Plastic

Back to the Beach Clean Ups

I willingly spent a Saturday morning picking up garbage.

It has gotten to the point where I will stop my run to pick up a plastic water bottle.

Other people don’t enjoy that as much as I do? Hmm.. weird!

Anyway, we are back to the beach clean up season.

Last Saturday, in honor of World Environment Day, I cleaned up Montrose Beach with members of Delta Institute (I serve on their associate board), Alliance for the Great Lakes, and Goose Island brewery.

 

 

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Montrose Beach, Chicago, IL

 

Although it looked pretty clean from far away, in about an hour and a half, our group of three collected:

  • 98 cigarette butts
  • 40 food wrappers
  • 49 foam pieces
  • 110 pieces of glass
  • 108 small pieces of plastic
  • 19 popsicle sticks

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In total, our whole group picked up over 290 pounds of trash!!!

 

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The whole crew

 

 

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Some members of Delta Institute’s associate board, the Delta Emerging Leaders

 

 

Then yesterday, I met up with Alliance for the Great Lakes again and Barefoot Wine to clean up North Avenue Beach to make it barefoot friendly.

 

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North Avenue Beach, Chicago, IL

 

It was a beautiful evening so there were still plenty of people hanging out by the water. As opposed to Montrose Beach, there was definitely garbage that you could easily see.

 

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Ew.

 

I wouldn’t want to play around in that.

This time our group of three picked up:

  • 205 cigarette butts
  • 43 food wrappers
  • 15 popsicle sticks
  • 44 pieces of glass
  • A nearly full box of cookies
  • 14 total pounds

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A lot of the stuff we picked up is small and doesn’t weigh a lot, but once you put all of it together it sure does seem significant.

Cubs Win Leaves A Mess

Now that baseball is back and the Chicago Cubs have raised their banner and presented their World Series Championship rings, I want to bring you back to November of 2016.

No, I am not talking about the election.

It’s the aftermath of the well-attended Cub’s World Series Championship parade and rally.

While total attendance estimates are not clear, there were certainly a lot of people out to celebrate the Cub’s first World Series win since 1908.

I, though, was not one of them. #GoWhiteSox

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But I did happen to be downtown that day along the parade route and saw what was left behind.

It was gross.

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Garbage everywhere.

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They won! How exciting!

But it is no excuse for fans to trash our beautiful city.

Chicago Recycling Round-Up (Hint: It’s Not Good)

My experience recycling in Chicago has not been easy, and I have written about it every step of the way.

Just getting a blue cart for our building was a challenge. I mean, it took 79 days, and numerous follow ups for it to arrive on our curb.

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But once the blue cart arrived, it was not smooth sailing.

For a while, I was placated by the multiple notes I noticed taped to the carts, to serve as a reminder that they are for recycling only. I was comforted that someone cared enough to write the note but also annoyed that they were necessary in the first place.

 

After that, the city-wide recycling drop-off centers began to be phased out and the City released a video showing why plastic grocery bags do not go into your blue cart (Spoiler Alert: It seriously messes up the machinery.)

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Goodbye my dear friend

 

A few months went by without too much excitement, but that must have been the calm before the storm. Our maintenance has had trouble understanding how recycling works, making it even more frustrating, thus why so many blog posts were necessary.

 

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Caught our recyclables being moved from the blue cart to the trash cart

 

Hopefully, now that we are nearing the anniversary of the beginning of this struggle, I the next year should be less eventful.

I promise to keep you updated.

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!

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…

 

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.

recycling-out

Meal-Kit Market Means More Waste

Since I prefer the gift of experiences, K and I were gifted the chance to try out Blue Apron.

Although I like the idea of having all of the cooking ingredients measured and ready for me, I was skeptical of the amount of packaging waste something like this would produce.

Our box arrived on Friday.

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We shall see about that..

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Waste was obviously my biggest concern, so I laid out everything we received in the box. There are even little packets of flour, sugar, butter, etc. in the paper bags. I thought that was unnecessary.

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Blue Apron’s vision is to build a better food system by doing the following:

  1. Developing better standards to grow higher quality ingredients.
  2. Supporting regenerative farming practices to replenish our land.
  3. Eliminating the middleman to deliver fresher food.
  4. Reducing food waste to create better value.

While I applaud the attempt at reducing food waste, there is still excessive packaging waste. Like what am I supposed to do with those 2 giant ice packs? They don’t even fit in our freezer.

From a tastiness standpoint, our meals we made were fine. That’s really all I have to say about them, but I definitely do not think it was worth it.

Have you ever used anything like Blue Apron and discovered all the waste it provides?

I think I would rather just shop at the farmers market.

A Recycling Conspiracy Solved

An update to A Recycling Conspiracy 


As I was putting some food scraps into my compost bucket on the fire escape, I heard some noise coming from below. I stealthily closed the door and took a peek back outside.

To my surprise, there was one of our building’s maintenance men pulling recyclables out of our blue cart and stuffing them into the black landfill cart!

I watched for a few minutes to make sure what I was seeing was correct.

Suddenly I was overcome with frustration and I ran to throw on my coat and go and confront the recycling thief.

Unfortunately, this maintenance worker did not speak much English, so I was not sure how much my message was getting across. I tried to explain that the paper and the plastic we have been painstakingly been putting in the blue cart, should stay in the blue cart, to be recycled.

I did what I could there and went back up to call our usual maintenance man and explain the situation.

Here are some key points from his super logical explanation:

  • Yes, they have been taking recycling out of the blue cart
  • Recycling pick up is not every week so they just can’t take it out
  • The maintenance guy only comes on certain days so he doesn’t want to leave the blue cart out on the curb because people will throw trash in it…..(umm…excuse me!?)

Garbage and recycling get picked up on the same day for us, so he has no idea what he is talking about.

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Basically, it is going to come down to me taking out our blue cart on recycling day. I don’t trust them anymore.

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A Recycling Conspiracy

There is something fishy going on with our building’s recycling cart, and it is about time I figured out what it is.

Since I am often working from home, I am around to never see our cart out on the curb for pick up. Our building maintenance is in charge of these duties, not the residents. When I do see the rest of our street’s blue carts out, ours, mysteriously, is not.

Some days I will go bring stuff down to the blue cart on the side of our building and then the come back the next day to find the cart nearly empty, even though it was never out for pick up.

While putting Christmas stuff away in the basement, I also noticed another blue cart marked with our street address. Hmm…

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The building has been hoarding a blue cart for their own use!

I took a look inside and guess what it is filled with?

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rock salt…