Lake Michigan

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

 

 

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5 Reasons Why I Love Living in the City

I have lived in two major cities in my life so far.

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The nation’s capital, Washington, DC

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and the pride of the Midwest, Chicago, IL

While living in the city does has some setbacks (so many sirens), city life has become a part of me in many ways.

Without further adieu, here are

The 5 Reasons Why I

Love Living In the City

1. Being able to walk everywhere

I can pretty much access all of life’s necessities via my own two feet. Within just a few blocks are my gym, the mailbox, the bank, the pharmacy, a grocery store, tons of restaurants, a farmers market, a zoo, and Lake Michigan.

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Just steps away is Lincoln Park Zoo

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A few steps more and I can dip my toes in the Lake

In DC, I had the ultimate luxury of being able to walk to work. The 20-minute walk to and from was my favorite way to begin and end the day. In the year and a half I lived there, I never once took the Metro to work. I walked rain or shine.

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Not many people actually live in downtown DC, but I lived smack in the middle in Chinatown

2. If I can’t walk, public transportation is always an option

Yes, there are some things that are a bit farther outside the radius of the distance I would casually walk to. But there are also some times I will make a day of it if it is nice out, like the one time in DC where I decided to walk 4 miles to and from Trader Joes.

Our location here in Chicago is right near the L and many bus lines heading into the Loop. In DC, I lived a block from the one Metro stop that could connect me to all other lines.

3. Never far from something interesting

Living in a city basically means there is ALWAYS something going on, much to the chagrin of drivers and people trying to go about their daily lives without getting stampeded by Lollapalooza attendees.

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See a movie in Millennium Park

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Go to antique and vintage markets

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Play softball on the National Mall

 

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Attend a march for a good cause

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See your favorite sports teams play

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Pick up your produce from a farmers market

4. So many spaces to exercise & explore

A lot of people think that when you live in the city it becomes harder to exercise. That is absolutely not true. While I am a bit further away from acres of undeveloped green space, I do have access to some of the greatest spaces to work up a sweat.

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Go for a run along the Lakefront Trail

Not only are there so many cool places outside to go work out, there are also so many different kinds of gyms that everyone can find something they are interested in. Aerial yoga? Got it. Trapeze lessons? Got it. American Ninja Warrior gym? Got it.

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Running the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

 

I became a part of a great fitness community while I lived in DC called November Project. It’s free and we worked out all over the Capital. From the Capitol building steps to underneath the cherry blossoms, we were everywhere. Now in Chicago, I meet up with November Project at the Bean and everywhere else in between.

5. Being able to be a part of so many different things

I am involved in almost way too many things. I serve on a non-profit associate board, regularly volunteer at beach clean ups, and participate in numerous environmental functions.

 

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Election day didn’t turn out like I thought, but I was able to serve as an election judge at my district’s polling place.

 

 

 

 

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Last year, I became a Chicago Conservation Corps leader. I can partake in projects that better my community and environment.

 

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Marching with thousands on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC’s March for Climate

 

 

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Cleaning up Montrose Beach

 

So that’s it! Do you have any additional reasons for why you love living in the city? Obviously, these are not all the reasons, and city living has some downsides, so let me know! What did I miss?

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.

An Ode to That One Planet We Can Live On

Earth Day had always been my favorite “holiday” as a child. I am not even kidding.

I have vivid memories of my elementary school class going outside and planting a tree. We could buy t-shirts with endangered whales, swirling clouds, and towering trees on them.

Our planet Earth provides us with so much that no blog post could ever cover it all.

So instead of writing over and over again of how important this Earth Day is, I am just going to show you its beauty and just some of what it has provided, for me personally, in pictures from my everyday life.

Hey Planet Earth, you provide me with:

A place to play softball.

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National Mall, Washington DC

A forest to ride through.

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Cal-Sag Trail, Palos Park, IL

A place to take it all in.

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Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

The opportunity to enhance it.

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Casey Tree planting, Washington DC

Fond family memories. 

