In an ocean acidification presentation at High Tech High, I Love a Clean San Diego Education Manager Emily Nelson blows into a beaker with water and a pH indicator. By exhaling into the water, she adds CO2. The students observe the pH level decreasing, which indicates an increase in acidity. This is meant to demonstrate the impact excess CO2 in the atmosphere has on our oceans.

San Diego high school science students are learning about the impact carbon emissions have on our environment, and are finding that by driving an electric vehicle they can help save plankton in Mission Bay. Thanks to a partnership between I Love a Clean San Diego and San Diego Gas & Electric, free environmental education activities are teaching students the importance of the connection between individual sustainable choices and the health of the local ecosystem.

The newest ILACSD program explores ocean acidification and its negative impacts on marine ecosystems. Caused by increased carbon emissions, ocean acidification makes it very difficult for certain organisms, such as corals, oysters, and even plankton, to build and maintain their shells. Since industrialization, the ocean has become 26 percent more acidic.

ILACSD educators identify the chemical processes behind ocean acidification and sources contributing to this issue. Students are given the opportunity to examine plankton specimens, collected from local waters in areas including Mission Bay and Shelter Island, under a microscope and discuss the impacts that ocean acidification is having on specific plankton.

In the I Love a Clean San Diego ocean acidification educational program, students measure their carbon emissions and develop an action plan to reduce their own carbon footprint.

More than 50 percent of the oxygen San Diegans breathe is produced by marine organisms. As explained to students in the ILACSD activities by educators, “if you like to breathe, then you should be acutely invested in keeping our oceans healthy.” ILACSD is focused on helping to keep our environment and air clean, largely through education by making complex topics such as ocean acidification accessible and relatable to everyone.

In the activities, students measure their carbon emissions and develop an action plan to reduce their own carbon footprint. Students also learn what they can do in their daily lives to reduce their carbon footprint, such as carry a reusable water bottle, drive an electric vehicle and compost food scraps.

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Get involved with I Love a Clean San Diego and take advantage of the many resources available for San Diegans to learn how to live more sustainably. Opportunities include zero-waste workshops and a zero-waste database at wastefreesd.org. This online tool will allow users to type in an item and find out how to reuse, repair, repurpose or recycle it.
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“Although I barely drive, learning that transportation is a big outlet of carbon made me reconsider the amount of driving I do and want an electric car even more than I did before, so I can reduce the amount of carbon I put into the environment,” said Kaylani Apacible, a student at Bonita Vista High School who participated in the ILACSD ocean acidification educational activity. “I think that this visit was important for me and my peers to see that what we do on a day to day basis has a real impact on the natural world. I believe that my peers and I will learn to be more conservative and aware of our actions so as not to harm the beautiful earth that gives us life.”

“Through the ocean acidification program and related research made possible through our partnership with SDG&E, we have been able to respond to emerging environmental issues like climate change,” said Pauline Martinson, executive director of ILACSD. “In our outreach to high school science students as well as adults, our education team is taking hard science and turning it into a relatable message about how individuals can reduce their carbon footprint and live more sustainably.”

I Love a Clean San Diego is educating the community about ocean acidification and how efforts by individuals to reduce their carbon footprint can improve the health of the local marine ecosystem, by making choices such as driving an electric vehicle.

An SDG&E Environmental Champions grant has allowed ILACSD to conduct research related to the ocean acidification program. Last school year, ILACSD delivered 40 ocean acidification presentations in local schools, engaging more than 1,200 high school students in conversations about carbon consumption.

As one of San Diego’s most influential advocate for sustainability, ILACSD is an environmental catalyst, awakening passion and inspiring action, empowering everyone to improve the health and beauty of San Diego’s local environment. For over 60 years, ILACSD has developed a reputation for bringing the best in all of San Diego together for a lasting, positive impact on the region.

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