How to Refurbish a Barbecue Grill

You may have seen huge, towering piles of old appliances at a junkyard or municipal dump. Large metal items such as these are costly to dispose of, create a large amount of waste, and in some cases, could have been recycled. While it may be a bit too complex for the average person to repair a microwave or fridge, one household appliance that’s easy to refurbish is an old barbecue grill:

  • Step 1: Take the grill apart.

It’s much easier to work on the parts individually. If there is a lot of rust or decaying components, take the grill apart before you begin to repair them. A screwdriver can get the top off the grill and many hoses and valves can be unscrewed by hand. Working on a gas grill? Be sure to remove the tank and close its valve before performing any work.

  • Step 2: Remove rust and paint.

Once the components have been disassembled, tackle any rust and blemishes. Steel wool purchased from a hardware store will help sand off the rust, which can be covered by metal-appropriate spray paint. Choose a color to match what’s already on the grill, or sand down the old paint to a rough texture and repaint the whole grill. 

  • Step 3: Replace parts as needed.

Remove the interior components of the grill such as the drip pan and grate and replace them with new parts if damaged, or use oven cleaner and steel wool to remove old food and save the parts. Reassemble the grill and then check out the gas system. Gas valves and hoses should always be replaced with new parts and tested for leaks using soapy water. Look for bubbles to indicate a leak at any of the connecting points. 

And voila! You are now ready for barbecue season! Grill on and enjoy your hard work!

What Is the Proper Way to Retire or Dispose a U.S. Flag?

Flag Day is around the corner, which makes it the perfect time to talk about the proper way to retire an American flag.

What to Do with an Unusable Flag

If your flag is worn out, badly stained or falling apart, here are some ways to respectfully dispose of it:

Drop It Off

  • Many VFW posts and government offices have official flag disposal boxes outside of their buildings where you can drop off any flags.
  • Most American Legions, VFWs and Boy Scout Troops will accept old flags and retire them respectfully in their next flag disposal ceremony. Many hold these ceremonies on Flag Day, so now is the perfect time to contact them!
  • You can also drop flags off at police stations.

Bury It at Home

  • Another option to retire a flag at home is by burying it in a dignified box after folding it properly.

Bring to a Textile Recycler

What To Do With a Usable Flag 

Do you have a flag in working condition that you don’t want or need anymore? Make sure it stays in use! Here’s what you can do with it.

Donate It

  • Flags that are still in usable condition can be donated to a national cemetery or funeral home. These places often use flags in burial ceremonies.
  • You can also mail unwanted 3’ x 5’ flags with embroidered stars to Stars for Our Troops. They cut out the stars and mail them to active military, veterans and first responders as a show of support and respect.
  • If neither of these options work for you, contact an American Legion, VFW or Boy Scout Troop to take the flag off your hands.

Happy Flag Day!

Pet Waste Protocol

Having a pet can bring many positive benefits – joy, companionship, activity – as well as a greater sense of responsibility. One important responsibility is cleaning up your pet’s waste.

When not properly disposed of, pet waste contributes to litter, community odor issues, and water contamination. When it rains, uncollected pet waste runs into local streams, rivers, lakes and the ocean, causing worms and other bacteria to enter these ecosystems. This contamination in waterways can cause serious health issues in humans. Additionally, the decay of pet waste can create nutrients for weeds and algae to grow, preventing healthy oxygen levels and causing fish to asphyxiate and die.   

Keep Stockton’s waterways safe and community spaces healthy and clean by being a responsible pet owner with these pet waste tips:

  • Keep a well-stocked stash of poop bags by your door or in your car to grab before taking your pet for a walk.
  • Tie poop bags around your pet’s leash or use a poop bag holder attachment.
  • Out of poop bags? If you are at a dog park, ask a nearby pet owner if they can spare a bag. 
  • Tie off your pet waste bags securely to eliminate the potential of contamination or litter.
  • Pet waste cannot go inside your organics cart – dispose of bagged pet waste in the trash. While unbagged dog poop can also be flushed down the toilet, cat poop should never be flushed down the toilet.

Considering backyard composting your pet waste? While it is possible, the pile must reach at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit for five days to safely sterilize the fecal matter. Most backyard compost systems, however, do not achieve these important minimum safety standards. 

The Secret Ingredient in Your Takeout Packaging

If you have gotten takeout food, then you most likely have encountered “forever chemicals.” 

Also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, these chemicals are used in takeout food packaging to increase grease and water resistance — and they can also be found in items such as cookware, carpeting, and waterproof apparel and gear.

