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

  • 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

  • ZZ Ziff Proves Not All Heroes Wear Capes


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    “Every child is born a naturalist. His eyes are, by nature, open to the glories of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, and the mystery of life.” - Ritu Ghatourey

    Thinking back, I have difficulties recalling environmental advocates who catered to children when I was growing up in the ’90s. I vaguely remember Captain Planet, and the Native American man shedding a tear in that 1970s public service announcement about litter and pollution, and Recycle Rex (that “Recycle, Reduce, Reuse” song has been burned into my memory since I first heard it in kindergarten). Maybe the real problem was not the lack of characters, but the lack of characters I could really connect with. I was somehow born knowing the environment mattered, but I needed someone to shepherd me through the beginnings of my environmental journey.

    Like a lot of kids, I often resorted to television to entertain me after my room was clean and my homework was done. I was intrigued by the dynamics of the group of tweens and their bumbling camp counselor on the show Salute Your Shorts. Sure, the title sounds silly, but it’s a reference to a longtime camp tradition of stealing kids’ underpants and running them up a flagpole.

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    Set at Camp Anawanna, the characters embodied various persona (the brain, the bully, the cool kid, etc.), including the tree-hugging, tie-dye-wearing ZZ Ziff.  For me, ZZ was someone I could identify with and admire. She was just a few years older, she was enthusiastic and energetic, she loved animals, and she had a mouth full of metal, which I thought was pretty rad. She donned big globe earrings and cared intensely about our fragile planet.

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    In one episode, while fighting over a prize-winning frog, ZZ sacrifices her pursuit of a trophy to save the frog’s life. And in an even more memorable episode called “The Environmental Party,” ZZ opens the show explaining to the camp counselor that she has found “710 distinct pieces of trash” between her bunk and the main hall. ZZ proceeds to alienate her fellow campers by turning off water and electricity to save resources while they try to blow-dry their hair and take showers, turning their bunk into a sorting station, and rudely blaming everyone for the planet’s poor health.

    In order to win her friends over again, ZZ throws a party to collect recyclables and teach everyone how to treat the environment. They raffle off a can-crushing dance with the most popular girl at camp—and just when everyone is having a blast, ZZ loses the crowd when she premiers a frightening song predicting a bleak environmental future if we don’t clean up our act. The party ends with a food fight, and ZZ laments as she cleans up all the wasted food.

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    The next day she meets with an old friend who provides her with some perspective about winning over the hearts, minds, and wallets of the other campers. ZZ changes her approach and appeals to their sense of capitalism when she informs them that recycling, growing their own food, conserving resources, reusing textiles, and repurposing old tires can earn them money for a trip to the local waterslide. In the end, they learn about environmentalism, earn the money, and end up using the cash to buy a tree. Awwwww!

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    So, why was ZZ able to make an impression on me, even all these years later? I think first and foremost, she was a real person in my age range, not a cartoon or a puppet. I could identify with a strong girl who fought for the planet. She was flawed in that she naively assumed everyone else shared her goals, and that leveraging guilt was an effective way to persuade people to become conservationists.  But she found a way to be a leader and rally everyone around her by using their interests to accomplish her mission—one that benefited everyone in the long run. She didn’t focus narrowly on recycling but rather the overall idea of sustainability. She demonstrated this when she spoke about upcycling old textiles, composting to nourish the soil, conserving water and energy, and the dangers of Styrofoam, tire waste, and oil spills. 

    ZZ Ziff proves that not all heroes wear capes. Some wear globe shaped earrings and tie-dyed shirts.

    Posted on In the Loop by TC Clark on Sep 27, 2017