Swim with the fishes – or sharks, or manatees…

I’m not talking about the creepy kind of swimming with the fishes that you hear about in old mob movies where some poor guy’s feet have just been coated in cement and he’s about to be offed and tossed overboard.  Eeew. 

No - I’m talking about the whole “one-with-nature” kind.  You know…where you get to swim along side whale sharks, or interact with dolphins, or even where you can watch a group of sharks feed.  Maybe this sounds weird to some people, but I’ve always loved animals, especially sea animals.  My favorite show used to be Flipper, I have an adopted manatee named after me, and I only eat dolphin-safe tuna.

Known as the “cow of the sea,” manatees are large, gray mammals with bodies that taper to a flat, paddle-shaped tail. They have two flippers and their head and face are wrinkled with whiskers on the snout. Manatees are gentle herbivores and live in the warm shallow waters off of the coast of Florida during the winter, but are known to travel to Alabama, Georgia and South Carolinain the summer.  Manatees are slow-moving by nature and surface throughout the day making them vulnerable to boat propellers.  Many operations that offer manatee tours donate a portion of their proceeds to wildlife preservation organizations that help to protect these peaceful creatures – these are the only ones you should support as there are other business who add to the problem, rather than trying to educate about manatee preservation and protect against further harm to the species.  You can also adopt a manatee or donate money to help research, education, and conservation programs that promote protective legislation.

I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures of divers swimming next to sharks that look about as big as a school bus, and thought to yourself, “um, hasn’t this guy seen Jaws?!”  Well lucky for him, though these enormous creatures (they can grow upto 40 feet in length!) are sharks, they are only whale sharksand prefer plankton over people anyday.  They can be found off of the coast of the Philippines, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar and off of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninnsula.  Isla Holbox, in Mexico’s Riviera Maya region, sees these gentle giants migrate through their waters each year from May to September.

A different type of shark encounter entirely, many outfits in the Bahamas offer opportunities for vacationers to defy their basic human instincts and swim with some of the world’s fiercest predators in their natural environment.  Shark dives and feeds can be found in almost every area of the Bahamas (West End, Grand Bahama is rumored to be the best location) and each offers a different experience seeing different species of shark.  Caribbean Reef Sharks are most commonly seen, however, lucky divers may also spot Hammerheads, Tiger sharks, Bull sharks, Silky sharks and Lemon sharks.  Most underwater shark experiences have divers done chain mail (protective shark suit) and orient themselves with their backs against a reef while they, or a guide, feed the sharks.

Vacationers who want to swim with dolphins should look for opportunities where the dolphins are wild and free in their natural habitat, rather than with dolphins that are in captivity for the sole purpose of pulling tourists around all day.  Hawaiihosts many of these dives, with their first priority being to respect and protect the wildlife.  Dolphins are some of the most inquisitive, intelligent and playful animals in the world and will often approach swimmers and divers on their own – Sunlight on Waterin Kona, Hawaii boasts a 98% success rate of finding dolphins on their excursions!  It is not uncommon for divers to get a bonus and also see Humpback whales, Manta Rays and sea turtles.  Dolphins have been said to have a spiritual connection to humans, making this an experience that any vacationer will not soon forget.

Beachhouse.com Clients go GREEN!

This video shares the story of the Anna Maria Historic Green Village, the pioneering sustainable development and one of the most exciting projects Anna Maria Island has seen.

Click HERE to view some great vacation rental properties on Anna Maria Island!

Through the Historic Green Village, we aim to create a new standard for sustainability by developing the first LEED Platinum and the first Net Zero Energy campus in the Florida.  LEED means Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a rating system with certification for “green” buildings developed by the Green Building Environmental Council of the United States (USGBC) and provides certain environmental standards for construction.  Being Zero Net Energy, means the Green Village, will generate more energy on-site than it will consume in a given year.

The Green Village covers 6 lots on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria City and when completed, will contain 7 commercial buildings and 2 rental units.  Our goal is to showcase the best in sustainable design and technologies while maintaining the unique charm of our historic seaside community.   Over the last six month we have planned and designed a wide range of strategies and technologies that demonstrate how we can foster a sustainable future while preserving the historic charm and scale of Anna Maria Island and set a new benchmark of performance in energy, water and sustainable design.

The project will feature:

  • HOT Technology: 100 kilowatts of Photovoltaic’s (PV) panels to generate electricity on-site and solar thermal panels to produce a steady supply of hot water for our café
  • COOL Technology: Geothermal Cooling & Heating – using the constant temperature of the earth to reduce the energy required to cool & heat our buildings
  • SMART Technology: from the simple – using cisterns to capture rainwater to irrigate our site and flush toilets, to High Performance equipment: all fixtures and appliances will be either EPA Energy Star or Water Sense certified; ensuring that only the most-efficient equipment is used
  • REUSE & RECYCLING on a big scale – historic buildings, recycled materials, low-emitting paints, sealants and solvents, and a range of other sustainable design choices and material selections choices that reflect our desire to have minimum impact on our environment.

We hope that you might find this video interesting in regard to the projects and programs you are currently involved.  For more information, please visit the Anna Maria Historic Green Village Website.

Beachhouse.com Homeowners go GREEN!

Beachhouse.com is lucky enough to work with some of the best homeowners in the world…they never cease to amaze us.  One of our clients, PineappleFish, is so committed to doing good for the planet, that they went green for the Holidays.  We are happy to present to you…

The Greenest Christmas Tree in Florida!

