garbage

The Great Compost Fiasco of 2017

With all of our CSA produce, we have been producing a lot of food scraps that we toss in our compost bucket. So much so that the bucket is totally full before pick-up time.

The first time this happened, I tossed some compost extras into a double lined paper (compostable over plastic) grocery bag, folded it over tightly and left it in the space between our fire escape’s door and the screen door. When pick-up day came, I just put the paper bag out with the compost bucket.

It all worked out just fine.

Before we left for vacation, I tried this bit again, putting the paper bag of food scraps in between the doors. I kind of forgot it was there and we jetted off to Europe for 10 days. Little did I know that it was going to basically be 90 degrees in Chicago the entire time we were gone.

Thus it was a recipe for disaster.

When we got home, the apartment had a little bit of a funk, but I did not think anything of it. I went to put our shoes on the fire escape to air out and a flock of bugs spewed into the apartment! Quickly shutting the door, I came to the terrible realization of what had happened. Unfortunately,  I was not able to actually open the door for confirmation unless I wanted to be assaulted by insects.

So I had a hot, smelly, rotten, bag of food scraps sitting in between our doors.

Great.

The only way to clean up this mess without letting all the bugs in the apartment meant I had to climb up the fire escape and open the screen door from the outside.

Armed with a trash bag, I took a deep breath and opened the door to free the insects who made their home in my bag of bug food. I scooped what I could into the trash bag before the soggy paper bag ripped, spilling old peppers onto the vestibule.

I plucked them up from the decaying food slime that had oozed out of the bag and shoved them into the trash bag. I propped the door open to air out the stink/bugs and ran back down the fire escape to the trash can.

Once inside, I filled up a pitcher of water and poured it over the ooze layer between the doors. Finally, I sprayed some Lysol over it to maybe make it less smelly.

So I tried to keep some organic matter from a landfill and failed miserably…

I won’t be trying the paper bag bit again anytime soon.

 

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How To: Stop Junk Mail

Getting stuff in the mail is awesome.

Getting unwanted stuff in the mail is not.

 

We all have experienced it. You open the mailbox and find something addressed to you or the current resident (whom you have never heard of) and have no idea why you are getting this piece of mail. You don’t even know what this company is that’s sending you catalogs.

Besides just tossing it in the recycling bin, there are a number of ways you can keep yourself from getting junk mail in the first place.

The biggest thing you can do is avoid giving out your address, but sometimes junk mail will find you anyway.

Below are some resources you can use to be removed from all sorts of mailing lists.

 

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Here are some of my requests I submitted to PaperKarma. Who are you King Ranch Saddle Shop?!

 

Another way to combat the onslaught of unwanted mail is to find the sender’s phone number, any number you can find, and call them to remove yourself from the mailing list.

Be warned that it takes over a month sometimes to be officially removed from mailing lists. A lot of the time, a catalog or a mailing is already in production and printed with your name on it before you make the call.

On another note, as much as I love giving money to a good cause such as a charity or non-profit, be careful. Sometimes when you donate, your mailing information can get shared with (or sold to) other organizations. For example, post-election, K donated to an environmental organization and now we get TONS of calendars, address labels (SO MANY), notepads, and more.

If you are looking for more, check out my friend Celia over at Litterless who also wrote a great post on getting rid of junk mail.

Compostables, But No Composting at Work

The kitchen at my workplace is stocked with compostable plates and bowls.

Which is awesome.

But only if there is actually somewhere to compost them.

As you can probably already tell where this is going, there is nowhere to compost these items at work.

While I applaud facilities for going for what seems like the right choice, they need to take it a step further for it to achieve the desired result.

Our break room has 2 clearly labeled waste cans; one for recycling and one for waste. All they need is another for compost.

Since I do compost at home, I end up smuggling the occasional plate or napkin home in my lunch bag to add to my compost bucket. One less thing in a landfill, right?

 

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Banana peel and compostable plate ready to head home with me

 

The next step is to talk to Facilities about providing composting services. Someone has got to be the one to bring it up? Might as well be me.

Beach Clean up with Zero Waste Chicago

Cool things are happening in Chicago, and the creation of Zero Waste Chicago is one of them.

They host monthly events and this month they asked me to lead a beach clean up since I am an Adopt-A-Beach Team Leader. (Check out my other clean up posts here, here, here, and here.)

We headed down to 31st Street Beach, a beach I have not been to or cleaned up before.

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For a Tuesday night, it sure was hopping. Families were out barbequing and kids were splashing in the water, trying to squeeze the last few days of summer before back to school.

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A great crew of volunteers showed up and spread out all over the beach armed with bags and litter monitoring surveys.

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Overall, we collected 35.66 lbs of trash, recycling, and compost!

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Some highlights:

  • 609 cigarette butts
  • 221 food wrappers
  • 200 pieces of plastic
  • 135 metal bottle caps
  • 110 pieces of foam
  • 94 pieces of glass
  • 69 balloons
  • 56 pieces of paper
  • 54 plastic bags
  • 46 straws
  • 18 band-aids
  • 7 hair ties
  • 1 razor
  • 1 tampon
  • 1 condom

 

 

A Recycling Change Up

The other day, we found a weird site outside our building. K called me as he left for work to tell me to look outside. He told me there were 3 recycling carts on the sidewalk with our address on them.

It turned out not to be 3 recycling bins, instead, it was only one recycling bin, and 2 garbage cans that also happened to be blue. WHY DO THEY DO THAT?! Do they really need to make recycling anymore confusing??

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The cart on the left is the recycling cart. The contents of the other two will be headed to the landfill.

After that happened, our black City of Chicago garbage carts were left out on the sidewalk to be picked up and hauled away, and now our City blue cart is gone now too.

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Overall, I am pretty confused right now. Since our building has 4 units or less, we fall into the City recycling program. Why are we suddenly using a private service?

I am going to have to do a little digging because of course we were not informed of anything by our landlord. I will keep you posted!

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.

Your Beyond Repair Clothing Does Not Have to Be Destined for a Landfill

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My cousin sent me this text message the other day.

It is a good question and while there are plenty of places in the Chicagoland area where you can bring your gently used clothing, there are not so many places to drop off clothing and textiles that are longer wearable or useful.

The U.S. EPA has found that 85% of all discarded textiles (that’s 12 million tons) are sent to landfills every single year.

USAgain

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USAgain has drop-off collection bins all around the city. They accept clothes, shoes and household textiles (like towels, bedding, tablecloths, etc) regardless of condition.

Usagain chicago locations


Chicago Textile Recycling

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Chicago Textile Recycling provides textile recycling outlets and fundraising opportunities for organizations, businesses, and municipalities. They collect used clothing, shoes, and household items for reuse and recycling, resulting in a diversion of over 2.5 million pounds of waste from area landfills annually.

Unfortunately, they don’t have as many drop-off options as USAgain does within Chicago and Cook County (as in they have zero). There is a drop-off box at their warehouse in Hillside just outside the city and about 20 locations within Lake County.


Patagonia Worn Wear

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Through the Patagonia Worn Wear Program, you can return Patagonia products that are well beyond repair to be recycled it into something new, or repurposed, by bringing it to a local store or mailing it in.

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The North Face Clothes the Loop

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The North Face Clothes the Loop allows you to bring in used apparel and footwear of any condition or brand and receive a $10 reward towards your next purchase of $100 or more. Items are repurposed for reuse to extend their life or recycled into raw materials for use in products like insulation, carpet padding, stuffing for toys, and fibers for new clothing.

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Other Options:

 

So now you know that your stained and ripped clothing can be used again!

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!