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Lake Wandawega, Elkhorn, WI

Somewhere to splash my toes in. 

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Lake Michigan, Chicago, IL

The reminder of nature in a concrete jungle.

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Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL

How amazing the tide is. 

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Sand flats, Duxbury, MA

Sunsets that are top notch. 

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New Buffalo, MI

And sunrises that are equally fantastic.

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Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC

Fall colors make my heart melt. 

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Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

And breathtaking ocean views.

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Big Sur, CA

The power of water.

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Niagara Falls, NY

Planet Earth, you remind us of just how tiny we are.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

 

How are you celebrating Earth Day?

EPA Blog Re-Post #3

Due to certain political circumstances, I will be re-posting links to EPA blogs I wrote while I was working there.

Here is the third one. Originally posted April 10, 2014.*

*I apologize if some links are no longer active. This is a few year old. 


 

Invaders in the Great Lakes

By Marguerite Huber

Smaller zebra mussels cover a larger native mussel

I grew up in Chicago, where Lake Michigan, or simply “the lake” as we locals refer to it, is a part of everyday life. I swam in it. I ran next to it. I drank the water from it. I even paddle boarded on it.

As fond as I am of Lake Michigan, it and all the other Great Lakes are facing a big challenge. They have been invaded by more than 190 species of aquatic plants and animals not native to the area, and at least 22 fishes and 16 aquatic invertebrates pose a high risk of invading the Great Lakes in the near future.

These invasive species can be introduced deliberately or accidentally through ballast water discharge from commercial vessels, recreational boating and fishing, and pet aquarium releases. These species cause significant ecological and economic impacts in the Great Lakes. For instance, the cost to the Great Lakes region from invasive species is over $200 million dollars annually!

EPA researchers have been studying how to monitor and detect aquatic invasive species through two different studies in the Duluth-Superior Harbor area, the largest Great Lakes commercial port and one under intense invasive species pressure. A Great Lakes-wide early detection program is required by 2015 under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

The goal of the research was to evaluate sampling designs that would help develop an efficient early detection monitoring program for invasive species. To do so, researchers conducted intensive sampling to create a data set that could be used to explore different monitoring strategies.

One study concluded that species detection can be enhanced based on sampling equipment and habitat, making it an important step towards improving early detection monitoring. They found the most efficient strategy was to sample the mix of habitats or gear that produce the most species, but to also sample across all habitats.

In this study, researchers found high occurrences of certain invasive species such as zebra mussel and Eurasian ruffe.

In another study, researchers focused on determining the effort required for early detection of non-native zooplankton, benthic invertebrates, and fish in the Harbor. To do so, the research team tallied and identified roughly 40,000 zooplankton, 52,000 benthic invertebrates, and 70,000 fish during sampling.

In the early detection study, the researchers detected 10 non-native fish species and 21 non-native aquatic invertebrate, some of which were new detections for the Great Lakes. The central finding was that detecting 100% of species is unrealistic given resource limitations, but monitoring at a level that can detect greater than 95% of the species pool is possible. At this level of effort, there is better than a 50% chance of finding a very rare species, such as one that was recently introduced.

Overall, EPA’s invasive species research is yielding a substantial advance in the ability to design monitoring and early warning systems for aquatic invasive species. Together with prevention methods, that should go a long way in maintaining the biological integrity and sustainability of the Great Lakes. That would be welcome news for anyone who relies on “the lake” for their livelihood, their drinking water, or for a place to paddleboard.

 

Read the post in its original format here


Read the other posts:

Plastic Filled Great Lakes

Do we really need more findings to come out confirming what we already know?

Basically,  a lot of plastic and garbage gets dumped in not just the oceans, but the Great Lakes too.

Living along Lake Michigan, I take great interest in the goings on and health of the Great Lakes.

On occasion, I voluntarily clean up Lake Michigan beaches from the garbage people leave behind, or the trash that washes ashore.

