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Meet Pauline Martinson of I Love A Clean San Diego in Point Loma

Today we’d like to introduce you to Pauline Martinson.

Pauline, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
The organization was founded as the San Diego War Against Litter Committee (WALC) in 1954, I Love A Clean San Diego (ILACSD) has worked to improve the health and beauty of San Diego for over 63 years. In the 1970s “I Love A Clean San Diego” was the slogan for the organization’s anti-litter campaign and in 1980 it became the organization’s name. I came to ILACSD in 2005 as a Program Manager where we had 5 of us working in a small office by the train tracks on Pacific Highway with a $400K budget. I became Executive Director a year later growing the organization to be San Diego’s go-to environmental organization in San Diego County that connects over 60,000 youth and adults with the local environment each year. We continue to be a driving force for a litter-free, zero waste, and environmentally engaged San Diego region through education, community involvement, and example.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
With the organization being around for such a long time, our goals and aspirations have had to adjust with the emerging environmental issues. At the organization’s inception, combating litter on San Diego’s beaches was the main focus of the work being done. But, with each new decade came new environmental problems to be addressed, each one more complex than the last. From litter in the 60’s to recycling in the 90’s, and now facing current issues like overflowing landfills, microplastics in the ocean, and climate change, we’ve had to stay nimble as an organization to tackle issues as they emerge as well as being proactive to stay ahead of potential environmental threats. As a direct result, we’ve had to expand our knowledge and adapt to the new challenges. We’ve widened our reach and expanded in education to be able to pioneer solutions with diversified programming in our communities.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about I Love A Clean San Diego – what should we know?
ILACSD leads and inspires our community to actively conserve and enhance the environment through example, outreach, and local involvement. We create opportunities for over 30,000 community members at our cleanups turn their passion into action and remove a half a million pounds of trash from San Diego county each year. We focus on removing debris upstream from inland areas such as canyons, parks, and urban spaces as well as the bays and beaches.

Our environmental education programs empower and inspire 32,000 youth and adults to take the smalls steps, each day and transforming that into lasting, positive change for San Diego and our planet. We run the most comprehensive zero waste resource online with an accompanying call center to answer questions from where to recycle your old refrigerator to how to create sustainable alternatives for common household items like plastic cling wrap.

We help San Diego recognize how much we all consume, so each person can consciously produce less trash, and better connect with the cycles of our planet. I’m proud of how we change behavior through education and not lawsuits. We set ourselves apart by serving all of San Diego county, staying apolitical, and focusing our programs countywide, giving special attention to the inland parts of our county.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Being an Executive Director is like being in the middle of an hourglass. It can be lonely and scary. Especially because, I started here in my 20’s. I’ve sought nonprofit advice from other Executive Directors through a coaching program led by the Fieldstone Foundation, and continue to keep in touch with other EDs to find support. I’m so thankful to my family and fiance who hear about the ups and downs and have supported me at every stage. But mostly, I’m thankful to my team who is as passionate and dedicated as I am to protecting and enhancing San Diego and leading others by example.

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