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

  • California Teachers Integrate Environmental Literacy into Classrooms with CalRecycle Curriculum

    Kyle McDaniel is an Earth Science teacher at Grant Union High School in Sacramento. He is integrating environmental literacy into his classroom instruction by using the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) curriculum as a foundation for his science classes.

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    CalRecycle’s EEI curriculum teaches K-12 science and history-social science through an environmental lens. The EEI curriculum is a model for upcoming science and history-social science textbook adoptions, which are required to integrate environmental principles and concepts.  

    McDaniel appreciates the flexibility of the curriculum. “If I’m looking for a two-week curriculum that is self-contained and student-driven, I look at the available units on the subject I’m teaching,” says McDaniel. EEI curriculum spans kindergarten through 12th grade and includes 6 biology units, 6 earth science units, and 45 history-social science units that incorporate environmental literacy into topics like world history, economics, and American democracy.

    McDaniel looks for ways to teach earth science concepts in light of current events. He is currently teaching an EEI curriculum unit on California’s water, titled Liquid Gold: California’s Water. “Water is an important topic in California right now. Students can learn about the political debate around emergency drought water restrictions staying in place. The California drought is so current and so important in their lives.”

    McDaniel loves the flexibility of the EEI curriculum. “I print the student reader material and instruct students to take notes on the pages.” McDaniel encourages students to keep their student workbook and take it home with them at the end of the unit.  He allows students to use the reader booklets during tests, too, but he requires that students properly cite their sources. “I wanted a closer alignment between finding information, extracting it, and citing it. Students need to be able to learn how to cite their evidence.”

    McDaniel uses the EEI curriculum to take students outside to study their campus environment. Students toured their campus and noted on a map the areas of their school property that had surfaces permeable to water. “I wanted students to analyze how water moves around our campus. After a rainstorm, where does the water flow? Where does pollution end up?” McDaniel also incorporates geometry to help students calculate the surface area of the campus. “There are a lot of topics you can cover with an EEI unit,” says McDaniel. In the coming weeks, students will be using water quality probes to gather water samples from different places in the community to analyze the pH, salinity, and turbidity of water.

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    McDaniel first heard about the Education and Environment Initiative at the California Education Seminar in Sacramento. “I attended a workshop and met another teacher using it. I learned about the different units and how to use it in my classroom. Since then I’ve taught biology and earth science using EEI,” recalls McDaniel.

    If you’d like to learn more about the EEI curriculum please visit CaliforniaEEI.org. Teachers interested in using the curriculum can choose to attend an in-person training or watch a pre-recorded webinar.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Mar 16, 2017

  • Lettuce in Landfills Leads to Climate Change


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    Yes, you read that right. Landfilled organic materials (like landscape trimmings and food waste) produce methane gas, which is a short-lived climate pollutant that negatively affects our environment and contributes to changes in Earth’s temperature and weather patterns.

    Wait a second—doesn’t organic material decompose into compost?

    Yes it does, but only if it’s in the right environment. Composting is a process of organic decomposition, but it requires a special recipe of nitrogen, carbon, water, and air with an extra dash of fungus and bacteria for good measure. The most basic compost recipe calls for blending roughly equal parts green or wet material (which is high in nitrogen) and brown or dry material (which is high in carbon) into a pile or enclosure. Add water and fluff the materials to add air, and then microorganisms break down the material over time.

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    Landfills are not an ideal environment for composting because food waste is often enclosed in plastic trash bags, and all waste is buried, removing it from access to water and air. Organic material does decompose over time, but it produces methane gas when it breaks down outside of the composting process. In fact, landfills are the second-largest cause of methane gas in California.

    How bad is methane gas, really?

    Pretty bad. Methane gas has a short life span in our atmosphere in comparison to other greenhouse gases, but it has a stronger potency and does more damage. While carbon dioxide (CO2) is responsible for more than half the warming impact from human-caused emissions, methane is a far more powerful warming agent than CO2. Over a twenty year period, one ton of methane has the warming effect of 72 tons of CO2 . Methane emissions resulting from the decomposition of organic waste in landfills are a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions contributing to global climate change. Methane emissions occur in the production of oil and gas, during drilling and coal extraction, and in food and agriculture waste.

    How do we reduce methane gas in our environment?

