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

  • 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.

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    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. 

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    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

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

  • Youth and Teacher Engagement in Pomona

    In 2013, the California Environmental Protection Agency created the Environmental Justice Compliance and Enforcement Working Group to focus on communities that contain multiple sources of pollution and are disproportionately vulnerable to its effects. The group is now known as the Environmental Justice Task Force. 

    One of the primary goals of the group is to provide community members opportunities for input on potential environmental justice concerns and the implementation of remedies. The task force also conducts initiatives to increase local compliance with environmental laws in targeted areas. CalRecycle has played a role in initiatives in Fresno, Los Angeles and Oakland.

    The latest initiative, in Pomona, was led by staff from CalRecycle and the Department of Toxic Substances Control. The project began last summer and concluded in March, and included a concerted effort to engage youth and teachers.

    Leadership Workshop

    Staff from CalRecycle and DTSC facilitated a weekly leadership workshop with high school students through an after-school organization, Pomona Hope. Pomona Hope is a community-driven, faith-based nonprofit that works to empower people of all backgrounds, particularly at-risk youth and their families, to work together toward personal and community transformation.

    Students learned about environmental justice, explored local issues related to pollution and equity, and were provided opportunities to engage civically. Students also participated in activities to gain insight into the role of local and state government and learned about different ways to participate. The CalEnviroScreen mapping tool was used to identify local sources of pollution and explore what factors make Pomona especially vulnerable to its effects.

    ‘Toxic Tour’

    In December, staff from CalRecycle and DTSC partnered with community organization United Voices of Pomona for Environmental Justice to host a “toxic tour” for students and teachers in Pomona. A toxic tour is a tour of an area where people live adjacent to multiple sources of pollution. The goal is to increase awareness of the potential health risks those pollution sources pose to certain groups of people.

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    Pomona students and teachers, led by United Voices of Pomona for Environmental Justice, on a community toxic tour.

    After the tour, staff from CalRecycle and the California Air Resources Board gave a presentation on environmental justice and how pollution relates to both equity and the economy. Garey High School teacher Ion Puschila then tasked his AP Macroeconomics students with a project exploring the economic costs of pollution.

    EEI Materials

    To encourage broader environmental literacy during the Pomona project, Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) curriculum materials were distributed to teachers and community organizations in the area. CalRecycle’s EEI is a free, K-12 curriculum designed to increase environmental literacy through lessons and activities that teach science and history through an environmental lens.

    In an effort to support the current work of students and teachers in Pomona, CalRecycle staff connected with Vanessa Villagran’s and Jacquelynn Fischer’s third-grade classes from Kingsley Elementary School. The students will showcase their work on plastic pollution at the annual meeting of the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials later this month.

    In the near future, the youth of today will represent their communities and have a voice in civic life. Preparing the youth of today can translate into an engaged citizenry tomorrow. And together, we can strengthen environmental justice in communities across California – and in doing so enrich and protect the very lives of those youth whose environmental awareness and activism we nurture.

    Posted on In the Loop by Angela Vincent on Apr 3, 2018

  • CalRecycle Celebrates African American Environmentalists

    During Black History Month, we honor African Americans who have strengthened our legacy of protecting the environment and encouraging others to do the same. Here are just three of those environmental heroes. Thank you, Shelton Johnson, Warren Washington, and Beverly Wright.

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    Shelton Johnson

    Shelton Johnson is a park ranger with the U.S. National Park Service. He has worked in Yosemite for 25 years and made multiple appearances in the Ken Burns documentary series “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” In an interview with SFGate, Johnson said, “For me, the Buffalo Soldier history is a way of reconnecting African Americans to the land that shaped our consciousness. You don’t have to go back to Africa to reconnect with nature, to understand its value and to know that it is an essential part of our shared history. It is right here.”

    Johnson wrote and performs “Yosemite Through the Eyes of a Buffalo Soldier, 1904,” at the park. He has received numerous awards, including the “National Freeman Tilden Award” as the best interpreting ranger in the National Park Service for his work with Burns, and an Environmental Leadership Award from UC Berkeley.

    Check out Shelton Johnson’s dramatic interpretation of a Buffalo Soldier at Yosemite.

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    Warren Washington

    Dr. Warren Washington, a Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, has developed computer models that have helped scientists understand climate change. He has conducted research for more than 50 years and has been published in more than 150 publications, including an autobiography titled “Odyssey in Climate Model, Global Warming, and Advising Five Presidents.” Washington has served on the President’s National Advisory Commission on Oceans and Atmosphere and has had appointments under the Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush administrations. As the second African American to earn a doctorate in the atmospheric sciences, Washington has served as a role model for generations of young researchers. For his mentoring and education and outreach work, in 1999 he received the Dr. Charles Anderson award from the American Meteorological Society.

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    Beverly Wright

    Beverly Wright is a professor of Sociology and the founding director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ) at Dillard University in New Orleans. For nearly two decades, she has been a leading scholar and advocate in the Environmental Justice arena. The DSCEJ is one of the few community/university partnerships that addresses environmental and health inequities in the Lower Mississippi River Industrial Corridor, an area commonly referred to as Cancer Alley. After Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Wright advocated for the safe return of residents to their homes in the midst of health and environmental concerns caused by the hurricane and its aftermath.

    Wright provided valuable input into President Bill Clinton’s Environmental Justice Transition paper. For her work, she was called to the White House February 1994 to witness the signing of the Executive Order on Environmental Justice. In April 1994, she was named to the EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC). She has received numerous awards, including the Environmental Justice Achieve Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Wright has also written two books and numerous articles on environmental justice.

    Each of these esteemed individuals represent the very best our nation has to offer in meeting the singular challenges of climate change, environmental justice and safeguarding human dignity. We salute them, and all of their peers of every race, creed, and color who devote their lives to the collective fate of ourselves and the environment that surrounds us, serves us—and depends on us.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Feb 26, 2018