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PineappleFish wanted to celebrate the holiday season with a beautiful tree at the site of the Anna Maria Green Village, but of course, being Green they did not want to use electricity to power the lights.

The Result?  The first Zero Net Energy Tree ever seen on Anna Maria, with power for the lights generated by the sun!

Tom Stockebrand, their solar expert, took a very simple solar panel, generating 175 W of energy over 5 hours.  He hooked it into a bunch of 24-volt batteries to store the energy and an inverter, which converts the energy into an electrical current to turn the tree lights on.  Then they set the tree lights onto a timer – from 6pm to 11pm each night.   Only 5 hours of sunshine charges the batteries!   They switch the lights on when the sun goes down and get 5 hours of electricity to light the lights!

The panel actually generates more than they need because the tree lights don’t need very much (and Florida has plenty of wonderful sunshine).
If you’re on the Island, check it out, and perhaps take a photo with the only sun-powered Christmas Tree in Anna Maria (maybe the whole of Florida!)

Click HERE for more information on the Anna Maria Historic Green Village and all of the Green initiatives on Anna Maria Island.

Come Party with Us and Adopt a Shark!

ShowcaseJoin Beachhouse.com at The Great Shark Affair, a special public awareness event demonstrating the effects of our actions on our oceans, coastlines, bays, reef systems, and the blue eco-systems. Enjoy delicious gourmet food and beverages while learning about sharks & our oceans, bidding on auction items and playing “Shark Jeopardy”!

header-adoptasharkYou should also check out AdoptAShark.com is a fun way to make a difference, learn about the ocean ecosystem, and get involved in conservation. Not only can you actively contribute to their preservation, you can actually track and name your own real, living shark!

Why protect sharks? Sharks are an essential part of the ocean’s food chain, and they are currently threatened by overfishing, finning and bycatch. They are needed to maintain balance by preying on sick and weak animals, preventing the spread of disease and keeping population sizes in check. These creatures seem to have an ability to resist cancers and other diseases, and further research may yield lasting benefits to all humans.

Croix

adopt "Croix" today!

Your Adopt a Shark donation is used to purchase new tags for continued research on the movement and behavior of sharks. You will learn about and be able to see tracking maps of your shark, depending on when and how the shark was tagged. If your tag is “live”, each day you can come back to our website to see where your shark is, and if any new information has been posted about your shark. Satellite track can show movement of your shark for 3-6 months! In addition, you will also receive a Shark Adoption Kit, including an Adoption Certificate, a picture of your shark, an Adoptashark T-shirt, information about your shark, and lots of fun stickers and activities!

What can else can you do to help? Avoid shark products, make responsible seafood choices, keep our beaches and oceans clean, write your government representatives to protect sharks, and spread the word to raise awareness!

Click HERE to adopt a shark now, or find them on Twitter & Facebook!


Click here to Adopt a SharkPowered by SharkBreak.com

Organizations We Love – Vacation Homes for Charity

charityB

We love finding great companies and organizations to blog about.  And even better when the company or organization incorporates a great cause and the travel or vacation rental industry!  We just came across Vacation Homes for Charity, a great organization that partners vacation rental homeowners with charities in need.

From their Website:

dogoodfrontpreview-300x218“There are 1000′s of charities in dire need of live auction items.  Our goal is to make the process of donating time at a vacation home to a charity easy and efficient for all parties.

In the fall of 2008, we at The Society opened up our platform to help charities source vacation homes for their auctions and other fund raising events. We tested this new service in the fall all parties including homeowners, property managers, real estate brokers, and charities were delighted.

We created VacationHomesForCharity.org to highlight upcoming events, success stories and news regarding this new service.  For 2009 we have some audacious goals: we are going to giveaway over 1000 nights to charities! It’s time to go big and the charities need our help.”

If you own a vacation home or know someone with a vacation home, you can CONTACT them or REGISTER today!

Before you donate your rental property, be sure that you’re up on the latest tax regulations in regards to what you can and can’t write off.  For information on the tax benefits, you can check out this ARTICLE.

Cheers to a good cause…

2007 Surfrider Chardonnay2005 Surfrider Red2008 Surfrider Sauv Blanc
The other night, my friend came over for dinner and, being the great friend that she is, she also brought along a bottle of wine…and not just any wine.  An avid reader of this blog (thanks K!) she knows that the Surfrider Foundation is a frequent topic of conversation, so she brought a bottle of Surfrider Chardonnay!

I know…who knew they even made that?!  Well, technically, Surfrider doesn’t make it.  Rosenthal – The Malibu Estate winery is responsible for this delicious wine.  And even better, 85% of the fruit used in the wine was grown in the Edna Valley of San Luis Obispo where I grew up!

After a glass (maybe 2…) I started researching for this post.  Turns out Rosenthal has a whole line of Surfrider wines:  a 2007 Surfrider Chardonnay, a 2005 Surfrider Red,a 2008 Surfrider Sauvignon Blanc, and even a 375 ml 2005 Red Dessert Wine.

labelI am such a wine novice that I wouldn’t feel right subjecting you all to my review of these wines, so I’ll leave it to Randy Fuller, writer of the Now and Zin wine blog:

It’s a pale straw-colored wine.  The nose features a fragrant show of mainly tropical fruit and flowers.  The palate is not belabored by wood, although it is 30% barrel-fermented, with five months in oak.  In fact, it feels quite clean and crisp in the mouth. The fruit comes from Edna Valley, not Rosenthal’s Malibu estate, which may explain some of the minerality.  I even noticed a slight effervecsence on the second day which I didn’t see in the previous night’s glass.  I’m a big fan of Chardonnay with a hint of oak, but I also love a refreshingly unoaked variety.  Surfrider falls somewhere in between.  I’m glad I could hang five – fingers, that is – on a Surfrider Chardonnay.
___

Randy Fuller, Now and Zin Wine Blog

Rosenthal supports the Surfrider Foundation by donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each bottle.

