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Zero Waste Communities of San Bernadino County

Environmental Center

The Environmental Center


Teacher, Parent & Kid Friendly!

The Zero Waste Communities group is constantly receiving questions by teachers, parents and kids, about what they can do to help the environment at school and at home.  Projects can be as simple as starting a recycling program in your school or teaching your family about what they can recycle at home.  The Zero Waste Communities group is here to provide support for these projects as well as additional education.  For more information on programs in your area, please contact your representative listed on the contacts page.


What are the 3 R's?  They are Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  That means reduce waste through purchasing less items or with minimal packaging; reuse the materials more than once, avoid single use products and buying materials that are recycled content; and recycle whatever materials are left after you are done with them.


Help Your Child Learn About Recycling


Children learn by example, so be a good role model by practicing Earth Care every day.  Never litter and make recycling a habit!  Here are a few ideas to help you along.

1. Set up a recycling area in your home.  Designate a spot for recyclables before they are taken out for curbside pickup or to a recycling center.  Encourage your child to help you separate the recyclables from the non-recyclables.

2.  Look online or call your local recycling coordinator to make sure you are recycling properly.  You can also call your local waste hauler.

3.  Recycle yard waste by leaving grass clippings on your lawn (also known as grasscycling).

4. Buy products made with recycled content materials or with little or no packaging.  If there is packaging, try to recycle what you can.

5.  Build or purchase a compost bin and mix your food scarps (no meats) with yard trimmings to make a rich soil amendment that will help your garden grow. 


Loud & Proud About Reusable Bags!

If you take a look at cities in the US that have banned plastic bags in favor of reusable options, you will see the most successful areas are in Southern California. What that means is that your commitment to use and reuse your reusable bags has become a benchmark that will inspire those areas of the country that are trying to catch up with our success! When you see the bigger picture it's even more apparent that we are onto something big. Communities around the world, from California to Chandigarh are saying no to disposable bags in favor of reusable alternatives.

Zero Waste Communities has shared a lot of day-to-day tips with you through our blog on why and how to reduce your bag waste, and through your responses, we’ve seen amazing examples of participation and innovation. So now you might ask, how can we keep getting better? Well, the secret is that no matter which pieces of advice you take away, the best thing you can do to help the reusable bag movement at home and beyond is to be an active and proud advocate of reusable bags. Whether that means educating others about the downsides of disposable bags, the merits of reusable, or just showing off your own reusable bag collection at the market, we want you to be as proud of your accomplishments as we are and inspire others to join in along the way!


*Photo courtesy of 

Zero Waste with Endless Thanks

Over the course of Zero Waste Communities’ Reusable Bag Campaign, San Bernardino County residents have continued to rise to the challenge of eco-friendly living. It may seem like a small thing, but the campaign’s simple and consistent message to reduce waste by choosing reusable bags over disposable plastic and paper bags has made an impact. Some of you may have been following along with our monthly blog posts where we’ve shared interesting stories and tips on how to get the most out of your bags, but a lot of you have also gotten involved right at the source—at the stores.

Zero Waste Communities wants to give a huge thank you to our partners: Albertsons in Apple Valley, Highland & Victorville as well as Clark’s Nutrition in Loma Linda. Their support has created a powerful example of how thoughtful business practices can work to change a community for the better. And that change is clearly coming since, over its course, the Reusable Bag Campaign has acquired more than 200 signups and residents have also pledged to produce less waste and use a reusable bag every time they shop!


We hope to see those numbers continue to grow. So, if you haven’t gotten around to signing up yet, there is good news: you can still receive a FREE reusable bag by signing up at the Zero Waste Communities ballot boxes at one of our partner Albertsons stores in Victorville or Highland or at Clark’s Nutrition in Loma Linda, while supplies last. Don’t waste anymore time or any more bags, and join with us, our partners and other participants to bring this round of applause, full circle, from the local market to the global one!

You Can’t Spell Earth Day Without The 3 R’s

For us, every day is Earth Day, but for those who would like to do something special on April 22nd this year, Zero Waste Communities would like to help you make a big impression. Since we’re talking about impressions, why not start with a footprint?’s Ecological Footprint Quiz is a great way to see how the things you do in everyday life affect the planet on a larger scale. Not only that, but by taking the quiz multiple times, and playing around with your answers, you can get an idea of how changing some small things in your daily routine can have a huge positive impact.

altWhen you’re ready to take these changes off the computer screen and put them into practice, we think it’s great to always review the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.


