Nine-year-old Makayla Langdale eyeballed the packaging of a few common food items to see which one would generate the largest amount of trash.

There was the Lunchables box with its five individually wrapped pieces inside and the bag of Milano cookies with a wad of crumpled up paper trays.

But the biggest offender was the Lindor chocolate candy. The Windsor youth counted 23 plastic-encased pieces in a foily plastic bag, all likely to end up in a landfill.

"Minus one makes 22," said the Cali Calmecac Language Academy student with a sly smile. "Because I ate one."

She was among a dozen kids who showed up on a rainy Saturday afternoon for the "garbology" event at Sonoma County's Environmental Discovery Center.

It was the latest in a series of themed activities held at the center near Spring Lake on the first Saturday afternoon of each month. No Science Saturday is planned for February because the county parks staff will be installing a new exhibit.

On Saturday, organizers led a hands-on demonstration about wasteful packaging and ways people can reduce the amount of garbage they create.

They kicked off the discussion by showing kids a picture of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a floating mass of trash between California and Hawaii.

Eyes lighted up as naturalist Catrina Walker explained that the vast gyre is made up of plastic such as that found in soda bottles and packaging.

"It's about the size of Texas," she said.

The group also talked about how they might be contributing to the waste stream. Program assistant Kristina Stanton pointed to an assortment of common products like Lunchables — prepacked meals for kids.

She asked each child to guess how much packaging was in the boxes and bags and to sort through the items to find the actual number.

Hannah Gragg, 5, of Santa Rosa seemed surprised by what she found.

"Ocean animals could swallow it and they could get sick," she said.

Sadie Sanders, another 5-year-old from Santa Rosa, thumbed through the bag of chocolate as her younger brother, Marcel, 1, popped a piece of the popular candy in his mouth.

"You can make the world really dirty if you litter a lot," she said.

Stanton challenged each child to try to cut down their waste. She showed them how she packs her own daughter's lunch with a cloth napkin and reuseable bag, water bottle and food container. When you go to the store, she said, try to combine things like fruit in one bag.

"For every dollar you spend, 10 cents goes to packaging," she said. "That's a lot of money to spend on things we're just going to throw away."

(You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@

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