Month: February 2017

Apparently, I Don’t Limit My Clean Up Efforts to Just Beaches

Over the weekend, I took a trip up to Boyne Falls, Michigan to go skiing with a group of friends.

I had not been skiing in 8 years. The last time was my freshman year spring break with my dad in Park City, Utah.

 

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My dad and I at the Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah

 

Since it has been so long, I was a bit nervous. Fortunately, it all came right back, just like riding a bike.

My skiing skills were not the only thing that came right back to me over the weekend.

While riding the chairlift, we noticed a number of items that had been dropped on the run below. Sometimes it’s a single glove, a hat, maybe even a ski, but we actually started noticing a lot of beer cans.

I have cleaned up beaches before, but never a mountain (Is it acceptable to call them mountains in Michigan? Asking for a friend). Suddenly I was on a mission to pick up the pieces that did not belong on the pristine powder, and I was not alone!

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Here is my friend Eric and I completely staging this beer can collection. We had picked it up on the way down a run and since it’s not super easy to take a picture mid-ski, we chose to recreate the moment on some flatter terrain.

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I stuffed each can into my coat pocket until we got down to the chairlift, where I handed it off to the attendant, who would then give me a super quizzical look. (AKA, Why are you giving me a beer can?)

Hey, garbage cans and recycling bins are not super common on mountains/hills! What else am I supposed to do with it?!

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I am fully aware that each time we took a picture with a beer can or handed it off to the attendant, it looked like we were the ones doing the drinking.

 

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That is a bottle of Fireball.

 

But in reality, we were being the good guys who picked up after everyone else. I do not condone drinking while operating skis or snowboards, but if you are going to do it, at least get a reusable flask and stop leaving your trash where you are about to go ski!

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The Never Ending Recycling Saga Part II: Caught in the Act

Follow up to The Never Ending Recycling Saga, My Work Here is Done (Probably Not), A Recycling Conspiracy Solved, and A Recycling Conspiracy.


With the very nice (but slightly disturbing) February weather, I have been opening the windows and our fire escape door to get some fresh air into the apartment.

Even with the windows and doors closed, you can pretty much hear anything that is going on outside our apartment or on the sidewalk.

Yesterday, I heard a sustained rustling coming from the side of our apartment where the trash cans and recycling cart are kept.

So naturally, I went to our door and took a peek out.  Our maintenance guy was moving trash from one garbage can to another, which I thought was kind of odd, but not that odd since he has been moving recyclables into the trash can for a number of weeks.

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These pictures were taken through the fire escape, so just ignore the grates! 

I stood, quietly watching to see what he was going to do next.

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Of course, it was time to mess with the recycling bin! He proceeded to pull a bunch of cardboard boxes out of the blue cart and toss them on the ground, most likely destined for the trash can.

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CAUGHT

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IN THE

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ACT!

I could not take it anymore, so I nonchalantly opened the fire escape door and called down to him. Keep in mind this is the same maintenance guy I previously went out of my way to approach about his recycling thieving actions.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

He just looked up at me and didn’t really give a response. I explained again for the millionth time that the recyclables belong in the blue cart and for him to please put them back.

He did.

Then he proceeded to roll the cart out to the curb even though it was not recycling week…

 

Can’t Wait for Our CSA Share

Can we just put a CSA share on our wedding registry? Is that not normal?

Either way, I am beyond excited to purchase our first CSA share for this summer.

For those of you that don’t know, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is:

…a food subscription service that allows you to purchase locally and seasonally as part of a farm share. It is a great way to support local farmers. –FamilyFarmed.org

Basically each week (or every other week depending on your share), you pick up your CSA box (or you can have it delivered) that is filled with in-season produce from a local farm.

Whatever you get in your box depends on what is ripe and ready on the farm.

We already know that I am a nerd for maps, but I am also a nerd for Excel spreadsheets. So much so that I set up a spreadsheet to help decide which CSA we should pick for this summer.

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The factors that are going to go into our decision include:

  • Price
  • Time frame (how many weeks?)
  • Add-ons (can we add fruit or eggs?)
  • Pick up location (can we walk there?)

