Little Changes Make Big Impacts: The Power of Choice

By Calvin Abbot of the Watershed Project

After a long day of working outside or maybe just a walk in the park you may swing by a store and buy a plastic water bottle. After drinking it you drop it in a recycling bin, pat yourself on the back and continue on with your life. But what happens to the plastic you just used? Fortunately the bottle is #1 plastic, so it is recycled, but the cap is # 5, which is not recyclable in the US. Out of the 7 kinds of plastic we produce, only #1 and 2 are recycled in this country. This isn’t because the technology for this doesn’t exist, but because the technology used in the US is outdated, mostly build in the 1990’s, and not updated or well cared for since.

plastic bottles 1

Your bottle and cap go to the recycling company, where they get separated. The bottle is most likely crushed into a bale and shipped to China. If not, then it’s shredded and reused at one of the handful of American repurposing plants that make clothes or new packaging out of the plastic fibers. The cap is often sent to landfill, where it is mixed into the sand used to cover the landfill. Laying on top of the landfill with the sand, your cap is now exposed to birds and the elements, and can even make it’s way back into our waterways. So even though you didn’t put that bottle cap in the ocean, it still ended up there.

How can we fix this problem? You can go the way of California Assemblyman Stone, whose bill AB-319 would make it so caps had to be leashed to the bottles. This would make it harder for the caps to be removed from the bottles accidentally, and make it difficult for recycling companies to get rid of the caps. However the caps will still end up as landfill if the type of plastic remains the same, and recycling companies still remain incapable of dealing with this kind of plastic.

plastic bottles 2The harder, but more impactful solution is to just not use plastic water bottles. Over half of all bottled water is just tap water, and 22% of bottled water brands failed the state health and safety standards for water quality of the state they were being sold in. In spite of this, bottled water quality is overseen by the FDA and rarely checked, so the bottled water companies have little incentive to improve the quality. Choosing a reusable bottle is more common than ever, and in most places, a reusable bottle filled with tap water is a cheaper, safer, and incredibly more environmentally friendly than the single use plastic alternative.
People often feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issues facing us, and they feel that just them changing their lifestyle won’t be enough. And in some ways they are right, many environmental issues cannot be solved by an individual action. However, in more important ways they are wrong. When I was little I used to love an essay by Loren Eiseley, called The Star Thrower. Although the version I was read was truncated and simplified for kids, it held the same message. And in its simplest form the essay is says this: if you can spend effort to save a single life, isn’t it worth it?

plastic bottles 3And in that vein whenever I am feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issues we are facing I think to myself: how many bottle caps does it take to kill a fledgling albatross? How many plastic bags does it take to kill a turtle? You’ll find the answer to these questions is a number that you can reduce from your own life every year, and if it saves a few turtles, a few albatross, a few of hundreds of species across the world, then surely it’s worth the effort, and not at all futile.

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Do you have a project in mind and need a bit of cash to make it happen?

Small Classroom Grants For Teachers Hatching Fish

The Northern California Council Federation of Fly Fishers International (NCCFFI) is offering a series of mini-grants to teachers participating in the Classroom Aquarium Education Program (CAEP) in the San Francisco Bay Area. Funds received from these grants will be used to enhance the classroom experience of hatching trout in the classroom.


Applicants must:

  • Be certified and in good standing with the CDFW Region 3 CAEP program (eligible to receive eggs)
  • Have participated in the program in 2017
  • Have submitted a complete 772 application to hatch fish in 2018
  • Teach in San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, Marin, or Solano Counties


Funds may be used for classroom materials that enhance students understanding of fish, watersheds, and/or how human actions affect fish, and be directly tied to your class study of trout. These funds are for purchasing materials only in any curriculum area including science, art, language arts or other subject areas. NCCFFI will not fund guest speakers or transportation.

Ideal projects:

  • Are repeatable (meaning you can use the materials more than one year)
  • Involve others (other schools, classes, or the community at large)
  • Use technology to reach a larger audience (videos, live casts, slide shows)
  • Match funds from the community (but not from the teacher)
  • Involve direct student action and involvement

All decisions by IFF are final.

Amount you may request

NCCFFF has $1000 to distribute. The maximum award will be $250. Smaller requests are encouraged, as this will allow more classes to receive grants.

To apply

Complete the attached from and submit it to by 12/15/17.

Grants will be reimbursable based on actual receipts. If you receive an award letter, you may purchase items up to the dollar amount stated, submit the receipts and you will receive reimbursement.


