No, I Don’t Want Your Coupons

Hey Chicagoans,

Have you ever come home to one of these at your doorstep?

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The bright red bag of the Chicago Tribune Inside Shopper/RedPlum shows up on our stoop every week, every month, I don’t even know, but it is always there.

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Inside are a bunch of coupon circulars for our whole building that no one ever touches. The bag o’ coupons usually sits on the stoop for days or weeks. Maybe it makes it inside into the vestibule, but no one wants it, so no one touches it.

Eventually, the bag of papers disappears. Someone caved and threw it out or maintenance picked it up. I will never know.

The point here is that these coupons are unwanted and they keep coming to be instantly (or many weeks later) tossed in the trash can.

If I am the one to cave and pick it up, I will recycle it, but what about all those other houses out there who immediately throw it into the landfill?

Finally fed up with these things, I actually took a look at that red bag and it said:

“For service inquiries or if you do not want this product delivered to you, please call 1-800-874-2863 or email us at insideshopper@chicagotribune.com.”

Apparently, I could have called long ago to get these to stop, but I just assumed like most of the local mailings, you couldn’t get out of it.

I am not the first one to be pissed off by these stupid red bags of coupons. See here, here, here and here. Someone even sued the Tribune about unwanted delivery even after multiple attempts to be removed.

Anyway, I sent an email off to Inside Shopper, we shall see what happens…

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Shaking Up Wasteful Office Culture

I am finding it really hard to send an email.

It is not just any email.

It’s an email to facilities management at work.

I’ve noted before that our office provides compostable plates and bowls, but nowhere to actually compost them.

 

work compost

I usually smuggle my compostables home to compost

 

It seems very counterintuitive and a bit greenwashy to me (Look at us! We offer compostable plates! Oh la la!). It is a step in the right direction, but providing compostable plates without somewhere to compost them is like providing real plates and silverware, but nowhere to wash them. It totally negates the point.

So I have been working up the courage to send an email to facilities management, but building up courage has been a slow trickle, with renewed aspiration here and there when I see the wrong things in the recycle bin or when people compliment me on BYOP (bringing my own plate).

 

BYOP

My parents were cleaning out their kitchen and came across this plate I painted at a pottery place. Since my name was on the back of it, I figured I’d take it and make it my work plate.

 

I know what the email needs to say:

  • There is no point in having compostable plates/bowls without providing composting service (but I also don’t want them to think, “Oh okay, we will order styrofoam then!”)
  • Provide the benefits of composting and why putting compostable items in the landfill doesn’t work
  • Provide resources to composting services in Chicago (this is a larger building, so not sure how waste management on a single floor scale works…)
  • Discuss what is recyclable from the building’s recycling hauler and how we can educate the staff about what belongs in the recycling bin and what does not
  • Explain that I would be willing to work with them to make our office a greener place to spend 40+ hours of your week

Despite knowing what the contents of this email will be, I am more afraid of the response I will get.

Will I immediately be shot down? My email promptly deleted and never even responded to? 

I have no idea and that is why I have not sent it yet (or even written it).

I am going to do it though. I promise.

I risk nothing besides the office thinking I am a crunchy composting hippie, which is fine because I would totally love to be labeled that.

Have you ever tried to green your office? Any suggestions or tips for writing this email? Any help would be appreciated!

Paper: Compost or Recycle?

A while ago, a friend asked me which was better, composting paper or recycling it.

the funnies

That is a really good question that required me to do a bit of research.

And the answer is that it depends.

Paper is not infinitely recyclable (unlike glass), it’s fibers eventually degrade in quality after being recycled 5-7 times. Printer and office paper require strong fibers, so its fibers have only been recycled a couple times. Newspaper, wrapping paper, and tissue paper, on the other hand, can use lower quality fibers.

Here is what should be recycled and what should be composted and in what situation:

Recycle

  • Glossy magazines, advertisements, and catalogs (these are more likely to contain toxic additives you won’t want in our compost if you are using it to grow produce)
  • Office paper
  • Sticky notes

In general, paper that is of higher quality should be recycled so that it can be used again, thus saving resources compared to virgin paper production.

Compost

  • Paper products that are soiled with food waste, like napkins, paper towels, and paper plates (they can’t be recycled anyway)
  • Newspaper
  • Tissues
  • Brown paper bags with food stains from takeout
  • Greasy pizza box
  • Shredded paper (even if it is shredded office paper, it cannot be recycled)

As for composting, it is better to add lower quality paper that is less likely to be recycled. In addition, adding paper is good for the health of your compost pile, helps keep it from being smelly, and absorbs water.