There are thousands of different types of PFAS. Although they are what help keep grease and contents from seeping out of our food containers, these manufactured chemicals are linked to adverse health effects including decreased fertility, hormone disruption, and growth and learning delays in children.

PFAS are also called forever chemicals for a reason — because the chemical bonds forming them are extremely hard to break down, they persist not only in our environment, but in our bodies. Temporary food packaging for forever chemicals? No thanks!

When the food packaging we throw away finds its way to the landfill, PFAS find their way into our food and water supply. The good news is that California, along with a number of other states, have recently banned PFAS in paper-food packaging, with California’s ban to take effect in 2023. In the meantime, see if there is a restaurant near you that offers takeout in reusable containers, or whenever possible, see if you can bring your own container to pick up takeout from a restaurant, and ditch those forever chemicals for good!

Celebrate April Showers: How To Collect Rainwater For Your Garden

Springtime is a time of growth, warmer temperatures, and rain. As the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers.” Here are some tips on how you can create your own water-collection system to water your garden using those April showers.

Building a Water-Collection System

There are many different types of collection systems, from a simple barrel to a complete system of pipes and drains. 


This method uses barrels and a few simple connecting pieces you can find at the hardware store. Look for gently-used barrels you can reuse from a local grocery store, brewery, or restaurant supply store. Don’t use anything previously containing hazardous materials. 

When selecting a location for your system, choose one that has level ground and is directly under a downspout where water will drain. Be sure that your barrels seal properly to avoid attracting water-breeding insects like mosquitoes. When summer comes, you can simply fill a watering can from your handy collection system to keep your plants hydrated. 

For other options, check out the many designs from this list, which includes a design for free-standing catchment. The design essentially includes a catch-all such as a water tank or barrel and a large funnel placed on top of the container. You can build the funnel out of PVC and plastic or buy a large premade funnel. A free-standing catchment is an ideal design if your system can’t easily be situated near runoff water from a roof. 

Collecting your own rainwater for your garden-watering needs is an ideal solution for decreasing water usage through summertime — and luckily, the options for collection systems are endless. Once a design is chosen, you can get even more creative by decorating or planting around the system to further integrate it into your garden.

How Green is Cannabis?

On January 1, 2018, recreational cannabis, more commonly known as weed, became legal to cultivate and sell in California. The expansion and transparency of new legal markets has since shown that cannabis production is not, unfortunately, without waste. 

Cannabis Plant Production

As with other agriculture, harsh pesticides and fertilizers may be used to grow the cannabis plant. These chemicals can contaminate our water sources and are unsafe for local sewer systems. Organically-grown plants contain less chemicals and are a healthier option. 

Cannabis Plant Waste

As long as it is free of hazardous chemicals or toxins, cannabis waste is considered organic waste. Similar to yard trimmings and leaves that are traditionally accepted in curbside organic waste collection, cannabis waste in SLO County can be placed in the organics cart for collection and transportation to a processing facility where it will be diverted from the landfill and turned into nutrient-rich soil.

Electronic Waste

One method of consuming cannabis is through an electronic vaporizer. While many of these devices are reusable and have rechargeable batteries, cheaper options are generally intended for one-time use and are often thrown in the garbage. Electronic waste like vaporizer pens should be disposed of properly at the household hazardous waste (HHW) facility and not in the trash. 

Tip: This California-based company offers a cannabis waste management solution and recycling options for vaporizers.

Product Stewardship

With legalization has come an emergence of sustainably-branded companies that make products from organically-grown cannabis or hemp. These products contain recyclable packaging or are made from sustainably-sourced materials. As with any other product on the shelf, the most eco-conscious option is one that is widely recyclable (i.e. made of glass or paper), made of recycled-content or sustainably sourced materials, and/or containing organic ingredients.

Is it Really Compostable?

Searching for compostable products can be tricky. There are many misleading terms and different certifications you may encounter. Like a truly compostable product, we’ll help you break it down:

  • First, know that “biodegradable” is not the same as “compostable.”

Although both biodegradable and compostable products may break down over time, these two terms are not interchangeable. While something that is biodegradable will eventually break down, some products misleadingly use a “biodegradable” label for a product that can take years or more to break down. And unlike compostable items which break down into organic matter that is beneficial for soil, a biodegradable product can decompose and leave behind inorganic or even toxic residues.

For these reasons, many composting facilities do not accept products labeled as biodegradable. Check Stockton’s Recycling Guide on proper disposal options.

  • Look for certified compostable products. 

For a product to be labeled as compostable, it must meet certain standards in the U.S., such as the “ASTM D6400” standard which requires products to completely decompose in a commercial composting facility within a specific time frame. Luckily, there is an easily identifiable compostable logo by third-party company BPI that certifies that a product is compostable — and you are even able to look for certified compostable products on its site

  • Know that even if something is labeled compostable, it has to go to the right place!

