Saving the Bay: Low Key Superhero Status

A few weeks ago, I sacrificed a few precious hours of beauty sleep to save the Bay. I’m not saying that makes me a superhero…but I’m not not saying that either. You be the judge.

My alarm went off at 7:30 in the morning. Over the next 20 minutes, I hit snooze three times, complaining internally about all of the life decisions that had led me to that moment. The next ten minutes passed with me complaining aloud to my girlfriend about those exact same decisions. As 8 am rolled around, I trudged out of bed, resigned to my fate. The bay needed saving and I’d signed up to save it. I’m nothing if not a man of my word.

I  threw on the first clothes I could find, jumped in a car and headed towards the Bay Bridge. It turns out Bay Area traffic isn’t a thing early on Saturday mornings so the ride to Oakland was pretty quick. I arrived at the salt marsh on MLK Jr. Shoreline for a volunteer meetup organized by one of the leading environmental groups in the area, Save The Bay. The two Save the Bay organizers, Silas and Kenneth, ran an all-star volunteer experience. How they pulled it off is ingeniously simple: They combined real world action (I left with dirt under my fingernails) with teachable moments. By day's end, I felt like I had both accomplished and learned something. It’s those feelings that keep volunteers engaged and coming back.

Inbetween using a pickaxe to clear the nonnative invasive plants and scooping handfuls of nutrient rich mulch onto native plants, Save the Bay organizers invited volunteers to gather around for bite sized environmental lessons. They painted a picture of what the area looked like just a few decades ago that stood in stark contrast to the scene before us. The Bay Area has lost 90% of its tidal marshes. It’s an alarming statistic made even more worrisome by the reasons we should care.

Tidal marshes and wetlands:

  • Provide cleaner water - Tidal marshes trap polluted runoff before toxins can reach open Bay water.

  • Curb  global warming - Tidal marshes capture and store carbon that would otherwise breakdown our Ozone layer.

  • Serve as a habitat for sensitive species - Tidal marshes provide a number of endangered species food and protection from predators.

  • Protect communities from floods and sea level rise - With so many Bay Area residents living at or below sea level, the tidal can act as a necessary buffer and sponge to keep our communities dry and safe.

  • Provide open space for recreation - The wetlands are close-to-home, beautiful areas that provide us with opportunities to get outside and experience nature.

  • Bring economic benefits - The wetlands bring in revenue from tourism, fishing, and recreation.

My life often orbits around fundraising (I work in Development for Stanford), but volunteering with Save The Bay was a great reminder that real change is the product of many types of philanthropy converging. Just as the world needs nonprofits, nonprofits needs both donors and volunteers to shape a better tomorrow.

Save The Bay relies upon a network of more than 50,000 donors and volunteers that put the health and beauty of the Bay first. If that's not a reminder that heroes are everywhere, then I don't know what is.

Above are a couple of photos from my day of volunteering. Admittedly, my form could use a bit of work. All in due time, right?


Learning and awareness are the first steps towards a better tomorrow, but if you'd like to take the next step consider making a weekly contribution to the ILO Fund. In lieu of buying a cup of coffee, ILO Fund members donate $5 to each week's featured charity. Together, we can make a big difference in the lives of others.