR Water, “How Reusable Water Bottles Help the Environment,” Kor Water (Kor Water, April 16, 2019).

Keiron Roberts Research Fellow in Clean Carbon Technologies and Resource Management, Cressida Bowyer Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, Simon Kolstoe Senior Lecturer in Evidence Based Healthcare and University Ethics Advisor, and Steve Fletcher Professor of Ocean Policy and Economy. “Coronavirus Face Masks: An Environmental Disaster That Might Last Generations.” The Conversation, September 18, 2021.

“The Water Footprint of Food.” FoodPrint, August 11, 2020.

Arcadia, Team. “10 Sustainability Practices You Can Follow at Home.” Blog. Arcadia, August 2, 2017.

 “12 Ways to Live More Sustainably.” 12 Ways to Live More Sustainably. Accessed October 14, 2021.

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month: Fighting for Environmental Justice

By Monica Gil dos Santos, Marketing and Communications & JEDI Committees

From September 15 to October 15, National Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration created to honor Latinx and Hispanic Americans’ histories, cultures, and contributions.

This celebration was first introduced by President Lyndon B. Johnson as National Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 “to pay special tribute to the Hispanic tradition.” Johnson created this week to celebrate the Independence Day of five Latin American countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua – that earned their independence from Spain on September 15. With Mexico, Chile, and Belize celebrating their independence from Spain and the United Kingdom on September 16, 18, and 21, the week was extended by President Ronald Reagan to the first Hispanic Heritage Month in 1988.

According to the Census Bureau, the U.S. Hispanic population is 60.6 million as of July 1, 2019. This makes people of Hispanic origin the largest ethnic or racial minority in the USA. Throughout the country, Hispanics help advance our economy, improve our communities, and bring a diverse and vital perspective to social, justice, and environmental issues. Yet, they are one of the marginalized communities disproportionately impacted by climate change.

According to a study published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2019, Hispanics breathe 63 % more air pollution that leads to health damage than they make, while Caucasians are exposed to 17% less air pollution than they make.

Housing Discrimination and Environmental Injustice

All over the world, marginalized groups and minority communities, especially people in low- and lower-middle-income countries, have been impacted by the increasing effects of climate change. A recent study found that the countries most affected by climate disasters are in the Global South, such as Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, and Haiti.

Also in the U.S., people of color suffer from a multitude of environmental injustices. For example, is it no secret that there is still residential segregation. People of minorities tend to live in neighborhoods considered “hazardous” by lending institutions, giving them no opportunity to improve their housing or economic situation.

According to a study published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2019, Hispanics breathe 63 % more air pollution that leads to health damage than they make, while Caucasians are exposed to 17 % less air pollution than they make.

In California, some regions are advised to stay indoors to avoid outdoor pollution exposure on hot days, potentially being stuck in a home without cool air. For example, 64 % of disadvantaged communities in southern Los Angeles live below the poverty level with no access to air conditioning or affordable energy, making them more vulnerable to hot temperatures during heat waves due to global warming.

Aside from the impact of extreme heat, severe weather such as hurricanes also become more frequent due to climate change. In 2005, New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina caused approximately 2,000 deaths and roughly one million residents’ displacement, with 75 % of the displaced residents being African American. More than 30 % of these residents didn’t own a car, making it difficult to leave the city in time. With no financial resources, people of color find themselves in a dangerous position of life and death due to climate hazards.

Furthermore, many people living in poverty and marginalized communities rely on agriculture and natural resources to survive. All over the world, people of color and low-income communities are less responsible for climate change yet more vulnerable to the effect of climate change, including heatwaves, storms, hurricanes, floods, and other disasters.

Driving Change in Climate Injustice

This year, we want to show you some ways to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month:

  • Practice self-education.
  • Elevate the voices of impacted communities and spread the word
  • Donate to organizations advocating for marginalized people of color and/or environmental justice, such as SanDiego350, Environmental Health Coalition and Latino Coalition for a Healthy California
  • Get involved in climate action and volunteer, SanDiego350 is always looking for more volunteers!
  • Support small-scale Hispanic farmers and businesses
  • Advocate for federal action to reduce emissions of pollutants that cause global warming and affect human health
  • Call on elected officials to protect most vulnerable communities from climate hazards and invest in equitable solutions to the climate crisis

Let’s end climate injustice.

Let’s speak up.

Let’s act.

