Photo by Noah Buscher

The District Environmental Sustainability (DES) Committee is dedicated to supporting Rotary, Rotaract and Interact Clubs in taking action for the environment. Whether you are looking for service project ideas, speakers, or simply reduce your club’s environmental impact, the DES committee can help. We are Rotarians of several clubs and members of the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group (ESRAG). The DES committee meets every month. Please contact for further information.


Inaugural Environmental Solutions Summit on May 19,2024, 10 am to 3 pm: Visit the website. RSVP Here.

Tree Planting and Revegetation

Why, when, where and how your Rotary club should plant trees.

Why: Trees are more than just beautiful decorations in our city. Our urban forest is a major workhorse for us and our environment. Tree planting and maintenance is an obvious and meaningful Rotary project because it touches all 7 areas of focus. It’s also a project that will give back to us all for years to come. The San Diego Region needs a larger, more robust tree canopy to be more resilient to climate change. San Diego’s tree canopy is about 60-70% below what is considered healthy. Here are some reasons why we should invest our time and effort into building up our urban forest.

  • Most importantly, trees improve our environment by cleaning the air and water and absorbing rainwater to reduce flooding, run off and landslides. Our urban canopy is the largest carbon sink in our city, taking in and storing carbon from the air, mitigating climate change. Trees provide food, habitat, and shelter for local wildlife, improving biodiversity.

  • Trees help our community by providing shade, making our region cooler and reducing the heat island effect of hard city surfaces. This can reduce demand on our energy grid in the summer. Large tree canopies add economic value to communities and have been shown to decrease violent crime and conflict rates.

  • Trees improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity. Surrounding urban forests are proven to decrease physical and mental illnesses. Trees around schools help students focus and concentrate, improving test scores.


When: Please consider service projects around caring for our urban forests that fits your club’s schedule. The best time of the year to plant is in fall, followed by spring. However, tree maintenance events (removing weeds from around young saplings, trimming, etc.) are available all year.  Green Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) is an excellent day to consider a tree planting event and there are many tree planting events around the city over the Thanksgiving holidays. San Diego Tree Week is the last week of April and there will always be several tree planting events around Earth Day which happens to also be close to Rotarians at Work Day.


Where: One very important point is that the tree canopy in underserved areas of San Diego (generally southeast San Diego) is significantly smaller that the wealthier areas of San Diego. These areas also suffer the most from heat, drought, floods, and loss of biodiversity and we can help.

How: There are many excellent governmental and private organizations that will partner with you on tree projects.

  • Tree San Diego is a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the quality, density and sustainability of the region’s urban forests. TSD is at the forefront of the battle to preserve, protect and enhance our urban forest. They have regular planting programs as well as adopt-a-tree programs and excellent speakers and educational events. Find out more here:

  • San Diego County Parks and Recreation Service is dedicated to our urban forest and offers many options all year.  Volunteer coordinator Tony Richardson (  is eager to welcome and work with Rotarians. You can see a full calendar here: Volunteer ( The Solana Beach Eco Rotary Club participates in regular maintenance and planting at the San Dieguito County Park every month and has watched the park flourish over the years. It’s been remarkably rewarding work and a similar program can be designed for your club.

  • City of San Diego Parks and Recreation Service also has a busy calendar of tree planting and maintenance events in the spring and fall. Senior Park Ranger Erika Weikel has been helpful in setting up events  or contact their volunteer department here:


For further information, contact Jenny Parker, Solana Beach Eco Rotary Club, DES Tree Ambassador,

Saving Pollinators

Pollinators are essential for human food security, but their populations have fallen catastrophically under the combined assault of habitat loss, pesticides, and disease.

Rotarians worldwide are inspiring and equipping their communities to create pollinator habitats to help save and protect pollinators by signing a simple, non-binding Pollinator Resolution to show their concern for the state of pollinators. After signing a Resolution, your club can sign a simple Pollinator Pledge to tell what action you have taken or will take. Projects you do are based on your capacity and capability. No project is too big or too small. No judgment is ever made. Districts and Clubs have planted pollinator gardens, developed pollinator signs, and distributed seeds to others.

For more information, please visit ESRAG website: Operation Pollination.