Now you don’t have to feel guilty about having that glass of wine…you’re helping to keep our oceans and beaches clean!  Cheers!

Help Wildlife Affected by the BP Oil Spill

Help NWF save wildlife in the Gulf.  Text “WILDLIFE” to 20222 to donate $10.

http://www.nwf.org/oilspill


How Can You Help:

  • Volunteer for the Cleanup Efforts – The National Wildlife Federation is helping coordinate the on-the-ground volunteer effort, including NWF’s Gulf Coast Surveillance Teams, which are being set up to monitor the coastline for wildlife in distress.
  • Text “WILDLIFE” to 20222 to Donate $10 – You can help wildlife threatened by the oil spill by donating via your mobile phone. Your donation will help support National Wildlife Federation’s on-the-ground volunteer and restoration efforts.
  • Speak Up for Cleaner Energy Choices – Tell your senators that now more than ever we need to pass comprehensive legislation that provides America with cleaner and safer energy choices.  Click HERE for a list of all senators and their contact information.
  • Help Spread Messages Online – Follow @NWF on Twitter or join us on Facebook to get all the latest updates about the BP Oil Spill. On the ground in the Gulf?  Share your photos and videos on Flickr by tagging them SPILL_NW10.

PLEASE, if you find wildlife along the Gulf Coast that you think may have been injured by the oil spill, do NOT attempt to rescue it. Call the Oiled Wildlife hotline at 866-557-1401.

Karl Strauss Brewery’s Beach to Brewery 2010 – A Beer & Music Fest to benefit Surfrider Foundation

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WHAT: Beach to Brewery Beer + Music Fest

WHEN: Saturday May 8, 2010 from 2:00p-7:00p

WHERE: Karl Strauss Main Brewery in Pacific Beach (Map It!)

Other Info:

  • This year marks the 7th year of supporting the local San Diego Surfrider Chapter.
  • Admission includes a souvenir taster glass and 5 samples.
  • Tickets are $25/pre-sale and $30/at the door.  All proceeds go directly to the Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Chapter.
  • Interested in becoming a Surfrider member?  Buy a ticket to the event and a 1-year membership for only $40 a $50 value.
  • On-line pre-sale ticket sales end at 2:00p on Friday May 7th. Tickets will be available at the door on May 8th for $30 each.
  • Free shuttles starting at 1:40pm are available from Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach and will run throughout the event.   The PB pick-up/drop off point is at the corner of Dawes/Thomas at the edge of the PB Library.  No event parking is available at the Library, so plan accordingly.   The OB pick-up/drop off point is at Dusty Rhodes Park.

Check out this video from their event last year:

Karl Strauss Beach to Brewery from Love Machine Films on Vimeo.

Cool Cause – SurfAid International

surfaidIn 1999, on a surf trip to the Mentawai Islands (a chain of about seventy islands and islets off the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia) Dr. Dave Jenkins, physician and surfer, fell in love with more than the epic waves  - the Mentawai people.  These people, mostly women and children, were dying from preventable and treatable diseases like malaria, measles, cholera and tetanus.

Once Dr. Dave returned home, he couldn’t forget the people he had met in Mentawai.  A year later, in 2000, along with his long-time friend Dr Steve Hathaway, they co-founded SurfAid International, a non-profit organization dedicated to the alleviation of human suffering through community-based health programs.

“The mission of SurfAid International, a non-profit humanitarian organization, is to improve the health, well-being and self-reliance of people living in isolated regions connected to us through surfing.”

When the Asian Tsunami struck in 2004, followed by the 2005 Nias Earthquake, SurfAid expanded its operations to Nias.  According to its Website, “With the support of the New Zealand and Australian Governments, the global surfing and wider community, and most importantly the Mentawai and Nias people of the affected areas themselves, SurfAid has come to exemplify the healing power of cross-cultural partnerships.”

SurfAid is always coming up with fun events that you can be a part of – think art auctions with a portion of the proceeds benefiting SurfAid, or Swim4Humanity, Kick4Humanity and Paddle4Humanity days.  Bookmark their EVENTS page to stay in the loop on events happening near you!

This is how a simple surf trip ended up changing the world.  Don’t you just love people like this?!

Do you know SurfAid?  Have you ever participated in one of their events?  We’d love to hear from you in our comments section!

TOMS Shoes: One Day Without Shoes – April 8th

toms-shoes-new-logo-500x5001TOMS (you know, the awesome shoe company that donates a pair of shoes to a child in need every time you buy a pair of their shoes) has declared that TODAY, April 8th is One Day Without Shoes Day!  Below is some information from their Website about the day, the cause and the solution.

“One Day Without Shoes is the day we spread awareness about the impact a simple pair of shoes can have on a child’s life. On April 8th, we ask people to go the day, part of the day or even just a few minutes, barefoot, to experience a life without shoes first-hand, and inspire others at the same time.”

