Ocean Friendly Gardens Activist Toolkit/Introduction

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Ocean Friendly Gardens Activist Toolkit
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Chapter 1: Introduction

This Manual is a guide for launching, building and sustaining a Surfrider chapter Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) Program. Right up front, you will find simple steps to getting started. The OFG Program was envisioned to provide another tool in a chapter’s “toolbox” and build on existing chapter programs. We also hope that chapter volunteers will find OFG fun, do-able, and adjustable to your chapter’s capacity.

The OFG program is based on the landscaping and gardening principles and practices of "CPR - Conservation, Permeability and Retention © - to revive our watersheds and oceans.” The OFG Program educates our members, the general public and decision makers on simple steps everyone can take to reduce pollution, conserve water, restore natural watershed functions, and create habitat restoration – all in our developed landscapes. In addition, the teaching can happen through simply distributing our OFG literature – or more in-depth education in a class or in the garden, and through hands-on learning. Ultimately, we want to develop good examples of OFG and cultivate the ability of people to teach others.

Your level of participation in the program may depend on your chapter’s current capacity, and can change as that capacity and interest in OFG grows. Included here are basic program plans for varied levels of chapter capacity. Based on observations of existing chapter OFG Program rollouts, we have broken down the stages of chapter programs into four levels:

  • Informational – sharing info while tabling, on your website, via social media
  • Educational - walks (Lawn Patrol) and talks
  • Workdays – Garden Assistance Party or other activities
  • Policy - proposing changes to public policy for existing and new development

Rather than reinventing the wheel, identify people and groups in your area that are working on sustainable gardening and “green solutions.” They have knowledge, resources and energy to share and can benefit from what OFG brings them. You can share your love of the ocean and increase peoples’ appreciation for healthy, pollution-free watersheds and beaches.

So get out into your community, and help spark a trend of OFGs street-by-street!

National OFG Coordinator

Surfrider’s National OFG Coordinator is Mara Dias (mdias@surfrider.org). The National Coordinator will assist Chapters with launching, building and maintaining an OFG Program and utilize electronic media to share information, success stories and tools. The Coordinator will also aim to attend Regional Chapter Conferences to present this information and help develop relationships with potential local partners.

Note Note: Rather than print a lot of copies of the manual and mail them out, we will post it online at Ocean Friendly Gardens Manual. This will give us the flexibility of testing out how it works and getting your feedback, then updating it.

Investing in Cleaner Surf - In Our Own Front Yards

What does a garden have to do with the ocean? In a natural environment, water is usually absorbed by plants or soaks into the land and groundwater, with some running off when the land gets saturated. But modern city codes have been written to treat water as a flood hazard, sending it to the street – where it leads to storm drains and the ocean. All water is treated this way (as a waste product), whether it is rainwater or overspray from irrigation. Cities are beginning to review these codes, but the old way is still the norm.

When water runs off our properties, it takes with it landscape chemicals, automobile exhaust and oil, animal poo and more. This is a kind of pollution we can’t collect at beach cleanups. Urban runoff from landscapes has become a primary source of ocean pollution, particularly during wet weather. So storms become a good time to catch waves and an illness from the pollution. (Click here for source of image below.)

OFG Right Wrong.jpg

The perception (and reality) that the ocean is polluted is also bad for coastal economies and can discourage tourism. Add to this that moving and cleaning water uses lots of energy, which can contribute to climate change and sea level rise – resulting in the contamination of our coastal freshwater aquifers from “seawater intrusion.” Further, cleaning up polluted water at the “end of the pipe” is expensive and not always feasible.

Surfrider realized that it needed to create tools to take action in gardens to prevent pollution – whether at home, at work or in public spaces. It’s an investment in a healthier and safer coast and ocean as well as a robust coastal economy. The Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) Program educates and assists people in "applying CPR - Conservation, Permeability and Retention - to revive our watersheds and oceans:"

Conservation of: (a) water, (b) fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, (c) energy (moving & cleaning water use lots of energy), (d) wildlife habitat and (e) reduced use of gas-powered maintenance machinery (air pollutants) and yard waste through growing native or climate-appropriate plants, spaced with their mature size in mind. Growing vegetables and fruit trees are cool, too, because it reduces resources needed to import food.
OFG 2.jpg
Permeability through healthy, biologically active soil that acts like a sponge as well as utilizing materials for - or making cuts in - driveways, walkways and patios that allows water to percolate into the soil. In addition to aiding in runoff reduction, permeable surfaces in a landscape also can help recharge depleted groundwater resources and reduce flood volumes during heavy rain events.
Retention devices like rain chains and rain barrels can slow down and capture rainwater for re-use during dry periods, whether for ornamental or edible plants. But maybe more importantly, rain gardens capture rainwater and retain it in the soil for plants to access during the dry seasons, while preventing it from running off the property and adding to the local pollution load and flood risks.

Here’s one way to remember how to apply CPR and work with water: slow it, spread it, sink it. Gardens can be beautiful, resourceful, wildlife-friendly and prevent runoff. Less time and money spent on mowing-and-blowing means more time to enjoy the coast and ocean we love so much!

Part of Surfrider's The Clean Water Initiative

OFG fits within Surfrider’s integrated approach to water called our Clean Water Initiative (CWI), http://www.surfrider.org/programs/entry/clean-water. OFG is the “conservation” component of the CWI, complimenting its other elements: green streets, greywater use, wastewater recycling, and restoring creeks/rivers/wetlands. Greywater refers to the water leaving a clothes washer, sink or bathtub, and is a resource that can be employed in OFGs, e.g., water a non-native fruit tree. Wastewater can be cleansed through soil and pumped for drinking water, or cleaned to a level to send right through drinking water pipes.

Green streets describes a whole host of tools, in both new development and re-development, to improve water quality and restore watersheds functioning more naturally. For example, it can employ techniques like cuts in street curbs to direct water into vegetated parkways. On a larger scale, it employs wetlands constructed to capture and clean runoff. Research has shown green streets to be the most cost-effective means of managing stormwater and preventing water pollution. Green streets can help cities meet water quality compliance regulations while at the same time augment local groundwater supplies and improve flood management.

Simple curb cut “block”
“Block” (lower left) lets water into parkway

Learn more about the CWI by watching Surfrider's animated short film, The Cycle of Insanity: https://vimeo.com/10328536