Month: May 2016

Chicago’s Beaches Were “Trashed” This Weekend

I bet fellow Chicagoans were enjoying the lovely weather we had here this Memorial Day weekend. When it is nice out and a long weekend, the beaches are packed with people and with garbage!

Here are some images from North Avenue Beach posted by Mike Caplan, Meteorologist at FOX 32. Gross!

trashed beach

trashed beach2

I am just going to let those pictures sink in. A lot of that looks recyclable to me…

FYI: There is Poop in The Chicago River Right Now

If you are in the metro area, you know that it has been raining most of the evening, and it has definitely rained more than 0.3 inches (I explained why that number was significant in this post).

We have a combined sewer overflow (CSO)!

According to there are 56 locations of CSOs as of the time of writing (1o PM).


You can get more information about tonight’s CSOs and sign up for email alerts here.

How Long Will It Take to Receive My Blue Cart? Part 2

See Part 1 of this escapade here: How Long Will It Take To Receive My Blue Cart? Part 1

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

32 days after it was submitted, I received an email from the City Council Ward team that they have resolved my “recycling services” request.

I went to take a peek at where our garbage cans are kept and saw no blue cart. Womp Womp.

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

I have been checking periodically to see if a blue cart magically appeared and it had not. Basically, I was giving the City the benefit of the doubt. Things take forever and I know that. At this point, it had been well over the “at least five weeks” I was told, so I gave my alderman’s office a call.

They did apologize that I have not received my cart yet, and said they will contact the City again about it. A new service request was submitted. The office said if I did not get it by next Monday, I should call back.

This same day, I saw a segment on WGN news about where Chicago’s recycling goes.

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

I was supposed to get my cart by now. No cart. I will be calling the office back tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016 

Just called the office. Since the service request from last week is still open, they cannot start another one. I was told that my request number will be given to the ward superintendent to find out what is up. The hold up could be that there are a lot of requests for carts and there is a backlog, or the truck could be coming any day now.  It was mentioned again that it may take 5-6 weeks. Awesome.

Either way, I did not get a real response on when I will get it. I left my email and phone number with them to reach out to me if they find out a more specific timeline.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

I have been waiting for 52 days or over 7 weeks now.

Stay tuned for part 3 of this experience…




C3 Week 3: Water

The topic of water has always been something I was interested in. Back in 4th grade, our class did a unit on Chicago history. While my classmates chose to do projects on Marshall Fields and the Sears Tower (I will never refer to it as Willis Tower), I did my project on Lake Michigan.

Naturally, I was very excited about a class entirely on water and the information did not disappoint!

Our first presenter was from the City of Chicago Department of Water Management. If you do not know the history of Chicago’s water system and its use of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, it is pretty darn cool. (At least I think so!)

The Chicago River naturally flows into Lake Michigan. After decades of sewage being dumped into the River, the water intake structures needed to be extended to pull in water that was not contaminated farther out in the Lake.

lake michigan

In 1867, the first tunnel was constructed 2 miles out into the Lake. The water intake crib was built on shore then floated out the 2 miles and sunk to the bottom with bricks. The intake tunnels were constructed 60 feet below the Lake level and began from both the crib and the shore to meet in the middle. Amazingly there was an only 7-inch difference between the two when they met. That is a phenomenal feat for that time!

The Chicago Pumping Station and Water Tower were built in 1869, survived the Chicago Fire of 1871, and are still in service today!

With all the sewage flowing into Lake Michigan from the Chicago River, it was decided to reverse its flow towards the Mississippi River. Construction  of channels started in 1895 to reverse the flow of the Chicago River and were finished in 1900.

lake michigan3

Speaking of the Chicago River, our second presenter was from the Friends of the Chicago River. This nonprofit is dedicated to improving and protecting the Chicago River system for people, plants, and animals.

When Chicago’s water system was constructed, it combined both our stormwater and wastewater sewers. The system works fine when there has not been a lot of precipitation (and by a lot I only mean 0.3 inches of rainfall).