-Tom’s

It’s Hard Without Shoes

Through everyday encounters with domestic poverty, we are reminded to appreciate having food and shelter, but most of us all but forget about our feet. Food, shelter, AND shoes facilitate life’s fundamentals. Imagine a life without shoes; constantly aware of the ground in front of you, suffering regular cuts and scrapes, tending to infection after each walk, and enduring not only terrain, but heat and cold.022807_toms_shoes

The problem is large, but the solution is simple. Wearing shoes and practicing basic hygiene can prevent both infection and disease due to unsafe roads and contaminated soil. By imagining a life barefoot, we can all contribute to the awareness of these conditions. On April 8th, communities, campuses, organizations, and individuals are banding together to walk barefoot for One Day Without Shoes.

Take a walk with us on April 8th, 2010.

Facts:

  • In some developing nations, children must walk for miles to school, clean water and to seek medical help.
  • Cuts and sores on feet can lead to serious infection.
  • Often, children cannot attend school barefoot.
  • In Ethiopia, approximately one million people are suffering from Podoconiosis, a debilitating and disfiguring disease caused by walking barefoot in volcanic soil.
  • Podoconiosis is 100% preventable with basic foot hygiene and wearing shoes.

Earth Friendly Companies: Seventh Generation

7thSeventh Generation, a Burlington, Vermont-based eco-concious company was founded in 1988 on the idea that:

“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”

-From the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy

Two decades later, as the rest of the world is now understanding the importance of sustainability, conservation and preservation of natural resources, Seventh Generation became one of the fastest growing companies in Vermont.

The concept that “Every time you use a Seventh Generation product you are making a difference by saving natural resources, reducing pollution, keeping toxic chemicals out of the environment and making the world a safer place for this and the next seven generations” is echoed in their products.seventh-generation

They now offer a complete line of non-toxic household products including:

  • non-chlorine bleached
  • 100% recycled paper towels, bathroom and facial tissues, and napkins
  • non-toxic, phosphate-free cleaning, dish and laundry products
  • plastic trash bags made from recycled plastic
  • chlorine-free baby diapers, training pants, and baby wipes
  • chlorine-free feminine care products, including organic cotton tampons

img_article_7-truthsSeventh Generation does more than creating these amazing and guilt-free products – they aim to educate their customers about making informed choices about how their daily lives can positively effect the world we all live in.  Their Website has a “Learn” section, which included a blog, forums, and even an “Ask Scienceman” section where people can get answers to questions like, “I love to paint my nails. Recently I bought a brand which claimed to be non-toxic. It had the same overwhelming chemical smell the others have. Is there non-toxic nail polish and remover?”  (click HERE for the answer).

Overall, we LOVE Seventh Generation’s products and their principles and are excited to see what products they put their stamp on next.  We use their products every day and many of the owners of the beach vacation rental properties on Beachhouse.com use them and stock their rental properties with them!  And can vouch for how great the products are – we especially love the laundry detergent – it smells sooo good!  We’d love to hear what your favorite Seventh Generation product is!

*Do you know of any other great companies Beachhouse.com’s Blog should highlight?  Send us your ideas!

Surfrider Foundation Announces Premier of Revolutionary Film to Improve Water Management System

KYH2O_LogoA_color-copy-veryOn World Water Day, Monday March 22, 2010, the San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation will premier The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water at The Loft on the campus of UC San Diego. This new short film, narrated by actress Zuleikha Robinson from the television series Lost, dives into controversial problems and solutions related to water management and serves as a practical outline for citizens curious about water issues. There will be three showings of The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water: 4 p.m. (press), 6 p.m., and 7:30 pm. The last time slot includes a free showing of the surf feature, Absolute Mexico.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:

The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water – TRAILER 1 from Surfrider Foundation San Diego C on Vimeo.

The film is free and open to all. Government agencies, elected officials, experts, students and the general public will all find the movie intriguing and informative. Following each showing, there will be a Q & A session for the audience to ask questions and learn more about smart solutions to improve water management and the way we use water. Happy hour specials, including beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvres, will be served all evening.

From beautiful and climate-appropriate ocean friendly gardens, low impact development and safe water re-use, the video highlights comprehensive solutions for economical and environmentally sensitive water management reform. “These approaches to meeting our water demands will simultaneously achieve multiple benefits like pollution prevention, energy conservation, wildlife and habitat restoration, flood mitigation and more. The video, created by Surfrider activists, presents a truly holistic integrated vision of water management meant to provoke debate and reform,” according to Joe Geever, Surfrider Foundation’s California Policy Coordinator.

“With the communities of San Diego County under Stage 2 mandatory water restrictions, this film comes at an important time,” said Belinda Smith, Co-Chair, Know Your h2o. “We really want people to understand that by following the solutions offered, we offer water managers, and communities the unique opportunity to rethink and fix our outdated water management system.”

The basis for the Surfrider Foundation’s Know Your h2o program, the film will be a centerpiece in Surfrider Foundation’s campaign to bring holistic solutions to water management. As Southern California enters another year of drought conditions, changing the way we use water is imperative to the sustainability of our San Diego communities.

Founded in 1992, Surfrider Foundation’s San Diego chapter is the largest within the national Surfrider Foundation. The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches for all people through conservation, activism, research and education. San Diego chapter membership totals 5,000 people throughout the county. Nationally, Surfrider Foundation membership includes more than 50,000 concerned lovers of the ocean and beaches. More information can be found at www.surfridersd.org or by calling (858) 792-9940.

♥ This Valentine’s Day, Show your beach some love! ♥

The Beach Should Be Forever

Show your beach some love!

Forgo the candy and flowers, instead give a gift that matters – to your beach and your Valentine.  Make a donation to the Surfrider Foundation in honor of your Valentine and we’ll send them the Valentine e-card of your choice.  You can also include a personal message to the one you love.

