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

  • Starting a Crop Swap: Top 5 Tips

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    Here at the California Environmental Protection Agency, we believe in talking the talk and walking the walk. For instance, as California phases in mandatory commercial organics recycling, we have food waste bins in the break rooms on all 25 floors of our building. And, even though CalEPA employees often have produce from the nearby farmer’s market at their desks and have informally shared homegrown produce with others, our building refrains from using chemicals to treat pest issues as a matter of course.

    A grass-roots effort to formally share homegrown produce in our CalEPA building—a crop swap—is our latest sustainability venture. Along with the focus on food deserts, community gardens, community fruit harvesting, farmers markets, and the farm-to-fork movement, crop swaps (aka food swaps) are a growing opportunity to think global and eat local.

    We’d like to share some tips we’ve learned in the process.

    1. Test the “market.” If people are already sharing homegrown produce informally, they’ll likely enjoy a formal crop swap too. Nearly every floor of our CalEPA building has a “giving table” for people to share free stuff on an ad hoc basis. That’s a great place to find interested participants and build an email list for a crop swap.

    2. Build your base in the winter. If you can build a core group of crop swappers through the winter months, your swapping is more likely to take off in the more productive summer months after you have worked out some of the kinks. We found someone always has oranges to swap for grapefruits and grapefruits to swap for lemons in the winter months, but you will get a greater variety to swap in the summer months, and more swappers swapping.

    3. Keep it informal at first. We learned to appreciate the heart of the crop swap is one-on-one swapping. Especially when it’s with co-workers, people tend to be fair without too many rules. Most people already share the bounty of their overproducing fruit trees without rewards, so they may consider getting a variety of crops in return to be a bonus. However, even that small reward can help your crop swap thrive. People come to swap, but they stay to share their interest in gardening.

    4. Be flexible. Some co-workers are busier than others. Offer to swap their crops for them. Others may want to stay after the official swapping and share tips about how their garden grows. That may lead to more formal presentations from some of your members who really know gardening. However, keep presentations as an option at the end of the meeting.

    5. Broaden your scope. Every group occasionally has a potluck. Crop swappers have even better options—try a tomato tasting party so guests can plan which tomatoes they want to plant in their own garden next year. Have a chips and salsa party using your homegrown tomatoes and any other fresh ingredients you may have. Try swapping homemade “products” like lavender sachets, canned fruits, or homemade marmalade.

    If you’re still not convinced that crop swapping is a great idea for your office or neighborhood, consider these additional benefits:

    • Studies show eating a diverse diet rich in whole foods such as fruits and vegetables can lead to a diverse microbiota, which is beneficial for your health.
    • Every homegrown vegetable you grow can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2 kilograms when compared to the store-bought counterpart. Homegrown vegetable gardens also contribute nearly 8 percent of the total greenhouse gas reductions sought by California by the year 2020.

    Here are some links for more information:

    Sample of regular crop swaps:

    —Burke Lucy

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    Posted on In the Loop by Burke Lucy on Jul 6, 2017

  • How an Upside-Down Triangle Can Help Save Our Planet

    The food recovery hierarchy, explained

    It’s not exactly a marvel of graphic design, but this upside-down triangle is getting the job done for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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    The food recovery hierarchy prioritizes actions governments, businesses, and other organizations can take to reduce food waste or divert non-edible material in the most beneficial way for the environment, society, and the economy.

    Based on the broader waste management hierarchy, the U.S. EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture published an early version of this material-specific hierarchy in their 1999 report: Waste Not, Want Not: Feeding the Hungry and Reducing Solid Waste Through Food Recovery. The document sought to provide guidance to states, jurisdictions, and businesses on how best to reduce food waste.