¡Sí se puede!

Here is how you can get involved with SanDiego350:

Fill out our volunteer interest form or email us at for more information.

Celebrating Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! Today and everyday, SanDiego350 strives to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and climate injustice. Wondering how you can help? Check out a few ideas below.

Get involved 

With more than 14 teams and coalitions, SanDiego350 has an opportunity for everyone. Fill out the volunteer interest form and commit to getting involved. 

Meatless Mondays 

Livestock production contributes an estimated 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities — more than the entire transportation sector. Learn about how going meatless even once a week can make a difference here.

Swap single use plastics 

Replacing plastic bags and water bottles is a great place to start, but what about toothbrushes, soap containers, and food storage? Find inspiration here. 

Go thrifting

Did you know the fashion industry is the second largest consumer industry of water according to a UN report? Next time you need a new look, visit a local thrift store!

Start a garden 

There are many environmental benefits to planting your own garden. Find out which plants will thrive in your backyard or window box then get to growing! 

Attend an event

SanDiego350 hosts a variety of events, including webinars, rallies, book clubs and more. Check out our upcoming events to RSVP today!

Watch a documentary 

We’ve been in quarantine long enough that you’re looking for something new to watch right? We recommend Purple Mountains or The True Cost

Plan to actually bike and/or use public transportation more often

Did you know that the Metropolitan Transit System approved a plan to convert San Diego’s bus fleet to all zero-emissions vehicles by 2040? There are already several green buses in action; find the right route for you! 

Read more

Climate change is a complex, intersectional issue and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the information. Check out Earthday’s list of book recommendations to dig deeper on a range of topics.

Donate to support the Youth4Climate program 

Support SanDiego350’s youth fellowship program! We work to empower and engage youth throughout the region and they’re accomplishing incredible things. Learn more and donate to the program here. 

These suggestions probably sound familiar; we all know plastics are bad for the environment, right? But my challenge for you is to make these long term practices instead of just one time Earth Day actions. If this last year has shown us anything, we know that when we work together and advocate for change, we can make a difference. Commit to taking action today!

SanDiego350’s Youth4Climate Summer Camp

By: Hannah Riggins, SD350 Youth Volunteer

SanDiego350 recently launched the Youth4Climate (Y4C) Summer Camp to introduce climate activism techniques while allowing campers to discover their people, power, and passion. Designed for high school and college-level students, Y4C was first conceived in May, during the initial COVID lockdown, and is currently halfway through its second session of the 2020 Summer. The planning team consists of a diverse group of adult and youth volunteers, with each separate committee spearheaded by at least one youth activist responsible for administering weekly meetings and delegating tasks to other committee members.

Y4C Structure:

The curriculum development team, led by Kate Vedder, develops the goals and weekly content, as well as the assigned projects, discussion questions, challenges, and journal prompts. Managed by Izzy Lee, the production team produces educational webinars and complementary promotional videos. Meanwhile, Adelka Hancova’s promotional team generates social media content and supplementary materials. Meisha Meyers and Alexa Castruita, youth volunteers, and Jennifer Phelps, an adult volunteer, organize the Sunday meetings as the leaders of the overall coordination and volunteer coordination team.

Y4C Camper Experience:

By the official start date for Session 1 (June 29, 2020), 39 individuals had registered. Each camper began the 4-week session with a welcome packet. The packets were designed with each detail thoughtfully considered, down to the 100% recyclable packaging. In each packet, campers discovered SD350’s custom DIY Handbook – “Fight like a climate activist”, as well as “sneak-peeks” of the week ahead, from positive energy tea to herbaceous plant clippings. Certain items in the welcome packet symbolized an aspect of how we as humans are connected to the Earth. Guided emotional resilience exercises, inspired by Joana Macy’s teachings, empowered campers to use their connections to each other and to the Earth to channel passion toward climate activism. The exercise included deep breathing and a focus on self-compassion.

Y4C Impact:

Youth are often susceptible to burnout, facing many stress-inducing pressures of contemporary life alongside the ordinary difficulties of coming of age. The primary goal of Y4C is to help youth climate activists find their place within the movement. For that reason, the content design team placed extra emphasis on emotional resilience. Another key goal of Y4C is to cultivate an environment in which campers can build a network of relationships. Y4C wants young climate activists to know that they are not alone—that their voice is heard—and intentionally connects them with peer activists.

