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10 Most Overlooked Ways to Reduce Waste: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2!

If you missed Part 1, you can check that out here.

10 most overlooked ways to reduce waste.p2

Let’s get right into it.

#5 Vote with Your $$$

Every time you purchase something, you are contributing to its demand. This is simple economics.

Put your money towards products and companies that you believe in. If it is important to you that your items are produced using renewable energy, then support companies that do.

For instance, there is a fair trade shop just around the corner from our apartment and it is currently struggling, so after work today I popped in and used my dollars to buy wool dryer balls and Bee’s Wrap. My dollars did not just get me faster-drying clothes in the dryer but they made a statement that I support these kinds of shops and want them in my neighborhood.

Resources:

#6 Your Pantry and Fridge

Open your fridge.

Now open your pantry.

How much of the stuff in there is going to end up in the trash can/landfill? I am not just talking about food packaging and wrappers, but food waste too.

Keep this in mind when you are at the grocery store. I am not asking you to only shop in the bulk aisle of Whole Foods, but just start noticing.

Once you do it is hard to shake it.

 

CSA week 7

Joining a CSA helped us cut down on packaged produce, but sometimes we still received things in plastic. 

 

Resources for Cutting Back on Packaging:

#7 Wait it Out

When I find something that I want (not need), I bookmark it in my browser under a folder called “Things I Want to Buy.”

And then I leave it there for days, weeks, and months.

If I am still thinking about it long after I saved it, then I will consider it further. If not then it gets deleted, and to be honest, not many things have survived the “Things I Want to Buy” folder.

Basically, avoid impulse buys by having a waiting period for each item. You might find that you didn’t like it as much as you thought, or get home and realize you already have 5 black sweaters.

Resources:

#8 Put Some Effort into What You Already Have

Did something break? Then fix it.

Do your jeans have a hole in them? Sew them.

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The #8 overlooked way to create less waste is also known simply as taking care of your stuff! Wash and dry clothing according to the directions. Store equipment in the proper place. Use a coaster. Give your car regular maintenance. Fix the soles of your shoes when they have worn through.

Putting a little extra effort or elbow grease will make your stuff live a longer life.

Resources: 

#9 Buy Secondhand/Previously Loved

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that the majority of our furniture is secondhand. Everything pictured below has either come from Craigslist, a garage sale, or family/friends.

Not only is it way cheaper than buying anything new, but it keeps pieces out of the landfill. Beyond furniture, I do have some pieces of clothes that are secondhand, but the majority of my wardrobe is not. It is something I am working on.

Resources to get your secondhand shopping on:

#10 Don’t Give into Trends

The fashion world likes to tell us that we need new styles of clothing every few months. If it is not the 70’s bell sleeves, the chokers, or those “cold shoulder” shirts, it will be something else tomorrow. That way you can buy, buy, buy.

Don’t give into that crap. You don’t need any of it. I like to think that the clothes I purchase will be something I wear for a long time, so I stay away from trends and keep my closet pretty neutral.

Whatever the next ridiculous trend is, pass on it, and just wear your regular sweater that covers your shoulders with pride!

More Resources:

 

What else would you add to the list?

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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.

 

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!

Have You Heard of Floating Gardens?

I’ve been on a volunteering kick lately.

After two beach cleanups in one week, I switched gears and spent Saturday morning with Urban Rivers planting floating gardens.

We planted a variety of native Illinois wetland plants into floating garden structures, which were then filled in with mulch.

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Basically, the goal of these “plant rafts” is to bring life back to the Chicago River.

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Once the structures are bolted together and placed in the Chicago River, they will create a cozy habitat for fish, birds, mammals, insects, and amphibians.

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Although I didn’t get to actually do any installing of the floating gardens via kayak, I am so excited to see them grow and flourish.

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There will be plenty more volunteer opportunities available once they are all in the water.

Check out their volunteer opportunities here.

What I am most excited for is kayaking the river for trash cleanups! 😉 Apparently, I love picking up trash everywhere. Ha!

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

beach cleanup

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.

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.)

recycling drop off

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!