A Closer Look at Your Clothing: The Sustainability of Synthetic vs. Natural Fibers

The clothes we wear help us express ourselves to the world. But have you ever taken a closer look at what your clothes are actually made of?

Synthetic Fibers

Synthetic fibers have become popular in clothes from everyday wear like casual t-shirts, stretchy jeans, and leggings, to quick-drying and technical sportswear.

The majority of synthetic fibers are made of petroleum, and often undergo refinement processes requiring significant energy, water, and chemicals. Even recycled synthetic fibers like those made from rPET can be problematic, as with every wash, they release harmful microplastics that pollute our waterways.

Unlike natural fibers, synthetic fibers can take hundreds of years to decompose— and considering around 17 million tons of textiles end up in U.S. landfills per year, that’s a problem.

Common synthetic fabrics include:

  • polyester
  • nylon
  • elastane (spandex)
  • acrylic

Natural Fibers

Natural fibers are made from plants and animals, and although more environmentally friendly than synthetic fibers in various ways, they can still carry drawbacks. Clothing made from natural fibers like cotton can use a lot of water to produce, be subject to toxic dye treatments that pollute waterways, and be grown with the use of harmful pesticides. Because synthetic fibers have become so cheap to produce, clothes made of natural fibers are generally more expensive than synthetic fibers. However, clothing made of natural fibers does decompose— and can even be composted, as long as it does not contain toxic dyes or is not blended with synthetic fibers.

Common natural fibers include:

  • cotton
  • linen
  • wool
  • hemp

Whether you’re choosing synthetic or natural fibers, seek clothing that is free from toxic dyes or chemicals, and try to consider its quality, how long you will be able to care for it, and ultimately, what will happen to it after its use.

Lower Your Impact on the Power Grid with These Simple Tips

Being mindful about the energy you’re using at home is one great way to help the environment. In order to create electricity, power plants burn fuel that create greenhouse gases, contributing to an overall rise in global warming. Energy usage can skyrocket in the summer months, especially with heatwaves becoming more common each year.

Here are some simple and easy changes you can make at home to decrease your energy usage and your electricity bill while helping save the planet:

  • To keep your house cool:
    • Close the blinds on the south and west-facing windows of your house.
    • Stand underneath and look up to check overhead ceiling fans to make sure they’re rotating counter-clockwise. When they rotate this direction, it creates a cooling effect by pushing cooler air down and warmer air up.
    • Seal windows and doorways so cool air doesn’t escape when you do use the air conditioner.
    • Adjust your thermostat or turn your air conditioner off when outside temperatures dip.
  • When doing laundry:
    • Use your washing and drying machines during non-peak hours (early morning or late evening).
    • Wash your clothes in cold water.
    • Hang clothes to dry versus using the dryer.
  • For the evening:
    • Only use lights in the room you are in. Turn off all other lights in your home.
    • Read a book instead of watching TV.
    • Eat dinner by candlelight or lantern.

Keep California Beaches Clean

With over 3,000 miles of shoreline in California, there are a lot of opportunities to help keep beaches clean, marine wildlife safe, and recreation enjoyable in your community and for all. In celebration of Coastal Cleanup Month in September and California Coastal Cleanup Day on September 18, 2021, consider visiting your local beach or waterway and doing your part to keep it clean with these simple tips:

  • Bring and use non-puncture gloves (such as gardening gloves), hand sanitizer, reusable bags or buckets for collecting litter, grabbers, trash bags to empty litter into, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Be aware of health and safety conditions like changing water tides, slippery rocks, fallen trees, biohazard spills, harmful marine wildlife, and other potential marine debris and dangers.
  • Be mindful of what you are picking up and leave all natural habitats undisturbed, including driftwood.
  • Do not pick up needles, broken glass, or other dangerous items. If in doubt, leave litter where it is.
  • Bring snacks and stay hydrated.
  • To protect your health and the health of others, follow COVID-19 safety guidelines and maintain distance from other parties.
  • Log your litter with apps like Litterati or CleanSwell to track data and help influence local policy.
  • Make sure your collected litter makes it into a trash container with a secure lid so that it stays out of the environment.

For more detailed information on how to safely plan your beach cleanup, visit the California Department of Parks and Recreation website.