Kate Vedder, a rising senior at Point Loma High School, stated that, “It is so amazing to be surrounded by passionate activists and to be in this community the camp has created. This camp is extremely empowering and has shown me how to be the best climate activist I can be!”

Alexa Castruita, a rising junior at Hilltop High School in Chula Vista, wrote that, “joining the planning group and actually being a part of the camp has opened up my eyes to so many perspectives on the world and has helped me develop more empathy for people. The camp is an amazing way to learn and advance in your education of important issues.”

Session 2 kicked off in early August and includes roughly 50 campers from 6 states. We will do what we can to continue the momentum in these unprecedented times, knowing that we are all in this together.

Explore Y4C: Website; Instagram; Youtube.

Discussing a Just Recovery from COVID-19

Panelists Rebecca Rojas, Dr. Kyra Greene, Sonja Robinson, Carolina Martínez, and Dr. Amrah Salomón were brilliantly moderated by Madeleine McMurray.

By: Louise Potash, SD350 Communications Volunteer

Within a week of joining SanDiego350, I found we were hosting a panel discussion on a just recovery from COVID-19. I myself have been confronting these questions and feeling daunted by the enormity and complexity of our current and future systemic challenges.

The Facebook Live discussion brought together a diverse group of experts: Rebecca Rojas (SD350 Board Member), Dr. Kyra Greene (Center on Policy Initiatives), Sonja Robinson (NAACP and SUN Host), Carolina Martínez (Environmental Health Coalition), and Dr. Amrah Salomón (Writer, Artist, Educator, and Activist for Indigenous and Tribal communities). Panelists contributed their expertise in policy initiatives, climate justice, environmental health, and Indigenous and tribal communities, to address issues and opportunities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do we tackle environmental justice issues?

COVID-19 has given us an unfortunate but important opportunity to grapple with the potential economic and societal reorganization presented by this moment. The communities most directly affected by COVID-19 are the very same ones most affected by the climate crisis, social injustice, racism, economic injustice, and other adverse public health injustices. So, a truly just recovery from COVID-19 must address these intersecting issues.

The panelists also asked the audience to grapple with questions such as:

  • How has the San Diego tourism economy exploited land and people? 
  • What kind of labor do we envision in a just society?
  • How do we build a future for those who have historically been denied a future?
  • How can we shift to creating non-oppressive relationships between communities?

What would a just recovery look like and how do we get there?

The panel reminded us that while “recovery” implies a return to a previous state, the prior economic status quo was not healthy or just for all. Rather, we must re-imagine an economy with sustainable climate opportunities focused on communities of color. Moving forward, the needs and opinions of our frontline communities should be considered in the solution. As we restructure, we must engage with and listen to these community members.

To do so, we must be bold and push the dialog for regional change. Panelists suggested working with, and financially supporting, social movements based on intersectionality and voting on both local and national issues.

How can we as climate activists use this discussion to become engaged and effect change?

The panelists’ knowledge and experience were not only extensive and impressive, but I was most appreciative of their wisdom to ask questions of the audience and to ask us to be active participants. As to how we as climate activists can take action, the panel reinforced the importance of actions such as lobbying, petitioning, and voting.

This work is not new. This moment simply feels new in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must always continue working toward a reimagined society and economy that eradicates the injustices felt by underserved communities. The resounding remarks from the Just Recovery Panel tell us that recovery cannot be a return to previous conditions. Instead, a true just recovery must redesign a new normal that supports communities at the forefront of current environmental, racial, economic, societal and health injustices.

Intersecting Causes in Environmental Justice

Image Source: Josh Hild, Pexels

By: Lorenzo Nericcio, SD350 Communications Volunteer

Those interested in environmental causes, like ecological protection or climate change mitigation, often consider issues of racial or economic justice as separate causes: While we work to protect the environment, others labor against systemic oppression. Though it has never been entirely true that they are separate, it is even less so now, and recent events have highlighted how inescapably intertwined these two issues have become. 

The concept of intersectionality allows us to understand the connections between environmental issues and those of racial justice. Each of us lives at the intersection of multiple identities: racial, economic, gender, ecological, and so on. Each of these identities becomes, in an oppressive system, a way by which a person might in some cases experience injustice, or in others, privilege. 

