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About San Diego EarthWorks

“If the environment is a fad, then it's going to be our last fad. ... We are building a movement, a movement with a broad base, a movement which transcends political boundaries. It is a movement that values people more than technology, people more than political boundaries, people more than profit.”

April 22, 1970, Denis Hayes, organizer of the first Earth Day and
Chairman of The Earth Day Network

Our Mission and Goals

San Diego EarthWorks is a committed network of volunteers in service for a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future for all living things.

San Diego EarthWorks embraces participation that increases awareness, encourages leadership and inspires action toward a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future for all living things.

What we do is:

  • Produce the EarthFair, an annual forum for environmental education, awareness and celebration.
  • Bring together community, environmental and government leaders to discuss issues of mutual concern.
  • Facilitate business involvement that creates environmentally responsible action that develops a prosperous, ecologically sound economy.
  • Provide ways for individuals to actively participate in the preservation and restoration of their environment.
  • Educate the public about ecological concerns by organizing events, making presentations and publishing information.
  • Work with and support other local, national and international ecological groups.
  • Enroll volunteers and members, request contributions and sponsorships.
  • Celebrate life on Earth!

The foundation of our work is the pervasive interest in and concern for our environment and quality-of-life, expressed by the American public in general and specifically by the citizens of San Diego. People want clean water, clean air, healthy food and robust natural environments. They want to support individuals, organizations and politicians that further these goals. They want to do the right thing -- and they question what the right thing is.

Standing on this foundation, our goal is to support public involvement through education and action. Our seminal annual event, the EarthFair, brings together the concerned public with organizations that have some of the answers -- our exhibitors. Our periodic Community Restoration and Renewal Projects provide a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work opportunity for individuals to take direct action to support healthy ecosystems.

EarthWorks is fundamentally a volunteer organization. Volunteering is the highest form of public service. Our events are conceived, planned and executed by volunteers. We wouldn't have it any other way.

One Organization, Two Names?

Remember San Diego Earth Day?

Our organization was formally incorporated in 1993 as San Diego Earth Day, a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation in the State of California. The name made sense, since our events all occurred around Earth Day, and Earth Day has a high positive name recognition with the public. However, as we began to produce events throughout the year, this advantage became a liability: "Earth Day? Isn't that in April?" So, in 1997, we adopted the name San Diego EarthWorks to better represent our year-round activities.

Around Earth Day, you may still see the name San Diego Earth Day. The rest of the year, EarthWorks. So... same folks, same organization, two names. No problem.

Where We Came From...
[A personal account, by Chris Klein]

San Diego EarthWorks got its start in 1989 as the San Diego Earth Day Coalition. With the pending 20th anniversary of Earth Day in 1990, a number of local environmental organizations decided to sponsor some local events. Among them was to be an environmental fair held in Balboa Park. When I joined the planning group in late 1989, the expectation was that we would have a couple of dozen exhibitors and maybe a few thousand visitors. It was a real surprise when the Mayor's office offered the opinion that we would probably get 20,000 or more, given the media exposure that Earth Day was expected to get. This was clearly a game worth playing.

That first year, three of us played the primary organizing roles. Erica Wudtke was responsible for soliciting, registering and supporting the exhibitors and volunteers. Carolyn Chase was responsible for event promotion and media PR. I was responsible for event planning, logistics and volunteer training.

The results of that first event – EarthFair '90 – went way beyond what any of us expected: 215 exhibitors and 50,000 visitors. It was the largest event that had ever been held in Balboa Park. More than 350 volunteers participated to make the event a fabulous success. Our event was mirrored by enormously successful events all over the United States.

We all thought that was the end of it. Until late 1990, that is, when Erica started getting calls asking, in effect, "When is the fair this year?" Now, Given the success in 1990, I was skeptical about attempting a repeat performance without the national media push. Fads come and go ... was Earth Day another one?

Ultimately, the level of interest was too great to ignore, so we planned EarthFair '91. Jim Bell's Ecological Life Systems Institute agreed to be our sponsoring nonprofit organization fiscal agent. Erica, Carolyn and myself were still onboard, and most of our key volunteers agreed to do it again. EarthFair '91 turned out to be an even bigger event than 1990, with more than 60,000 visitors!

EarthFair has been held every year since 1990. More than a fad, EarthFair seemed to have instantaneously become an institution. In two separate years since then, estimates have placed the number of visitors at more than 70,000. One year it rained, hard in the morning and on-and-off during the day, and we still got 35,000 to 40,000 visitors.

We added the VIP (Very Important Planet) Reception in 1991, an invitation-only, combination dinner/presentation, as a fundraiser. It was also successful, generating the much-needed funds for the EarthFair. It has since become one of our "standard" events. In 1992, we added a Silent Auction, and in 1993 started giving our EARTH Awards to individuals and organizations for environmental good works.

In 2002, with sponsorship from the State of California, we produced the first GreenBuilt Tour, a self-guided tour of homes and businesses that feature “green” architecture and construction. This was one of our annual events from 2002 through 2008. In 2009, the GreenBuilt Tour was retired in favor of the Bright Green Future conference, a public event featuring presentations by experts on a wide variety of topics concerning environmental sustainability.

In 2004 EarthWorks received a $250,000 grant from the California Coastal Conservancy for the first phase of a project to study and, ultimately, to restore the important and neglected Rose Creek Watershed, stretching from Miramar to Mission Bay. This first grant – an existing conditions study – was completed in 2005; the final report is already in use by the city of San Diego. A second $150,000 grant for a hydrology study of the watershed, initiated in 2005, was completed in 2007. A third grant was completed in Fall 2013. For more information about the Rose Creek Watershed and the study, please click here.

Over the years, we have hosted a number of other educational and fundraising events. Most of these events were the result of a single individual with a passionate interest taking the lead. For example, in 1992, past board member Doretta Winkleman put together "The Environment and You" Lecture Series, where attendees could hear experts speak on a variety of local issues. In 1995, Board member Julaine Chattaway started our Community Restoration and Renewal Projects that have cleaned-up and restored a variety of rural and urban areas.

For a complete list of our events, please click here.

How to Contact Us

(858) 272-7370
Mailing Address: PO Box 9827
San Diego, CA 92169

Our Officers, Board of Directors and Staff

SDEW is a hands-on, activity-oriented organization. Correspondingly, our officers and directors, with rare exception, have served with us in the past as volunteers and organizers. Our board members are not renumerated for their service.

Pamela Cortelyou Retired
Keith Fink Laboratory Manager, University of San Diego
J Scott Goldberg Computer Systems Designer
Kristie McCue Executive
Ray Nagey, M.Ed. Clinical Psychologist, Chairman of the Board
Marla O'Connell School Librarian
Richard Santini Photographer
Ahouva Steinhaus Financial consultant


Carolyn D. Chase CEO
Ahouva Steinhaus Secretary
Chris Klein CFO



 email: info16earthdayweb.org     Phone: (858) 272-7370
PO Box 9827 • San Diego, CA 92169
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