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

  • Reducing is the New Recycling

    Simple Changes I’ve Made Since Coming to Work at CalRecycle

    Sometime in the last year, I had an epiphany: It’s not enough to simply recycle. I must figure out a way to reduce the amount of waste I generate. It can be hard, but I decided to take it one step at a time. Here are a couple of things I have learned along my way to a more eco-friendly lifestyle. 

    Separating Out My Recyclables Influences How I Shop

    Truth be told, before working at CalRecycle I only separated out CRV items and cardboard to recycle. I honestly didn’t think about folding down cereal and pasta boxes or crumpling paper shipping packaging into a recycling bin before working here. Now that I do it, I realize just how many resources I have thrown away over my lifetime. 

    I have found that I have unintentionally generated more waste in the pursuit of other goals. For example, conveniently packaged individual-size snacks may help with calorie-counting or meal prep, but there’s no doubt it creates more waste. I came to terms with the fact that generating less waste is going to cost me some time and effort, but I can manage to juggle two goals at once by doing things a little differently. For example, rather than buy a bunch of small, single-serving yogurts for a quick breakfast on the go, I buy one large container of yogurt and transfer it into small mason jars.  

    Using Reusable Items over Single-Use Items

    Have you ever wondered how much trash you have thrown away over a lifetime? It’s a little shocking when you think about it. Let’s say I bought one cup of coffee from a cafe per week for the last 20 years. I have thrown away at least 1,040 disposable cups of varying sizes. Because those cups are often lined with a thin plastic coating, they’re not easily recyclable. I still use disposable cups when I forget my tumbler at home, but I’m aiming to bring it with me and reduce my personal waste. 

    I have also started declining anything I won’t actually use when I order takeout food, like individually wrapped toppings I don’t like, extra napkins, straws, and cutlery. I have found that only some beverages require a straw (like milkshakes), and I don’t need single-use plastic cutlery when I’m bringing food home to eat. I am not a fan of nuts, so I started declining a small plastic pouch of nuts for my favorite drive-thru ice cream. My baby steps are adding up.

    Buying Groceries Mindfully to Prevent Food Waste

    Food waste causes climate change. Until I worked at CalRecycle, I had no idea that my spoiled leftovers had an impact on anything more than my personal finances. You can read more on our Climate Methane Emissions Reductions webpage about how food waste creates methane when it’s buried in a landfill, but the gist is that every plate of food we scrape into the trash contributes to climate change. I decided I could be a little bit better about eating what I buy. I move “eat now” items toward the front of my refrigerator and write a more detailed grocery list so I don’t buy items I won’t likely cook and eat. 

    Everyone can head toward a more sustainable lifestyle by assessing how they personally generate waste and looking for ways to reduce that amount. Every step counts, and we all play a part in conserving our natural resources, recycling everything we can, and combating climate change. 

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Sep 23, 2019

  • Save the Guac!

    Save the Guac!

     

    Today is National Guacamole Day. Now, I know it’s basically a sin to waste guacamole, but sometimes it’s hard to eat it all before it turns brown. Some folks swear by laying down a thin layer of plastic cling wrap over a bowl of guacamole to prevent it from browning, but that’s not the most sustainable option and creates unnecessary waste. Reduce your food waste by learning how to store avocados and preserve guacamole so it doesn’t turn an unappetizing shade of brown before you can get back to it.  

    Green Avocados

     

    Storing Uncut Avocados

    Starting with perfectly ripe avocados is key to preserving guacamole. Pick bright green, unripe avocados, which will ripen over a few days if you leave them out on the countertop. If you need a ripe avocado the next day, tuck it into a paper bag with an apple or banana, which will speed up the ripening process. Once ripe, move the fruit into the refrigerator to slow down the ripening process so it stays fresher longer.

    Cut avocado with pit

    Storing Cut Avocados

    The darkening of guacamole or avocado is due to the process of oxidation, which is the chemical reaction between the avocado fruit and air. If you’re only going to use half an avocado, leave the pit in the other half when storing it in the fridge, which will slow down the ripening process. 

