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

  • Maximizing the Holidays and Minimizing Waste

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    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. 

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    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.  

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    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.

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    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

  • The Age-Old Holiday Dilemma: Real or Fake Tree

    Christmas trees are often the centerpiece of a home’s holiday décor and a big business. Every year, more than 21 million real trees and 12 million artificial trees are sold in the United States. You have many options available to you when it comes time to deck the halls—freshly cut live trees, potted live trees that can be planted after the holidays, and artificial trees that now come in many different styles. And then there’s the ultimate design question: to flock or not to flock? With so many options to choose from, don’t forget to keep sustainability in mind as you select a tree this year.

    There are many factors to analyze during the production, transportation, use, and end-of-life scenarios of artificial and real trees. Eighty percent of artificial trees are produced in and imported from China, whereas the majority of live trees sold in California are grown in the Pacific Northwest. According to the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association, about 8 million trees grow in Oregon and Washington, and about 45 percent of those trees are sold to California. Since artificial trees are made of synthetic materials and travel a greater distance than trees grown in the United States, they have a greater initial environmental cost than live trees.

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    However, most consumers own an artificial tree for several holiday seasons, which begs the question of whether there are significant long-term environmental impact differences between live and artificial trees. The American Christmas Tree Association commissioned an independent study to analyze the impact of energy use, global warming potential, eutrophication potential, acidification potential, and smog potential of the entire lifecycle of both artificial and live trees. The study found the global warming potential of an artificial tree is less than that of a live tree if it is used for more than four years. If you look at all environmental impact categories, an artificial tree has a smaller impact on our planet if you keep it for more than nine years.

    This study overlooked one important environmental consideration: All artificial trees will ultimately end up in a landfill. Live trees, on the other hand, are a renewable resource and can be composted into rich soil amendments after they have served their purpose.

    Live trees have additional benefits to consider as well. While the production and transportation of artificial trees contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, the cultivation phase of live trees counteracts global warming. Living trees are an important part of carbon sequestration, which means they absorb and store carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. However, the rest of the lifecycle of a live Christmas tree can detract from the tree’s positive impacts on the environment. Transportation, the use of polypropylene string in tree baling, and the use of plastic or metal tree stands all have negative environmental impacts. 

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    Here’s the bottom line: If you opt for a live tree, try to buy a locally grown tree and recycle it after it’s served its purpose. (Don’t forget to remove all lights, ornaments, tinsel, and garland before putting your tree at the curb.) If you opt for an artificial tree, invest in one you will want to keep for at least four years, and then donate it to a thrift store instead of tossing it into the trash.

    (Tomorrow: To Flock or Not to Flock?)

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Dec 7, 2017

  • Thoughtful Giving

    If you follow CalRecycle on Twitter or Facebook, you know we are big into experience gifts like a miniature golf night, a day at the zoo, or dinner at a nice restaurant, rather than material gifts that may ultimately end up in a landfill. Shopping season is well underway now, and we know it’s easy to get caught up in those exciting sales, so we thought we’d leave you with this article and video from the Washington Post—and again suggest giving the gift of quality time and fond memories this holiday season.

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    Posted on In the Loop by CalRecycle Staff on Nov 27, 2017