Recycling Education Programs in Butte County Are No Longer RARE

By Raquel Borrayo

When it comes to waste, “there is no away.” This is an important life lesson that the Butte Environmental Council hopes to impart to local students, teachers and community members with their new recycling education program.

RARE, The Recycling and Rubbish Education program, strives to educate through engaging interactive workshops and field trips, which focus on the four R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle and rot.  The program comes directly to the students at their Butte County school and is completely free of charge.

“When we give children meaningful, hands-on experiences within their classrooms and show them up close by visiting the local landfill, they feel connected to the bigger picture of where trash ends up,” said Tanya Parish, RARE program coordinator.  “Our hope is that they then take positive steps to create a healthier and more sustainable future.”

A Mission Focused on Education

RARE was formed in 2001 and is operated at the California State University, Chico campus through the Associated Students and CSU, Chico Research Foundation. During its affiliation with the university, it helped educate thousands of K-12 students through hands on, interactive education. In 2013, BEC was selected to carry on RARE’s legacy, allowing further outreach to the community. Today, the program is made possible by funding from landfill tipping fees, CalRecycle Funds and private donations.

“For BEC, this recycling education program takes us back to our roots,” said Mark Stemen, the council’s board of directors president. “BEC started the first recycling program in Chico decades ago and now, today, it’s the perfect complement to our education efforts.”

BEC envisions a world in which the Earth’s natural resources are protected and conserved for current and future generations. With this goal in mind, RARE representatives reach out to Butte County teachers to hold workshops that teach students the importance of recycling.

Workshops Teach Students The Four R’s

Classroom workshops last 45 to 90 minutes and are facilitated by RARE program coordinator, Tanya Parish and interns from CSU, Chico or Butte College. Workshops align with California Environmental Education Initiative Curriculum and are tailored to various age groups including elementary, middle and high school students.

Teaching ways to reduce, reuse, recycle and rot is at the core of RARE:

By showing students real-life examples of the waste produced in ordinary boxed lunches, children begin to value the use of reusable containers, a key step in reducing waste.
Recycling relay races divide students into groups to see who can practice the four R’s the best.
Rot is the activity that lets students hold the Earth’s greatest decomposers in the palm of their hand. Better known as composting, RARE representatives bring in materials to build worm bins to teach students the benefits and process of composting.
High school auto shop classes learn important tools of the trade by focusing on reducing oil consumption, best practices for managing used oil and locations of Certified Collection Centers.

“Recycling is one thing we can all do every day to reduce our impact on the environment,” said BEC executive director, Robyn DiFalco.  “The RARE program really fills an unmet need by providing basic education on what can be recycled and why it’s so important to reduce our waste.”

Along with classroom workshops, RARE organizes free field trips that give children a chance to see where their trash goes. Classes gain a firsthand look into all of the waste produced in Butte County and how it affects the environment. The goal is to educate students about waste reduction and to ultimately extend the life of the Neal Road Recycling and Waste Facility.

Have RARE Visit Your Classroom

The Butte Environmental Council and Butte County Public Works hope that many teachers and parents will take advantage of this new, free recycling and education program. RARE is a crucial first step that kids can participate in to become sustainable and environmentally conscious members of society.

To invite RARE into your classroom or schedule a field trip, contact RARE Program Coordinator, Tanya Parish at or 530-891-6426. For more information about RARE visit

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