Unfortunately, some paper products can’t be recycled or composted and have to be reused or ultimately end up in the trash can.

Landfill

  • Plastic coated paper products like coffee cups
  • Glittery, glossy, and metallic wrapping paper
  • Glittery tissue paper

So there you go!

There are some other things to remember though.

  1. When buying paper products, opt for post-consumer recycled content to save as many trees as possible. There needs to be a demand for it!
  2. Soley composting high-quality paper keeps those good fibers from the production stream, meaning there is less recycled paper to work with, also meaning more virgin resources being used.

 

Resources

Actions for A New Year

Happy 2018 Everyone!

I spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day hanging at home, getting recharged for the year ahead.

In general, a lot is coming up in 2018, and a lot of big and small decisions will be made that will have both big and small impacts on the environment.

There are definitely actions I can do better at and these are what I plan to focus on in 2018.

2018 goals

What are your goals?

Do you have any suggestions on how to reach these goals?

 

 

A Year of Collecting Food Scraps in A Bucket

It has been my first full year of composting, or really, my first full year of saving food scraps and keeping them in a bucket on my fire escape until it gets picked up to be made into compost.

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Each month before I set my bucket out on the front step, I used my hanging scale to weigh it, diligently tracking my results in a spreadsheet.

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And now, here we are, twelve months later, and we have successfully diverted a total of 287 pounds (plus some here or there) from the landfill!

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It is pretty impressive and I am very proud of myself for this accomplishment!

Here’s the month by month breakdown of our food waste poundage.

  • January 15.5 lbs
  • February 17.22 lbs
  • March 12 lbs
  • April 18.71 lbs
  • May 8.8 lbs
  • June 20.44 lbs
  • July 22.84 lbs
  • August 25.4 lbs
  • September 19.74 lbs
  • October 21.61 lbs
  • November 18.5 lbs
  • December 14.58 lbs

That’s 287 pounds of organic matter going back into our soil and helping plants thrive. Wahoo!

How I Did on Those 2017 Goals

I made a number of goals for myself to be less wasteful last year. Find a refresher of what I aimed for here.

Without further adieu, let’s see how I did.

resolution1

I am proud to say I crushed this goal!!! As of right now, without my December compost bucket weighed, we kept 272.91 pounds of food waste out of the landfill. Add in another 18-22 pounds from this month’s bucket and we almost doubled the goal! Holy cow!

In addition to composting at home, I am also planning on composting at my wedding in 2018.

resolution2

Another goal semi-crushed! We partook in a CSA box this summer and I challenged us to only purchase locally grown food for 24 weeks. That’s not the entire year, so that’s why I say this goal is semi-crushed. We definitely made an effort though and are more cautious of where our food comes from.

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I definitely still spent money this year, but I like to think that I did a decent job of not wasting money on frivolous purchases. From Craigslist buys to making a waiting list, I did employ tactics to keep money in my wallet. Having a tiny apartment also helps because I can’t buy things if I know there is nowhere to put them.

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Still working on this one…

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I still have a lot of clothes, plus there are still some clothes at my parent’s house. I am going to a clothing swap next month, so I am excited to see how that goes! As for repairing, I definitely tried mending a pair of jeans but failed miserably. At least I was able to give that pair a second life as housing insulation. My running shoes also get a second life as a track floor. I also pulled together resources for what to do with clothing and textiles that are beyond repair or normal use. Check that out here.

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In terms of biking, this was one goal I did not really accomplish at all, but in terms of walking, I definitely did some of that. Where I live and work are both very walkable and also have access to great public transportation options.  I really do want to try biking to work, but that will have to wait until after the winter.

So all in all, I think I did a pretty good job with my goals! Still working on a few, but that’s okay.

What are your goals for 2018?

 

 

 

Most Loved Posts of 2017

It’s been a good year (at least for Waste Not Want Not).

I got engaged and the love showed for any of my wedding themed posts because the top three posts of 2017 were all wedding related.

1.) Finally Found Our Venue: Updated

 

2.) Introducing Waste Not Want Not Wedding

bridesmaids

3.)Finally Found Our Venue

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But don’t worry, there was still love for posts that didn’t have anything to do with my upcoming nuptials.