Here at Zero Waste Communities, one of our favorite R’s is Reuse. It can bring a lot of positive effects with the smallest amount of effort: you don’t need to buy more stuff and you don’t have to throw anything away either. It’s all about making the best of what you’ve got! But if residents of San Bernardino County do happen to want something new to reuse, you can like us on Facebook and receive a FREE Zero Waste Reusable Bag made from recycled content.

The next R to tackle is Reduce. People often think this is the most difficult one to tackle, but really, when you’re reusing, you’ve already started reducing! Take for example your reusable bag. Every time you bring it to the store, you’re reducing the amount of disposable plastic or paper bags that are wasted on one time uses. That adds up to a lot of saved resources over time!

Finally we get to the most popular R: Recycle. We’d like it if you kept this one in mind as you start your spring cleaning. There’s a chance that all your extra stuff may not be reused at home, but it sure can be recycled rather than thrown away!  Our website will help you find out what items your City will accept in your curbside pick-ups.

So as Earth Day approaches, why not try out an R, or three? On their own, each one can save you money, but used together they are an Earth-saving power combo that the planet will appreciate on April 22nd and every day on Earth afterward! After you’ve checked your carbon footprint, try lowering it with our FREE Zero Waste Reusable Bag and maybe add a few more special bags for Earth Day. Then take the quiz again and let us know how much smaller your footprint got by reducing, reusing and recycling!

Debunking 5 Disposable Bag Myths

The American love affair with the plastic bag is like the quintessential story of the Good hopelessly drawn to the Bad. We’re always telling ourselves we’re going to do right next time. Then we get to the register. “Can I bag that up for you?” Before we know it: “OK.” It’s a toxic relationship we just can’t seem to shake! But there is help. The first step we’ve got to take is to reexamine why we keep going back to the same disposable choice.

1. Plastic bags are free!
Sorry, actually it costs a lot to pay for the materials and energy to make and ship every bag. And while you may not be charged per-bag at the register, retailers are passing on the expense to you in the form of higher prices! This doesn’t even factor in the disposal costs your taxes pay for, not to mention the accumulating environmental costs that we all share from the build up of litter and wildlife dying from plastic consumption. That’s a lot of cost for a one-time thing.

2. But, plastic bags are not really that big of a problem…are they?
They might be lightweight and compact, but they pile up fast. For some perspective, artist Chris Jordan’s 2007 piece, “Plastic Bags,” from his series, “Running the Numbers,” shockingly depicts the amount of plastic bags used in the US every five seconds. Worse still, these bags are made from materials that don’t break down, so they keep piling up. In fact, for the last few years, International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) volunteers have reported that plastic bags are the second most commonly found item during beach cleanups. Then of course there is the famed “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a “soup” of plastic particles, including photodegraded plastic bags, which scientists estimate to be about twice the size of Texas!

3. Well, recycling is solving the problem though.
Recycling is very important, but full effectiveness depends on large scale participation. Unfortunately, even with a statewide infrastructure for plastic bag recycling, plastic recycling rates are extremely low: 3%, with only 5.9% of that number carryout bags, according to a 2011 CalRecycle report. Even if that number were higher, the sheer amount of consumption paired with a low market demand for recycled bags makes the challenge far too big for recycling alone to solve.

4I can use paper bags instead.
Be careful of rebound alternatives! Surprisingly, a lot of the same negatives of one-time-use plastic bags apply to one-time-use paper bags as well. Sure, paper may look and feel more responsible at first, but it’s also heavier and bulkier to ship (which means more fuel use in transport per bag) and it can take many times the amount of production energy of plastic bags to make the equivalent number of paper bags. Paper bags can even take over 91% more fuel and energy to recycle, while those that end up in the trash will not decompose as quickly as you think—if at all! That’s a deal breaker.


5. Good bags are hard to find.
There are plenty of good bags, you’ve just been in the same disposable rut for so long that you’ve forgotten where to look. Cloth or other quality reusable bags are keepers when it comes making change in the community and keeping change in your pocket. Best of all, these bags are with you for the long haul. The only question you’ll ask in the end is, “why did I stick with disposable bags for so long?”

If you live in San Bernardino County and want to go reusable, like us on Facebook and score a FREE Zero Waste Reusable Bag made from recycled contents. What was the first reusable bag you found that made you leave behind disposable bags for good? We want to hear your stories!

