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

  • Simple Sustainable Swaps

    Posted on In the Loop by TC Clark on Feb 8, 2018

  • The Whole Tooth & Nothing but the Tooth

    Coming Clean with Sustainable Dental Hygiene

    I am really, really big on dental hygiene—why wouldn’t I be? My mom has been working as a dental assistant for nearly 30 years. I brush, I floss, I visit the dentist every six months like clockwork, and when I feel like it, I wear my night guard. But I started thinking…If I follow my dentist’s directions and throw out my toothbrush every three months, how many of my toothbrushes would go to a landfill in my lifetime?

    Let’s just say a person starts brushing their teeth around 6 months old (children start cutting teeth between 4 and 7 months), and the average U.S. life expectancy is 78 years old. If they replace their toothbrush every three months, that adds up to more than 300 plastic toothbrushes—all of which end up in the landfill (and sometimes the ocean)! Let’s explore other options.

    In one corner we have the standard plastic-on-plastic toothbrush. You can find this at any store, and if you have a dentist like mine, you get one every time you make an office visit.

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    Strengths:

    • Variety of shapes and colors
    • Soft, medium, hard options
    • Readily available
    • Readily accepted
    • Wide price range
    • Manual and electric versions
    • Standard reach

    Weaknesses:

    • Non-biodegradable (takes about 700 years to break down)
    • Ends up in landfills and oceans
    • Heavier than sustainable options
    • Possible plastic chemicals, entering your mouth (some reports say)
    • Bristles attached to toothbrush body with glue
    • Germy 

    In the opposite corner, we have the bamboo toothbrush. You can find these online or at your local natural foods store.

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    Strengths:

    • Lightweight
    • Strong and durable
    • Sustainable
    • Biodegradable (takes about one year to break down, in optimal conditions)
    • Soft, medium, hard options
    • Variety of styles and sizes (even pet versions)
    • Standard reach
    • Naturally antimicrobial
    • Glue is not used to attach bristles to body

    Weaknesses:

    • Not as widely available
    • Not as smooth as plastic
    • Few style varieties
    • Non-biodegradable bristles

    Both types are strong and and have multiple weight classes (sizes and shapes) and price ranges. They both use plastic bristles so should be replaced every three months.

    The bamboo toothbrush falls behind in two main areas. First, there is no electric version for those who prefer a bigger punch to plaque. Second, they are not widely accepted or popular at this point. While bamboo toothbrushes can be easily found online and at your local natural grocery store, they are not handed out for free at your regular dentist check-up or in the aisles of your regular store.

    However, the bamboo toothbrush comes out ahead in the area of sustainability. Bamboo can be organically grown and is a plant that can degrade over time, unlike petroleum-based products like plastic. Think of it this way: The toothbrush you learned with as a toddler is still in a dump and will remain there until long after you’re gone. A plant-based toothbrush will degrade in this lifetime, while plastic never truly does. And even though many sustainable brushes do use nylon bristles (some use pig hair—I’m not ready to commit to that!), the overall product has fewer long-term effects on the environment. And, I personally think they are a little more stylish aesthetically. In the area of effectiveness, they are equally matched.

    Because there are no glaring weaknesses when it comes to the bamboo brush, it’s an easy choice for me. Every morning and night when I attend to my oral hygiene, I am reminded to be more mindful about my consumables. And that’s the tooth!

    Posted on In the Loop by TC Clark on Feb 5, 2018

  • 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