While there are many CSA options throughout the city, we are limiting our scope to ones that we can pick up from the nearby Green City Market.

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A CSA may seem expensive up front, but when you spread it out over the course of 22 weeks, it is really not that bad. Plus, you know exactly where your food is coming from and create a connection with that farmer.

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CSA Resources:

Wild Weather for the Wild Things Conference

Yesterday, it was over 60 degrees. In February. In Chicago.

A record high of 67 degrees was set on 2-17-17, destroying the previous record of 60 degrees set in 1880.

I did not get to spend much time outside in the unseasonably warm weather, though.

That was because I spent the entire day inside learning with other environmentalists/conservationists/naturalists at the Wild Things Conference.

 

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From the Wild Things Conference program

 

For the first time ever, the conference sold out of tickets a month before the event. The waitlist was over 300 people long. It goes to show how many people are starting to take action, and it was heartwarming to see.

 

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Packed room for the opening plenary session

 

I attended one session on the importance of stories in conservation featuring Gavin Van Horn of the Center for Humans and Nature. My favorite term he used was reSTORYation.

“Science needs story.

Story needs science.”

-Gavin Van Horn

The next session, “Past, Present, and Future: Understanding Climate Change in the Chicago Region,” could easily be summed up with the below slide.

 

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Molly Woloszyn’s (climate specialist at the Illinois State Water Survey and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant at UIUC) popular presentation

 

The packed room had space for standing room only. So I stood and listened about how by midcentury, Chicago could be 4.4-4.7 degrees warmer and have a climate more like the southern city of Salem, IL.

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In the future, Chicago should be prepared for the following:

  • An increase in overnight low temperatures (that is bad for agriculture and humans)
  • An increase in annual precipitation of 3.2″-4″
  • More consecutive dry days (meaning longer periods between rain)
  • An increase in the intensity of precipitation (think big, quick storms)
  • A decrease in ice cover in the Great Lakes

Sounds pleasant…

 

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Composting available at the conference! 

There were so many other sessions where I got to listen to passionate people present. Just a sample:

  • archeological sites within the Forest Preserve District of Cook County
  • storm water management case studies
  • the evolution of prescribed burns
  • environmental advocacy best practices

It was a really awesome day to be surrounded by so many people who care about wildlife and the environment.

I absolutely recommend keeping your eyes open for information on the 2019 Wild Things Conference.

I have a feeling it is going to be even bigger.

 

The Never Ending Recycling Saga

This seems to never end.

I previously posted about how I finally got our maintenance to stop stuffing the recyclables from our blue cart into the trash cans so they could avoid putting out the blue cart in the first place.

It was a short-lived win.

Today, the garbage cans were out.  There was no blue cart in sight even though it is recycling week (Chicago operates on a once every other week pick up schedule).

Out of curiosity, I went down to check out if there were any recyclables that had been confiscated from their rightful place in the blue cart.

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Sure enough, there were.

And I know these weren’t in the trash can to begin with because those are our recyclables. That’s K’s beer can and our tomato sauce can. I would never have put them in there.

Reluctantly, I trudged to the side of our building to retrieve our blue cart, at the same time that my neighbors were just getting home. I asked if they used the blue cart.

They do, and that launched them into an enthusiastic response of how upset they were that it’s not being handled correctly. They have called and left notes, but alas nothing had changed.

That meant I got to call maintenance again. He is probably going to start screening his calls now. I had to explain yet again that all they needed to do was take out the cart on the same day as garbage. THAT. IS. IT. No extra effort on their part is involved.

 

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Out of pure frustration and annoyance, I took all the recyclables and put them back in the blue cart.

 

 

EPA Blog Re-Post #5

Due to certain political circumstances, I will be re-posting links to EPA blogs I wrote while I was working there.

Here is the fifth one. Originally posted October 21, 2014.*

*I apologize if some links are no longer active. This is a few year old. 


