Youth Ecological Stewards Program

Youth Ecological Stewards Program

Working with K-12 classroom teachers, CAN! engages SFUSD students in hands-on activities in the classroom as well as the garden, providing the next generation of earth activators with the tools they need to make positive life choices that support a healthy mind, body and planet.

In partnership, the SF Public Utilities Commission and the SF Unified School District CAN! staff are providing hands-on garden-based education with several partner schools in San Francisco.

Downtown High School
693 Vermont St, San Francisco, CA 94107

Independence High School
1350 7th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122

James Lick Middle School
1220 Noe St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Lawton K-8 Alternative School
1570 31st Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122

Presidio Middle School
450 30th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

Washington High School
600 32nd Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

Biodiversity Matters

Here in California we host many world records in botany.  The world’s tallest tree (Sequoia sempervirens – the Coastal Redwood) and the world’s most massive tree (Sequia giganteum – the Giant Sequioa) are found here.  The worlds oldest trees (Pinus longaevathe Bristlecone Pine) living over 4,000 years live nearby in Nevada.

But who cares?  Why does diversity matter biologically?

Biodiversity is the variety of living things found in any given place.  The biodiversity of any given ecosystem (or habitat/home for wildlife) differs from place to place.  In general, a biodiverse habitat is a healthier and more robust environment.

We at Climate Action Now! measure our success in biodiversity.  

Having a garden with many different types of plants can help to support a large diversity of creatures, from pollinators to people.  Start thinking about biodiversity in your garden, your schoolyard and your sidewalk today.  Make the effort and nature will return the favor.

Promoting California Native Plants

California native plants are adapted to the dry summers, hot autumn and wet winters that California provides.   Mediterranean climates (like California) generally receive precipitation only in the winter months.  But with less and less precipitation in winter, the need for cultivation of California native plants has never been more critical.

Although many people (even skilled gardeners) appreciate exotic plants over California natives, we’re working hard to ensure that all CAN! partner sites demonstrate the power, beauty and bounty that California native plants provide.

California natives provide familiar fodder sources (pollen and nectar) for native pollinators like bumble bees and hummingbirds.  Indeed, flowering plants and pollinators have evolved together, providing services to each other.  The native plants give pollinators protein in the form of pollen and pass along carbohydrates in the form of sweet nectar.  This relationship is profound, having evolved over millennia.

Ecological gardening (working with native plants) not only provides food for native pollinators, it provides opportunity to educate the public about the importance (and underappreciation) of our local botanical gems.

Community Gardens

Working with neighbors and local residents, CAN! collaborates with community members to design, raise funds and physically build out community gardens.



Richmond District Neighborhood Center Urban Garden:

Since 2013 CAN! has worked alongside the Richmond District Neighborhood Center and the larger community to create the RDNC Urban Garden.  This SFUSD property was once an abandoned hillside full of Acacia trees and weeds.  But after four years of CAN! and RDNC investment (and hundreds of hours of work from students and volunteers) the site now boasts over 500 square feet of growing area for organic vegetables, a 25-fruit-tree orchard and contains over 150 species of pollinator-supporting plants.

Student groups explore the garden during the week and community members regularly get dirty planting vegetables and flowers.  In 2014 the SF Carbon Fund supported the site by providing funds for the creation of a 25-tree Organic Orchard which now produces apples, lemons, loquat and much more.  Visit the site @ 741 30th Avenue at Cabrillo in the Outer Richmond District to experience the garden for yourself.



Playland@43rdAve Community Garden:

Created in partnership with GroundPlay, the SF Planning Department, the Office of District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang, the SFUSD, the SF Parks Alliance and the larger community CAN! created a 26-family community garden in the outer Sunset neighborhood in San Francisco.

This site was once an abandoned parking lot, but now boasts over 100 species of plants full of color and culture, bursting out into the hearts and minds of the community.

The site has nine raised wooden veggie beds, one large octagon herb garden and several straw-bale raised beds.  Pollinator Gardens surround the vegetable garden, including a large riparian stormwater management facility planted in native plants.  This riparian swale captures the stromwater from the entire parking lot, permitting the rainwater to flow into the ground, replenishing the local aquifer underneath the Sunset neighborhood while building habitat and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.  Check out the riparean garden in wintertime when it fills up with stormwater!

Community activities such as garden workdays, community yoga, table-tennis, basket and an incredibly designed and well-utilized skatepark make the site very popular with kids of all ages.

Grow a School Garden

School gardens provide endless opportunity for young people to come into contact with nature every day of the year.  Whether working at a K-5 school, middle or high school, students and staff of all ages can benefit from school greening.

Become a CAN Partner!

Like most ecosystems, the school garden thrives with profound and productive partnerships.  Parent Teacher Student Associations (PTSAs), administrators, teachers and students, local government and non-profit organizations can all play a role in creating a new garden.  Productive partnerships have played significant roles in the successful execution of all of our garden projects.  And any successful garden project begins with community engagement, communication, and diverse participation.

Working closely with the SFUSD Landscape and Grounds Department, and various School District managers and Principals, often in collaboration with the SF Public Works Bureau of Urban Forestry, CAN! begins planning for school gardens by working with all community players to determine the best location for the garden, size and scope of work that is appropriate for each given school community.  Often times the best location for educational gardens is within the schoolyard or even on the sidewalk, surrounding the property itself.