    That guidance is even more instrumental today as California and other states take the lead in America’s fight against climate change. When sent to landfills, food and other organic material decomposes and emits methane, a super pollutant 70 times more potent than carbon dioxide. California alone landfills about 6 million tons of food scraps or food waste each year, making it the largest material type in California’s waste stream (roughly 18 percent). The state’s 75 percent recycling goal, as well as its strategy to combat climate change, require significant reductions in the amount of food and other organic material sent to California landfills.

    The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) is among the entities that use the Food Recovery Hierarchy to better inform organic waste management policy and program efforts. The hierarchy helps target California climate investments in the waste and recycling sector needed to divert food and other valuable materials away from landfills and toward beneficial reuse. The inverted triangle is also an important tool in the implementation of SB 1383 (Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016), which establishes targets to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, including methane. The law calls for a 50 percent reduction of organics in landfills by 2020, a 75 percent reduction by 2025, and a requirement that 20 percent of currently disposed edible food be recovered for human consumption by 2025.

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    Credit: Natural Resources Defense Council April 2017 Strategic Guide

    Ultimately, reducing the amount of surplus food we generate in the first place is the most environmentally beneficial way to cut energy expended and emissions associated with growing, transporting, processing, and storing food. Learn more about CalRecycle’s new Food Waste Prevention and Rescue Grant Program, California’s new push to recover edible food for hungry people before it becomes waste, and the state’s latest investments to turn food and other organic waste into renewable energy or increase compost capacity and demand in California.

    Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on Jul 3, 2017

  • Getting Organics out of California Landfills: Here’s the Plan

    The average Californian may be shocked to hear this, but that apple core you just tossed in the trash is causing global temperatures to rise. Sure, not by much—but add that apple core to the 6 million tons of food waste and 5 to 6 million tons of additional green material, untreated lumber, and other organic waste landfilled in California each year, and it adds up to a big climate-altering problem. 

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    When sent to landfills, food and other organic waste decomposes and generates methane, a short-lived climate pollutant with a heat-trapping effect at least 70 times greater than carbon dioxide.

    This is a big problem because organics (food, green waste, lumber, and other organic materials) is the single largest disposal stream in California, accounting for about 41 percent of the 31 million tons of material going to California landfills each year. The state’s ambitious 75 percent recycling goal, as well as its strategy to combat climate change, hinge upon reducing the amount of organic material sent to landfills. The good news is we know how to do that.

    The California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32, Núñez, Chapter 488, Statutes of 2006) paved the way for bold action on organic waste diversion by establishing the world’s first comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to combat climate change. This enabled California to invest in organics recycling infrastructure like food waste recovery networks, cutting-edge compost facilities, and in-vessel digestion operations that transform food and other organics into compost and carbon-neutral, renewable energy. To date, California Climate Investments has allocated $72 million to California’s waste sector, primarily to build or expand conventional compost and in-vessel digestion operations. Grants have included $5 million for food waste recovery projects that divert landfill-destined, edible food to Californians in need.

    AB 341 (Chesbro, Chapter 476, Statutes of 2011) established a 75 percent recycling, reuse, and waste prevention goal for the state. Since organic waste accounts for more than one-third of the state’s waste stream, CalRecycle staff identified “Moving Organics Out of the Landfill” as the top priority strategy to achieve 75 percent. The Legislature later passed the Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling law (AB 1826, Statutes of 2014), which requires the largest generators of organic waste to recycle the material rather than landfill it.

    In September 2016, Governor Brown signed SB 1383 (Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016), establishing targets for reduction of short-lived climate pollutants, including methane. The law calls for a 50 percent reduction of organics in landfills by 2020 and 75 percent reduction by 2025. It grants CalRecycle the regulatory authority necessary to reach these targets, which also include 20 percent of currently disposed edible food be recovered for human consumption by 2025.

    Right now, CalRecycle is engaging waste and recycling businesses, trade associations, and other stakeholders to gather input on the development of regulations to implement SB 1383. Stay up to date on developments and future workshops by joining the SLCP Listerv.

    Posted on In the Loop by Lance Klug on Jun 26, 2017