litter

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

north ave beach 3

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.

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.

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! 

 

 

 

One Less Straw This October

Do we really need to use straws? What is wrong with just drinking from the glass?

Every day in the U.S. 500,000,000 plastic straws are used and then tossed in the trash, or in some cases, on the beach.

You can assist the OneLessStraw pledge campaign by signing a pledge as an individual, business, or school, to say no to plastic straws for the entire month of October.

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My mom has always been a smoothie drinker and would use plastic straws to drink them. That was until I got her metal reusable smoothie straws for Mother’s Day this year! (You really have to watch out for me and gift giving now, you may just end up with a bamboo toothbrush!)

There are plenty of places where you can find reusable straws. Life Without Plastic is one example, or you can check out OneLessStraw’s resource guide if you really cannot live without a straw.

I saw the below video a number of months ago and it completely changed how I look at straws. It is graphic and disturbing, but maybe we need that for us to understand that these straws just don’t go away when we toss them into the garbage can.

 

 

 

Tweeting About Trash

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Last week as I was waiting for the bus, I could not help but notice this overflowing trash can on North Avenue. It just made me so sad. Even in between taking pictures, a man tried to stuff some more into it.

From what I could see (I did not dig in and inspect), it looked like the majority of the trash can’s contents were recyclables such as plastic beverage containers. This makes sense because this trash can is right across from an L stop, so I assume many commuters drop off their pre and post work coffees here.

I tweeted at Chicago Streets and Sanitation about it, but so far no response…..

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#MyBeachIsYourBeach C3 Project

Yesterday was the culmination of my Chicago Conservation Corps training! I finished my project! In partnership with the Alliance for the Great Lakes, I organized an Adopt-A-Beach cleanup event at Oak Street Beach.

While there were some setbacks (such as construction for a volleyball tournament taking up more than half the beach and low volunteer turnout), we still did some good! Armed with gloves, trash bags, and our litter monitoring checklist, we hit the beach.

 

oak street beach construction

Did not know there would be a volleyball tournament taking up most of the beach! Oops!

 

After collecting trash for over an hour, our bag weighed a whole 10 pounds! You can check out the infographic I put together below for more of a breakdown of what we collected.

Oak Street Beach Clean Up

If you are in the Great Lakes area, make sure to take part in the world’s largest shoreline cleanup on September 17th to celebrate 25 years of Adopt-A-Beach!

Is Chicago Ready for the Air and Water Show?

I took a stroll yesterday morning along the lakefront trail to get a sneak peek at the set up of the Chicago Air and Water Show.

As I was walking, I took note on how many garbage and recycling bins were set out to accommodate the large crowds that will be at the beach this weekend.

prepping for air and water show

Just from where I was standing facing North Avenue Beach and Castaways to the South, there were at the very least 6 recycling totes in view.

prepping for air and water show2

A little more North up the Lakefront Trail, a bit more away from the main drag of the event, I counted 4 recycling totes. While it is kind of ugly to have totes perched out in the middle of the beach, I think it is totally necessary. Unfortunately, recycling has to be as convenient and easy as possible, otherwise, people will not do it.

so close yet so far

Walking further North, I started looking for pieces of trash or recyclables that were so close, yet so far from where they belonged.

No Butts About It: 350 Cigarette Butts Later

Yesterday, I participated in another beach clean up at North Avenue Beach. This event was put on by Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach Program and Barefoot Wine & Bubbly to help make our beaches barefoot friendly.

And were they barefoot friendly? No. 

The amount of broken glass we picked up was startling. Even more startling was the excessive amount of cigarette butts I picked up.

Over 350 cigarette butts picked up by a 2 person team in just over an hour!

While my partner tallied and picked up other types of litter, I focused solely on collecting cigarette butts. I just continued counting and counting as I added more butts to the growing pile in my hand (I was wearing gloves, do not fear).

When we counted up our tally marks to reveal that we had over 300 cigarette butts in our trash bag, I was in shock! There were dozens of other teams too who may have picked up just as many.

In 2015, more than 52,600 cigarette butts were picked up at Chicago beaches, representing 27 percent of total litter found according to Alliance for Great Lakes data.

I just get really sad when I see people using our beaches (and our Earth) as an ashtray.

Luckily, the Alliance is putting a fun spin on properly disposing of cigarette butts.

Read more about their project here.