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

  • Maximizing the Holidays and Minimizing Waste


    Every year, we talk about the impact the holiday season has on our waste stream. From Halloween through the New Year, Americans ramp up their spending—on decorations, food celebrations, gift exchanges, and gift-wrapping supplies.

    We all get to choose the way we embrace an environmentally conscious lifestyle. Some of us choose to bike to work, while others choose to ride public transportation. Some abandon plastic saran wrap, while others switch to reusable containers with lids. For me, the holiday season is all about striking a fine balance between celebrating abundantly and maintaining a sustainable lifestyle. If you’re following my blog posts here, you’ll know I favor handmade holiday decorations and gifts, but I’m still trying to find my stride with the approaching holidays.

    I’ve wondered if there is a “keystone habit” that would set me up for sustainable success. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, coined this phrase to describe an activity that is correlated with other good habits—in other words, making one good choice can have a domino effect on the rest of your life. For example, those who exercise tend to eat better. Those who eat family dinners tend to benefit from lower food costs, better nutrition and health, healthier marriages, and academically successful children.  

    With the holidays approaching, I’ve developed a list of keystone habits to guide me through the season. 



    Cook Smaller Meals at Home (Skip the Leftovers!)

    Most of the time, I cook a larger dinner meal that results in leftovers that I take to work for lunch or stretch out on nights I don’t want to cook. During the holiday season, I eat out more frequently and attend multiple parties, so these leftovers are harder to consume before they turn. Food waste constitutes about 20 percent of our waste stream, and I’m doing my part in December by making my grocery trips smaller and focusing on cooking food that can be eaten in two meals instead of four. I also shop for special meals (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day dinners) separately from my everyday shopping, because it helps me keep track of what I anticipate being eaten. Otherwise, I end up tossing things in my cart and thinking, if we don’t eat it on Thanksgiving, we’ll eat it later in the weekend, which inevitably results in over shopping and food waste.  



    Give Fewer and More Meaningful Gifts

    This year, my family members collectively fessed up and admitted we have too much stuff and don’t need anything. Our Santa lists are shorter and include a handful of things that we would really appreciate. Some of us are pooling resources to buy larger gifts, while others are choosing to buy experience gifts like cooking lessons and tickets to a Broadway show. I’ve also decided to focus on buying high-quality jewelry for the women in my life rather than costume jewelry. I may give fewer pieces, but nice jewelry is usually more timeless than this season’s trends and much less likely to end up in a landfill in a few years. I’m also compiling photos into a special picture book, which has a lot of sentimental value and will be cherished for years to come. And don’t forget to check out my blog entry on Reusable Holiday Wrapping.


    Decorate with Compostable Decorations

    This year I’m channeling my inner Colonial Williamsburg, Little Women craftswoman and heading to the orchard rather than the craft store for inspiration. Early American Christmas decorations consisted of fresh greenery, fruit, nuts, pinecones, and spices like cinnamon sticks, cloves, and star anise pods. This year, I’m aiming to dry orange, grapefruit, and apple slices for wreathes, garlands, and ornaments. At the end of the season, I can toss these decorations into the compost pile.

    As the holidays unfold and my schedule gets busier, it takes a little more effort to keep sustainability in mind. But I’m armed with a plan and keystone habits to guide me through the New Year. What kind of keystone habits will you put in place?

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Dec 11, 2017

  • Introducing CalRecycle’s Zero Waste Webpages

    CalRecycle’s zero waste team has added content to our Zero Waste webpage just as the announcement of the rebranding of the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council’s certification to the new TRUE Zero Waste Certification occurs. TRUE stands for “Total Resource Use and Efficiency” and the rating system is now administered by Green Business Certification, Inc. (GBCI) and housed under the U.S. Green Business Council (USGBC).


    Businesses participating in the Zero Waste Certification program strive to divert 90 percent of their overall waste from landfill and incineration.

    CalRecycle’s Zero Waste Businesses webpage has new content designed for businesses striving for zero waste, including case studies and information about various certification programs.

    The Grass Roots Recycling Network (GRRN) describes zero waste as “a goal, a process, a way of thinking that profoundly changes the approach to resources and production. Not only is zero waste about recycling and diversion from landfills, it also restructures production and distribution systems to prevent waste from being manufactured in the first place.”

    “A zero waste system enables communities to not only protect the environment, but uncover economic opportunities,” says Stephanie Barger, director of market development for Zero Waste Programs with TRUE. “It reduces costs and improves efficiency, and by championing a zero waste economy, we’re helping transform the way we do business.”

    In 2013, CalRecycle showed its support for the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (now TRUE) by becoming a founding member. CalRecycle recognized that the Zero Waste Certification for businesses supports the goals of AB 341 to increase the state’s rate of recycling, composting and source reduction to 75 percent. Through this partnership, CalRecycle employees have had access to zero waste workshops, webinars, and conferences and have had opportunities to engage with like-minded individuals and organizations. CalRecycle has compiled a resources webpagehighlighting other zero waste organizations and educational programs.

    Are you wondering if your city or county has a zero waste policy or program? Visit the Zero Waste Communities webpage for a list and find other tools for local governments as well.

    To read more about the new partnership that administers the TRUE Zero Waste Certification system, please see the U.S. Green Business Council’s TRUE announcement.

    —Angela Vincent

    Posted on In the Loop by Angela Vincent on Nov 2, 2017

  • “Trash” to Cash

    The perks of a community yard sale

    While some people are sleeping in on weekends, others are scouring yard sales. And while treasure hunting for that soon-to-be upcycled item might be fun, organizing a yard sale is another story.

    For a higher degree of difficulty and even better environmental returns, try a neighborhood yard sale! Sure, it sounds like a logistics nightmare, but real estate agent KC Schuft, who lives in the southeast Sacramento neighborhood of Colonial Heights, has it down to a science. You can use her system, too!


    Though the annual Colonial Heights sale has been going on for years, KC picked up the responsibility of organizing just a few years ago. She starts two months in advance by posting a “save the date” on social media platforms like Nextdoor. Then she follows up by hand-delivering flyers to the 700 homes in the area, inviting households to participate. An RSVP gets participants on the yard sale map and their special items promoted on Facebook and Craigslist. On the first day of the weekend event, KC sets up a table at the neighborhood main entrance with signs and maps for shoppers. 


    When I attended the sale, I immediately got the neighborly vibe. Friends of mine who bought a house in this neighborhood a year ago are the new kids on the block, and they are already well loved. Multiple friends who did not live in the community came out to see them, hang out, eat doughnuts, and of course, buy items and check out the other yard sales. I think friends coming to visit and eat doughnuts was my favorite part. 

    While it’s tough to say how much was spared from the landfill since items weren’t inventoried, I know at least two purses, a backpack, a skein of purple yarn, and a honey jar were saved from the weekly trash pickup, because they went home with me. All those items are being put to good use (or should I say, reuse!) for only a fraction of the price I would have paid in a store. My uncle is enjoying the ’90s R&B records and ceramic Christmas items he bought for $10.

    My friend suggested unsold items be donated to a local charity. She offered her home as a collection point at the end of the sale, and neighbors brought unsold items to her house where the charity picked them up the next day—undoubtedly preventing more things from ending up at the dump while also raising money for those in need.


    While keeping material out of landfills might not have been on most residents’ minds, their annual neighborhood yard sale helps build their community while protecting the environment, suburbia-style.

    Posted on In the Loop by TC Clark on Oct 26, 2017