Red and White Fleet’s long-standing commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly practices runs deep and permeates all aspects of our business. You can see our commitment in everyday practices from implementing green purchasing policies to major fleet decisions, such as building cleaner, more efficient vessels.
We participated in and achieved annual recognition for each of the fourteen years California ran its Waste Reduction Award Program from 2001 to 2014. We are participants in the Passenger Vessel Association’s GreenWaters Program which identifies conservation practices specific to marine operators. And, we are a San Francisco certified Green Business, having met the strict standards set by the Department of the Environment.
As early as the year 2000, the Red and White Fleet received a grant from the Maritime Administration to conduct a feasibility study on converting our conventional diesel fleet to compressed natural gas (CNG). Though the conversion to CNG was not feasible due to fueling infrastructure limitations, we followed the study with other alternative fuel, in-tank, direct application solutions, operating for a time on an emulsified diesel fuel designed to reduce NOx emissions and then later running on B20 and B10 from 2008 to 2013. These emission reduction strategies were based not in regulatory compliance nor supported by outside subsidies but were a reflection of our long-standing commitment to take meaningful steps to reduce the environmental impact of our services.
Years ahead of regulatory compliance dates, we converted all engines in our fleet to Tier II and Tier III compliant engines. In 2014, we worked closely with Sandia National Laboratories and numerous other partners, with grant funding from the Maritime Administration, on a hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system study. This endeavor led to the founding of Golden Gate Zero Emission Marine (know Zero Emission Industries, ZEI) which received grant funds from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to build the first hydrogen powered passenger vessel in the US, named MV SEA CHANGE.
In 2017 we moved our fleet to 100% renewable diesel (made from in-cycle carbon sources) which offers a 60% reduction in greenhouse gases as well as reductions in PM and NOx. CARB conducted in situ emissions testing aboard the RWF’s vessels of renewable diesel at 100%, 50%, and 20% blends with #2 ultralow sulfur diesel (ULSD) compared to ULSD. The results of this study informed CARB’s Harbor Craft rulemaking in 2022.
RWF has been certified as a San Francisco Green Business since 2018. The certification recognizes our achievement in meeting the high environmental standard established by the California Green Business Network.
In 2018, we took delivery of a 600-passenger lithium-ion battery hybrid vessel, MV ENHYDRA, which inspired the industry, impacted the California Air Resources Board’s Harbor Craft Rules, and proved the viability of this technology in marine applications at scale and unsubsidized.
We take deep pride in bringing visitors onto San Francisco Bay to experience the natural beauty of our area –from iconic bridges, islands, and architecture to whales, mountains, and the Pacific Ocean– and we do this with great commitment to the stewardship of the environment that makes our home and mission so unique.
Timeline of Environmental Protection Efforts in San Francisco Bay
Development and pollution have been a threat to the San Francisco Bay area for decades. In 1961, three women, Catherine Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin and Ester Gulick, started a movement toward conservation efforts in the Bay when they formed a group called the Save San Francisco Bay Association, now known as Save the Bay. The group pushed for the 1965 McAteer Petris Act, which aimed to regulate filling the Bay to protect natural areas and control development. These women were instrumental in the environmental sustainability movement in San Francisco.
They also supported the development of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), the first coastal zone management agency in the U.S. As part of the McAteer Petris Act, the BCDC became a temporary state agency. A major responsibility of the organization was to create the San Francisco Bay Plan, which established policies related to industry, airports, recreation, ports and wildlife refuges in the Bay in an effort to protect the area. This plan undergoes regular updates to address the current needs and issues of the Bay as its condition changes.
In 1972, the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge was established. It was the first U.S. urban wildlife refuge, and it helped set the tone for an environmental sustainability movement in San Francisco.
The 1970s also brought about several tidal restoration projects in the Bay area. Many of the areas previously established as industrial salt ponds were returned to tidal wetlands and important habitats to support Bay life. These restoration projects continue today, as the Bay still needs help to create a healthy, sustainable wetland ecosystem.
The primary methods of achieving a healthier Bay include halting additional development, improving the quality of the water and restoring tidal marsh areas. These steps will help to keep the water and shorelines clean and healthy, so people can enjoy the area and wildlife can thrive.
The BCDC supports the efforts of improving the Bay’s health by acting as a single organization that looks at the Bay as a whole. The individual cities, districts and other entities that surround the Bay often have a narrow focus on one specific part of the Bay. The BCDC helps to coordinate efforts of those agencies and partner with the different governments to protect the best interests of the Bay.
The environmental sustainability of the Bay has improved significantly thanks to the BCDC and other groups working to protect the wetlands. Much of the Bay has been restored. The shores of the Bay now feature trails, promenades, parks, beaches and other functional and environmentally friendly elements.