CSO dry

Add that bit of rainfall and a combined sewer overflow (CSO) can happen, sending untreated sewage into the Chicago River.

CSO wet

On days where there is a major rain event with the potential to overwhelm our sewers and flush harmful waste into the river, Friends will declare an Overflow Action Day. These events call for citizens to reduce the amount of water that will head into the sewer system.

Take the Overflow Action Day Pledge and sign up for the CSO Notification System from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago to learn more about when CSOs occur! You can also visit for updates on whether or not sewage has been released into the river.

It is super gross and not something you would think about until you are personally affected by a CSO, which I have! While living in DC, I was participating in the Nation’s Triathlon. It rained a lot the night before, causing a CSO, and the swim portion of the race to be cancelled. You can read more about this experience when I blogged for the EPA here.

I loved learning about the history of Chicago’s water, but I am equally excited to cover waste in our next class!




C3 Week 2: Energy

Last week our class discussed energy topics with a number of players from around Chicago and the state.

We heard from:

Our climate specialist discussed the climate of Chicago and how that may change over time. For instance, Chicago may be 4.4 Degrees to 4.7 Degrees warmer by mid-century and an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events are likely as well.

You can learn more about what Chicago plans to do by reading Chicago’s Climate Action Plan.

The class also got the chance to explore the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum‘s new exhibit “Weather to Climate: Our Changing World.” It was pretty neat and hands on. There was a game that let you calculate how much CO2 you put into the atmosphere each day!

Citizen’s Utility Board is a non-profit that represents the interests of Illinois ratepayers.


Source: CUB

They help individuals with their bills, conduct consumer education events and are advocates for energy efficiency and demand response programs.

Many utility bills are confusing, so we got an explanation of our electric bills and then the benefits of a smart grid.

After that, we discussed ComEd’s free home energy assessment that can provide free energy-saving products for your home. The products included programmable thermostats, ENERGY STAR certified CFLs, smart power trips, WaterSense certified shower heads, faucet aerators, and hot water pipe insulation.

Since the majority of us in C3 are not homeowners, we also discussed how to approach your landlord about taking part in this program. Basically, you need to explain all the benefits and mention a million times that it is FREE!

Finally, CDOT is in charge of building and maintaining our transportation network. It may seem random that we were talking about transportation in our energy class, but the goal was to talk about active forms of transportation that help reduce our reliance on cars and therefore energy.

The City of Chicago has some pretty impressive transportation goals:

  • 5% of all trips under 5 miles will be taken by bicycle
  • All Chicago residents will live within .5 miles of a bikeway
  • Reduce pedestrian and bicycle crash injuries, each by 5% within 5 years

We then talked about Chicago’s bike share system, Divvy, which is ideal for short trips and commutes. So far Divvy has 475 stations and 4,760 bikes. While I have not ridden a Divvy bike yet, I did ride the bike share in DC occasionally. I have my own bike, but I see plenty of people out riding Divvy on the streets and many bike lanes.


Source: Divvy Bikes


Revamping An Old-ish Frame

For college graduation (which is now, sadly, quite a few years ago), I gave K a special present.

We had met/bonded over cycling in the Indiana University Little 500, and during our senior year, K’s team placed in the top 5 out of 33 teams. It was a huge deal!

So I took his bike jersey he wore in the race (never even washed it), and got it framed with a little plaque underneath to commemorate it.

At the time of this gift, I was still in school, so not made of money. I went for the cheapest frame I could, which ended up being a nice glossy white. It was just fine for the time being.

The jersey and its white frame looked decent the next couple of years as it hung in K’s various bachelor pads. However, now that we live together and are trying to be adults, the gaudy white frame had to go.

For the past month since we have moved in, the jersey has been sitting on the floor because we had no idea what to do with it. It did not go with anything. Furthermore, I had the jersey professionally done, so I could not just swap out the frame.

We decided to go with my now tried and true method of fixing stuff: spray paint.