IFF Classroom Aquarium Education Program Grant Application:

Please provide the information below in a separate document. Maximum 2 pages although supplemental info (photos, related projects) may be added to that.

  1. Teacher name
  2. School
  3. Sponsor
  4. Grade level taught
  5. Number of students who will benefit
  6. Provide a brief overview of your project
  7. List materials needs with an estimate of cost
  8. What are the desired outcomes of the project?
  9. Will other classes or schools participate in or benefit from this project? Please describe.
  10. List any outside funding or volunteer time (not including your coach or sponsor) that will be part of this project.
  11. What is the life-span of the materials you are purchasing? (is this a one-time project or will it continue into future years?
  12. Any additional information you would like to add? Feel free to attach photos or other supplemental materials you feel will be helpful.


Submit application no later than 12/15/17 to



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Fire and Fish

Fire is a regular part of life in California for people, for animals, and for plants. The recent fires in the North Bay while devastating, provide opportunities for first hand learning on the impacts to fish, plants, wildlife, and entire ecosystems.

We are compiling articles and activities to help you explore these impacts with your students. If you have additional information or better yet, curriculum on the impacts of fire to fish and aquatic ecosystems, please forward them to Ethan Rotman so they can be posted for other teachers to use.

Related image

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Wildfires and Fish

Our hearts go out to the teachers, coaches, schools, and students impacted by the recent terrifying and devastating events.

We are working to create materials for use in the classroom on how fires impact fish in both a positive and negative manner. We hope to provide reading lists for students and teachers along with some classroom activities.

We want to start by offering this research document written by the United States Forest Service titled “Adaption to Wildfire: A Fish Story”

Image result for wildfire by creek

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Hints for submitting your application for eggs and returning your permits


Of the 400 applications and permits we process each year, most go through without a problem. A few have issues and require additional time. If not dealt with, it is possible for a teacher to lose their eligibility to participate in the program.

Submitting your paperwork is not enough – it is the TEACHERS responsibility to check to make sure CDFW received the document.

more paperwork please

Most common problems:

  • Applications not complete or missing the principals signature
  • Applications sent by mail or fax are not received by CDFW

Hints to help get your application and permit approved

  1. Fill out the form completely (including having your principal sign the application)
  2. Scan the document and submit from your email address (do not send it from the scanner as CDFW security protocols do not allow us to open attachments from unrecognized addresses)
  3. Send a copy to your coach and keep a copy for your records
  4. Check the status of your submission at

Submit completed forms by email –

Mail and fax submissions are discouraged but accepted:

7329 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558

(707) 944-5563

NOTE: Most “lost” or “not received” forms come from these two sources. Be sure to check the status of your submission at


  • PDFs of applications and permits completely filled out
  • Faxes or hard copies of applications/permits completely fill out


  • Photos of applications of permits
  • Applications or permits sent directly from a scanner
  • Applications or permits that are not complete.

feels good to get stuff done


Applications (request for eggs)

Returning teachers: Applications for eggs are due by December 15

New teachers: At your training workshop (arrive with a blank application signed by your principal)


Within 10 days of release of your fry

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Grants and Awards Available

National Council for Teachers of Mathematics Is Accepting Applications for Projects Connecting Mathematics to Other 9-12 Grade Subject Areas

POSTED: April 1, 2017
DEADLINE: November 3, 2017

Grants of up to $4,000 will be awarded for the development of senior high classroom materials or lessons that connect mathematics to other fields….

Toshiba America Foundation Accepting Applications for Science, Math Projects

POSTED: April 2, 2017

Grants will be awarded to middle- and high-school teachers who are passionate about making science and mathematics more engaging for their students….

National Science Teachers Association Invites Nominations for Shell Science Teaching Award

POSTED: April 1, 2017
DEADLINE: December 15, 2017

The annual $10,000 prize recognizes an outstanding classroom science teacher (K-12) who has had a positive impact on his or her students, school, and community through exemplary classroom science teaching….

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Overheard At A Fish Tank…

I received this note by email:


Our eggs are safely in their temporary home–the kids were so surprised that they were so little!  Excited talk I heard around that tank,

“You can see their eyes!”

“They are rocking themselves to sleep, they must be tired”

“I didn’t know the would be orange!”🐟 (obviously some of them have missed the multitude of posters and power point presentations…but still…excitement is here to stay!)


Christie Cocks, Wright Charter School, Santa Rosa

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