Fragility of the Bay and Local Efforts to Preserve It
Estimates suggest that over the previous 150 years, about 90 percent of the tidal wetlands in the San Francisco Bay area no longer exist or have been seriously degraded, according to San Francisco Baykeeper. Development along the Bay is the primary cause of that loss of wetlands. Wetlands were diked for military, industrial and residential development and to create salt production ponds. Developers built structures along the shores of the Bay, which further affected the natural ecosystem.
The physical loss of the Bay is only one aspect of the issue. As the water became polluted and development ate up the Bay, changes began happening in the water. Many fish species that were once abundant in the area are now very rarely caught, according to the Bay Institute. A large number of Chinook salmon eggs aren’t surviving due to higher water temperatures. The bloom of toxic algae poisons many fish in the waters.
Changes in the ecosystem can drastically decrease the amount of native fish and other aquatic animals. This could lead to the extinction of some of those species. Many species in the Bay area are already endangered, including Delta smelt, steelhead trout, coho salmon and tidewater goby. The changes in fish population can also affect commercial fishing in the area.
Recent numbers of Delta smelt and longfin smelt are decreasing significantly. These fish are what scientists refer to as indicator species. When their numbers start to drop significantly, it typically means the other native species are also at risk. Losing one species of fish in the Bay ecosystem throws off the balance and can cause a decline in other species.
After decades of development and pollution, the Bay is becoming healthier than it was, thanks to the action of groups and individuals determined to preserve the ecosystem. While the wetlands are healthier, they still face significant threats, particularly from pollution, development and climate change. Some of the specific threats include agricultural runoff, industrial pollution, storm water runoff and sewage. Efforts to minimize those pollutants aim to reverse the damage already done to the Bay.
The rising sea level is another factor that makes protecting the wetlands challenging. Restoration efforts are supported naturally by sediment deposited in the Bay from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which helps build up the restored areas. Those sediment loads are decreasing, which means that natural sediment build-up isn’t happening as fast as it once did. Areas along the Bay may not have enough sediment build-up to keep up with the rising sea levels. As a result, the restored wetland areas along the Bay may eventually end up underwater.
The revised Bay Plan incorporated policies to consider the potential rise in sea level as it relates to development. Essentially, the types of developments possible on areas that could be affected by rising sea levels are limited.
The Role of Individuals and Local Companies in Protecting the Bay
Individuals and businesses also play an important role in San Francisco’s environmental sustainability movement. Every person and company has the power to support the conservation efforts and reduce pollution in the Bay. By making sustainable decisions yourself and supporting businesses that do the same, you help to protect the natural ecosystem for your own family and future generations.
What Local Residents Can Do to Contribute
Residents and visitors of the San Francisco Bay area have a direct impact on the Bay and its condition. You can make a difference with simple changes in your habits and choices.
One of the biggest threats to the Bay is trash. The trash runoff from city streets is the largest pollution source affecting the Bay, and it’s one of the easiest to fix. Plastic accounts for up to 90 percent of floating debris in the Bay. Plastic bags, in particular, are a problem in coastal areas, with as many as 1 million plastic bags polluting the Bay alone each year. They can smother the wetlands and kill animals. Plastic never biodegrades, so it’s always a problem.
Reducing trash starts with the residents of the San Francisco area. Ensure your trash is disposed of properly. Recycle as much as possible, and reduce your overall waste to minimize how much trash leaves your home. By choosing reusable products, you eliminate trash that could eventually end up in the Bay.
Another major issue that residents can help improve is cigarette litter. When people toss their cigarette butts on the ground, they often end up in the Bay, which pollutes the water with the toxic remnants. If you’re a smoker, dispose of your cigarette butts properly instead of tossing them on the ground.
Here are other ways local residents can contribute to improving the health of the Bay:
• Take the Zero Trash pledge to help reduce the amount of garbage that ends up in the water.
• Carry reusable grocery bags to replace one-use plastic bags.
• Never put anything in storm drains other than water. Even things like pesticides and fertilizers can run off your lawn and into the storm drains. Those chemicals enter local waterways, which end up in the Bay and harm the ecosystem.
• Dispose of old medication, household chemicals and other toxic materials appropriately. Never flush them down toilets or pour them down drains, as they may end up in the Bay.
• Follow regulations at all parks and natural areas around the Bay area.
• Volunteer with Save the Bay or similar organizations. These groups often use volunteers to help with restoration work and conservation efforts.
• Support local businesses like the Red and White Fleet that employ sustainable business practices.
• Clean up your community and the shores of the Bay. Organize your own cleaning day, or join an organization that hosts regular cleanups.
• Educate your neighbors, colleagues, friends and acquaintances about the importance of contributing to the cause.
• Support local agencies and groups working to clean up the Bay and restore the wetlands.