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

  • All About Earth Day

    U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin organized the first Earth Day in on April 22, 1970, and it served as a catalyst to bring a simmering environmental movement to the forefront of American consciousness. Just eight years earlier, Rachel Carson published a groundbreaking book titled Silent Spring that critically examined the impact of industrialization on our planet and connected our actions with the health of our environment. Carson observed that the heavy use of pesticides was killing off birds, making the forests silent. Some credit her book with jump-starting the environmental movement.

    In December 1970, real change came when Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. By the U.S. EPA’s 10th anniversary, Congress had authorized significant legislation that laid the foundation for environmental regulation in the United States. As a leader in environmental policy, California followed suit and established complementary laws to care for our state.

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    Be sure to see our Earth Day Planning Guide, which includes events this weekend, later this month, and even in May, to commemorate the progress we have made and to continue to protect our natural resources. 

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Apr 20, 2017

  • San Francisco Youth Help Meet Recycling, Landfill Diversion Goals

    The City of San Francisco has long been at the forefront of recycling and landfill diversion. Almost 20 years ago, the city introduced green waste bins and implemented a three-bin waste collection system in residential neighborhoods. Shortly after that, the city launched Food to Flowers! in its schools.

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    Food to Flowers! familiarizes students with the same waste management best practices the city encourages in residential neighborhoods: recycling, source separating, and understanding what materials are compostable.

    Program Director Tamar Hurwitz has been with Food to Flowers! for more than 14 years and has spearheaded the effort to develop a comprehensive educational component to food waste diversion and recycling in schools. The program includes image-based slideshow assemblies to educate K-12 students about recycling and the environment. Today, more than140 schools in San Francisco have implemented a food-scrap collection program that encompasses education, outreach, organics collection for off-site composting, and vermicomposting with worms.

    “We teach students that nature gives us everything. Kids love animals. It’s a very natural instinct,” says Hurwitz. “We teach them that if we care about the animals, then we need to protect nature and we introduce zero waste as way to do that.” 

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    When Hurwitz began developing the program, she noticed many recycling mascots were bottles and cans with smiley faces on them. She didn’t find that very motivating. “I don’t want to save a can, but I do want to save an animal,” she says. Food to Flowers! created a phoenix bird mascot called Phoebe that children really love. “Kids remember Phoebe for years. … She’s beloved.” Phoebe is the star of the school assemblies and a recycling training video.

    The Food to Flowers! campaign includes installing green carts in cafeterias to collect food scraps. Students learn how to separate their food waste from plastic packaging and other non-compostable items. Fourth-graders are trained to be compost monitors,  and they wear bright orange aprons. The goal is to prompt students to stop and think about their trash rather than doing a “dump” and running off to recess.

    “It’s a reasonable request to ask students to dump food, sort out recyclables, and stack plastic trays,” says Hurwitz. “You have to make it consistent and support them when they are confused.” Compost monitors tell fellow students to think about compost in terms of worms. If a worm can eat it, it can go in the green cart.

    Hurwitz puts a lot of thought into the educational messaging. She recalls asking a classroom why trees are important and a student called out, “Because they give us paper!” Hurwitz realized she needed to reframe the question and asked why living trees are important. “The implication is that living trees have such value—we need to keep them alive.”

    Schools that implement the Food to Flowers! campaign often see benefits in many different areas beyond waste management. The program’s positive messages have a trickle-down effect. “When a school can incorporate a zero-waste program, it can help create a school culture of respect and teamwork,” says Hurwitz.  

    Waste issues plague most cities, but programs like Food to Flowers! model environmental stewardship to children so it becomes a natural and normal part of how they view their trash.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Apr 6, 2017

  • California Teachers Integrate Environmental Literacy into Classrooms with CalRecycle Curriculum

    Kyle McDaniel is an Earth Science teacher at Grant Union High School in Sacramento. He is integrating environmental literacy into his classroom instruction by using the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) curriculum as a foundation for his science classes.

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    CalRecycle’s EEI curriculum teaches K-12 science and history-social science through an environmental lens. The EEI curriculum is a model for upcoming science and history-social science textbook adoptions, which are required to integrate environmental principles and concepts.  

    McDaniel appreciates the flexibility of the curriculum. “If I’m looking for a two-week curriculum that is self-contained and student-driven, I look at the available units on the subject I’m teaching,” says McDaniel. EEI curriculum spans kindergarten through 12th grade and includes 6 biology units, 6 earth science units, and 45 history-social science units that incorporate environmental literacy into topics like world history, economics, and American democracy.

    McDaniel looks for ways to teach earth science concepts in light of current events. He is currently teaching an EEI curriculum unit on California’s water, titled Liquid Gold: California’s Water. “Water is an important topic in California right now. Students can learn about the political debate around emergency drought water restrictions staying in place. The California drought is so current and so important in their lives.”

    McDaniel loves the flexibility of the EEI curriculum. “I print the student reader material and instruct students to take notes on the pages.” McDaniel encourages students to keep their student workbook and take it home with them at the end of the unit.  He allows students to use the reader booklets during tests, too, but he requires that students properly cite their sources. “I wanted a closer alignment between finding information, extracting it, and citing it. Students need to be able to learn how to cite their evidence.”

    McDaniel uses the EEI curriculum to take students outside to study their campus environment. Students toured their campus and noted on a map the areas of their school property that had surfaces permeable to water. “I wanted students to analyze how water moves around our campus. After a rainstorm, where does the water flow? Where does pollution end up?” McDaniel also incorporates geometry to help students calculate the surface area of the campus. “There are a lot of topics you can cover with an EEI unit,” says McDaniel. In the coming weeks, students will be using water quality probes to gather water samples from different places in the community to analyze the pH, salinity, and turbidity of water.

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    McDaniel first heard about the Education and Environment Initiative at the California Education Seminar in Sacramento. “I attended a workshop and met another teacher using it. I learned about the different units and how to use it in my classroom. Since then I’ve taught biology and earth science using EEI,” recalls McDaniel.

    If you’d like to learn more about the EEI curriculum please visit CaliforniaEEI.org. Teachers interested in using the curriculum can choose to attend an in-person training or watch a pre-recorded webinar.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Mar 16, 2017