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

  • 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

  • A Primer on Plastic Pollution

    A group of Pomona third-graders that has been studying plastic pollution presented their work at a national waste and materials management meeting last month. For their efforts, they were honored with a standing ovation—and a check for $400 for reusable water bottles. 

    The students presented to about 250 people at the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO) 2018 Mid-Year Meeting last month in Anaheim. They described how fish and other animals mistake plastic litter for food and how plastic debris creates dead zones and garbage patches in ocean waters.


    As part of their Kingsley Elementary School project, they read articles about plastic and researched the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as well as dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. They

    also collected trash around the campus and weighed and sorted it. After finding that plastic water bottles were ending up in the trash at their school, they made videos and posters to encourage fellow students to use reusable water bottles.

    “I thought the experience was fun and nice to do to tell other people what is going on on the planet,” said Darian, a third-grader who was involved in the project. His classmates agreed.

    “I was surprised that everybody liked our ideas that we did and we won the $400!” Reyna added.

    Their teachers, Vanessa Villagran and Jacquelynn Fischer, said the presentation was a valuable experience for the students, and that developing environmental awareness at a young age is key to working for change in the future. 


    CalRecycle was introduced to the students’ work through the California Environmental Protection Agency’s (CalEPA) Environmental Justice Task Force. The task force was created in 2013 to coordinate compliance and enforcement across all of CalEPA’s boards and departments (air, water, pesticides, waste and recycling, toxic substances, and environmental assessment) in communities that contain multiple sources of pollution and that are disproportionately vulnerable to its effects.

    Pomona was selected by CalEPA as an area of focus for an Environmental Justice Enforcement Initiative in part using a mapping tool called CalEnviroScreen, which was developed to help identify California communities who face environmental justice issues. Through the Pomona initiative, an effort was made to specifically engage youth and teachers.

    CalRecycle’s Deputy Director of the Waste Permitting, Compliance and Mitigation Division, Mark de Bie, is the past president of ASTSWMO and helped facilitate California’s involvement in the meeting. CalRecycle will continue to work with ASTSWMO to engage youth to restore, protect, and enhance the environment and public health in California and help showcase the great work by teachers throughout the state.

    —Angela Vincent

    Posted on In the Loop by Angela Vincent on May 10, 2018