sustainability

Keeping Food From the Landfill: ’17 Totals So Far

We are now in the 8th month of the year! Yikes!

And once a month I have been putting my food scraps out by my front door to be picked up by Healthy Soil Compost.

compost bucket7

Before I put it on our stoop in the morning before pickup, I weigh my bucket with a hanging scale and mark down the weight in a spreadsheet (nerd status over here).

Here are the totals from the past few months:

January 15.5 lbs

February 17.22 lbs

March 12 lbs

April 18.74 lbs

May 8.8 lbs

June 20.44 lbs

July 22.84 lbs

So far this year we have diverted 187.66 pounds of organic waste from the landfill!

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EPA & the Super Bowl: Blog Re-Post #5

If you did not know, the Super Bowl was yesterday. If you were aware of that, I bet you didn’t know sustainability aspects are taken into account when planning such a large and impactful event.

In 2012, I got the chance to interview the NFL’s Environmental Program Director about the work they were doing. Are you surprised such a program exists? I was too! It does not even have a dedicated website.

Fortunately, I wrote this blog for the EPA, so this ties perfectly in with my quest to repost my old blogs as you can see in the disclaimer below.


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

Here is the fifth one. Originally posted February 8, 2012.*

*I apologize if some links are no longer active.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


Science Wednesday: A Sustainable Super Bowl XLVI


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!

Read the post in its original format here


Read the other posts:

Let’s Make 2017 Better: Resolutions for a Less Wasteful Year

2017 is here. It is a whole new year and a fresh start, but it is going to be a tough road ahead.

The United States will inaugurate and swear in two men who do not believe in climate change as President and EPA Administrator respectively.

That is a tough pill to swallow, but not a time to back down. 2017 will be a year of trying even harder to make a change.

New Year’s resolutions are all about making a change, and I have plenty. These are not the generic resolutions everyone makes and breaks by February, but instead specific Waste Not Want Not resolutions that can make a difference beyond yourself.

I am looking forward to seeing the changes I can create in my own environment and the one around me.


 

resolution1

I am not going to focus on shedding pounds from my body, but instead, remove pounds of organic waste from ending up in the landfill. Since I was able to compost about 51 pounds in a 5 month period, I feel this is a good goal for next year.


 

resolution2

Eating healthier means paying more attention to what you are putting into your body, but it is often overlooked as to where your food is coming from. Sure you can eat broccoli that traveled across the country on a truck, or you can eat broccoli that was grown less than 100 miles away (0r even grown in your own backyard).

To find your local foods, head to a farmers market near you or a store specializing in local products. In Chicago, I love to shop at Green City Market which is just a 5-minute walk from our apartment. I recently started shopping at Local Foods and am considering joining a co-op like Chicago Market.


 

resolution3

Everyone wants to save money, but we can save even more by not buying the things we don’t necessarily need. Buying a shirt because it is marked 50% off, doesn’t save you 50%. You just spent 50% more because you made a purchase on a whim.

For the purchases of items you know you will need, do your research. Find a high-quality version of what you are looking for. Chances are it will be more expensive upfront, but in the long run, it should save you money because you’ll never have to purchase it again.

One more thing we can stop wasting money on is our food! Every time you let food go to waste, dollar signs are flying out the window. I try to repurpose leftovers into other meals, compost organic waste and freeze older vegetables to make stock.


 

resolution4

I think the Container Store is a hilarious idea. They preach how buying more stuff at their store will make you more organized. Hang your 45 infinity scarves on this specially made scarf hanger! Buy more plastic bins to store your fake plastic Christmas tree and non-recyclable wrapping paper!

How about we just pare down our belongings so we don’t constantly have to be organizing? I already read about Marie Kondo’s method in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which basically involves going through everything you own and asking yourself, “Does this item bring me joy?” In 2017, I plan to ask myself that question with more of my belongings.


 

resolution5

I have already purged a lot of my clothes, but there are still plenty hanging around that I don’t wear that often. I want to be at the point where I do not have any more clothes left at my parent’s house.

There are many other options on what you can do with your clothes besides donating them. First, you can reuse them for a different purpose. T-shirts, for instance, make great cleaning rags. Also, consider trading clothes in a clothing swap with friends and family. Probably most important is to repair your clothing! I just noticed a hole in one of my 2 pairs of jeans. I am going to learn how to properly repair that rip!


 

resolution6

Did you know that basically half of the trips you make are 3 miles or less? Most of the places we need to go, like the pharmacy, the bank, and the grocery store are not far away (of course, this only applies if you live in a high-density area).

I, of course, advocate for everyone to get physically moving at least once a day, but another way to escape our sedentary lifestyles is to use walking and biking as our mode of transportation. I personally hate having to get into the car to run an errand while living in the city (I don’t want to lose my parking spot!). Being able to get things done by foot or bike is way better for your health and the environment.

Let’s bring on 2017! Did you plan to make any similar resolutions? Or are you inspired to add some of these to your list? Let me know! 

 

 

 

 

A Succinct Summary of My 2016

2016 is just about over. Hallelujah.

Aside from all the craziness the world had to endure for the past 360-ish days, this was my first full year of blogging.