    The solution is pretty simple: divert organic materials away from landfills and into composting and anaerobic digestion facilities that produce biofuels. Organic materials account for a significant portion of California’s overall waste stream: up to 37 percent! Eighteen percent of California’s waste stream is comprised of disposed food waste, which includes waste that can be prevented, recovered for donation, or composted.

    In September 2016, Governor Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1383 (Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016) to dramatically reduce short-lived climate pollutant emissions and to steer California in a new direction for managing organic materials. The law establishes targets to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the disposal of organic waste from a 2014 baseline level by 2020 and a 75 percent reduction by 2025.

    Diverting 75 percent of organic materials from landfills will make a significant impact on California. It will help us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the amount of trash that we bury in landfills, create new green jobs, and benefit our state’s agricultural sector with soil enriching compost.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Mar 9, 2017

  • What is Climate Change?

    Climate change is a hot topic for our country right now. While the vast majority of the scientific community agrees that humans are having an impact on our planet, there are still some who remain skeptical that it exists and is a problem worth solving. Those paying close attention are convinced we need to reduce our impact on the planet because we can already see drastic changes to the landscape of our continents. CNN reported recently that Antarctica’s melting ice will likely lead to changes in winter storms for North America and Europe. Winter storms may be warmer and less frequent. More compelling evidence of climate change seems to unfold on a weekly basis.

    Climate Change Defined

    Climate change is simple to understand. It is a long-term change in global or regional climate patterns due to increased atmospheric temperatures. Our world is getting warmer because greenhouse gases are trapping the sun’s heat in our atmosphere for longer periods of time, intensified by anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change fueled by various forms of industrialization that have far-reaching impacts. Snowcaps in the Arctic and Antarctic regions are melting, which causes sea levels to rise, and consequently our winter and summer storm cycles are changing.

    Climate Change in California: Cause and Effect

    California, like any society or economy, contributes to climate change by producing greenhouse gases. California cattle ranches produce manure, which emits methane gas. California’s automobiles produce carbon dioxide gas. Landfilled organic waste also emits methane gas.  We have many stationary and mobile sources of greenhouse gasses.

    Global climate change has affected California’s environment in several ways. First, irregular weather patterns have contributed to our most recent drought. Less snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and less rainfall in the valleys strain agricultural farming resources and residential water supplies. Farmlands are thirsty for water. Californians are encouraged to let their green lawns fade to gold and to take shorter showers. Additionally, drought seasons often result in higher-risk fire seasons. Dry trees are perfect tinderboxes for forest fires.

    What Are Greenhouse Gases?

    A greenhouse gas is a gas that absorbs infrared radiation and radiates heat in all directions, which causes the earth’s temperature to rise. It essentially traps heat within our atmosphere.  Common greenhouse gases include methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide. Carbon dioxide is the most common greenhouse gas, and it stays in the atmosphere for a long time. We produce carbon dioxide when we drive cars, use electricity, or use industrial manufacturing methods. Carbon naturally moves through the earth via the carbon cycle, but we are currently producing carbon faster than we are able to remove or sequester it. Methane doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere, but is much more powerful than CO2 – about 70 times more potent. A significant source of methane are the state’s landfills  where, due to lack of sufficient oxygen, green waste is unable to compost and generates methane as it decomposes.

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    https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/kids/references.html#ref-40

     

    How We Create Greenhouse Emissions

    Greenhouse gases are the result of an industrialized world that relies upon fossil fuels to make products and transport us from here to there. We know that using public transportation and driving hybrid cars help reduce greenhouse gas We can reduce our impact on the planet by reducing the amount of trash we produce.

    Californians dispose an average of 4.7 pounds of trash per person per day. California has set a goal of recycling 75 percent of trash by 2020. A significant portion of this will be organic materials responsible for accelerating climate change when landfilled. We can divert 75 percent of our current waste, and slow the harmful effects of greenhouse gases, by reducing the amount of trash we produce, reusing the materials and products we consume, and diverting the majority of our waste into recycling or composting activities instead of dumping it in the ground.

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

    • If you had to reduce your daily waste by 75 percent, what could you do differently?
    • Do you use a lot of plastic bags for packed lunches? Consider changing to reusable containers or recyclable materials like parchment paper.
    • Consider diverting your food waste into a green waste bin or into a personal composting bin. Compost will enrich your garden’s soil and is good for the environment.
    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Mar 2, 2017