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

  • Don't Scare the Planet with Your Halloween Costume

    Pumpkins with plastic ghosts. Don't scare the planet with your halloween costume

    Many costumes are made with the intention to scare folks during Halloween. But one of the scariest statistics about this spooky day is that people spend about $8.8 billion, or $75 per person, on Halloween-related items, including costumes that get thrown away.

    According to a CalRecycle waste characterization report, more than 1.24 million tons of textiles were disposed in California landfills in 2014. Every year, Californians spend more than $70 million to dispose of used textiles in landfills, and 95 percent of this material is actually reusable or recyclable

    So, why not save money and the environment by being a little creative when deciding what to wear for Halloween? Here are some simple tips to consider:

    • Check out Pinterest for DIY costume ideas, and then peruse your own closet or local thrift store to create your next costume.
    • Instead of purchasing a plastic or rubber Halloween mask, use makeup or non-toxic face paint that you already have to create your look. 
    • Look in your recycling bin for anything that can be used for Halloween costumes and decorations. How about using a cardboard box to create a robot costume?
    • Save your kiddo’s costumes and host a Halloween costume swap party before next Halloween.
    • If you can’t hang on to the costumes for that long, consider donating them to organizations like a local theater company, day care provider, or thrift store.

    Along with alternative plans for Halloween costumes, maybe consider a different way for kids to carry their trick-or-treat candies. Instead of using those plastic pumpkins, consider creating your own reusable bag. In this video, our CalRecycle team shows how easy it is to make one with an old shirt.

    Posted on In the Loop by Tracey Harper and Syd Fong on Oct 31, 2019

  • Sustainability, Fashion Merge on Designer Runway


    Upcycled art is a new genre growing in popularity among designers and makers. Rather than sourcing raw materials to create masterpieces, artists source discarded textiles in hopes that upcycled art can contribute to a more sustainable mindset in our economy and daily lives. Four percent of California’s waste stream is textiles, which are defined as items made of thread, yarn, fabric, or cloth. This may not seem like a lot until you consider that 4 percent is over 1.2 million tons of material that could be diverted from landfills and used to make new products.

    Recently I got the chance to test my design skills at Merge 2017, an upcycle fashion event hosted by the Sacramento Chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA). It’s a one-day event that gathers top architects and interior designers (not fashion designers!) from around Sacramento to upcycle architectural materials into chic fashion ensembles. Upholstery fabric, carpet samples, ceiling panels, and floor tiles are transformed into bodices, skirts, belts, hats, and jewelry. After a full day of designing, sewing, hair, and makeup, the event culminates in a runway show held at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria in Downtown Sacramento. This is upcycled art at its finest!

    Fashion is a big business. According to the Business of Fashion’s 2017 State of Fashion report, global fashion is a $2.4 trillion industry, or the nation-equivalent of the world’s seventh-largest economy. That’s a lot of textile material! In an era where inexpensive, seasonal clothing is common and second-hand clothing purchased at thrift stores is sometimes seen as unfashionable, fashion artists are reframing the concept of reusable textiles and paving the way for sustainable high fashion. Although it’s unlikely that many traditional fashion designers would use architectural materials for their garments like we did at Merge, the event brought awareness to upcycled fashion and inspired attendees to repurpose items rather than toss them out.  Seen in creative, artistic terms, it’s yet another pathway to casting aside self-imposed limits on fashion.

    My sister Jessica, an accomplished interior designer, led a team from Hibser Yamauchi (HY) Architects. She recruited both our mother (and her mad sewing skills) and me (pretty savvy with a glue gun) to lend a hand. Prior to the event, firms were assigned several sustainability-focused textile manufacturers who supplied them with materials. HY worked with Rockfon and Momentum Textiles, both of whom are dedicated to recycling and diverting waste from landfills when possible. 


    The theme for this year’s event was “Around the World,” and our team was assigned Russia to inspire us. We wanted to create an edgy homage to Russian ushunka hats—would you believe these faux fur accessories are combed ceiling tile fiber? We used Rockfon stone wool ceiling tiles, which are comprised of up to 42 percent recycled content. Rockfon reduces its environmental impact by diverting 95 percent of its production waste from landfills.


