Listed below are recent posts across all of CalRecyle's blogs.
It’s been a year of firsts for me. As the newest information officer in CalRecycle’s Office of Public Affairs, it’s my job to tell CalRecycle’s stories. But before joining the Office of Public Affairs team, I was the finance chief for the Camp Fire debris removal project. I’ll have a lifetime of stories to tell about my work on the Camp Fire—and the first is how this challenge was the best I’ve ever accepted.
Last spring, I joined CalRecycle’s Wildfire Debris Removal team in Paradise, California. I had never been to Paradise, but I was very familiar with the Camp Fire. Like many Northern Californians, during November 2018, I had choked on the thick smoke from the country’s most devastating fire in a century. CalRecycle is often tasked with organizing, managing, implementing, and overseeing debris removal operations in support of local governments. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived to help oversee the project’s finances, but I found a dedicated team of cleanup crews that go the extra mile to help homeowners and communities recover.
Here are a few things I learned while working at the Camp Fire debris removal project in Paradise.
Results Are Immediately Visible
CalRecycle transforms properties after a fire:
From a disaster area riddled with invisible toxicity to a cleared property on which a family can rebuild their lives.
Office denizens at CalRecycle go to work every day and have a sense that their work is making a difference, but it’s rare that they get to see it in real time. During debris removal operations, crews on the ground experience the immediate changes they make in the lives of community members.
Residents saw everything they own destroyed. Our work gives them back a property that is certified and ready for rebuilding their new life. We give them a way forward.
We Aren’t Alone
Debris removal operations is more than just an interagency effort. In addition to the California Office of Emergency Services, nearly every CalEPA BDO had representatives that aided with the CalRecycle mission. CalTrans, CHP, California Fish and Wildlife, Department of Water Resources, local jurisdictions, and FEMA collaborated on the cleanup as well.
There is also a critical public-private partnership with experienced contractors and consultants adding their expertise to the operation.
While public-sector employees take the lead, we couldn’t finish the work without the added experience of technical experts from the private sector.
At its peak in Butte County, thousands of people were working toward a single goal. Only about a hundred were state employees.
“Second Responders” Are Truly Heroic
Even though the work is long and tiring, the cleanup crews never got jaded. Project managers take the time to recognize their efforts at weekly safety meetings, and it’s clear the crews care about helping Paradise recover. When asked to do so, debris removal crews sift through portions of ash looking for heirloom jewelry, or the remains of a vintage blacksmith shop, or anything left of a flower pot garden.
Crew members go beyond just removing debris and have taken to heart the mission of helping people search for their lost treasures and rebuild their lives.
The Environment Is Fragile, yet Resilient
Natural disasters leave a scar across the landscape, but if there is one thing that’s clear, it’s that plant life and wildlife bounce back more easily than homes and businesses. On an April visit to the Woolsey/Hills fire site in Los Angeles County, the super bloom was in full force, and it was nearly impossible to see the burn scar from the fire that happened just a few months before. In both Northern and Southern California, great care was taken to do no more damage to the environment.
In addition to allowing homeowners to rebuild, CalRecycle’s mission for wildfire cleanup is to remove debris that threatens public health and the environment. This allows the region’s flora and fauna to recover more quickly.
It’s Worth It Because We Care
Sometimes the days are long. Sometimes your own bed and your loved ones are just too far away. But knowing that the work you’re doing is necessary and matters, gets you up the next day.
There is a shared mission across agencies and sectors. Whether one chooses to make a career out of disaster recovery or volunteers to support the mission on a temporary basis, the experience will positively affect how you see your work and impact on the world.Posted on In the Loop by Chris McSwain on Dec 30, 2019
During the holidays many of us gather to share special meals, exchange gifts, and enjoy ourselves. As you prepare to host gatherings for your loved ones, consider how your celebrations create waste that contributes to climate change and adds to the growing amount of plastic in landfills. Are you being naughty or nice to the planet?
