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!

Spring Garden Prepping Tips

Excited for spring and new planting opportunities? Follow these tips to start your outdoor garden off on the right path this spring season:

  • Seed Starting

Many plants have a better chance of surviving outdoors if they grow from seeds indoors, where they are in a climate-controlled environment and protected from harsh weather and animals. 

Plant your seeds in a small container of soil, or choose peat pots that contain the roots of a plant, even as it grows into a larger plant outside. Start several more of each plant than you plan to grow, putting a few seeds in each hole. 

As you watch them grow, you can pluck the weaker plants and select the taller, healthier ones. Place the seeds in a warm area that receives lots of sunlight (or underneath a plant-growing light) and keep the soil moist. Wait until seedlings are 4-6 inches tall before transplanting outside. 

  • Turning and Treating Beds

Head outside and prep your growing area. Turn over the soil, removing any excess leaves or stems from last year’s crop that haven’t yet decomposed. If necessary, add organic compost, manure, or mulch, depending on your soil content. Talk to garden store staff about the pH of the soil in your area and ask what they recommend. Though directly applied compost isn’t harmful, never apply manure to plants. Mix these components into the soil well before planting so their nutrients can begin to integrate throughout the garden bed. 

  • Perfecting Your Growing Setup

Set up your garden beds with adequate sun and critter protection to maximize the survival of your plants. If available, unpack and set up any greenhouse components, bed covers, or watering systems that may have been stored for the winter. By following these steps, you will be well on your way to a thriving garden by the time summer rolls around!

Grow Produce Indoors!

Eating fresh and nutritious produce has become easier with the rise of creative ways of growing plants inside your home. Here are a few ways to incorporate living food into your kitchen.

Countertop Herb Garden

Start with a medium-sized pot, organic potting soil, and 2-3 herb plants that you cook with frequently. Most herbs don’t grow into large shrubs and are able to grow next to one another.

Pot the herbs about 2-3 inches apart and place the pot in a south-facing window if possible, which gets bright but is not under direct sun for most of the day. If there is not enough light, you can purchase an inexpensive plant-growing light to help. Once ready, herbs can be picked fresh and added to soups, stews, and sauces, or dried and saved for later. 

This indoor setup is perfect for year-round growing; however, you can also move your pot outside during the warmer summer months. 

Veggie Growing Tower

For those living in a small space with no yard, or those in a climate with an especially harsh winter, this setup is an ideal option for accessing fresh produce at a fraction of the cost of the grocery store. 

There are many tutorials available for building your own setup, or options for buying a premade product. View a list of DIY or pre-made options at here.

Whatever your setup choice, the basic concept remains the same. Veggies grow in little pockets of soil along a central tower that is watered through a series of pipes. Place in an area with adequate sunlight, or purchase an inexpensive overhead plant-growing light so you can place the tower anywhere in your home where you have space. Though many veggies can grow in this setup, start with the easy stuff like lettuce and herbs before branching out to vegetables like eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers.

Tips for an Eco-Conscious Pet Owner

Do you own a pet? Reduce the environmental paw print of your pet by following these tips:

  • Make Your Own Toys

Cats and dogs can go through toys rapidly, which can become a problem for both your wallet and the planet.  Make your own squeaky toy, or use jeans that are past repair to make a variety of toys! Check out how to DIY your own pet toys with common household items and more here.

  • Shop Secondhand

Secondhand shopping is an economical and eco-friendly option for pet owners who want to save money and consume less. Look for secondhand items like crates, beds, food and water bowls, or seasonal items like Halloween outfits (that often only get worn once) on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. 

  • Pick up the Pet Waste, Every Time

Pet waste – even if it’s out of sight–  should always be picked up promptly, as it can contain pathogens that are harmful to humans and other animals, which can also make their way to our waterways. If you have a backyard, reduce plastic bag usage by using a pooper scooper to pick up pet waste. For instructions on how to properly dispose of your pet waste, visit our Recycling Guide.

  • Invest in Sustainable Products

Many local pet stores now sell products that are eco-friendly, such as items made with recycled materials or food made up of organic ingredients. Look for sustainable products when shopping in-person or online, and invest in reusable products and items when possible. 

  • Choose Less Toxic Flea & Tick Treatments

Many common flea and tick treatments are registered as pesticides and regulated by the EPA; or if administered orally, regulated by the FDA.  Many of these pesticides have been linked to negative health issues in people and pets. Keep your pet safe from fleas and ticks and toxic ingredients by doing your research — learn more from this article by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

What is Greenwashing? 

When making a purchase, we may strive to make the best choice for ourselves, our families, and the environment. Unfortunately, some companies can take advantage of our desire for environmentally-friendly products by using labels or marketing to make their products appear more sustainable than they actually are, a process also known as greenwashing.

For example, be aware of the common greenwashing buzzwords such as:

  • Natural
  • Environmentally-friendly
  • Green
  • Sustainable
  • Biodegradable

While these terms all sound great, they are unregulated and do not require any certification to use. Instead of relying on these buzzwords, ask yourself questions such as: 

  • What claims are being made ⁠— and is the company able to back it up?
  • How does this product compare in sustainability to products made by other companies?
  • What materials and packaging does this product contain, and is it able to be easily recycled or composted after its use?

In addition, look for actual certifications contained on the labeling of a product. Because products must undergo a verification process to be able to use these certification labels, they carry more weight than words. To learn more about different types of certifications to look for, check out this handy guide.

You deserve a product as green as you!

Show the Earth Love!

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, let’s try to show the Earth some love — by not adding to our landfills. In the U.S., the amount of garbage we toss has grown to about 1,800 pounds per person every year, and there are about as many closed landfills in the U.S. as there are open ones. Landfills are also the third-largest source of human-based methane emissions in the U.S. — and a major contributor to climate change.

Do your part to love the Earth and reverse these trends by following these steps:

1. Reduce

Prevent waste before it starts by reducing the amount of items and disposable packaging you buy. Before purchasing a gift for a friend, colleague, or loved one, ask yourself: is this truly needed to express my sentiment? And if so, is it possible to express appreciation with a handwritten letter, a baked good – or if purchasing an item – one that can be used for a long time or with as little packaging as possible, such as a potted plant? While it feels great to give and receive gifts, it’s even more so if the gift is heartfelt and also good for the planet!

2. Reuse

Instead of tossing something, find ways to reuse it! Our Recycling Guide is full of ideas on how to reuse and repurpose different items that would otherwise be bound for the landfill. If you receive a Valentine’s gift, save the gift wrap to use again, or repurpose any containers as storage or planters in next year’s garden.

3. Repair

Fix the things you own when they rip or break instead of tossing them if possible. Lost a button or got a small hole in your shirt, dress, or pants? Give your clothes some love and look up tutorials on how to DIY the fix, or get your item professionally repaired.

4. Recycle

Last but not least, recycle — properly! Use our Recycling Guide to double check what to throw in the recycling and what’s accepted in the green bin. Avoid wishcycling and contaminating your recycling and compost!

Wish the Earth and all its inhabitants a happy Valentine’s Day by doing what you can to reduce, reuse, repair and recycle!