trash

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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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

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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.

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!

The Never Ending Recycling Saga Part II: Caught in the Act

Follow up to The Never Ending Recycling Saga, My Work Here is Done (Probably Not), A Recycling Conspiracy Solved, and A Recycling Conspiracy.


With the very nice (but slightly disturbing) February weather, I have been opening the windows and our fire escape door to get some fresh air into the apartment.

Even with the windows and doors closed, you can pretty much hear anything that is going on outside our apartment or on the sidewalk.

Yesterday, I heard a sustained rustling coming from the side of our apartment where the trash cans and recycling cart are kept.

So naturally, I went to our door and took a peek out.  Our maintenance guy was moving trash from one garbage can to another, which I thought was kind of odd, but not that odd since he has been moving recyclables into the trash can for a number of weeks.

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These pictures were taken through the fire escape, so just ignore the grates! 

I stood, quietly watching to see what he was going to do next.

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Of course, it was time to mess with the recycling bin! He proceeded to pull a bunch of cardboard boxes out of the blue cart and toss them on the ground, most likely destined for the trash can.

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CAUGHT

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IN THE

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ACT!

I could not take it anymore, so I nonchalantly opened the fire escape door and called down to him. Keep in mind this is the same maintenance guy I previously went out of my way to approach about his recycling thieving actions.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

He just looked up at me and didn’t really give a response. I explained again for the millionth time that the recyclables belong in the blue cart and for him to please put them back.

He did.

Then he proceeded to roll the cart out to the curb even though it was not recycling week…