Visit the California Coastal Commission website to find an official California Coastal Cleanup event and keep the celebrations going throughout September with the many different events hosted  by organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation, Heal the Bay, Ocean Conservancy, Save Our Beach, Pacific Beach Coalition, Orange County Coastkeeper, and others. Check with organizations directly to learn about upcoming events and opportunities to get involved.

How to Clean Your Gas Grill

With summer barbecues winding down, now is the perfect time to clean your gas grill.

Why clean your grill?

  • No more old char on your food. When you’re pulling the grill out for next summer’s barbecues, it’ll be nice to know that any char on your barbecue is fresh.
  • Avoid grease fires. Being dirty is one of the biggest reasons grills catch on fire. In fact, over ten thousand house fires are caused by grills each year. Get rid of accumulated grease and char to keep your grill safe to use.
  • Extend the life of your grill. Keep your grill in good condition by properly removing grease build-up and char.

What you’ll need:

  • Wire brush
  • Scraper (e.g., paint scraper or other)
  • Gentle cleanser (for the outside of your grill only)
  • Cleaning rags (ones you don’t mind getting greasy)

Steps:

  1. Scrape down the inside of your grill with the wire brush. Start with the bottom of the lid, then scrape down the grates (both from the top and bottom), flavorizer bars, burners, heat diffusers, and finally the bottom. Do not use water to clean the inside of your grill, as it may cause rust.
  2. Remove the grease pan and use your designated scraper to remove any leftover residue into the garbage.
  3. Replace your drip pan or scrape it clean as well, moving any residue into the garbage.
  4. Use the gentle cleanser and rags to wipe grease residue off the outside of your grill. It may take a few passes to get all the residue off. Be careful not to use anything abrasive so that you keep any paint or stainless steel on the exterior in good condition.

That’s it! Now your gas grill is clean and ready for your next barbecue season.

Happy barbecuing!

Refuel Your Fun – Reusable Propane Cylinders Available Near You

Did you know that California has a reusable propane cylinder program? If you use a single-use propane cylinder when camping or grilling, consider switching to a refillable version. There are dozens of locations across California and surrounding states where you can purchase and refill your propane cylinders!

How To Use

Refillable propane cylinders can be purchased at a U-Haul, hardware or camping store for approximately $25. They can be refilled with propane hundreds of times, which is cheaper than purchasing a new container and much more environmentally friendly in the long run. Some cities even offer free cylinders at special events (which can be found on the Refuel Your Fun website here).

Why Go Reusable?

  • Single-use propane containers can start fires at local recycling facilities when disposed of improperly.
  • Refillable propane containers are cheaper in the long run – refills cost around $2, which is cheaper than buying a new propane container every time!
  • Using a refillable propane container means less waste is sent to the landfill.

To find the nearest retailer near you, visit Refuel Your Fun. Consider calling the store ahead of time to check for services and availability.

For more information, watch this video below:

Get Back-to-School Ready, the Sustainable Way!

With fall coming in, it might be time to start thinking about your back-to-school shopping list. We have some tips on getting an eco-conscious start to the school year:

  • Reuse. Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Offer Up are good places to look for secondhand school supplies like books, backpacks, calculators, and more. Have textbooks that need to be covered? Use old paper bags, maps and magazines.
  • Look for Recycled Content. Products like paper and notebooks are the easiest to find with recycled content. Locate the percentage of recycled content material in the product description. Composition notebooks made only of paper are easier to recycle than those made of mixed materials.
  • Shop In-Person. While online shopping is becoming increasingly convenient and affordable, it is important to remember that online purchases can result in a large amount of unnecessary packaging waste — so shop in-person when possible.
  • Look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified. FSC certified products come from responsibly managed forests and provide environmental, social and economic benefits.
  • Shop B Corps + Nonprofits. B Corporations (B Corps) have committed to social and environmental practices which are verified through a certification process. Purchasing products and services from B Corps and nonprofits helps to support their missions. For a list of relevant companies to support, click here.

For more ideas, visit Tip Junkie and Sustainable Forest.

How To Host a Low-Waste BBQ

Planning a summer barbecue cookout? On top of planning the menu and prepping the grill, another important aspect to remember is managing (and reducing!) the waste that results.