Turning Back Time: Repairing Water Infrastructure

By Marguerite Huber

I am about to turn 25 years old—the quarter century mark! Yikes! While I may start to feel “old” when I consider that number, I am in considerably better shape than some of the pipes and sewer mains that make up the country’s water infrastructure, some components of which are more than four times my age.

Homes, apartment buildings, and businesses in nearly every neighborhood and city across

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Aging water infrastructure: fixing old, leaking sewer pipes in downtown Washington, DC.

the country are connected to miles and miles of pipes carrying wastewater and drinking water. That’s a lot of pipes to take care of!

The estimated costs of fixing old, leaky, and cracked pipes through the traditional methods of digging them up and patching or replacing them could cost water utilities in excess of $1 trillion dollars over the next 20 years. Innovative, lower cost technologies that could provide alternatives would have enormous impact, but how do utilities know where to turn before they make investments in long-term solutions?

To answer this question, scientists and engineers from EPA’s aging water infrastructure research program reported on innovative and emerging technologies in their study, Innovative Rehabilitation Technology Demonstration and Evaluation Program (Matthews, et. al., 2014). They and their partners conducted field demonstrations to test these new technologies, such as those that aim to repair existing pipes “from the inside out,” under real-world conditions.

EPA’s work with industry partners gathered reliable performance and cost data on technologies that line the inside of the aging pipes to fill in the holes and cracks, prolonging their life. They shared what they learned with water and wastewater utility owners, technology manufacturers, consultants, and service providers.

They tested two types of liner technologies. One was a cured-in-place method that essentially is a pipe-within-a-pipe. The second was a spray-in-place method that uses a computer-controlled robot to apply a new pipe liner.

The researchers provided reliable information on the performance and cost of the emerging technologies. Stakeholders can benefit from the work: water and wastewater utility owners can reduce the risk of trying out unproven technologies by using technologies that have undergone evaluation; manufacturers and developers will realize the opportunity to advance technology development and commercialization; and consultants and service providers will have the information they need to compare the performance and cost of similar products.

Overall, these innovative technologies can be efficient and economical alternatives to full-blown replacements of water infrastructure. I hope I have similar options when I pass the century mark myself!

Read the post in its original format here

Literature Cited: Matthews, J., A. Selvakumar, R. Sterling, AND W. Condit. Innovative Rehabilitation Technology Demonstration and Evaluation Program. Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology. Elsevier BV, AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, 39:73-81, (2014).


Read the other posts:

Committed to a Green Wedding

Yesterday, I got to be a super nerdy bride-to-be and attended the Green Wedding Alliance‘s Committed event, Chicago’s only eco-conscious wedding event.

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I bought my tickets for the event approximately 3 days after getting engaged because I knew I wanted to be in a room surrounded by vendors who cared about the same stuff I did.

There was no need for embarrassment like the time I asked a reception venue if they would accommodate a composting service to come collect food scraps, or when I asked what can be done with any extra leftover food (answer: nothing, due to health code stuff).

At Committed, that’s all normal shop talk with these people. My people. I had the chance to meet the following:

  • Florists that use locally grown flowers and donate them after the event so others can also enjoy them
  • Caterers who use locally sourced ingredients
  • Vintage rental companies that use all vintage place settings
  • Planners who specialize in eco-friendly events
  • Local printers that use recycled paper from a supplier powered by wind power

SO COOL. Anyway, I am nowhere near picking any of these vendors. I still have to figure out where and when this wedding is going to be!

How I Bought 1 New Piece of Clothing in 6 Months

I hadn’t even realized it had been that long.

Back in September, I made a vow not to buy new clothing for the rest of 2016. I slipped up in November, but by December I did not falter again.

Now we are cruising through February and I came to the realization that I still have not made any new clothing purchases.

Do I live under a rock? No, but I have made some conscious decisions on how to keep my credit card inside my wallet. Here are my top 3 tips on how to not be tempted into buying new clothes.

1. Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe!

I said goodbye to the constant emails that tempted me with sales and deals. Now I no longer get sucked into going to the retailer’s site to see what I can get for up to 75% off.

A side benefit is that my inbox is much less crowded.

 

2. Don’t Go Shopping Just Because

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Bored? Go ride your bike. 