CAN! has cultivated pollinator gardens at all 15 of our community partner sites in San Francisco.

Creating pollinator gardens grown on public property isn’t always easy.   There are many challenges and hurdles, but once the pavement is gone, the soil and the seeds can do their job.  Schools must sign maintenance agreements with CAN! and the SFUSD to ensure that community managed gardens are well maintained throughout the year (even in the summer).

Dispelling fear around pollinators and decomposers is a significant part of the cultural education CAN! provides to our partners.

Email Climate Action Now! for more information about how to grow a garden at your school.

Combined Sewer Systems

Combined Sewer Systems

San Francisco (like Detroit and New York City) has a combined sewer system.

This means that the stormwater (rainfall) that flows into the storm drains is combined with wastewater from our toilets, sinks and showers.

This combination of stormwater and wastewater can be extreme.  And as the climate changes and storms are measurably increasing in strength, this extreme weather is becoming the norm.  Combined sewer systems are effective during steady rainstorms, but can be easily overwhelmed by extreme precipitation events.

Removing pavement supports the combined sewer system because the stormwater is captured into the soil before it reaches the stormdrain.  Urban gardens support more than just local wildlife.  Urban gardens also restore local watersheds and reduce pressure on the City of San Francisco’s combined sewer system.

The SF Public Utilities Commission has a volunteer program called Adopt a Drain, where residents in SF can adopt a stormdrain near their home and help to keep it free from debris so that stormwater can flow easily in the sewer.  Check out the program and support the SF Bay by being a good neighbor (and remember to bring your broom).

Capturing Stormwater

When large portions of urban areas are heavily paved-over the combined sewer system can become stressed, especially during large storms.  And as we continue to increase carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, storms and most weather systems are becoming more and more extreme.

In California’s Mediterranean climate, precipitation is heaviest in the winter months.  When these winter storms become extreme, this can create a huge flow of water that the City’s combined sewer system cannot effectively clean.  It is then, during heavy storms, that the stressed sewer system releases untreated (contaminated) water into local waterways.

These large winter storms in San Francisco sometimes force the SF wastewater treatment plant staff to discharge untreated water into the SF Bay or the Pacific Ocean.  By removing pavement we capture stormwater in the ground, reducing  pressure on San Francisco’s combined sewer system.

There are two wastewater treatment plants in San Francisco.  80% of all the waste from all of San Francisco’s nearly 1 million residents heads to the SFPUC’s Southeast Treatment Plant located in the Bayview neighborhood.  The other 20% flows to the Oceanside Treatment plant adjacent to the SF Zoo.

As the City’s population grows, important green infrastructure improvements to the sewer system are happening currently (and will continue for many years to come) all the while improving services and environmental quality in San Francisco.

What is a Watershed?

A watershed is a basin-like landform that captures stormwater and is divided by peaks and ridges which collect into streams, rivers, lakes and aquifers eventually leading to the ocean.

In San Francisco all watersheds eventually lead to the SF Bay or to the Pacific Ocean.  Climate Action Now! has removed pavement in almost every watershed in the City!  Be a part of the progress and remove pavement at your home or school today to support your local watersheds.

Get a Sidewalk Garden

Get a Sidewalk Garden

Promoting residential sidewalk gardens is CAN!’s specialty!

Are you interested in creating a sidewalk garden in front of your property in San Francisco?

Work with CAN! today and join the movement to build community and habitat in the sidewalks.

CAN! Sidewalk Garden Services:

If you live in another neighborhood beyond the Bayview and the Richmond District, you can still join the movement to green the public right of way in San Francisco.  In collaboration with residents, CAN! staff coordinates the following services for a fee:

  • Garden Design, permitted dimensions, plant species selection and placement of both curb and property-side gardens.

  • Secure necessary permits ($198-$266 SFDPW-BUF Sidewalk Landscape Permit Fee)(SFDPW Sidewalk Landscape Permit) 

  • Execute pavement cutting, demolition, and removal

  • Secure edging treatment and signage installation

  • Facilitate soil placement, physical planting, cover cropping, annual seeding, mulch placement, initial deep watering

  • Tree planting (SFDPW Tree Permit)

  • Install pavers or permeable driveways, boulders, etc.

Cost to residents:

Costs for sidewalk gardens varies depending upon the size and scope of work of each individual sidewalk garden.

CAN! provides Sidewalk Garden installation services to all neighborhoods in San Francisco.

CAN! sidewalk garden installation costs depend on the size and scope of work of your project, the number of participants and site location.  Check out our paver installation page to learn how to beautify your home while providing permeability while maintaining hard surfaces.

Discounts can be given to participants who recruit 5 or more neighbors to participate in greening (pending size and scope of work). 

For more info about regulations, check out the SFDPW Sidewalk Landscape Permit

For detailed price breakdown and quotes, email Markos Major, CAN! Director today.

Pavers for Permeability

Pavers for Permeability

Removing pavement is great if you want to create a garden.  But what if you don’t have room for a garden, or you need room to park your car, or a place to leave your compost and recycling bins?  We can help with that by providing paver installation for all participating CAN! sidewalk gardens.  

The cost varies depending on the selection of the pavers, but in general paver installation costs between $25 – $55 per square foot.  Contact us directly to start your quote today.

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