Southern California environment news and trends

New smartphone app locates the cleanest beach near you

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Photo by foggydave via Flickr Creative Commons

Laguna Beach in Orange County, California.

With Memorial Day heralding the unofficial start of the summer season, thoughts can quickly begin to turn towards the beach. While California boasts an abundance of shoreline, not all of it is always equal. Thanks to a new free smartphone application from WaterKeeper Alliance, finding the ideal beach at any given time — and one with better environmental conditions —is just a few taps away.

The application, called the Swim Guide, uses regularly updated water quality monitoring info from government authorities like the Ocean Water Protection Program to determine what exactly is going on at more than 300 beaches across California. Orange County Coastkeeper provided the basic information for the region.

“One of the main benefits of the app is that you can really discover new beaches, which is big one for me personally,” said Pamela Crouch, the director of communications and marketing for Orange County Coastkeeper by telephone. “It’s a really extensive guide to California beaches, and you can use it to find a secluded stretch you’ve never seen before, or one with a less congested route.

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U.S. bottled water sales soar to all-time high: A good sign?

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Scott Olson/Getty Images

A new report from the Beverage Marketing Corporation finds that sales of bottled water in the United States reached a new pinnacle in 2011. With sales increasing by 4.1 percent, 9.1 billion gallons of bottled water were sold last year, with per capita consumption hitting 29.2 gallons, also a new U.S. record. The growth comes after two consecutive years of economic recession (2008 and 2009) in which bottled water sales suffered substantial declines.

“What’s been driving the market for more than ten years now is the single-serve bottle of non-carbonated water,” said Gary A. Hemphill, the managing director of information services for the Beverage Market Corporation by telephone. “They easily account for more than 60 percent of overall sales,” he explained, adding that the market includes sparkling water, home and office delivery jugs and imports. “They’re more of a refreshment beverage. When people are out at convenience stores, for example, more of them are choosing non-carbonated bottled water than ever before.”

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Three ways to green up your Valentine's Day

Biscarotte/Flickr

Happy Valentine's Day, no-one!

If you're not planning a St Lamentine's Nay for yourself, environmental groups have figured out how to capitalize on your love to get their message out. These are the most clever ploys. 

1. The best things in life are free…go spend time with the person you love. If Encinal Canyon in Malibu is crowded, you can blame Heal the Bay. Their Valentines’ day beach guide for ocean lovers chooses “top spots for healthy romance” along the west coast. Encinal Canyon and the other 9 spots are A water-quality grades on the Heal the Bay Beach Report Card, which is why they made the grade for the list. They also say where to avoid: stay out of The Pit, Santa Barbara. And as a born San Franciscan, Ocean Beach seems awfully, uh, breezy for a V-day cuddle. But Morro Rock is an excellent spot, in my personal experience. Get in the car now! (Or check their report card list for your favorite spot.) A minor but salient fact: 80% of them are in California, so suck it, Pacific Northwest!

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Heal the Bay to get a new president? Mark Gold stepping down

Tara Crow/Heal the Bay

Mark Gold (in navy windbreaker at far right) got Dodgers to clean up beaches.

Woah. Mark Gold was Heal the Bay’s first employee in the late 19-eighties, a staff scientist who went on to take an engineering doctorate from UCLA. He became executive director for 12 years, then president of the group for more than 5. Under his leadership, Heal the Bay has acted as an aggressive watchdog at regulatory hearings, pushing for lower impact coastal development, limits on how coastal power plants can use sea water, and improved water quality in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers watersheds. Gold has lobbied lawmakers aggressively too, criticizing legislators recently for failing to pass a statewide plastic bag ban. Gold will now run a coastal center at UCLA’s Institute for the Environment and Sustainability. Heal the Bay’s executive director Karen Hall and assistant director Alix Hobbs will run the place while the group’s board of directors considers the next president. 

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