What’s in your backyard?

Sometimes we miss the beauty. And sometimes we miss the gifts that are right in front of us—The untapped potential of local businesses and resources, and the possibilities of alternative solutions.

In honor of Earth Month, a time to celebrate our planet by taking action to protect her, you can support the incredible green innovations already living in your very own backyard! 

Creative oyster shells for coastal erosion 

The Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation (AHLF) maintains the beautifully preserved, 400-acre Lagoon in Carlsbad with public access to trails. Larissa Hepburn, Director of Trails & Conservation, Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation and I met at Hubbs Trail where she walked me through all they have accomplished in efforts to achieve coastal resiliency and restoration projects. Some of your favorite trails are in danger of erosion and harming the ecological preserve.

This past year, local inventor David Hood designed a more sustainable homemade wattle than your typical straw-based store-bought version (which creates more trash). “Installing wattles on the trail bluffs helps prevent erosion and sediment from going into the lagoon,” Larissa explained. Inspired by David’s creativity, the AHLF Team has started using upcycled oyster shells to create more effective wattles. “The oyster shells used here would normally end up in landfill and are donated to us weekly by local Carlsbad Village restaurants including Jeune et Julie, Campfire, Vigilucci’s, and Herb & Sea in Encinitas,” Larissa mentioned. Talk about durability, “AHLF’s new wattle alternative has already weathered multiple storms and has held up extremely well.” And they look pretty too! With your help, by staying on the designated trail and not short cutting the bluffs, you’re preventing further damage while supporting a healthier lagoon, which drastically reduces the negative effects of carbon and climate change in Carlsbad.

“As famous world-renowned oceanographer Jacques Cousteau once said, ‘People protect what they love.’ Larissa hopes to provide quality outdoor recreational access while protecting our natural resources.” If you’re interested in getting involved, AHLF offers community wattle-making, monthly public trash clean-ups, native plant planting, and the upcoming Lagoona Kahuna Clean-Up Challenge on May 3rd and 4th!

New lease on life for hard-to-recycle plastics

Local non-profit, Plastic Beach made a connection with Agua Hedionda Lagoona Foundation, at one of our Chamber events! Plastic Beach acts as a community catalyst to get businesses and residents to recycle soft plastics instead of sending them to landfills. Together, they can create double the impact. Plastic Beach now offers a public dropoff placement site at Agua Hedionda Lagoon’s Foundation Center for a convenient way for anyone to responsibly dispose of their soft plastic. 

Matthew Clough, Executive Director, Plastic Beach said, “These soft plastic materials can be reclaimed and reshaped into new products like decking, furniture, packing, and even roads!” 

“You wouldn’t throw away a shirt after wearing it once; why should the packaging be any different? Plastic Beach has collected and reclaimed nearly 50,000 lbs. of this hard-to-recycle plastic and is standing by to help more businesses.”

Elevated standards for regenerative agriculture 

“Sustainable isn’t going to cut it anymore, we need to regenerate” (Source: reNature). Local Chamber member, Dr. Bronner’s is helping lead the way in global regenerative agriculture. 

“While we don’t source our ingredients from Carlsbad farms directly, we are part of a worldwide network of businesses who seek to change agriculture systems and supply chains for the betterment of farmers, the planet, and everyone, on a global scale,” shared David Bronner, Cosmic Engagement Officer at Dr. Bronner’s.

David highlights, “Dr. Bronner’s is a founding member of the Regenerative Organic Alliance, alongside Patagonia, Rodale Institute, and others. Together we launched Regenerative Organic Certified in 2019. The standard builds on USDA Organic, and goes beyond to center soil health, animal welfare, and fair labor practices to advance sustainable and ecological alternatives to industrial agriculture.”

“Dr. Bronner’s is also proud to offer the first-ever Regenerative Organic Certified Coconut Oil, and the first-ever Regenerative Organic Certified chocolate product, our Magic All-One Salted Dark Chocolate, and we will be announcing more achievements in the coming year, as we have embarked on the commitment to transition supply chain for all major ingredients to Regenerative Organic Certified sources.” 

Dr. Bronner’s recognizes the power of collaborative effort. They generously provide hand soap to the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation Discovery Center and its environmental stewardship school field trips.

Soilless systems for food system autonomy

When humans and nature collide, they become a crucible for innovative solutions. From regenerative to soilless, North County shares alternatives to outdated, traditional farming.

ECOLIFE Conservation is known for its monarch butterfly preservation work in Mexico. At the heart of this work lies a symbiotic relationship between humans and nature, forging harmony between modern health and restoring natural habitats. But you might be less aware of how ECOLIFE is addressing food insecurity right in our very own backyard in North County, San Diego with Aquaponics, which utilizes fish waste to rapidly and sustainably grow produce. Connor Leone, Sustainable Agriculture Program Director, walked me through the Aquaponics Innovation Center in Escondido. Connor stressed the importance of food system autonomy, and ECOLIFE provides food insecure communities with their own food systems so they aren’t dependent on the traditional industrial agriculture sector.

“ECOLIFE Conservation’s aquaponic growing methods use up to 90% less land and water compared to traditional agriculture while providing a consistent source of fresh protein through fish rearing and harvesting – serving to combat both climate change and food insecurity. We’ve recently designed a solar-powered and scalable, Modular Aquaponics Response Kit (M.A.R.K.) which can be packaged into a shipping container for easy and rapid deployment to global communities. Equipped with more than 420 square feet of grow space, end-users can plant a wide variety of greens to fit the needs of their community or business.” 

ECOLIFE generously donates all produce harvested at the Aquaponics Innovation Center (~3 tons per year) to local food distribution system services in need, including Chamber member, Interfaith Community Services. When looking towards the future, “We would love to partner with more local organizations to reduce food insecurity and the depletion of resources, while providing more sustainable food systems in and around Carlsbad.”, said Connor, “And we will be hosting a free community event at our Aquaponics Innovation Center on June 15th for anyone who would like to learn more about how, together, we can better serve our communities.”

There are always more efficient ways to do what we’ve always done than the role models we’ve been following for generations. A lot of them, including ECOLIFE Conservation, Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation, Dr. Bronner’s, and Plastic Beach are right in your backyard!