Listed below are recent posts across all of CalRecyle's blogs.

  • How to Host an Eco-Friendly Picnic

    Entertaining in the great outdoors is a lot of fun. Instead of buying dishes and decorations for each event, think about your overall entertaining style and invest in some reusable items that will be kinder to Mother Earth and your pocketbook in the long run. Pick out classic designs in coordinating color schemes to get the most mileage out of your picnic supplies. Swap out single-use items for items you can pull out of your picnic basket year after year.

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    Upgrade your picnic entertaining style by investing in reusable plates, serving dishes, and cutlery. You can go high-end and shop at department stores, but you can also find beautiful, economical options at discount stores. No matter your budget, you can host a low-waste picnic for your friends and family.

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    Some people choose paper or thin plastic tablecloths for easy cleanup, but that creates a lot of waste at the end of your party. Why not pick out a versatile blanket or tablecloth that can be washed or wiped down after each use? You’ll spend far less time wrangling flyaway tablecloths in the spring breeze if they’re thicker than tissue paper!

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    Nothing adds a classy touch to an event like offering a guest a real glass. For the great outdoors, swap out thin glasses for acrylic tumblers or even sturdy mason jar glasses. You’ll throw away far less at the end of the day by giving people a reusable beverage container.

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    Party decorations can be tricky because hosts often want to change themes and styles with each occasion. Think beyond the streamers and dollar store throwaway centerpieces, and opt instead for fresh flowers in classic mason jars. Tie a scrap of fabric or ribbon around the jars to add a festive touch. Or, consider making or buying fabric bunting flags in your favorite colors that will add your personal style and flair to each gathering.

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    No one wants to get dehydrated at a picnic, but you can go through a lot of bottles and cans in an afternoon party, especially when you’re outside! Consider providing drinks in large dispensers instead of serving individual beverages. People can use their reusable tumblers or mason jar glasses and curb the amount you’ll have to recycle after the party.

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    Make cleanup easy on yourself at the end of the day and bring trash and recycling tubs to your picnic spot. If you’re handy, try making a recycling tub cart out of PVC pipes and wheels to make transporting the tubs a little easier. 

    Nothing beats a great spring picnic. Swap out one or two items each season until your picnic basket supplies are totally reusable. If you’re worried about transporting glass mason jars or other breakable items, consider buying a yard or two of felt and sliding felt discs between plates and serving dishes. Use old towels to twist between mason jars and tuck them into a tote or a sturdy box. Wash up at the park water spigot with a portable tub, dish soap, and wash cloth. Just remember to pour your leftover suds down the park bathroom drain to protect the environment.

    Now, get out there and have a picnic!

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Jun 1, 2017

  • All About Earth Day

    U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin organized the first Earth Day in on April 22, 1970, and it served as a catalyst to bring a simmering environmental movement to the forefront of American consciousness. Just eight years earlier, Rachel Carson published a groundbreaking book titled Silent Spring that critically examined the impact of industrialization on our planet and connected our actions with the health of our environment. Carson observed that the heavy use of pesticides was killing off birds, making the forests silent. Some credit her book with jump-starting the environmental movement.

    In December 1970, real change came when Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. By the U.S. EPA’s 10th anniversary, Congress had authorized significant legislation that laid the foundation for environmental regulation in the United States. As a leader in environmental policy, California followed suit and established complementary laws to care for our state.

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    Be sure to see our Earth Day Planning Guide, which includes events this weekend, later this month, and even in May, to commemorate the progress we have made and to continue to protect our natural resources. 

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Apr 20, 2017

  • San Francisco Youth Help Meet Recycling, Landfill Diversion Goals

    The City of San Francisco has long been at the forefront of recycling and landfill diversion. Almost 20 years ago, the city introduced green waste bins and implemented a three-bin waste collection system in residential neighborhoods. Shortly after that, the city launched Food to Flowers! in its schools.

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    Food to Flowers! familiarizes students with the same waste management best practices the city encourages in residential neighborhoods: recycling, source separating, and understanding what materials are compostable.

    Program Director Tamar Hurwitz has been with Food to Flowers! for more than 14 years and has spearheaded the effort to develop a comprehensive educational component to food waste diversion and recycling in schools. The program includes image-based slideshow assemblies to educate K-12 students about recycling and the environment. Today, more than140 schools in San Francisco have implemented a food-scrap collection program that encompasses education, outreach, organics collection for off-site composting, and vermicomposting with worms.

    “We teach students that nature gives us everything. Kids love animals. It’s a very natural instinct,” says Hurwitz. “We teach them that if we care about the animals, then we need to protect nature and we introduce zero waste as way to do that.” 

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    When Hurwitz began developing the program, she noticed many recycling mascots were bottles and cans with smiley faces on them. She didn’t find that very motivating. “I don’t want to save a can, but I do want to save an animal,” she says. Food to Flowers! created a phoenix bird mascot called Phoebe that children really love. “Kids remember Phoebe for years. … She’s beloved.” Phoebe is the star of the school assemblies and a recycling training video.

    The Food to Flowers! campaign includes installing green carts in cafeterias to collect food scraps. Students learn how to separate their food waste from plastic packaging and other non-compostable items. Fourth-graders are trained to be compost monitors,  and they wear bright orange aprons. The goal is to prompt students to stop and think about their trash rather than doing a “dump” and running off to recess.

    “It’s a reasonable request to ask students to dump food, sort out recyclables, and stack plastic trays,” says Hurwitz. “You have to make it consistent and support them when they are confused.” Compost monitors tell fellow students to think about compost in terms of worms. If a worm can eat it, it can go in the green cart.

    Hurwitz puts a lot of thought into the educational messaging. She recalls asking a classroom why trees are important and a student called out, “Because they give us paper!” Hurwitz realized she needed to reframe the question and asked why living trees are important. “The implication is that living trees have such value—we need to keep them alive.”

    Schools that implement the Food to Flowers! campaign often see benefits in many different areas beyond waste management. The program’s positive messages have a trickle-down effect. “When a school can incorporate a zero-waste program, it can help create a school culture of respect and teamwork,” says Hurwitz.  

    Waste issues plague most cities, but programs like Food to Flowers! model environmental stewardship to children so it becomes a natural and normal part of how they view their trash.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Apr 6, 2017