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

  • Environmental Pathways

    Preparing Future Leaders to Protect the Environment

    In January, a handful of CalRecycle staff members participated in mock interviews with environmentally focused high school students in the San Francisco Unified School District.

    The interviews were part of the school district’s Career Pathways program, which introduces students to different career paths. Mentors help students in the program explore their personal strengths and interests, build their resumes, and participate in mock interviews and internships to prepare for their individual college and career paths.

    The program’s Energy, Environment, and Utilities pathway uses project-based learning to provide a more authentic, work-based learning experience for students interested in those career fields. Last month’s mock interviews were a chance for students to gain experience before their formal interviews for upcoming summer internships. CalRecycle staffers provided feedback on student resumes, shared stories (good and bad) about their interview experiences, and provided tips and constructive criticism to help prepare students for future interviews.

    “Collaborative programs like this are great examples of how to give students the practical skills they’ll need to navigate their work and college goals,” said Bendan Blue, an environmental scientist with of CalRecycle’s Office of Education and the Environment.

    Angela Vincent, Maria Salinas, and Julia Dolloff provide feedback to students at Mission High School.


    Having the opportunity to interview high school juniors and seniors in preparation for formal interviews was both fun and eye-opening. For Julia Dolloff, an environmental scientist at CalRecycle, it was a reminder of how both gender and upbringing can influence a young woman’s confidence in her professional abilities. Dolloff found it important to remind the young women she interviewed that they have skills in leadership, innovation, problem solving, and creativity, even if they acquired those skills in an unpaid setting. For example, caring for a younger sibling or helping out at a parent’s small business are experiences students can cite as testaments to their leaderships abilities. Through constructive feedback during and after the interviews, Dolloff was able to help these young women portray a stronger sense of confidence in their professional skills.

    “It was rewarding to be that strong example, with my colleagues Maria Salinas and Angela Vincent, of women succeeding in the workplace,” Dolloff said. “I hope others feel inclined to work with youth, and especially young women, through similar events to help support them on their way to greatness.”

    For CalRecycle’s Environmental Justice program manager, Maria Salinas, the experiences sparked an influx of joy and sadness. “There was an odd paradox between the beautiful old buildings with much-needed repairs,” said Salinas. She enjoyed the bold student artwork against the old architecture and hearing some teachers speaking Spanish to their students. “If only adults were as creative as they were in their youth and more adults spoke their first language more freely,” Salinas said. Many of the students who participated in the mock interviews were first- or second-generation Americans.

    Another insight Salinas noted was the youthful innocence of the students juxtaposed with their ambitions. “It happens so much in serving others. … We were there to inspire, and they inspired us,” Salinas said. “I told students to reach for the sky. It reminded me to do the same in my own life and career.” 

    A group of students and professionals who participated in one of the mock interview sessions.


    The experience was as rewarding for the CalRecycle staffers as it was for the students. As a volunteer, I realized that I also could benefit from most of the advice I gave to the students. When asked to provide an example of leadership, one student expressed that he felt he wasn’t a leader because he was shy. I tried to build his confidence by pointing out attributes that he could cite for potential employers, such as listening well, paying attention to detail, and being able to take direction. Pushing himself out of his comfort zone to take on leadership roles could help him grow personally and professionally, despite his shyness, I told him.

    As a fellow introvert, I felt I could relate to the student. It is important for me to listen to my own advice to work on my leadership skills and confidence in professional settings.

    Staff members all felt fortunate to be able to participate, both for their own personal growth and to give back to others. Thanks to the CalRecycle staff who were able to take the time to help develop our future leaders. It is a good reminder of why we do what we do: protect the environment for generations to come. 

    Posted on In the Loop by Angela Vincent on Feb 7, 2019

  • Sustainability Study Session: How to Have an Eco-Friendly School Year

    Another school year is quickly approaching (or may have already approached in some school districts) and it’s time to do some back-to-school shopping! But, how do you earn an A+ when it comes to the environment? Take notes, parents. We’re about to school you on how to get a gold star in saving time, money, and the environment.  Toy pig writing on notepaper

    Bye, Bye, Buy

    Ugh, those shiny new binders, markers, and backpacks are calling your name! And it’s so tempting to take part in those back-to-school blowout sales, but the best thing to do is hold off until you know exactly what you need. Resist the hypnotic grasp of those two-for-one notebook sales and take inventory of what you have left over from last year. If you still have blank paper, sharp scissors, and a perfectly good backpack, do your wallet a favor and save the cash you would have spent on new supplies.

    Back To School Supplies

    What Goes Around, Comes Around

    When you do have to buy, because you will inevitably have to get some new supplies, look for recycled content items. Lots of stores have unique notebooks, pens, pencilslunch boxesbackpacks, and school sets that are made from recycled content. They tend to be a little pricier so you could just purchase one or two items to stay within budget. Also, keep in mind you’re doing the right thing – and who can really put a price tag on that? If you’re on a super tight budget (we’ve all been there) peruse our  Back-to-School or  Recycling for Teachers Pinterest board for upcycle and reuse ideas instead.

    Book ’em!

    Social media is very useful for tracking people whose yearbooks you wrote in decades ago, breaking news, and getting the word out to a mass audience. Use it to find out if anyone you know has books you can trade. Chances are if your Madison is a year younger than her soccer buddy, Aiden or Jaiden or Haiden or Caiden (who can even keep track anyway), they might have a book she can use for her upcoming class. And don’t forget to offer up your used books to others as well. Trading and/or renting is much nicer to the environment and your budget. And since paper makes up about 17 percent of what we send to landfills in California, we think it’s worth it to trade or buy used. Once you’ve passed them along, those books won’t take up room at your house or the dump. 

