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

  • It's Easy Eating Green

    A Beginner’s Guide to a Plant-Based Diet

    It's Easy Eating Green: A Beginner's Guide to a Plant-Based Diet

    If you’ve been following any of my previous blogs, you already know I’ve been a lifelong environmentalist. From my stance on single-use straws and my drought-resistant landscape to my career at CalRecycle, I am a die-hard tree hugger!

    One subject I have not touched on yet is the environmental benefits of a plant-based diet. Although for me, it really had nothing to do with the environment (since there was little information about that back in the early '90s). It mostly had to do with my love of animals. If you read my straw blog, you’ll remember my dad taking me to fast food joints and refusing single-use plastic straws. It was in that same drive-through I learned that chicken nuggets came from chickens and burgers came from cows. Since then I have been conscious about the use of animal products, and the environmental advantages of not consuming meat were just a bonus.

    Reducing animal husbandry for food production can decrease carbon emissions, reduce meat and seafood waste byproducts, and significantly lower global fresh water use. Plus, eating more fruit and veggies is beneficial for your health! Here’s a primer on different types of less-meat diets. It’s a good idea to speak to a doctor or nutritionist before making a drastic change.

    Flexitarian

    Flexitarian: Being flexible with the amount of meat-free meals you eat daily or weekly

    As the name implies, flexitarians are flexible with the number of meat-free meals they choose to eat per week. It can be challenging to about-face your diet, so a flexitarian diet is a great way to slowly reduce your meat intake and replace it with plant-based proteins like legumes. When I became a vegetarian, it was a bit of an adjustment for my family members—the flexitarian diet allows you and your family to adjust without feeling like you’re being deprived of your favorite foods. It’s a great compromise for you and the planet.

    Vegetarian

    Vegetarian: Eating plant-based foods in addition to dairy, bread, and eggs

    I’d classify this as the intermediate diet—not too stringent, but not super-easy, either. This is where I’ve been for the past 23 years, and it works just fine for me. I eat mostly fruit, veggies, breads, dairy, and some meat substitutes like vegan “sausage” made from potatoes, apples, and spices. And because I live in California, it’s very easy to find multiple dishes at restaurants if I choose to eat out. If you are new to vegetarianism and are planning to eat at a new restaurant, always check the menu ahead of time to make sure you’re not caught off guard by a meat-filled menu. Additionally, if I ever get an order that includes meat by accident, I pick it off and give it to a friend or family member. There’s no use in sending it back or throwing it away—that’s just more waste!

    Vegan

    Vegan: Abstaining from eating or using any products produced by animals

    Personally, I find this diet too strict, but if it works, more power to you! Vegans exclude all animal products from their life—that means no animal byproduct foods or animal products like leather. It’s been hailed as the most eco-friendly and natural diet because no animals are raised, slaughtered, or eaten. However, other vegan products could be considered harmful to the planet, such as pleather clothing and accessories made from petroleum-based materials. And often “fake” animal product fashion doesn’t last as long as real leather, creating more waste. It may be worth considering using animal products when the alternative would be more harmful to the planet. (We never said the eco-warrior life was easy!)

    Not quite ready to give up your favorite burger joint? Ease into it with Meatless Mondays or find a method that works best for you. Protecting the environment is not a perfectly straight line—it’s a journey of finding what works for your lifestyle and the planet alike. As the saying goes, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” That works for other eco-friendly acts, too!

    Posted on In the Loop by TC Clark on Jun 13, 2019

  • Five Tips to Close the Recycling Loop

    Despite what Kermit the Frog says, it’s actually easy to be green! Check out these five tips to up your recycling game and help the environment.

    1. First, reduce waste with reusables. It’s much easier to manage waste that never enters the waste stream, so consider switching to reusable items whenever you can. Try mason jars for drinks and soup. Reusable straws are often available at coffee and smoothie shops. Don’t forget to invest in a straw brush to scrub out the insides.

    2. Buy products with less packaging. CalRecycle estimates about 25 percent of our waste stream is packaging. If you can, buy items in bulk or opt for brands that use easier-to-recycle packaging materials (like cardboard strawberry containers instead of plastic clamshells). Also consider buying multiple items in one order when shopping online to reduce cardboard shipping box and padded envelope waste.

    3. Recycle yard and food waste. Food waste accounts for 18 percent of our waste stream and can be recycled into beneficial products like compost and renewable natural gas. If you don’t have residential curbside organics collection service, you can look for a local community garden compost program. Many community gardens accept yard and food waste for their compost piles. 

    4. Understand what goes in your blue and green bins and avoid contaminants in each bin. There is no statewide, universal recycling program in California, so local guidelines will vary. If you add food waste to your green bin and your community doesn’t have a composting facility that accepts food waste, you may have inadvertently contaminated your yard waste bin. Check out your local jurisdiction website or that of your waste and recycling hauler to learn more about what to put in each bin. In general, you want to add clean, dry items to the blue bin. If you add a spaghetti sauce jar with no lid and sauce residue inside the container, the sauce can leak out and contaminate other items like paper, making them more difficult to recycle and possibly bound for the landfill.

    5. Buy recycled-content products. The recycling economy depends on people buying products made with recycled content, which increases the demand for materials collected for recycling. When you’re out and about shopping, look for products made with recycled material.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on May 23, 2019

  • What's Even Better Than Recycling? Refurbishing

    We all know the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” but we sometimes forget those three Rs are listed by priority. Used electronics are problematic and costly to manage and recycle, so it’s critical to consider more sustainable options. Here are a few.

    Donate

    Donate your old electronics to sources that will refurbish them or use them for parts. More and more E-waste recyclers are now taking part in the reuse movement and will accept items that can be refurbished or used for parts. ReUseIt Drop Box accepts re-useable laptops: Call (877) 738-7348, or visit www.earth911.org and search by county name to see regional choices. Also check out the CalRecycle search engine to find local e-waste recyclers.

    Buy Refurbished

    Help minimize the environmental impact of e-waste by purchasing refurbished computers.

    Refurbished products include electronics that were returned to a manufacturer or vendor for various reasons. Refurbished products are tested for functionality and defects before they are sold, and many come with warranties. Electronics in this group are often brand-new and were simply store returns that the customer decided they just didn’t want. Since the package was opened it has to be sold as “refurbished.” So in effect, you are purchasing a new product.

    Other refurbished electronics may be older and rebuilt. Searching online provides valuable customer reviews of products and vendors and help determine how well the vendor stands behind their products through money-back guarantees and warranties.  More electronics recyclers and some companies are expanding into the refurbished electronics market. Refurbished electronics can be purchased through any number of sources, both online and in some electronics stores, or even from the manufacturers directly.

    I purchased a refurbished laptop six years ago that came with a 90-day warranty. I installed larger memory chips, also available online. It still works great, and I saved a lot of money!

    Fix Them Yourself

    There is a growing movement to fix electronics yourself. Many communities hold fix-it clinics. They are a lot of fun, and they provide an opportunity for tech-minded folks to volunteer time and support the community and learn along the way. A leader in the self-repair arena is IFIXIT, “the free repair guide for everything, written by everyone.” It contains instructions, tools, tips, and much more on how to fix almost any electronic device.

    Any of these choices will help save valuable resources and prevent the landfilling of used electronics that can be refurbished instead. Buying refurbished also makes use of the existing products and prevents the negative environmental impacts created by the manufacture of new components and devices. Even if a device can’t be fully refurbished, some of the components could be harvested for reuse in other devices.

    Remember: refurbish over recycle—it’s the higher use of the planet’s resources!

    Posted on In the Loop by Jim Madden, CalRecycle on May 13, 2019