In many worlds, it works like this:

Bored? Let’s go shopping!

You are not shopping out of need, but instead out of pure boredom and for the thrill of finding a deal. Most likely anything you come home with is not something you needed.

Instead, fill your boredom up with something more productive. Read a book, knit a scarf, go for a walk. Think of all the money you’ll save! (That is unless you decide to pick up an expensive hobby, good yarn can get pricey!)

 

 

3. Save Your Wanted Items For Later

There are definitely times where I come across a piece of clothing that I may not have a legitimate need for. Instead of making an impulse decision, I save the link to the product in a bookmarked folder on my browser called “Things I Want To Buy.”

Usually, if I save an item in there, I forget about it later and it never gets purchased. Or I go back to see what is on the list and realize I definitely do not need it. If I still remember it’s there weeks later, I will consider it more. I personally find it to be a good system.

It also makes a really good go-to for gift ideas!

What do you think?

EPA & the Super Bowl: Blog Re-Post #5

If you did not know, the Super Bowl was yesterday. If you were aware of that, I bet you didn’t know sustainability aspects are taken into account when planning such a large and impactful event.

In 2012, I got the chance to interview the NFL’s Environmental Program Director about the work they were doing. Are you surprised such a program exists? I was too! It does not even have a dedicated website.

Fortunately, I wrote this blog for the EPA, so this ties perfectly in with my quest to repost my old blogs as you can see in the disclaimer below.


Due to certain political circumstances, I will be re-posting links to EPA blogs I wrote while I was working there.

Here is the fifth one. Originally posted February 8, 2012.*

*I apologize if some links are no longer active. This is a few year old. 


Science Wednesday: A Sustainable Super Bowl XLVI


By Marguerite Huber

On Sunday, February 5th 2012, thousands of people descended upon Indianapolis, Indiana to watch Super Bowl XLVI. While millions watched the game, they were probably unaware of the sustainability actions that were put forth at Lucas Oil Stadium.

I spoke with NFL Environmental Program Director, Jack Groh, about what his job entails. He describes his job as incorporating environmental principles into sporting events, all the while making good business decisions. In the 18 years Groh has been with the NFL, they have kept expanding their sustainability actions, moving from just solid waste recycling to green energy seven years ago.

This year the NFL will be offsetting the energy for the stadium with Renewable Energy Credits for an entire month! “We are renting the stadium for a month, so we believe we are responsible for our tenancy,” states Groh. In addition to the stadium, the program will be offsetting the city’s convention center and four major hotels. That’s an estimated total offset of 15,000 megawatt hours.

“Every year there is something new and exciting. We want to push the envelope and look for new impacts and strategies,” Groh proclaims. For example, diverting waste from landfills by promoting recycling and reuse, collecting extra prepared food for donations for soup kitchens, donating building and decorative materials to local organizations, and reducing the impact of greenhouse gases from Super Bowl activities. My favorite is the 2,012 Trees program, which will help plant 2,012 trees in Indianapolis to help offset environmental impacts.

What I found most interesting from talking with Mr. Groh was that he does not spend a lot of time with publicity, which is why many of you may have never heard of this program. “People are amazed that we have been doing this for two decades. We don’t do it to create an image or green presence in the media, but do it because it’s the right thing and a really smart way to run things. Our goal is make the Super Bowl as green as we possibly can make it.” Groh admitted.

Sustainability and sports is a growing trend, even if it is not seen on the surface of our favorite sporting events. I am excited to see how professional leagues will mold the core of their existence into a new form of competition that is not just for teams, but for the professional leagues themselves. With sustainability, everybody wins!

Read the post in its original format here


Read the other posts:

My Work Here is Done (Probably Not)

An update to the following posts: A Recycling Conspiracy and A Recycling Conspiracy Solved


Last week, I was finally able to solve the conspiracy surrounding the disappearing recyclables out of our blue cart.

After an informative chat with our maintenance explaining that it takes legitimately zero extra effort to put the cart out with our trash, there was a lovely site on our curb this morning.

That’s right.

The recycling.is.out.

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