    Girl looking at book saying It's like TV in your head

    Throwback Threads

    Same goes for clothing! About 98 percent of textiles that end up in the landfill could have been recycled. So, see if you can organize a clothing swap via social media. Kids often outgrow things before they get a chance to break them in so they still look like new. While you’re at it, see if other parents want to participate. It’s an easy way to swap your wardrobe for a new one and not feel guilty about spending money or just tossing your “old” clothes out to keep your closet neat. You can even get creative and upcycle some old items. And by the way, 90s fashion is coming back (for some reason) so if you have some throwback threads, include them too! 

    Girl Trying On Clothes

    Kiddie Caravan

    Now that you’ve got those throwback threads, books, and a recycled content backpack, show them off by treating the sidewalk like a catwalk. If you live within walking distance of your kids’ school, organize a kiddie caravan. Have parents take turns walking or biking smaller students to school instead of driving. It’s a nice way to get those steps in and prevent unnecessary air pollution. You do want your kids to grow up with clean air, don’t you? 

    Duck And Ducklings

    Share and Share Alike

    Check with your kids’ school to see if they have a recycling and compost program. While schools are required to have both a recycling and an  organics recycling program in place, it’s a good idea to follow up with them and even help them come up with new ideas. One trend that is catching on are “share tables” for food that is unwanted, but still perfectly edible and delicious. Kids put food they aren’t going to eat on the table and other kids can have it.  It’s an excellent way to teach them a valuable lesson about sharing, prevent food waste, and get those calories in growing children’s bellies. 

    Man looking at platter of food'

    Pack it Up, Pack it In

    Also, keep in mind what you pack in your children’s lunches. An easy way to keep food and trash out of the landfill is to learn how much your kids are going to eat and only  pack reusable items instead of single-use items like juice pouches, plastic zipper bags, yogurt tubes, and plastic utensils. Replace those items (this doesn’t have to be done all at once, but gradually) with a reusable water/juice bottle, lunch containersreusable fabric zipper bags, cloth napkins, and reusable utensils. 

    Food Containers

    A for Effort

    Finally, be flexible. Learning how to be green in a single school year is tough! But it’s not impossible. If you’re aiming to be more eco-friendly, it’s a lot easier to digest if you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start small and reward yourself and your kids for doing the right thing. And for more environmentally-related school information, check out  California EEI, a free CalRecycle program that is bringing environmental literacy to California classrooms. 

    Wood paneling
    Posted on In the Loop by TC Clark on Aug 20, 2018

  • Real-World Education

    Civics teacher takes kids beyond the classroom for a lesson in environmentalism, community activism, and government responsibility

    A high school civics teacher in Brawley partnered with state environmental agencies for a yearlong student project focusing on environmental justice, air pollution, and the Salton Sea.

    On May 4, CalRecycle staff attended a showcase at Brawley Union High School celebrating the project led by teacher Jose Flores. The project included lectures, hands-on activities, and fieldtrips to increase environmental literacy and to provide professional development opportunities for students from disadvantaged communities.

    The goals of the program included: academic development through environmental literacy, professional development through exposure to leaders in multiple environmental fields, and personal development through hands-on and active learning opportunities that apply academic concepts to real-world issues.

    At the showcase event, students presented on the history and significance of environmental justice and the health implications of hazardous dust from the Salton Sea. Over the course of the project, students learned not only about these issues but also about the roles and responsibilities of different levels of government.


    Luis Olmedo, Founder and Executive Director of Comite Civico del Valle, left, speaks with civics teacher Jose Flores at Brawley Union High School.


    For one demonstration, students modeled the difference between dry soil and wet soil at the Salton Sea and explained how the dust from the dry lakebed contributes to the poor air quality of the surrounding community. They suggested that keeping the soil wet will limit the dust and reduce contamination.

    Flores described his project as a way to expand teaching and learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. He wanted to apply academic concepts to real-world issues and provide opportunities for students to engage civically on community issues.

    “It takes a village and a plan,” Flores said. He explained how the Blueprint for Environmental Education and the College, Career & Civic Life (C3) Framework served as the “perfect storm” to connect students to the environment and their community and to apply knowledge toward local improvements.

    Flores has been recognized for his efforts with numerous awards and accolades and, in 2016, was honored by the Obama Administration with the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators(PIAEE).


    Brawley Union High School students learned about different boards, departments, and offices within CalEPA and painted related pictures for the attendees to take home. Shown are, from left, Angela Vincent, CalRecycle; Jose Flores, Brawley Union High School civics teacher; Kevin Olp, CalEPA; Abraham Zhan, DTSC; Ana Mascareñas, DTSC; and Jaimie Huynh, CalRecycle

    Abraham Zhan, who led the project for DTSC, explained, “One of the most important things about progressing not only as an individual, but as a society, is to always question things and ask to figure out why things work or how they work.” Zhan said teaching students how to think, rather than what to think, was a critical goal throughout the process.

    Engaging youth in a meaningful way is crucial to tackling difficult issues that both communities and government face today, and will undoubtedly face tomorrow. CalRecycle continues to think creatively about how to support students and teachers across California to create cleaner, safer, and more sustainable communities.

    Posted on In the Loop by Angela Vincent on May 31, 2018