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Marin launches tri-county effort to reduce coastal pollution

Marin launches tri-county effort to reduce coastal pollution

After coastal communities were overwhelmed by visitors — and their garbage — during the pandemic, Marin and two Northern California counties have joined forces to stem the pollution.

A three-year campaign, known as the “Cleaner California Coast” initiative, seeks to expand the “leave-no-trace” message often used at national and state parks to all coastal areas of Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

Whether someone is staying at a rental property in Stinson Beach or hiking in a national park, campaign proponents said the intent is to have people pack away any waste they generate or to prevent waste by using reusable or compostable items.

“It’s kind of a simple message: If you’re at the coast, come prepared,” said Marin County Parks and Open Space communications manager Cristina Torresan.

The initiative will begin in earnest this year, first gaining community-level support and partners and eventually growing into a larger marketing campaign. A new website launched at cleanercoast.org.

Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, who represents West Marin and helped spearhead the collaboration, said he’s frequently asked why more garbage cans aren’t made available. He said rural areas lack the capacity and frequency of service needed to keep up with visitation surges, which has led to overflowing garbage cans, littering and people using the great outdoors as a bathroom.

“Someone has to maintain them. And that’s the issue … we’re just overwhelmed,” Rodoni said. “We don’t have the infrastructure and I don’t think any of our coastal communities want a street lined with garbage cans. This is really a measure to get people thinking about what their impacts are on the coast.”

While counties, environmental organizations and public land managers have promoted waste reduction through their own original messaging and outreach, proponents said they have lacked consistency and coordination.

The initiative hopes to solve that by creating a playbook that can be used across all three counties. The group has also partnered with the Colorado-based Leave No Trace nonprofit group.

Torresan said another benefit of the collaboration is to be able to pool and obtain funding to eventually begin a larger marketing plan that can reach residents throughout the Bay Area.

“It allows us to leverage and have a singular message that it’s not about us, it’s about the coast,” Torresan said.

Marin County has allocated $300,000 over three years for the campaign, with about $250,000 remaining, Rodoni said.

The initiative is planned to occur in several phases. The first phase is to begin to identify and train partners at the community level to promote this message, whether it be businesses, visitors bureaus, public service agencies, environmental organizations or neighborhood councils.

From there, the campaign seeks to find ways to spread the message, through promotional materials, maps of facilities such as bathroom locations in West Marin, signage and more.

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Each county has selected a lead entity to coordinate efforts. Marin’s initiative is being led by the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin nonprofit group based in Point Reyes Station.

Madeline Nieto Hope, the project coordinator for the nonprofit, said the campaign is targeting four areas: preventing cigarette and e-cigarette waste; preventing human and pet fecal contamination; promoting reusable food ware and items; and having visitors pack out what they bring.

“Pollution is a big risk factor in our communities for our coastal zone,” Nieto Hope said. “If we can’t get some controls in place around pollution, there is a lot of harm that can be done to humans, animals, to the natural environment. What we’re trying to do with this initiative is introduce protective factors.”

Nieto Hope said the messaging can be delivered in several forms, such as setting up a table or stand with information on the campaign at events or popular destinations.  The Environmental Action Committee of West Marin plans to host a coastal cleanup day on Sept. 23.

Businesses or rental properties could include promotional materials for guests or customers. Nieto Hope said there is also work to get more messaging out through social media, radio and eventually a larger marketing campaign.

Nieto Hope said the county’s plastic food ware ban set to take effect in November will go a long way toward reducing waste, but said visitors can still bring single-use plastic from outside of the county.

“We’re trying to acknowledge there is a role for everyone to play, and we have to do with as many people who are willing to be in the area with us to make it happen,” Nieto Hope said.