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Surfrider Foundation!
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Help Those Affected by the Haiti Earthquake

Damaged buildings resulting from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in the Caribbean nation of Haiti  (Photo:  Pan-African News Wire)

Damaged buildings resulting from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in the Caribbean nation of Haiti (Photo: Pan-African News Wire)

On Tuesday, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, which was already one of the Western hemisphere’s poorest countries.  In and around Port-au-Prince, where the quake was centered, entire towns that are in shambles, affecting the 1.8 million prople living in the area.

The country will need a tremendous ammount of aid in order to help those who were injured, displaced or lost loved ones in the tragedy.   Here are some ways you can help:

  • The American Red Cross is donating an initial $200,000 to assist communities that were affected.  They plan to provide immediate needs for food, water, temporary shelter, medical services and emotional support.  You can make a donation through their International Response Fund.
  • UNICEF issued a statement that “Children are always the most vulnerable population in any natural disaster, and UNICEF is there for them.”  Make a donation for relief for children in Haiti via their Haiti Earthquake Fund or by calling 1-800-4UNICEF
    People carry an injured person after an earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday - The largest earthquake ever recorded in the area (Photo:  AP Photo/Radio Tele Ginen)

    People carry an injured person after an earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday - The largest earthquake ever recorded in the area (Photo: AP Photo/Radio Tele Ginen)

  • If you want to donate through Wyclef Jean‘s foundation, Yele Haititext “Yele” to 501501 and $5 will be charged to your phone bill and given to relief projects through the organization.
  • Save The Children has launched an emergency relief effort for Haiti.  Click here to Donate to their fund to provide medical attention and clean water to children and families.
  • International Medical Corps is assembling a team of first responders and resources to provide lifesaving medical care and other emergency services to survivors of the earthquake.  Donate to the International Medical Corps through their 24-hour hotline at 1-800-481-4462
  • Ben Stiller’s Stillerstrong campaign will be temporarily diverting all donations to support the Haiti relief effort.
  • Oxfam is rushing in teams from around the region to respond to the situation to provide clean water, shelter, sanitation and help people recover.  To help their efforts, Donate to Oxfam America online.

Kamikaze Iguanas

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Fallen Iguana - Photo: AP

When the usually sunshiny state of Florida’s temperatures dipped into the 30′s early this morning, it caused an unusual weather related phenomena.  But it wasn’s snow that was falling – it was…iguanas?

No, this isn’t a page out of some sick Sci-Fi creator’s mind.  It’s sad but true.

Iguanas, like most reptiles, are cold blooded and are therefore dependent on environmental heat sources – mostly the sun – to warm their bodies.  When the temperature drops low enough, their bodies go into a state of shock.  In order to conserve energy, the iguanas body functions - all but the heart – switches off and blood flow is cut to a minimum, causing the little guys to lose their grip on branches and fall from the trees.

Don’t worry – they’re not dead, it’s almost as if they have fallen asleep. Once the temperatures rise most of these little guys will be just fine.

Dubai Star Oil Spill in San Francisco Bay – How YOU Can Help!

Kill the Spill (KTS) crew and Surfrider Foundation San Francisco, need your old Nylons and stockings!

Help! Donate Your Old NYLONS & STOCKINGS This Week (Oct 31 – Nov 8)!

Spread the word! We need  *NYLONS & STOCKINGS* donated ASAP for the oil boom to sop up and contain the oil.  Per KTS and Surfrider SF,  the non-profit, Matter of Trust, and volunteer teams are stuffing numerous hair booms this weekend.  Please send them in clean or washed. It’s ok if the stockings have runs in them, as according to Matter of Trust’s Lisa Gautier, they will double them up.  Please send to your nylons this week through November 8, 2009 to:

Matter of  Trust
99 St. Germain Avenue  (at Glenbrook Ave, in Twin Peaks) | map
San Francisco CA 94114.  Tel: 415 242-6041

Also, they are desperately seeking temporary, donated warehouse space in San Francisco, CA. If you know of any please email Lisa Gautier at  lisa@matteroftrust.org]

If  you spot any oiled wildlife, please contact Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 1.877.UCD.OWCN (1-877-823-6926). Up-to-date info about their current response to this spill can be found here.

5 of the Dirtiest U.S. Beaches

On this blog we’ve profiled some of the most wonderful, exotic and captivating beaches in the entire world. Beaches that entice travelers to come and experience their mystic appeal. We’ve shown you travel destinations tucked away in tropical havens and waters so clear that they practically beckon you to visit through your monitor. If only they were all so picturesque.

The sad truth is that for every amazing beach, there exists it’s negative counter-part. The truth of the matter is that there are just as many sad beaches as well that tempt no one. Call them dirty, polluted, whatever you like. Just don’t call them your vacation spot.

Here’s your list of 5 of the dirtiest beaches in the U.S.

"Honey, call the travel agent. I want a refund. This is NOT the Hawaii they promised."

"Honey, call the travel agent. I want a refund. This is NOT the Hawaii they promised."

1. HANALEI RIVER, KAU’I (HAWAII)
Located on the north shore of the island, the beaches on the Hanalei are littered with pollution. According to The Natural Research Defense Counsel (which monitors beach quality). How bad is it? According to the report, it exceeds the accepted level of bacteria by a whopping 100%. That is to say that there is TWICE AS MUCH bacteria present on the beach and swimming area that is normally acceptable. Hawaii is known for is magnificent beaches, but the northern beaches on the Hanalei river should not be included with them. The good news is that in 2003, the area was a recipient of over $900,000 in grant money designed to counteract sediment and waste-water problems. Because that’s the last thing that you want to think of at the beach…. ‘waste water.’ Eeewww!