    Guacamole with chips

     

    Saving Leftover Guac for Later

    Once you smash an avocado up, you’ve maximized the oxidation potential by exposing most of the fruit’s flesh to air. If you want your guac to look fresh for a few hours on the table, consider the following preservation techniques.

    • Add lime or lemon juice to your guac. The acid will help reduce oxidation.
    • Tuck the pits from the avocados into your guac bowl. They’ll help prevent browning, too. (But, it’s the pits trying to dip a chip into a crowded guac bowl!)
    • Some swear by mixing sour cream, Greek yogurt, or mayonnaise into guacamole, which creates a barrier or seal between the fruit and the air.
    • My personal favorite trick is to sprinkle Ball’s Fruit-Fresh Produce Protector onto a bowl of guac. You can find it in most grocery stores with the canning supplies, and this mixture of vitamin C and citric acid prevents the natural browning that comes with oxidation on cut avocados, apples, and potatoes. It’s tasteless and works great!

    If you’re looking to reduce your food waste in general, it’s helpful to learn a little bit about how to store fresh produce and prepared foods so they have a long shelf life. The U.S. EPA offers great storage tips to help your fruits and vegetables last longer.

    Posted on In the Loop by Christina Files on Sep 16, 2019

  • Landfills: An Un-bear-able End for Stuffed Animals

    Landfills: An UnBEARable End for Stuffed Animals

    Like any full-grown adult woman, I love stuffed animals! OK, maybe not like any full-grown adult, but over the years I amassed a collection that would put a toy store to shame. And because I’ve watched Toy Story a few too many times, I believe our toys come to life when we’re not looking—I couldn’t possibly just throw them away!

    Several years ago, I finally faced the music and realized I needed to pare down my stuffed animal collection. Luckily, I live near a children’s hospital. I put all my new and gently used stuffed animals in a bag and brought them to the hospital—I was kind of a female version of Santa, but I didn’t wear a red suit. The hospital staff was very grateful! And, just like I gave toys to the children’s hospital that day, I’m going to give you some tips on how to donate or responsibly get rid of your old toys, or your children’s old toys.

    Make It a Game

    Get your kids involved in the paring-down process. If you explain that donating gently used toys to charity helps other children feel happiness and comfort, they will be happy to jump on board. Help your kids set a goal for how many toys they are willing to part with. It can be a great opportunity for children to learn compassion, how to waste less, and how to keep a tidy toy box. 

    When to Mend, When to Send (to the Trash)

    It’s best to figure out which toys are in good enough condition to pass along to someone else. If you have a broken or dirty toy, try to fix it and clean it. Your kids might realize they still want to play with it, but if it’s totally broken or beyond cleaning, it’s likely no one else wants it either. Sadly, it might be time to throw that toy away for good.

    Decisions, Decisions

    Decide which organization you’d like to donate your toys, stuffed animals, or games to. Check with places like the Goodwill, your local thrift shop, local shelters, preschools, churches, or hospitals. Always check with the organization first to find out what they do and do not accept before you drive up with a truck bed full of toys. Hospitals, in particular, often want brand-new toys for health/sanitary reasons. 

    Swap that Stuff

    Toys can also be recycled through special programs like the ones listed on Earth911.com, which is one of our favorite go-to environmental resources. Another idea is to set up a toy swap with kids at school, in your neighborhood, or with family members. It can be a fun way to get kids to share and trade for toys they want without you having to hit the store and spend money. 

    Final Thoughts

    Finally, remember why you’re donating toys in the first place: To help less fortunate children, prevent waste, and reduce clutter in your home. The purpose is not to just get rid of them, but rather thoughtfully pass them on.

    Resources:

    Stuffed Animals for Emergencies 

    Toys for Tots 

    Donation Town

     

    Posted on In the Loop by TC Clark on Sep 9, 2019