Here are three ways to get on the planet’s Nice List this holiday season
Naughty: Throwing Food in the Trash
Nice: Lowering Food Waste with Meal Plans and Composting
Meal Plan for Zero Food Waste
Many of us consider lavish spreads of favorite holiday dishes the hallmark of a caring host. But excess food gives off high amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane once it’s dumped in a landfill. This is a major cause of climate change.
Rethink your hosting ideals, brand your gathering eco-friendly, then don’t overbuy or overcook.
Use the food GUEST-IMATOR tool to plan how much to prepare. If there are leftovers you know you won’t finish, send food home with your guests in reusable containers.
Clean your plate or compost the rest.
Try composting your food waste. If your curbside organics collection doesn’t accept food, ask local community gardens if you can contribute to their compost bin.
Consider setting up your own home compost. It can help grow healthier, heartier plants. Winter is the ideal time to start compost that will be ready to add to your garden in the spring.
Easy tips for starting to compost
Naughty: Single-Use Plastic
Nice: Reusable Dishes and Utensils
“Disposable” Plastic Lasts Forever
Many hosts choose the ease of disposable plates, cutlery, and cups for holiday gatherings. But that plastic your guests use for just a few minutes will never biodegrade. It stays on the planet, slowly breaking down into toxic microplastics.
About 10 percent of all trash is plastic. Forty million Californians create more than 3.2 million tons of plastic waste every year.
Reusable plates and cutlery give the gift of a cleaner planet. Less trash in landfills is worth a few extra minutes of cleanup.
Naughty: Dirty Recyclables
Nice: Clean Recyclables
Rinse Containers Before Recycling
Recyclables tainted with food or water can leak onto surrounding paper and cardboard, and create a contaminated, unrecyclable mess. In 2018 China stopped accepting certain US mixed recyclable shipments because many arrived full of mold and had to be thrown away in landfills.
Clean your containers to keep recycling from becoming garbage.
Not sure about that greasy pizza box? Tear off the oily parts and toss those in the trash. The remaining clean cardboard can go in your blue bin.
Check out this quick video on recycling contamination.
With a few small changes, you can make a difference for the planet even as you enjoy this festive season. Get more eco-friendly holiday hints to use this year.Posted on In the Loop by Syd Fong on Dec 23, 2019
The holidays are upon us, and many of us are scrambling to find the perfect gift for the important people in our lives. Consider Mother Nature this year and give experience gifts instead. Packaging makes up about 25 percent of California’s trash, and swapping out just a few items on your list in favor of an experience gift can make a difference. Most experience gifts can be given digitally, which means little to no trash created in celebration of the holidays. Here are a few experience gift ideas that are budget-friendly and splurge-worthy.
With many streaming options available for in-home entertainment, it’s easy to stay in to catch the latest show. Opt for an evening out and consider taking a friend or loved one to see a classic movie on the big screen or a Broadway show.
Movie tickets will set you back about $10-15 per person, while theater tickets will likely start at $45 and go up from there. Take a bus or train and save on parking, gas, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Do you have an artist in your life? Plan a day at a local museum or art gallery for inspiration. Admission prices are usually $15 per ticket, but special exhibits may cost a few bucks more. If you’re feeling generous, buy an online painting or drawing class from a popular artist.
Skillshare.com has some great options.
Nothing brings people together like a nice meal. For a budget-friendly option, opt for dinner at a restaurant for $45-75. For the foodies in your life, splurge on a cooking class. Most grocery co-ops have cooking classes, and some popular restaurants offer them as well.
Classes usually start around $75 per person.
Pamper that special someone in your life with a fancy pedicure at a local salon. An upgraded pedicure may include aromatherapy, special scrubs and lotions, and a longer foot massage. If you want to go all out, consider a gift certificate for a spa day.
A luxurious level pedicure can range at between $45-100.
A massage, facial, and pedicure package will start around $200.
No matter your budget, you can usually find an eco-friendly way to show you care. If you do have gifts to wrap, consider sustainable gift wrapping like reusable gift bags or Furoshiki, the Japanese tradition of wrapping gifts in fabric. Check out our Reusable Holiday Wrapping blog for more tips!
—Christina FilesPosted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Dec 13, 2019