What started as a tiny creative outlet, has turned into something much more. I get excited about writing new posts and love hearing friends and family talk about my blog.

A lot has happened this year.

I  purged a lot of my belongings before moving downtown,

purge-pile-redo

started composting,

compost container

got a recycling bin for our building,

bluecart1

became a Chicago Conservation Corps leader,

C3 2

cleaned up multiple beaches,

cleanup4

stopped buying new clothes for myself,

levis-jeans

tested out bamboo toothbrushes,

brushwithbamboo2

And crafted up a storm.

 

Look out for my post on what to expect for 2017! Coming soon!

 

 

 

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!

Tis the Season For Frozen Compost

“Baby, it’s cold outside”

So cold that my compost bucket (which we keep outside on our fire escape) had frozen shut.

After a weekend of numerous home cooked meals, our compost bowl was starting to overflow, and its contents needed to retreat to the outdoors.

There was no way I was getting the lid off the bucket, so I figured I would bring it inside to warm on up.

 

frozen-compost

Nice and cozy compost bucket

When I got back from work, I soaked up the remaining water and was able to add my food scraps no problem.

The bucket is back outside now,  but I am sure that will not be the last time it gets to dodge the fire escape’s winter chill. Stay tuned!

 

No More New Clothes

Having been laid off from my job, I am now on a bit tighter of a budget than I was before. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to test my own willpower.

While I am not a big shopper (I get bored after maybe an hour on a good day), I definitely do buy new clothes here and there. Especially with the back to school season in full swing and all the cozy, warm fall sweaters and boots showing up in the stores.

I already have sweaters, boots, and scarves, and definitely don’t NEED anymore.

So, for the rest of 2016, I will not be purchasing any new clothes or shoes.

One of the best ways to avoid temptation is to remove yourself from store’s email lists. If I do not know they are having a 40% off sale, then I am more likely not to start browsing and see what is on sale.

 

email-subscriptions

No more of these. Unsubscribe.

 

I did this weekend go to a craft fair and flea market, but I am not counting my purchases from either. I supported local, handmade products and bought second-hand.

I will be keeping you updated! Do you have any suggestions and what has worked for you?

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.

Laid Off and Pushing On

Last week I had a very surprising phone call. My position at a tech company had been eliminated due to some company reorganizing and I was suddenly out of a job.

It took me the rest of the afternoon to come to terms that I would not be receiving a paycheck or insurance anymore, and that was really my only concern. I did not love my job and to be honest, I did not really care about what I was doing. This was just an in-between job.

Having gone to school to study environmental management and sustainable development, I always knew I wanted my passion to also be my career. Since graduating, I have bounced around a bit from Indiana to Washington DC, but being back in Chicago has not brought me much luck in the job hunt.

While I started working for that tech company, I did my best to exercise my passion outside of my work day. This meant volunteering on a non-profit associate board, Delta Emerging Leaders and applying for Chicago Conservation Corps, which I blogged about many times here, here, and here. On top of that, I did some beach clean ups too.

All while I was working for my lack-luster job and volunteering, I was  also always on the look out for an open sustainably related position. So now I am still looking and still applying, but I am not going to settle.

I already had a passion-less job. This next job, whatever it may end up being, is going to make a difference and help create quantifiable and beneficial change. I believe that life is too short to be spending so much time in a job that does not fill you with joy and really makes you think. Overall, I refuse to give up. The topics I write about on this blog are what I want to do with my life, and I feel lucky to have found my calling. I know my dream job is out there.

 

 

 

 

And We Are Out of Resources Already: Earth Overshoot Day 2016

A slightly hypothetical situation:

Every day I am out and about for the afternoon between lunch and dinner. Since I can barely go 2+ hours without eating, I know to always pack some snacks in my bag. The longer I am out between meals, the more snacks I know I need to bring. Say I have an apple tree that I use to supply my snacks for in between meals, and I am only able to snack on what my apple tree produces. If my apple tree produces 365 apples, then it would be logical to have only one pre-dinner snack every day of the year.

A not-so-logical and gluttonous way to handle my hungry/hangry situation would be to eat more than one apple per day, fully knowing I will run out before the end of the year.

Well, we as inhabitants of Earth have been handling our resources in a not-so-logical and gluttonous way to the point where we used all that our planet can reproduce in one year as of August 8th.

“As of today, we humans have used as much from nature in 2016 as our planet can renew in a whole year. Nothing will seem to change for many of us from this day to the next, but collectively we are draining Earth’s capacity to provide. Overshoot Day is a red light warning of trouble ahead — and it is flashing five days earlier than it did last year (Aug. 13); eleven days earlier than the year before (Aug.19).” – National Geographic

Basically, we have used a year’s worth of resources in 8 months, and we still have 4 more months of 2016 to go.

Just think about that.

Back in my hypothetical situation, if I ate 8 months worth of my apples, I would be out of luck for the rest of the year. OR I could “borrow” apples from my neighbor’s apple tree. While that seems like a quick fix, I would be taking away my neighbor’s resources and creating a debt that I may not be able to repay.

That is what we are doing with our natural resources.

Here is some more information about Earth Overshoot Day or as it used to be called Ecological Debt Day.