Lunch Inside the Box

In decades past, lunchboxes were a big deal for kids as a carrying case and as a status symbol, but by the 1990’s the disposable brown bag filled with disposable plastic bags began to rule the school. This lunchtime change up is explored in A Brief History of the Lunchbox. But what they don’t really talk about is how much waste this change has caused. According to Nubius Organics each person’s brown bag lunch can cause between 4 and 8 ounces of garbage adding up to as much as 100 pounds per year.


Looking back, it’s great to see the cool looking shapes and graphics of these lunch boxes. And looking forward, well made, stylish and reusable food containers are still great accessories for kids—and adults—who are trying to create less waste while eating on-the-go. If you’re not really feeling that 1980’s He-Man lunch box on ebay, there are lots of great contemporary options for fun and functional reusable lunch containers.

This video from goes over most of the basic things too look for.

Even better, these tips and tricks can work for any meal. Once you get into the swing of a zero waste lunch, why not carry your reusable bags to dinner to instead of asking your waiter for a to-go box? Let us know how you have managed to kick the brown bag trend!

Stretching the Imagination: What Are Your Zero Waste Innovations?

It’s a new year, and that means it’s time to get creative for thinking up new ways to use less—it’s kind of our thing. At Zero Waste Communities, we love discovering simple innovations that anyone can do to cut down their consumption or use their castoffs. So naturally, as we are in the midst of our Reusable Bag Campaign we were thrilled to come across Artechnica Inc.’s Stretch Bag. At first glance it might just look like a simple tote bag, but it’s special for two reasons:

First, as much as we like canvas over plastic, these vinyl bags are actually made from discarded billboards. What we love about that is how it transforms a product that usually tells us to consume into something that helps us conserve.  Artechnica’s not alone in this trend; and you can find other companies making bags from old advertisements as well.
But the second interesting thing about this Stretch Bag is not about what it’s made of, but how it’s made. By using a cleaver series of cuts, a single piece of reused vinyl is molded into a handled pouch that can hold just over 30 lbs, no glues, stitching or other parts required. The cuts and stretching aren’t only functional, but they make the bag beautiful by turning old images into abstract colors and geometric shapes. It’s so snazzy, in fact, that it was featured in the Pasadena Museum of California Art’s recent Design Biennial show, Action/Reaction, which highlighted outstanding sustainable art and design in California.

As great as this bag is, we’d like to see if our readers can do better! Post pictures of your zero waste inventions to our Facebook page, and we’ll feature your creations in a photo album on our Facebook page!

4 Ways To Unwrap Your Holidays


Think reusable bags are only to be used at grocery stores? Think again! Zero Waste Communities is here to give you 4 simple tips to get the most out of your reusable bags this holiday season.

1.  Reusable bags aren’t just for the supermarket.
We all like to get the most value out of our purchases—especially during those holiday sales—but there’s one complimentary item that you shouldn’t feel cheated by turning down at the register: a shopping bag. Using your reusable bag collection for your general holiday shopping will help cut down on numerous wasted disposable bags from department stores. Not only will you produce less waste, as a bonus when you bring your treasures home your giftees won’t know what stores you’ve been to.


For those nervous about being the odd-shopper-out, for five years Heal the Bay has coordinated “A Day Without A Bag” on the third Thursday of December—the 15th this year—where holiday shoppers and retailers forgo single-use plastic shopping bags in favor of reusable bags.

2. Think outside the box; right outside the box.
A lot of effort goes into making our presents look like presents. All that colorful paper looks great, but did you know that wrapping paper and shopping bags alone account for about 4 million tons of trash annually in the US?  Most of us probably know that with a little bit of extra effort and care, even the most delicate of wrapping papers can be saved or passed on to wrap again. While that’s fantastic, with a little creativity, resourcefulness and research you can blur the line between wrapping and wrapped. There are a lot of sites that offer some great ideas for good looking reusable packaging or how to make the packaging itself, a part of the gift.

3. That’s your bag, Baby.
Sometimes, you don’t even need to put anything inside of the bag. And why should you?  If you happen to find a really awesome bag that you think your friends and family would love to carry and use week after week for their shopping or personal needs, that’s definitely a gift worth giving. Just don’t try to say it’s the same thing as a purse. Even thought it kind of is, that could to get you into trouble.

