composting

I Finally Asked

I have been at my current job for almost a year and a half and work in a large office building in downtown Chicago.

Since then, I have always wondered why my office had compostable plates, bowls, and cups, but nowhere to compost them.

I never used those things while at work. I have my own cup and plate that I reuse, but there are PLENTY of people that use those compostable materials and I don’t doubt that they think its fine because they are compostable.

But they aren’t.

Because they are being tossed into the trash can.

Which goes to the landfill.

Where nothing decomposes.

I had originally tried to work up the courage to shake up the wasteful office culture like 11 months ago and unfortunately never followed through.

Now many months later, I finally worked up the courage to ask the facilities department why they provided these materials to their employees, but not the proper way to dispose of them. I also offered to provide any assistance in picking a composting service. After reviewing my email a million times, I took a deep breath and clicked send.

Later that day, I ran into our facilities manager in the hallway and he excitedly told me how glad he was that I had emailed him. Apparently, the original plan was for the office to get the compostable materials and then set up composting, but it fell to the wayside. There wasn’t someone to champion it! Hey, hey, that’s me! I told him I have used two different composting services in Chicago and he urged me to send over their details and contact information. I expertly pulled together the resources and sent them over.

So the ball is rolling! And I am proud of myself for finally doing it.

I plan to follow up soon to see if the contact ever occurred. I will keep you updated!

 

 

Advertisements

A Zero Waste Super Bowl?

I don’t really care about the Super Bowl.

Commercials are good and I generally enjoy eating the food associated with a Super Bowl party.

But you know what really gets me pumped about a Super Bowl? Waste reduction! This year will attempt to divert 90% of the stadium’s waste.

Which is awesome!

Back in the day, while interning at the U.S. EPA, I had the chance to interview the NFL’s Environmental Program Director about that year’s Super Bowl. It was a really neat experience.

Check out the post below.


Science Wednesday: A Sustainable Super Bowl XLVI

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection.Previous Science Wednesdays.

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!

On the Way To A Less Wasteful Wedding

135 days to go until our wedding day.

Less than 5 months.

engagement3

That doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you start this wedding planning journey a whole year and a half beforehand, it’s a lot.

Plenty of things have been crossed off the to-do list, but there are still many more tasks to go.

Here is a roundup of my less wasteful wedding planning experience so far:

Yet there is still so much to do!

 

wedding dress

This is NOT my wedding dress. Just one I tried on.

 

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!

Inspiration

This blog does not get an unreal amount of traffic.

My page views are not off the charts.

And I am totally okay with that.

That’s because I love hearing from friends and family (and those on the internet) about what they have learned from my blog. It makes all of it worth it.

I have had friends in Washington reach out about recycling questions. I have had family friends in Maryland send me food waste articles. Followers now know what to do with their old running shoes, their old Apple products, and their old jeans.

 

I had a friend from DC message me the following:

“I love following your blog and seeing all that you do to help the environment. It really inspires me to do little things to do my part. I realized how awesome cloth napkins are for EVERYDAY!”

So much excitement about cloth napkins!

compost bucket7

Another friend has started composting, like real composting in her backyard. I am so proud!

Just being able to make one small difference is really what this blog adventure is all about.

So thank you.

How Much Food Waste Can You Create in 5 Months?

I started composting for the first time when I moved to the City.

That does not sound like it should be an accurate statement, right? But it is! You can learn more about how I started to compost in this previous post.

compost-bucket6

 

It wasn’t until a few months ago that I decided to start keeping track of how much food waste I was collecting in my composting bucket. To do so, I first weighed an empty bucket with my hanging scale. Then when it was time for me to put out my bucket for pick up, I would weigh it again and subtract the weight of the empty bucket, leaving me with the correct amount of weight.

August through December of 2016, I diverted 51.36 pounds of organic waste from the landfill!

That is only the measurement of me (and sometimes K) contributing for only 5 months of the year. Think of what we could do in a whole year!

My bucket and I have now been through all the seasons together. In the spring, I kept a potted plant on top of it. In the summer, the bucket smelled a bit when it was opened so I tended to do that outside. In the fall, we were happy campers, and in the winter we have already worked through some freezing and thawing cycles.

I am so glad to have started this composting journey. Not only have I learned a lot, but everyone else around me has learned a lot whether they wanted to or not. K’s friends even ask him how the composting is going. I know it’s in jest, but at least they are talking about it!

How To: Compost in Your Apartment

I have never composted before and I am so excited to start!

I originally met Farmer Jon at Environmental Industry Night in January and when he told me about what he did, I was amazed. Not only does he personally collect composting from around the City, but he does it BY BICYCLE! How cool is that!?

Since I have a bit of a cycling background, I was all about supporting his endeavor and knew when I moved to the City this was something I wanted to try.

After being in the apartment for 4 days, I signed up for Healthy Soil Compost and received my 5-gallon collection container the very next day. While we don’t have any green space, we do have a fire escape, and that is where I will be keeping our composting.

I signed up for pick up once a month, which comes out to only $0.50 a day. Not too shabby.

For the time being, I am using a plastic screw top container to hold my food scraps until it becomes full, which is a lot faster than I thought it would be. The container does not smell (yet) unless you actually stick your nose in the container, which I advise you do not do.

It was surprising how quickly we filled up the compost bucket, which is sitting out on my fire escape landing currently. When the kitchen container is full, I pop open the door and dump the contents inside!

We are only 2 weeks in and so far we have collected:

  • carrot peels
  • banana peels
  • apple cores
  • green pepper insides
  • egg shells
  • flowers
  • asparagus ends
  • bread crusts
  • potato skins
  • onion skins
  • lettuce/spinach

Healthy Soil Compost provides a handy guideline for what they can and cannot take. If I am unsure about something, I always check it first.

I always have to remember that you can compost egg shells, but not eggs!

Read more about Healthy Soil Compost in the press here: