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

  • Sustainable Spookiness

    Don’t bury decorations in a landfill graveyard after Halloween

    The fall season is upon us. Bring on the pumpkin spice lattes and butternut squash soup! Every family has its own holiday traditions, but I think we can all agree that autumn is a season of transition from warm, outdoor gatherings to cozy, indoor celebrations, and it’s a great time to spruce up our homes with new decorations. As we gear up for special occasions, it is also a great opportunity—and surprisingly simple—to keep sustainability in mind.

    According to the National Retail Federation, last year more than 171 million Americans were estimated to celebrate Halloween and spent more than $8 billion on decorations, costumes, and candy. Starting in mid-August, retail store shelves are stocked with an abundance of cheap, plastic decorations that won’t last more than a season (or two, if you’re lucky). Curb your consumerism a little this year and consider alternatives for your Halloween party, and get a little crafty when decorating and assembling costumes. It’s a great way to refine your sustainability habits and to spread the message to your friends and neighbors as you brag about your art skills.

    I personally love handcrafted décor. I customize items to my personal taste and style, which increases their personal value. I rarely throw anything away that I spent hours making, and I’m often upcycling items from around the house that would otherwise end up in a bin by my curb. Here are a few items I have added to my personal Halloween décor.

    Dried Apple Head Dolls

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    Found a bad apple in the bunch? That’s a perfect candidate for a handmade apple doll, an American folk art doll with a rich history. Apples are peeled and carved with a small knife, dipped into water with lemon juice and salt, and then dried slowly. The result is a wrinkly old face that can be transformed into an endearing old woman doll or a sinister-looking witch. Martha Stewart has a great written tutorial along with a short video, and the craft is appropriate for kids and adults. These apple dolls last for years, but if they live past their prime you can easily deconstruct them and toss the spent apples into a compost bin.

    Cheesecloth Liquid Starch Ghosts

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    If you’re anything like me, my décor storage space is limited. I’m always looking for something that will minimize between uses, and these cheesecloth ghosts are just the ticket. Every year, I unravel a couple of yards of cheesecloth, soak them in liquid starch, and drape them dramatically into the shape of spooky spirits. The beauty of these spooks is that you can rinse the starch out and tuck the cheesecloth away for the next year. This definitely beats alternative crafts that use yards of plastic wrap to create a similar phantom ambiance. To learn how, check out this tutorial

    A Curio Cabinet of Potions

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    Nothing says Halloween like an old hag’s spooky display of mysterious herbs, magic potions, and elixirs. Make your own set out of old vitamin bottles and spice tins. This is a popular item on Pinterest and Etsy, where an individual potion bottle could cost as little as $10 and an entire cabinet collection could set you back a few hundred dollars. Save up those glass and plastic jars and make a little magic of your own with a glue gun, moss, and twine. Your unique display will be the envy of your neighbors at your Halloween party. Check out this tutorial with step-by-step instructions.

    These Halloween decorations are easy to make and easy on your holiday shopping budget, and they’re a little kinder to the planet than single-use décor. If you repurpose items that would already be going into a trash bin instead of buying cheaply made décor, you’ll be joining the upcycle crafting revolution and further reducing your own waste and carbon footprint. It’s a small step, but we know every step counts.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Oct 23, 2017

  • Young Frankenstein: The First Upcycler

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    Posted on In the Loop by CalRecycle Staff on Oct 5, 2017

  • What’s Orange and Black and Green All Over?

    My earliest Halloween memory is of me walking down the sidewalk dressed as an angel with my little plastic pumpkin, going door to door to collect candy from strangers – the only day on the calendar that it’s acceptable to do that. I was hooked! Since that day many moons ago, I have been spellbound by pumpkins, the paranormal, and perfectly planned costumes.

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    Originally posted by sixpenceee

    According to the National Retail Federation, I am not alone. Halloween spending is expected to reach $8.4 billion this year, with more than 171 million Americans planning to celebrate. What does that mean? Often a bunch of waste. That’s not to say there is no reason to celebrate, but if you want to live with a smaller impact on the planet, it’s important to consider how you join in the fun. 

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    Here’s how I do it.

    I reuse everything and add to my decorations every year – maybe a glass skull, some artificial ravenous ravens, or a few spooky snapshots to hang in my soon-to-be haunted home. But before I add, I take an inventory or look around my home for something I can repurpose. It’s quite surprising what items can take on the spirit of the season just by adding a witch hat or a phony spider. This provides me with an opportunity to repair any old or broken items and also add to my collection. 

    When I started my Halloween décor collection, it wasn’t necessarily with the intention of reusing everything – in fact, many of the things I bought or made were intended to be used only once. But when I realized that the foam headstones and the paper bats were still in good shape on November 1, I decided to keep them, making sure they were properly preserved for the following year. I took the time to repackage each bat cutout and sprayed the foam headstones with some all-weather protectant in case it rained. 

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    Eventually I purchased higher-quality tombstones rather than the hard-to-recycle foam type. I rummaged through thrift stores to find items I could repurpose in my haunted home: picture frames that I painted black and candlesticks for that formal frightening feel. I bought some items new, I admit, like my plastic skeleton, Ricky, my tattered black cheesecloth, and my faux ravens. But, I have used them for the past several years and will continue to do so. And to prevent myself from spending more money or even filling my garage with more things, I repurpose my everyday items by adding a little Halloween flair, like a little witch hat on a ceramic cat. The only item that I don’t reuse are the phony spider webs, which get all clumped up when you try to reuse them. I am currently researching an alternative that doesn’t create more waste or involve letting actual spiders do all the work while I sit back and relax.

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    You may be asking what I’ll be doing this year to step up my Hallow-green game. Of course, I have reused all my decorations, and I even found ways to salvage some that were doomed to the garbage graveyard. In addition, I will be hosting a “less-waste” party since I’m not quite ready to host a “zero-waste” shindig. I will be labeling all my waste bins, including one for food waste (hopefully, there won’t be too much) and setting out as many regular plates, utensils, and glasses as I can. I will also be packing leftovers for my guests. Candy will be limited or purchased in bulk to reduce packaging waste since those wrappers are not easily recycled. All my invitations will be sent out via email, text, or Snapchat. And ghastly, er lastly, my Halloween costume will likely be made of multiple costumes from previous years.  

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    My soiree will be a boo-tiful bash, and the holiday will be a little more eek-o-friendly than each year that came before it.

    Posted on In the Loop by TC Clark on Oct 24, 2016