4. Bags? We don’t need no stinking bags.
If you really want to get serious about using less, don’t wrap or bag your gifts at all. You’ll even get bonus points if the gift itself is made to be reusable or made from recycled or reused material. You can carry small purchases home in your hand, purse or pockets. Once you’re back home, if you want to get more festive than presenting your gift by saying, “Here you go,”  find places to hide them: under a pillow, in a tree or in the refrigerator. Be creative, but don’t forget the tried and true behind-your-back technique.

Mostly, we hope that you’ll join with Zero Waste Communities in committing to a simpler but no less magical holiday season. Do you have any gift-giving and material-saving ideas? Share them with us!

How Big Is Your Collection Of Reusable Bags?

As the Zero Waste Communities'  Reusable Bag Campaign prepares to roll out across San Bernardino County after a successful pilot program, we’d like to change our main question from “do you use reusable bags?” to “how many reusable bags do you have?”

If you’ve got more than 10 - wow, good job! But don’t worry if you feel like your number is too low. We’ve all got to start somewhere, so why not at one? While disposable plastic bags are convenient and often free, that’s beginning to change in many cities with new local environmental legislation.

Now is the perfect time to start expanding that bag stash and Zero Waste Communities is ready to help you do it by launching a Reusable Bag Campaign and teaming up with local grocery stores. Residents can connect with us on Facebook or at one of our partner stores: Albertsons in Apple Valley, Hesperia, Highland and Victorville, and Clark’s Nutrition in Loma Linda.  This year, employees at our partner stores will be reminding residents to use their reusable bags. Best of all, by filling out a sign-up sheet in-store or online and “liking” us on Facebook, San Bernardino County residents can receive a free reusable bag! Whether this is your first one or your tenth, each reusable bag you use stops many of its disposable counterparts from ending up in landfills, or worse, as roaming debris.

As our partnerships prove, it’s not just the conservation groups that are supporting this shift to reusable bags; many retailers are advocating reusable bags as well. This commitment goes beyond reminding people to “Grab Your Bag.” Retailers like Clark’s Nutrition and Albertsons are embracing comprehensive, affordable and environmentally conscious choices and reminders for their customers. Albertsons in particular over the last year has significantly expanded its recycling programs throughout the country, putting their stores and offices on a path to zero waste.

These grocery store partnerships continue to be important because even those of us who carry reusable bags with us for shopping can often forget to bring them into the store - whoops! After our pilot campaign launched earlier this year, a combination of public outreach and on-site retailer engagement resulted in the percentage of reusable bags increasing from only 5% to 14.5%!  And while almost 10 percent improvement is a good number, we have a long way to go.

Sign up for a free reusable bag online or at one of our partner stores and be a part of a strong community of reusable bag users in San Bernardino County. This is a small but important step towards making disposable plastic bags the exception rather than the rule in California, the country, and the world.


4 Ways To Green Your Halloween: Reusable Bags for Trick or Treating

When it comes to that all-important Halloween question, “How should I lug around my candy-loot this year?” the Zero Waste Communities wants you to know that there is more than one answer.


Disposable plastic bags are kind of like the zombies of the bag world; an army roaming the earth long after their regular life ended, practically indestructible yet slowly decaying. Plus these monsters can be a choking threat to wildlife—or small children! And worst of all, unless you or your kid decides to dress as Oscar the Grouch or some other garbage creature, an old plastic grocery bag can really trash a great costume.
Instead, by getting into the spirit of a green Halloween you can save money, natural resources, and your street cred all at once! With little to no extra effort (or face paint) the only waste you’ll need to deal with is the pile of mini-candy wrappers. Check out these four not-so-scary ways to green your Halloween this year:

1. For buckets of fun, metal pails are like safe deposit boxes for candy, and plush versions can be personalized into fun or spooky shapes to be used year-after-year.
2. Nothing beats an old burlap sack in terms of usability and classic Halloween style. They are sturdy yet inexpensive (in bulk or as material), versatile enough to go with cute, classic or creepy costumes and carry produce just as well as processed chocolate.
3. Cloth or polyester tote bags come in a wide variety of styles that can match to the season or to a costume and then transition to fit your day-to-day shopping after the candy is gone.
4. If you forget to grab a reusable bag or metal pail, you can use something you’ve already got lying around the house—a pillowcase! They’re soft, easy to wash and adorable for a first-Halloween.

With the start of October, take a couple extra minutes (or weeks) and maybe set aside some pocket change to find a bag-trick that will make this holiday, and every day after it, a zero waste treat for everyone.

Do you have any zero waste ideas for Halloween? Share one idea with us in the comments section below!
*Photo courtesy of The Cozy Pumpkin.

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