Ahh... Lake Michigan. Home of the American Pie Movies.

Ahh... Lake Michigan. Home of the American Pie Movies.

2. NORTH POINT MARINA – N. BEACH (ILLINOIS)
When samples were taken from this beach in 2003, 56% of the time the bacteria levels were at failing levels. That means that better than 1 out of 2 times you take a dip you could contract an infections disease. The Great Lakes don’t seem so great when they’re teeming with bacteria. It just goes to show that we’re not content with simply violating and polluting the oceans, we’ve decided to move inland and hit our fresh water lakes as well. The pollution of this (and other inland beaches) is likely the direct result of decades of heavy commercial shipping that takes place in the lakes.

Vitamin Water bottle: OK if YOU brought it, gross if the lake did.

Vitamin Water bottle: OK if YOU brought it, gross if the lake did.

3. YMCA BEACH (WISCONSIN)
Take two of the blandest, safest and most vanilla words and places in America (YMCA and Wisconsin) and put them together and you think that you’d have the most perfect beach… right? WRONG! In fact, the YMCA Beach in Wisconsin is the exact opposite. Unless you think of E. Coli bacteria which has caused serious illness as ‘safe.’ Lest we get too far without talking about it again, E. Coli is the direct byproduct of human and animal waste. So while you’re in the north country trying to enjoy a nice summer day at the beach and you wonder what that tangy thing is on your tongue and that stinging sensation on your skin it’s best not to dwell on it for too long.

"The beaches in New Jerseyyyy...."

"The beaches in New Jerseyyyy...."

4. BEACHWOOD BEACH WEST (NEW JERSEY)
According to Saturday Night Lives’ Governor Patterson parody, no dirty beach list would be complete without a New Jersey spotting. I personally think that New Jersey get’s a bad rap for a lot of things, and I love going to Wildwood and enjoying the boardwalk every summer. That being said, Beachwood Beach West is certainly no Wildwood. It’s the anti-vacation beach if ever there was one. With a 60% failure rate for bacteria sampling, this beach recently showed up on a “most dangerous” beaches of the world along with some shark infested beaches in Australia. But the danger here isn’t sharks…but rather the risk of infection.

LA Beach

That's a lot of pee-pee!

5. ALL LOS ANGELES COUNTY BEACHES (CALIFORNIA)
I got a kick out of putting this one down. As I researched for this article and I found the NRDC’S report I scanned over the results. A beach from Florida here, one from Ohio there… and then I saw this. EVERY beach in Los Angeles County was lumped into one giant category. Basically what the Research Council is saying is that Los Angeles is in fact a cesspool…. LITERALLY! I always use literally incorrectly but not in this case. It is a literal fact that the beaches of Southern California are bacteria ridden, having a bearly 60% failure rate for safe level testing. I’m sure that there are beaches in Southern California that are lovely and safe to enjoy, but apparently not in Los Angeles County (at least according to this report).

Strange things that have washed up on the beach…

1) Giant Lego Man

On October 29, 2008, to the delight of children playing on a Brighton beach, an 8 foot tall man wearing a green top washed ashore…an 8′ tall Lego man that is. Lego denies having any knowledge of the missing giant (although that’s what they would say, were this the result of a genius marketing ploy) and is content to let him remain on the beach where he has become somewhat of a local legend. Other theories surmise that the Lego man started his swim off of the coast of Denmark where there is a Legoland park, while others think he simply fell off of a cargo ship.

2) Rubber Duckies

Destined for bathtubs around the world, a flock of 29,000 rubber duckies ended up getting more of an adventure than they had bargained for.  Boxes of the ducks, along with blue turtles and green frogs, were washed overboard in the eastern Pacific Ocean in January, 1992 on their way from China, where they were made for the US firm, The First Years Inc.  Since then, the little guys – dubbed the “Friendly Floaties” – have drifted over 17,000 miles.  Some circled the northern Pacific, before washing up on the Alaskan shore, while the others traveled through freezing Arctic waters, past the tropical Hawaiian Islands, and even passing over the location where the Titanic sank, before heading down the West coast of Canada and the US.  Watertight and formed from durable plastic, the toys have helped researchers to chart ocean currents, and are now quite valuable.  So keep an eye out for them – the US firm that made them is offering a reward for finding one.

3)  BMW Motorcycles

While en route from Belgium to Portugal, on January 18, 2007, a windstorm brought down the MSC Napoli.  Soon after, the ships cargo began washing up at Branscombe, luring hundreds of people to scavenge the loot, which included several BMW R1200RT motorcycles!  As crowds became unruly and began removing anything that wasn’t nailed down from surrounding personal residences, the police closed the beach, and announced that they would force people to return goods they had salvaged as per the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 such actions constituted an offence equivalent to theft.