Follow these 5 tips below to throw a more eco-conscious event:

  1. Check RSVPs and restrictions. Confirm attendance as the event date gets close so you can prevent over purchasing. Additionally, check for dietary restrictions that may affect the quantity of food needed, such as less meat for any vegetarian or vegan preferences.
  2. Share leftovers. Pack any food left over for guests to take home to prevent edible food from being thrown away and wasted.
  3. Get Real. Use real plates, silverware, cups, and cloth napkins whenever possible rather than opting for single-use. It might seem inconvenient at first, but your event will generate less waste and costs, especially if you have a dishwasher available. If you don’t have a dishwasher, this can be a great chance for guests to get to know each other better — over the drying rack!
  4. Check up on your recycling and composting knowledge here. Are you using paper plates but don’t have composting available? In that case, make sure dirty plates end up in the garbage and not recycling. Note that even though an item has a chasing arrow symbol, it does not mean that item is recyclable in the City of Stockton. When in doubt, use the guide to check whether items to be disposed of are going to the right bin.
  5. Provide appropriate waste bins. Label and place a recycle and/or compost bin next to every garbage bin to help attendees dispose of their waste correctly. You can find printable signs for your bins here. Also, explain where certain waste items go to attendees at the start of the event.

Leave No Trace – Pick Up Your Waste!

While hiking or camping, you’ve likely seen these slogans: “Pack it in, pack it out. Leave no trace. Cleaner than you found it.” With over 75 million people visiting California state parks every year, any waste left behind adds up. Commit to doing your part by leaving no trace to keep the places that you enjoy clean and preserved for future adventures:

Top 5 Tips to Leave No Trace

  1. Take only what you need – Avoid bringing anything that might create waste or be easily left behind. Bring a reusable water bottle and limit the amount of single-use items (i.e., plastic water bottles, utensils, and single-serve snack bags).
  2. Be mindful – Stopping for a quick snack? Take out only what you need, and secure any trash or wrappers inside your pack instead of an outside pocket, where it might slip out.
  3. Double-check your surroundings – Scan your environment before taking off to check that nothing is left behind, especially small items that can be easily missed, like wrappers and bottle caps.
  4. Not your waste? Pick it up anyway! Carry a trash bag (or use pet waste bags if you have pets!) on your outings for any litter you may stumble upon on your way. Every bit counts!
  5. See something, say something – Notice that someone dropped an item? Alert them politely of the dropped item, and if appropriate, offer to help dispose of the item if it is of no use to them. Raising awareness about the importance of reducing litter can have a positive ripple effect.

To take your efforts a step further, participate in local park and beach clean-ups, or explore these fun interactive activities from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

Otherwise, simply aim to pick up one piece of litter in future outdoor adventures — every little action helps!

Float On Through Summer and Beyond: Tips on Caring for Your Pool Float

Summer season means longer days, backyard barbecues, and for many — lots of time outdoors floating in the pool, ocean, rivers, or lakes. Whether you prefer a colorful unicorn, giant pizza slice, or an old-school tube — learn how to care for, store, and dispose of your inflatable pool float toys using these tips below*:

Proper Care

  • When carrying your pool float to and from the water, avoid dragging on concrete or rocks that can rip the plastic.
  • Spray and wipe away any debris after use to avoid mold and mildew build-up.
  • Keep out of direct sun and extreme heat — this can degrade the plastic and increase chances of developing a leak from a rip or hole.
  • Keep away from pets that may be inclined to scratch or otherwise puncture the material.
  • If your float develops a leak, attempt to repair it before disposing.

Proper Storage

  • Deflate and dry completely before storing.
  • Fold neatly and store in a cool and dry place, such as a moisture-proof container in your garage, closet, or underneath your bed, etc.

Proper Disposal

When your pool toy has reached its final float, make sure to dispose of it responsibly. For the City of Stockton, this means placing your item in the curbside garbage. Pool floats can be made of any combination of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), nylon, vinyl, or rubber which is not currently recyclable or compostable.

By following the guidelines above, you can save money, spend more time floating, and add less to the landfill. Float on!

*These tips work for all plastic inflatables, including blow-up rafts and inflatable paddleboards!

Notes from the Field: Commercial Customers with Dumpsters

If a dumpster is locked or already full, please take your trash with you. Trash needs to go inside of the dumpster, not on top of the lid. Commercial customers can be charged extra because of bags being left on top of the dumpster.