Unfortunately, even a certified compostable product is of little help if it goes to the landfill, where conditions do not allow for proper decomposition. Make sure you place it in the proper cart / bin. Keep in mind also that some compostable products, such as those made of bioplastics, are designed to break down only in a commercial composting setting — and should not be used for at-home composting.

Remember that compostable products still require resources to produce and dispose of, so whenever possible, aim for products you can use over and over again. Keep on staying green and great!

Rinse Your Recyclables — Without Wasting Water

Items in your recycling bin need to be clean in order to be recycled. 

Why? Dirty items can cause contamination and potentially ruin an entire batch of recycling, which results in getting sent to the landfill instead. To make sure your recycling actually gets recycled, and to avoid attracting pests such as insects, rats and raccoons, make sure items placed in your recycling bin are clean and dry. 

At the same time, we should aim to use as little water as possible while getting our items clean. So how can we rinse recyclables while also conserving our water? 

Follow these tips:

  1. Try “dry cleaning” first. Use a spoon, spatula, or cloth to scrape any remaining food into your organics cart / bin and wipe your item clean.
  2. If needed, add water to your container — aim for a quarter of the container’s capacity. (If the food in the container is particularly sticky, use warm or hot water.)
  3. Close the container (if it has a lid) and shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
  4. Pour out the water into the next item you need to clean or into a container (like a wash basin or bowl) to use for cleaning another item.

Aim to get the item 95-100% clear and clean. If possible, remove any labeling — and as long as your item is dry — it should be good to recycle. 

Have a Dishwasher? 

If you have the space, add recyclables to your next load. When full, dishwashers are designed to optimize water usage.

Leftover Water? 

Once all your dishes are done, use leftover dishwater to wash your recyclables. Alternatively, place a bucket in the shower to catch water to use for cleaning as well.

Avoiding Food Waste: From Garden to (Food) Pantry

In the United States, there are over 32,000 food pantries working to supply people in need with food while also reducing the one-third of food produced that ends up getting wasted. 

Food pantries are largely supplied by regional food banks which rely on food donations from grocery stores, bakeries and community food drives. Donations of dry/canned foods, prepared foods, and baked items are more common and plentiful, but fresh produce is often under-supplied. At the same time, more than 61 million people nationwide grow vegetables, fruit, and herbs at home, much of which does not get harvested and consumed.

A national company called Ample Harvest is making it easier to donate produce by connecting gardeners with food pantries. To find a local food pantry that accepts donations, visit Ample Harvest’s website. For more information about how certain fruits and vegetables provide health benefits to the community, as well instructions on storing and preparing produce, visit ProducePedia. Gardeners are encouraged to print out an info sheet for every donated item to better help food recipients utilize the donation. 

If you grow produce and find yourself with more than is needed, donate your abundance to a local food pantry. More information can be found here.  

Note: The California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act and Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act legally protect food donors from assuming any liability resulting from good faith acts of donation.

Spring Cleaning: Donation Tips

Have a couch, an old fan, and a bedroom door in great condition that you no longer need? No worries — there are many options for donating these items! 

Examples of items you can donate include, but are not limited to, working appliances such as microwaves and TVs, clothing, furniture such as beds, sofas, and chairs, household items such as cookware and dishware, bedding, and towels, and miscellaneous items such as sports equipment, books, roller blades, and luggage.

For in-person places to take your items, see below — some even offer pick-up options. Your donation can even be tax-deductible, so ask if you are able to get a donation receipt. 

  • Donation Centers in 95202 to 95204:

  • Donation Centers in 95205:

  • Donation Centers in 95207:

  • Donation Centers in 95210 to 95215:

Don’t live close to a physical donation center, or want to broaden your donation reach? Try listing it online!

  • Freecycle is a grassroots website where you can sign up based on where you live. To list items you want to donate and see what those in your community are giving away, sign up here.

  • Buy Nothing Project

Buy Nothing is an app that allows you to post items you’d like to give away, or even lend and share with your neighbors. The group is based on reducing consumerism and finding ways to give back to your local community. Find out more here.

  • NextDoor

NextDoor is a neighborhood app where you can sign up to keep updated on the happenings in your neighborhood and post items for neighbors and those in nearby neighborhoods. Sign up here.

  • Craigslist

Craigslist is another location-based website where you can list items based on category, such as bikes, furniture, or gardening supplies. Check it out here

With all these options available to you, you should be covered for whatever you wish to donate — and not only make someone else’s day, but give your item a second life!