This project was going to be a little too big to accomplish on my fire escape, unlike my previous projects. Therefore, I hauled the jersey to the suburbs and painted it in my parent’s garage.

jersey frame1

I had just done this with our bathroom mirror, so I was a pro at taping up and prepping the frame.

jersey frame2

After letting it dry and cleaning up, I noticed I left a little something behind…Sorry Dad!

jersey frame3

Lesson learned: use a bigger drop cloth.

jersey frame4

Now the jersey looks 500000000x better!

Have you ever had a special piece that you loved, but it just did not fit with your decor? What did you do?

Chicago Conservation Corps

I am super excited to be accepted into the Chicago Conservation Corps (C3) Spring 2016 Environmental Leadership Training Program!

The Chicago Conservation Corps (C3) is a program of the Chicago Academy of Sciences / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in collaboration with partners across the city.

The Chicago Conservation Corps recruits, trains, and supports a network of volunteers who work together to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods and schools through environmental service projects.

Chicago Conservation Corps Leaders

Leaders participate in 20+ hours of training classes that equip them with a broad understanding of urban environmental challenges and opportunities. Local experts teach these classes, which cover environmental principles and skills in six subject areas: water, energy, green space, green health, waste & community organizing.

Making a difference
Following the classes, Leaders turn their learning into action by developing and leading environmental service projects in their communities with support from C3 Partners and staff. After the project is complete, the Leader is recognized at an annual Leader Graduation Celebration and is eligible to complete further Leader projects.

I am a little late, but we had our first 3.5 hour class last week on community organizing.C3 2

We spent the first part of class learning about the other trainees in the course.

To do so, we started with a pretty cool exercise to find out where we all lived. The class lined up according to our addresses North and South of the center of the city grid (which is State and Madison Streets in the Loop). So I am 17 blocks north of the epicenter of the Chicago street grid system. We all lined up and then moved to show where we lived East and West, moving closer or farther away from our hypothetical Lake Michigan.

It was cool to see that we all came from different parts of the city and that had everyone applied to the program for many different reasons.

Afterwards, The Institute of Cultural Affairs came and presented on community engagement tools. We also discussed what could be an asset to a community and how to map those assets. Some examples are:

  • Natural Assets (parks/green space)
  • Cultural Assets (events/strong work ethic)
  • Human Assets (skills/abilities)
  • Social Assets (clubs/organizations)
  • Political Assets (elected officials/government groups)
  • Material Assets (meeting spaces/community centers)


Tomorrow’s class will focus on energy! I will let you know how that goes!


Garage Sale Scores

Over the weekend, I spent the day with my mom and my aunt at a subdivision garage sale out in the suburbs. I love garage sales. There are so many treasures to be found!

This highly organized event was like a garage sale on steroids.

I am not talking about an itty bitty neighborhood sale. There were 200+ participating houses, and a church served as a station for restrooms, food, and maps!

We had gone a couple of years ago, so I was excited to go again and see what second hand finds I could get for our apartment. I was on the look out for a big wall clock, a coffee table, and a bench.

Of course I left with none of those things…

Instead I found some other great finds!

4 fruity cloth napkins for 25 cents

cloth napkins

K does not know it yet, but I am about to try and phase out paper napkins! I did not buy any more than the 4 because I had just taken an old set of napkins from my mom. So I probably have 16 now. Got to build that stock up over time!

10 produce bags for $3

produce bags

I only had 2 before so that was very limiting, and I pretty much always forgot to bring them with me. I ended up finding these at a sale that had a lot of kiddie stuff, and it turned out the mom had been using the bags to store puzzle pieces and small toys.

1 Crate & Barrel rug for $10


Since we are trying to put together an entryway/mudroom type thing by our front door, I was on the lookout for a bench. No such luck. Instead I found this great never-used Crate & Barrel rug!

Unfortunately, the serious garage sale goers must have gotten all the good stuff on the first day of the sale. Sellers kept saying they were swamped and wiped out by the second day, so that meant we left with not has many treasures as we had hoped for.

Either way, it was a beautiful day and still fun!