Systems of oppression built around one form of identity often spill over into others. For example, people of color more often bear the burden of environmental degradation, as explained by this article on the intersectional effects of climate change. This realization—that Black and Brown people are often first on the front lines of rising seas and temperatures—forces those in the environmental community to confront the fact that focusing solely on the environmental effects of climate change is not enough; one must also understand its intersectional social effects. 

Environmentalists of color have renewed their arguments for an intersectional approach in the wake of protests responding to the police murders of George Flloyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. In the pages of the New York Times, Black environmentalists called on the environmental community to address these issues more prominently in their advocacy. And many environmental institutions have listened, committing to fight for racial justice alongside the environmental causes they champion.

While this may be a new concept for some in the environmental community—and especially for those most privileged—it’s important to note that for people of color, fighting for their right to a safe, clean, and ecologically sound place to live has long been part of the fight for justice. Our contemporary conceptions of environmental justice owe their development to Black leaders, a history discussed in this article, also from

For those new to the environmental justice movement who wish to become more effective advocates and activists, it is important to start by learning. As a White person or other person of privilege, you should focus on becoming an ally: someone who is not the direct subject of oppression but who stands with and supports those who are oppressed. The first step is listening to the needs and views of those who directly experience oppression, as described recently by a guide in Vox. By listening, understanding, and acting strategically, environmental activists can learn to become effective allies, and stand in solidarity with those fighting for racial and environmental justice. 

If you’re interested, please take the time to read the articles linked within this piece. Additional readings are linked below:

The 5 Big Moves to Sustainable Transportation

Image Source: Photo of Traffic with Smog from the EPA.

By: Bee Mittermiller, SD350 Transportation Committee Leader

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is working on a 2021 regional transportation plan they have nicknamed “The Five Big Moves.” We must speak up to make sure this plan prioritizes transit over highways.

Although these 40-year plans are updated every four years, what we know of the next plan indicates a marked departure from SANDAG’s highway-centric past plans and could shift our transportation system for years to come. To understand how important this current planning phase at SANDAG is, it helps to know the composition and recent history of the organization.

SANDAG has a large staff led by the Executive Director, Hasan Ikhrata, but ultimately its decisions are determined by a Board of Directors—members representing all 18 local cities’ city councils and the County’s Board of Supervisors. They are appointed by each city council and the supervisors. So the decisions they make reflect local politics. 

Tens of billions of dollars of public tax dollars are spent in the San Diego area for public transportation, which includes the automobile system, the public transit system, and the bicycle system.

Gary Gallegos was the Executive Director before Mr. Ikhrata was hired. However, in August of 2017 he resigned from the position in disgrace. What led to this was the failure of Measure A on the 2016 ballot, which would have increased the sales tax by a half cent for additional revenue for SANDAG. An independent investigation concluded that SANDAG had intentionally misled the public about internal calculations that raised significant doubts that the levy would actually deliver its promised $18 billion over 40 years, and also showed that the existing “transnet” sales tax was failing to meet estimated revenues, creating significant shortfalls in the budget.

Meanwhile, tension had grown between those in urban centers who wanted to focus almost exclusively on new mass-transit projects and those in suburban communities who wanted to focus on highways and auto-centric planning. Politicians and environmental groups—including the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, the Sierra Club, and then Attorney General, Kamala Harris—were especially disgruntled with SANDAG’s plan under Gary Gallegos’ leadership. In 2011, these groups sued SANDAG, but were ultimately overruled by the Calofornia Supreme Court.

When Hasan Ikhrata became the new Executive Director in December, 2018, he inherited the plan being developed under Gallegos that was based on revenue projections that proved to be overly optimistic. That plan was unaffordable and unable to meet the State requirements for greenhouse gas emission reduction.

An extension was granted to allow SANDAG time to start the planning process all over again. The Board of Directors has been approving the plan, now called “The Five Big Moves,” at each vote along the way, but as the deadline approaches, some of the members are pushing for more highway projects that they claim were “promised” and necessary for safety. If they do add more highway lanes, greenhouse gas emissions will increase, and thereby jeopardize the ability of the plan to meet or exceed the State targets for cleaner air.

By law, the public has the right to give input during the planning process. Our voices are needed to let the members of the Board of Directors know that we support “The Five Big Moves” as the best way to solve our transportation problems and the urgent problems of climate change.

SanDiego350 has the unique opportunity to meet with SANDAG’s Executive Director, Hasan Ikhrata, to discuss the most pressing issues in regional transportation and climate change. Join us virtually on Wednesday July 22nd at 7:00 pm by registering here.