4.) Where Does that Water Go When It Rains A Lot? 

 

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McCook Reservoir

 

5.) How to Be a Craigslist Boss: Part 1

craigslist

6.) Who Needs Cotton Balls?

cotton rounds

7.) Meal Kit Market Means More Waste

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8.) A Recycling Conspiracy

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9.) A Recycling Conspiracy Solved

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10.) 10 Most Overlooked Ways to Reduce Waste: Part 1

10 most overlooked ways to reduce waste.p1 (1)

And there you have it! The Top Ten Waste Not Want Not posts of 2017! Can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring!

An Audit of Our Recycling

Yeah, our recycling in Chicago is pretty much the pits.

I am pretty skeptical that anything we put in the recycling bin actually gets recycled, and that is why many people don’t even bother. I totally get that.

But recycling is a habit that I don’t plan on breaking.

We have a legitimate recycling bin in our house and it was one of my most favorite Christmas gifts. That’s right, I wanted and received a recycling bin for Christmas a number of years ago! I feel no shame!

recycling audit3

Our bin gets filled up every week or so, depending on what is going on. When it is full, I take it downstairs and dump it into the recycling tote sans bag like you’re supposed to.

Since I basically recycle on autopilot, I wanted to actually pay attention to what is in my recycling bin by taking an audit of what’s inside. 

Below is probably about a week’s worth of recycling. 

recycling audit1

 We have:

  • 1 dishwasher detergent bottle
  • 1 cardboard beer caddy
  • 4 glass bottles
  • 1 aluminum can
  • 2 plastic salad containers
  • 3 cardboard boxes
  • 1 plastic bottle
  • 1 aluminum takeout container
  • 1 milk carton
  • 3 paper bags
  • 1 pile of junk mail, envelopes, newspaper and paper

That’s not too bad. We can definitely do a better job of buying plastic-free lettuce, and we usually get milk in returnable glass bottles. 

Each week is different and I am going to start noticing what goes into my bin more and see where I can make changes.

Up next, a waste audit! Yup, going to go through the garbage. Stay tuned! 

My Xmas Gifts Were (Mostly) Made in Chicago

I haven’t been to the mall for any of my Christmas shopping (I did purchase a few things on Amazon though, not going to lie).

Actually, most of it got done at the Chicago Plumbers Hall…

…which is where the Made in Chicago Market is held.

made in chicago market2

Everything there was handmade in Chicago, so it made picking out gifts super easy because I knew where they were coming from. They were not shipped over from China. They were painstakingly made by hand by artisans in my own city.

Made in chicago market1

After an initial lap, I started to formulate gift ideas in my head. Of course, I cannot discuss any of my purchases here because some of my most dedicated readers are the recipients!

This season, not only did I find unique items, but my purchases helped an individual maybe make ends meet, or provided the capital for improvements to their business.

It is a win-win situation.

If you missed the Made in Chicago market, there are still plenty of Chicago holiday markets running from now until Christmas. Which ones will you go to?

Chicago Confronts Climate Issues

Most Sunday nights in December you will find me in comfy clothes and huddled inside.

This past Sunday, however, I pulled myself from my cozy couch, got dressed, and went to the Field Museum.

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I have not been to the Field Museum since elementary school, but I was not going to see Sue or King Tut, I was going to meet up with a community of people concerned about climate change.

The Chicago Community Climate Forum brought together over 60 organizations and OVER 2,000 PEOPLE in the climate movement.

 

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Chris Wheat, Chicago’s Chief Sustainability Officer

 

This gathering preceded Monday and Tuesday’s 2017 North American Climate Summit, where over 50 mayors came together to discuss climate change on a local level here in Chicago.

 

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Packed hall listening to great speakers

 

For the public gathering on Sunday, a plethora of speakers and performers provided a dialogue on what we can do on a local and community level. Afterwards, there was an opportunity to mingle and network, as well as sign the Chicago Agreement on Climate & Community (which you can sign here.)

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Overall, it was a really moving experience. Sometimes, especially with this administration, it can feel very frustrating and the future can look dismal. But seeing the passion and drive of all the attendees on Sunday calmed my anxious heart a bit.

Chicago is defiant.

Chicago is strong.

And Chicago will show the nation and the world that just because this country is is the only one IN THE WORLD that has not signed the Paris Agreement, we will persevere.