conservation

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.

 

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C3 Week 4: Waste

Obviously, I was very interested in this class topic since it covered waste and the point of this blog is to not be so wasteful!

First of all, why should we care about waste?

  • it does not go “away”
  • litter is ugly
  • sanitation
  • water quality is diminished
  • climate change due to more methane from landfills
  • these are just a few reasons!

waste pyramid

We have all learned about the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, but there are more important steps that need to be included as well. The conversation we usually have starts with recycle, when we really should be starting at the top with refuse. If we refuse something, it cannot become waste in the first place. Zero-wasters are very familiar with this part of the pyramid! So refuse those plastic bags and straws, for they will never go away!

Chicago throws away 7.3 million tons of trash annually.

In 2009, the city conducted a waste characterization study, where our trash was sorted into 81 different categories.

The top three items by weight were:

  1. Paper (29.5%)
  2. Organics (29%)
  3. Plastic (12.5%)

All of these things can be recycled or composted, not sent to a landfill!

We have a big issue with recycling in this city if you have not noticed from my posts on my experience of trying to get a recycling cart.

The biggest issues we discussed in class are access, expense, contamination, and education.

Access

As I discussed here, residential buildings with 4 units or less have access to the city recycling service. Larger, multi-unit buildings, on the other hand, use a private hauler. So depending on what type of building you live in, your recycling rules may be different.

Expense

We do not pay to recycle our materials, unlike the tipping fee required to dump one ton of trash into a landfill. So the City is actually saving money when every ton of recyclables does not go into a landfill. Last year, the City saved $4.5 million.

In Illinois, It is cheap to dump into a landfill compared to other states. New York, for instance, is running out of landfill space and thus charges much more per ton.

Contamination

In addition to the list of what should be recycled, there are also a lot of items that do not belong in our blue carts. Here is where you can recycle common things that are not allowed:

Education

There are different messages for different audiences, especially if they use city recycling or not. Language is also an issue, but for the most part, there is a lack of staff to help implement. Maybe they need to hire someone like me!

Additional Recycling Resources:

 

 

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

Expertly-trained
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!