SD350 Builds Power with Community Budget Alliance

By: Joe Wainio, member of SD350’s Coalition Team.

SanDiego350 has been a member of the Community Budget Alliance (CBA) for four years. CBA is a coalition of local organizations advocating for the interests of immigrants, low-income workers and communities of color. It mainly becomes active during the period when the mayor and city council consider the annual city budget (March-June), lobbying for more funding for its member organizations’ priorities.

Participating in multiracial, cross class coalitions such as CBA is a strategic way to build the power we need to challenge the 1%. Without a fundamental realignment of political forces in our country, away from those who put profits before people, we won’t be able to create a more just society, including taking action to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Currently, levels of economic inequality are near historic highs. Americans in the top 0.1% of income earners capture over 196 times the income of the bottom 90%. Racial disparities exacerbate the unfairness even further.

Our country was built on and still reflects the legacy of white supremacy. In 2016, median wealth of white families was about 10 times that of Black families and 8 times that of Latino families.

COVID-19 has demonstrated health and employment disparities, as well.  Black people are dying at rates almost 3 times those of whites. A study by SANDAG showed that unemployment in Logan Heights had reached 37.5% in early May, while in Rancho Bernardo it was “only” 20%.

Political inequality follows as a logical consequence of this economic inequality. According to research by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, “the preferences of the average American [on federal government policy] appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon policy.” Meanwhile, big corporate lobbyists have no problem getting their agenda enacted.

By engaging in the fight for equality with our allies, we build relationships and trust and expand the progressive movement for change. Fighting side by side with the Community Budget Alliance, and in other cross-class and multiracial coalitions, is the only way to build a movement strong enough to challenge the status quo.

Interview with SD350 Member of the Month: Maria Rivera

Maria Rivera is a volunteer leader with SD350 and a member of the JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) training effort.
SD350: How did you get involved with SD350 and when was that?
Maria Rivera: I joined the actions of activists during college and then found SanDiego350 when looking for a local chapter of the organization. My first action was volunteering for the People’s Climate March in 2014, where I saw over 1,000 San Diegans march to call for climate justice. We all seek a connection to the world around us. As a kid, I learned the importance of our connection to nature by living in places like Mexico City. It’s the right thing to do, to ensure equitable access to the bounty of nature. I’m lucky to be surrounded by family and friends who agree, I do the work for them.
SD350: What are three words that your friends would use to describe you?
MR: Sincere, good-humored and laid-back.
SD350: What drives your activism? 
MR: Experiencing scarcity. And knowing that nature will provide if we can act with a generosity of spirit.
SD350: How does SD350 stay focused on justice within policy work?MR: SD350 volunteers understand that reducing GHG emissions and improving renewable energy technologies is not enough to resolve climate change impacts. SD350 offers a service by researching policy changes that affect working folks and advocating for the interests of those who want a resilient governance prepared for current and future ecological changes. SD350 advocates for ambitious policies that match the level of the problems related to climate change especially for those who lack representative platforms.
SD350: How is justice related to this for you?
MR: A healthy environment is a human right. But it’s not enough to see this on paper. I think most people want equitable access to nature’s resources, but that won’t happen unless we account for the disparities that exist within and between our neighborhoods. During the ongoing pandemic, we’re experiencing what happens when the environment impacts our livelihoods; some households can overcome better than others. Justice means recognizing that consumption rates and economic structures can change and must change to ensure our human rights for a habitable planet.
SD350: What action were you involved with that made you the most excited?
MR: I got the chance to meet the other 350 organizations around California. The State is wonderfully diverse and each county has a personality, the 350 groups were no different. I was encouraged and overjoyed to meet other people around Cali who are part of a community of activists. I also met Rebecca and Caro and we all became members of the San Diego 350 JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) training group. To be honest, I get to hang out with friends and do exciting work in every SD350 action that I get to do.
SD350: What else would you like people to know about you?
MR: Meditating on and taking action for our beautiful Earth fills me with joy. I’m a first-generation immigrant and I have two nephews in the armed forces. At one point, most of my extended family lived in Barrio Logan but I have lived in North Park most of my life (think, before the breweries). After college, I did fieldwork around coasts in Mexico and research in Mexico City. I’m positive that anyone, no matter what position they have in life, can help and be helped by treasuring earth and its resources.