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Oak Street Beach clean up on Lake Michigan

 

Now imagine 100 Olympic sized swimming pools, which equates to roughly 11 million pounds of plastic debris. That is how much is dumped into Lake Michigan every year according to a new study using computer simulation models at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Lake Michigan receives the most plastic pollution out of all of the Great Lakes due to urban areas such as Chicago and Milwaukee on its shores. These plastic pieces get easily moved around due to winds and the currents, causing most of Chicago and Milwaukee’s waste to end up along the eastern shore of the lake (Sorry Michigan).

Sadly, we are not doing much about this issue. We cannot just address the end point of pollution by continually cleaning it up. We need to start at the source of the problem, which is us, our overconsumption and lack of regard for where our waste ends up.

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Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

 

 

 

Beaches Need Love Even When It’s Like 20 Degrees

Last week, Chicago finally got a real taste of winter.

While most people huddled  up inside

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Suffering without my gloves for this picture!

and snuggled in blankets (which is what I wanted to do, to be honest), I snuggled up in a bunch of warm layers and rode my bike to North Avenue beach.

 

A while back, I had registered for an Adopt-a-Beach event and once I realized it was going to be on what could have been the first day of snow, I was hesitant.

I  knew I had to go despite the wind and the cold. When I lead an Adopt-a-Beach event in August it was hard enough to get people to come. I didn’t want everyone to back out on a clean up in November!

Luckily we had a pretty good group who braved the elements and the flying sand to pick up cigarettes and bottle caps and endless other weird items.

All in all, we ended up removing 141 pounds of trash! 

 

 

 

C3 Week 3: Water

The topic of water has always been something I was interested in. Back in 4th grade, our class did a unit on Chicago history. While my classmates chose to do projects on Marshall Fields and the Sears Tower (I will never refer to it as Willis Tower), I did my project on Lake Michigan.

Naturally, I was very excited about a class entirely on water and the information did not disappoint!

Our first presenter was from the City of Chicago Department of Water Management. If you do not know the history of Chicago’s water system and its use of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, it is pretty darn cool. (At least I think so!)

The Chicago River naturally flows into Lake Michigan. After decades of sewage being dumped into the River, the water intake structures needed to be extended to pull in water that was not contaminated farther out in the Lake.

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In 1867, the first tunnel was constructed 2 miles out into the Lake. The water intake crib was built on shore then floated out the 2 miles and sunk to the bottom with bricks. The intake tunnels were constructed 60 feet below the Lake level and began from both the crib and the shore to meet in the middle. Amazingly there was an only 7-inch difference between the two when they met. That is a phenomenal feat for that time!

The Chicago Pumping Station and Water Tower were built in 1869, survived the Chicago Fire of 1871, and are still in service today!

With all the sewage flowing into Lake Michigan from the Chicago River, it was decided to reverse its flow towards the Mississippi River. Construction  of channels started in 1895 to reverse the flow of the Chicago River and were finished in 1900.

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Speaking of the Chicago River, our second presenter was from the Friends of the Chicago River. This nonprofit is dedicated to improving and protecting the Chicago River system for people, plants, and animals.

When Chicago’s water system was constructed, it combined both our stormwater and wastewater sewers. The system works fine when there has not been a lot of precipitation (and by a lot I only mean 0.3 inches of rainfall).

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Add that bit of rainfall and a combined sewer overflow (CSO) can happen, sending untreated sewage into the Chicago River.

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On days where there is a major rain event with the potential to overwhelm our sewers and flush harmful waste into the river, Friends will declare an Overflow Action Day. These events call for citizens to reduce the amount of water that will head into the sewer system.

Take the Overflow Action Day Pledge and sign up for the CSO Notification System from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago to learn more about when CSOs occur! You can also visit istheresewageinthechicagoriver.com for updates on whether or not sewage has been released into the river.

It is super gross and not something you would think about until you are personally affected by a CSO, which I have! While living in DC, I was participating in the Nation’s Triathlon. It rained a lot the night before, causing a CSO, and the swim portion of the race to be cancelled. You can read more about this experience when I blogged for the EPA here.

I loved learning about the history of Chicago’s water, but I am equally excited to cover waste in our next class!