You can also contact Jay Klopfenstein, DES Saving Pollinators Ambassador, Solana Beach Eco Rotary Club at
Food Waste Reduction

Food waste is responsible for 8-10 % of global greenhouse gas emissions. If food waste was a country, it would be the world’s 3rd largest generator of Greenhouse Gasses! When we waste food, we also waste water, agricultural resources and fossil fuels used to produce, transform and transport food. It has been estimated in 2023 that 33% of all food in the U.S. goes to waste and 40% of wasted food comes from households, while 1 in 8 Americans is food insecure. The San Diego Region is no exception! 


  • Reduce food waste by taking the Food Too Good To Waste Challenge made available by the ESRAG Food Waste Task Force

  • Donate still-good food to your local pantries

  • Glean produce and donate them to your local pantries

  • What is not good for human consumption can be donate to feed animals

  • What can not be saved should be turned into a “new” resource such as compost or energy

  • Avoid sending food waste to landfill at all costs.

For more information on the topic, visit ESRAG Food Waste Task Force website and contact Amelie Catheline, DES Food Waste Ambassador, chair of ESRAG Food Waste TF, Solana Beach Eco Rotary Club, at
Plastic Solutions

Plastic has become so omniscient in our lives that it is hard to envision a world where we rely less on plastic. However, solutions exist and we can all be part of the plastic solution!

Why it matters: According to research, we eat the equivalent of a credit card of plastic every week. Plastic carries many toxins and chemicals that can be harmful to our health and plastic pollution is harmful to our wildlife, on land and in water.

Solutions: Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Repurpose. Mark O’Connor, DES Plastic Solutions Ambassador has established relationships with several local organizations that can help you.

  • San Diego Surfrider Foundation raises awareness about the danger of plastic pollution and works to reduce single-use plastic. Their Ocean Friendly restaurant program helps reduce plastic use in restaurants. More information: 

  • Plastic Beach is a local collector of plastic films and wraps. They work with residents, retailers, and many businesses in San Diego to properly recycle these items when they can’t be avoided in the first place. Find out more:

  • Solana Beach Eco Rotary Club has a Zero Waste committee dedicated to not only be plastic free in our club but in their community. Visit their website to find out more about their Community Reusable Dinnerware Kit. Website:


For further information, contact Mark O’Connor, ESRAG member, DES Plastic Solutions Ambassador at

ESRAG Plastic Solutions:
Litter Cleanups

Do you want to help cleanup your neighborhood, the nearby park or beach? 

Scott Horst, DES Litter Cleanup Ambassador, Escondido After 5 Rotary Club & Street Stewards, is leading efforts to tackle litter pollution around the San Diego Region. Contact:

  • Street Stewards is a street cleaning initiative started in 2018 in the beach community of Ocean beach. They ask people to adopt blocks that they clean on their own time. Each Street Steward's route is marked on a map, to visually see the progress, and gain momentum and popularity on local social media and community groups. Street Stewards has grown to 11 neighborhoods and nearly 1000 volunteers in just four years. They are looking to expand their neighborhoods list and volunteer reach throughout San Diego! Contact at or (484) 883-9476.

  • San Diego Surfrider Foundation organizes monthly beach cleanups.

  • I Love A Clean San Diego organizes regional events that your club can join.


Suggested Club Presenters

Scott Horst, District 5340 Environmental Sustainability Ambassador,, Litter Cleanups with Street Stewards


Jenny Parker, District 5340 Environmental Sustainability Ambassador,, Tree Planting in the San Diego Region


Amelie Catheline, District 5340 Environmental Sustainability Chair,, Food Waste and Food Recovery.


Rich Berger, Clif Bar,, incorporating the environment with profitability


Ingrid Hesser, ESRAG Europe Co-Chair, or Gunilla Ostberg,, Solar Safe Water


John Mathers, Rotary Climate Action Team Chair,, Climate Action for Rotary clubs


Kelly Olson, Agriculture & Soil,


Dr Lee Parton, BSU Economics Department,, Circular Economy


Joe Richardson, Founder Lunch Out Of Landfills,, Activating Students to join Interact and start school food reclamation programs


Maya Smeulders, ESRAG England, Dirt Cheap Mud Stoves,


Andrea Wotan,, and Scott Nelson,, Plant-rich diet


Doug White, Rotary International Grant Cadre, Solar Refrigeration and Rotary Foundation Grant Options,