    Our dress was constructed from Momentum Textiles Crypton Green upholstery fabric.  My mom’s skills came in handy, since we couldn’t use a pattern and had to create our own on the spot and then tailor the garment to our model. Momentum creates fabrics from recycled fibers, and their Crypton Greenfield Gold Certification fabrics are constructed in an environmentally conscious way and have low VOCs.

    My contribution consisted of transforming a long rope of carpet sample tassels into a woven braided necklace with blue vinyl tile charms dangling from its threaded loops. We spent hours pulling tassels apart, tying 4-inch threads into a long string, braiding them together into a rope, and then crocheting a necklace to grace our model’s neckline.

    The best part was, of course, the runway walk! Our model nailed the perfect runway attitude—a little sass, a little twinkle in the eye, and alot of dramatic hip swings. The competition was fierce; although we didn’t win, we were proud of our efforts, felt good about what we created – and how we created it!


    The Sacramento chapter of the International Interior Design Association put on a stellar event and  awarded several local interior design students with scholarships. There was an electric atmosphere of creativity in the Galleria that night, and you could see the scholars beaming to be part of such a vibrant and artsy community.

    In keeping with the design principle on display that evening, the event hosts gathered up the leftover and unused architectural materials and donated them to a local organization looking for raw materials for art projects and crafts. Sometimes being sustainable is just about your perspective. I never thought of industrial building materials as suitable for the runway, but I’ll never look at a scrap of carpet the same way again! 

    CalRecycle sustainability Merge RecycleForClimate
    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Aug 7, 2017

  • Fabric Flowers Sprout from Recycled Material

    My grandmother used to say necessity is the mother of invention, and I think she was right. Californians dispose of more material during times of abundance; when the economy is flush, our wallets open wide and we buy new things, wrapped in lots of packaging, and we throw out old things. Some of these old things still have a lot of life in them, especially if we get creative!

    I come from a pretty artsy family. And we’re not the type of people to run down to the craft store to buy everything we need. Instead, we prefer to scavenge local thrift stores, yard sales, and even each other’s craft closets to assemble the materials we need to create a project.

    Fabric flowers are en vogue again, especially for country chic weddings. So, when my friend got engaged, it was only natural that I dove into my mother’s and sister’s ribbon and lace collections to assemble the material I needed to create a set of bridesmaid tote bags with accent flowers.

    Back in my grandmother’s day, fabric flowers constructed of rolled ribbon or delicately folded muslin could transform everyday dresses into Sunday best or even wedding garments. New clothes were expensive and difficult to make, so textiles were repurposed over and over again. Now, fabric flower tutorials are just a YouTube video away. Since they require just a few inches of ribbon, you can easily transform scraps that are otherwise too short for wrapping packages or tying large bows.

    Bows can be crafted from more than just recycled ribbon and lace. Small scraps of burlap, leftover canvas strips from a sewing or paint project, and even an old satin bathrobe belt can be carefully sewn or glued into concentric rows of beautiful flower petals. I like to adorn the center of each blossom with a pearl from a broken necklace strand or a glitzy vintage earring or broach.


    If you can’t raid a relative’s or friend’s stash for craft materials, visit a thrift store where donated art supplies are given or resold to the public. Take the Free Utopian Projects (Free UP) movement, for example, which promotes sustainable art practices by supplying makers with materials. Free UP Oakland has a permanent storefront filled with a hodgepodge of crafty art supplies. Guests can take one free item per day and make a donation to purchase additional items.

    Oakland is also home to the East Bay Depot for Creative Use. Founded in the late 1970s by a group of Oakland Unified School District teachers, The Depot’s initial aim was to provide reusablesupplies to educators who were often paying out of pocket to stock their classrooms. They have grown a lot since their beginning and now divert over 200 tons of reusable material from landfills each year. 


    You don’t have to be an artist to help divert reusable textiles and art materials from landfills. Consider calling your local grade schools or university art department to see if they can use your materials. Just remember that one person’s trash may be another person’s treasure … or in this case, flower!


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