4)  Human Feet

On August 26, 2007 a beachgoer was strolling the beach in Jedidiah Island in British Columbia when he stumbled upon a human foot, still in its shoe.  Immediately authorities began looking into missing persons reports and conducting DNA tests in order to find the body that the foot belonged to.  Police remained tight lipped in regards of any findings and the incident was thought to be unfortunate, but not unusual, as human body parts will sometimes wash ashore, victims of plane crashes, drownings, etc.  However, on August 26, 2008, the investigation took an unusual turn as a second food washed up on nearby Gabriola Island.  Since then, 5 other human feet – all wearing socks and shoes – have washed ashore, 7 total, all in relatively close proximity to each other.  Here is a timeline:

1) Aug. 20 2007 – right foot, male, Jedediah Island (Campus brand)
2) Aug. 26, 2008 – right foot, male, Gabriola Island (Reebok)
3) Feb 2 2008 – right foot, male, Valdes Island (Nike)
4) May 22 2008: right foot, female, Kirkland Island, Richmond (New Balance)
5) Jun 16 2008: left foot, male, Savage Rd, Ladner (only left foot) (Nike) (same man as Valdes foot)
6) Aug. 4 2008 – right foot, male, Pillar Point Beach, Washington (hiking shoe)
7) Nov. 12 2008 – left foot, female, Finn Slough in the south arm of the Fraser, near the end of Garden City Road, Richmond (New Balance)

5)  Message in a Bottle

In August 2008 a team of volunteers cleaning up a beach at West Sands in St Andrews happened upon a bottle with a message in it that had been written by an 11 year old boy – 23 years ago.  Donald Wylie had originally thrown the bottle into the sea off Orkney in Northern Scottland.  His message contained his name, age and the request that, if discovered, its finder pass it onto a boy of similar age.  The University of St. Andrews students and staff tracked down the not 33 year old Mr Wylie, who was, remarkably, still living in Orkney.  Once it had been confirmd that he was, indeed, the sender, Wylie went to the University to see the bottle and where it had been found.  Wylie told the students that he had thrown several bottles out to sea after his mother suggested the idea…and that to this day, his mother encourages her grandchildren to do the same.   Other bottles that Donald has thrown into the ocean have been found as well – he has recieved calls from Norway and Denmark – but this was the first bottle to be found so close to where it had started its journey.

6)  Hindu Statues

September 2006 – Devotees in Bombay celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi, a Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of Ganesh.  Traditionally, a few months prior to Ganesh Chaturthi, clay models of Lord Ganesha is various poses are made and decorated, ranging in size from 1 inch to over 25 feet.  On the 11th day, worshipers carry the statues through the streets, dancing, singing, before immersing dozens of these colorful statues into a river or ocean.  As was the case when statues were sent off in the Arabian Sea at night.  The next morning, the tide brought them back, some chipped, some missing appendages, making for a spectacular, if not cartoonishly macabre scene.

7)  Cocaine

Love combing the beach for treasure?  How about $1 million in treasure?  In August 2009 the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office received a call – someone had found a suspicious package that had washed up on the shores of Sebastian Inlet in Florida.  When authorities arrived, they discovered the package contained 60 pounds of cocaine – 24 bricks – with a street value of about $1 million!  And while the owner of the narcotics is not known, the Deputy on duty said that, while the loss would be substantial to the smugglers, they would probably just consider it the cost of doing business.

8 )  Tons of Timber

In January of 2008 thousands of pieces of timber – more than 2,000 tons in all – washed ashore along England’s southern beaches after drifting 100 miles from a cargo ship that sank off of the coast.  The Ice Princess, en route to Egypt from Scandinavia, was carrying thousands of tons of untreated saw timber when she hit rough weather and the cargo shifted causing her to drifting east and eventually sink.  Twenty crew had to be rescued by helicopter and lifeboat.  The local coastguard said that the timber had washed up all the way from Littlehampton in West Sussex to Beachy Head in East Sussex.  Time for a beach clean-up?  Maybe, but not by just anyone…the Sussex police warned than anyone caught removing the timber – aside from contractors authorized by the Maritime Coastguard Agency – were subject to prosecution and arrest!

Indonesia Hit Hard – Again – Second Earthquake Strikes Hours After First

Only one day after the first earthquake shook the Indonesian island of Sumatra, a SECOND one hit on September 30, only 180 miles from the epicenter of the first one, leaving the area devastated.  The second quake measured 6.6 in magnitude.

Early reports estimate that 500 are dead and thousands more are severely injured, still trapped or missing after buildings caught fire, homes collapsed, airports closed, and residents and tourists became trapped.  In Padang, one of the hardest hit towns, at least 500 homes caved in.

The Indonesian Red Cross (also known as Palang Merah Indonesia or PMI) has dispatched nearly 300 volunteers, (including 45 doctors to the quake zone to offer first aid services, shelter and other assistance for those in need) and thousands of relief supplies, such as tarps, blankets and sarongs, are also being moved from warehouses in Jakarta to Padang.

While the American Red Cross is initially donating $100,000 to the Indonesian Red Cross, The global Red Cross network is now responding to five near-simultaneous disasters in Asia Pacific (the Ketsana typhoon of 9/26/2009; an 8.3-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit on 9/29/2009 that rocked Samoa, Tonga and America Samoa; the first 7.6-magnitude quake that hit off the coast of Padang, West Sumatra on 9/30/2009; and the second earthquake that hit 10/1/2009 in the Jambi region of Indonesia) and needs your help!

Ways to help:

  • Donate now – you can make a tax-deductable financial contribution to the American Red Cross’ Disaster Relief Fund, International Response Fund, or to your local Red Cross chapter.
  • Volunteer your time
  • Give Blood

For inquiries about relatives living and who have citizenship in Indonesia, please be patient and call repeatedly until the lines clear or contact other family members who live nearby. Telephone, Internet and other communication lines are often disrupted in times of disaster. People trying to locate U.S. citizens living or traveling in Indonesia should contact the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services, at 1-888-407-4747 or 202-647-5225.

You can help the victims of countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. Donations to the International Response Fund can be sent to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013 or made by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or online at www.redcross.org.

Save our Beaches: Rain Gardens – An Easy Way to Minimize Storm Water Runoff

Every day water mixes with common household (cleaning products, fertilizers) and environmental pollutants (oil, pesticides) that flow from our homes, offices, roads and landscapes and, eventually, into our oceans.  Compound this daily, times our population, and multiplied over years and years, and our oceans, lakes, rivers, streams and ponds are paying the price.

And when you stop and think how much of a part our water plays in our everyday lives, it behooves us to keep it clean.  On The Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Gardens page of their Website, they reports that, “runoff from residential landscapes affects the quality of our oceans and the quality of our lives. The sediment in water reduces clarity; nutrients increase algae populations and red tides; bacteria close beaches; debris can choke and suffocate aquatic species; and pesticides picked up off a landscape can poison fish consumed by humans — all of which degrade the natural beauty, and our enjoyment, of the ocean.”

One of the ways that each of us can do our part to minimize polluted run-off from reaching our waters is by opting to plant a rain garden in your yard instead of a conventionally landscaped garden.

Rain gardens incorporate native shrubs, perennials, and flowers planted in a small depression, which is generally formed on a natural slope of your yard.  The natural design temporarily holds rain water runoff that flows from the roof of your house, patios and the rest of your lawn, allowing your garden to drink from the accumulated water…water that would usually run off into the streets and gutters, picking up pollutants along the way, and eventually landing in our oceans.

Want to make a rain garden at your home or office?  Here are some rain garden tips:

  • Dig a 6 – 12 inch ditch where you want to make your rain garden – typically on the downside of your property so that the water drains away from your house – or you can check to see if your space has a natural depression – any small valley or dip will work perfectly.
  • If you are creating your own ditch, orient it so that it runs parallel (lengthwise) to the widest part of your house – this will help maximise the amount of rainwater runoff you will be able to capture from your roof.
  • Size:  the square footage of your rain garden should generally equal about 20% of the area draining into it – for example, if your roof covers 800 square feet, a rain garden designed to collect all of the roof’s runoff should cover 160 square feet.
  • Any native plants will do well in a rain garden – and they will not need fertilizer to thrive.  Opt for shrubs and grasses over trees and trees tend to hog all of the water.
  • Create your garden at lest 10 feet from your house or basement in order to avoid water damage to these structures.

As rain gardens gain exposure and popularity, many landscaping companies are becoming rain garden advocates and experts and home improvement centers often host “how to” seminars on rain gardens if you need more information.

Rain gardens are effective in removing up to 90% of nutrients and chemicals and up to 80% of sediments from the rainwater runoff. Compared to a conventional lawn, rain gardens allow for 30% more water to soak into the ground, making them an easy and beautiful way to help preserve our oceans and waters.

At the Beach: the Surfrider Foundation 25th Anniversary Gala

WHO: The National Surfrider Foundation, along with host Mark Hoppus of Blink-182, will be honoring actor David Chokachi, and the members of Incubus and Pearl Jam with the organization’s prestigious Keeper of the Coast Award – an award that is presented only once every five years to those celebrities who have made significant contributions towards helping the Surfrider Foundation fulfill its mission of protecting and preserving our world’s oceans, waves and beaches

WHAT: Think of it as Surfrider’s annual gala event on steroids as the event celebrates this quarter-century milestone.  The event will also present the third installment of their Art for the Oceans auction series – Surfrider has commissioned some of the leading contemporary artists to create interpretations of 25 of the world’s most notorious and iconic waves.  Click here to preview some of the pieces that will be up for auction

WHERE: California Science Center’s Wallis Annenberg Building in Los Angeles, CA

WHEN: Friday, October 9th, 2009 at 7pm

At the Beach: 25th Annual California Coastal Cleanup Day

What: The 25th Annual California Coastal Cleanup Day. Now is your chance to be one of the tens of thousands of Californians that will gather along the beaches, shorelines, and inland waterways of the state to clear away the debris that has been deposited over the past year.

Last year, 73,461 Coastal Cleanup volunteers (a 20% jump from the previous record for volunteer turnout) collected over 1.6 million pounds of trash and recyclables. Covering over 2,800 miles of coast and inland shoreline in 45 counties around the state, the 2008 cleanup also had the largest geographic reach ever achieved.

When: Saturday, September 19th, from 9am to Noon in most locations.

Where: Cleanups will be held at over 750 sites on California beaches, bays, rivers, creeks, parks, roadsides, and highways. Contact your local coordinator for exact locations and other site-specific information, or, for further details, visit www.coast4u.org.

Why: “Coastal Cleanup Day is an opportunity for every Californian to feel their connection to our coast, no matter where they may live,” says Eben Schwartz, Outreach Manager for the California Coastal Commission. “By pushing the Cleanup into every corner of the state, we can clean up a lot of trash before it has a chance to reach our ocean, and in doing so, bind every Californian to one another through our collective stewardship.”

How: Pre-register with your local Coordinator, or show up at any drop-in site (find one close to you at the county contact pages).  Or you can call 1 (800) COAST-4U or visit www.coast4u.org for more information. You can further support Coastal Cleanup Day, by shopping at any Northern California Whole Foods market on Tuesday, September 22nd – 5% of all sales from that day will be donated to the Cleanup Program.

California Coastal Cleanup Day 2009 is supported by the California Coastal Commission, California State Parks Foundation, and the Ocean Conservancy. This event is made possible by the hard work of hundreds of local non-profits and government agencies throughout the state and tens of thousands of volunteers annually.

*content is from CA.gov and the California Coastal Commission site