waste

Compost 2018

2018 has been a good year for us and bringing our food scraps back to the soil in the form of compost. Last year, in 2017, we collected over 215 pounds.

This year, we collected 227 pounds! And that was just from our home 5-gallon bucket!

Not only did we continue using Healthy Soil Compost for our monthly pick up service, but we also used them to compost at our wedding in June.

Our wedding and our 145 guests kept 139 pounds of organic material out of the landfill, which produced 10 pounds of finished compost and 100 pounds of greenhouse gas carbon emissions.

Also, just recently, I finally asked my place of employment why we had compostable plates/cups/bowls, but nowhere to compost to them. They are currently reaching out to compost pick up services around the city.

work compost

So that’s it for 2018!

Since we have started collecting in July of 2016, we have kept over 504 pounds of organic materials from the fate of the landfill. Which is really amazing when you think about it.

Ending the year on a high note!

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I Finally Asked

I have been at my current job for almost a year and a half and work in a large office building in downtown Chicago.

Since then, I have always wondered why my office had compostable plates, bowls, and cups, but nowhere to compost them.

I never used those things while at work. I have my own cup and plate that I reuse, but there are PLENTY of people that use those compostable materials and I don’t doubt that they think its fine because they are compostable.

But they aren’t.

Because they are being tossed into the trash can.

Which goes to the landfill.

Where nothing decomposes.

I had originally tried to work up the courage to shake up the wasteful office culture like 11 months ago and unfortunately never followed through.

Now many months later, I finally worked up the courage to ask the facilities department why they provided these materials to their employees, but not the proper way to dispose of them. I also offered to provide any assistance in picking a composting service. After reviewing my email a million times, I took a deep breath and clicked send.

Later that day, I ran into our facilities manager in the hallway and he excitedly told me how glad he was that I had emailed him. Apparently, the original plan was for the office to get the compostable materials and then set up composting, but it fell to the wayside. There wasn’t someone to champion it! Hey, hey, that’s me! I told him I have used two different composting services in Chicago and he urged me to send over their details and contact information. I expertly pulled together the resources and sent them over.

So the ball is rolling! And I am proud of myself for finally doing it.

I plan to follow up soon to see if the contact ever occurred. I will keep you updated!

 

 

Salvation Army Vs. Goodwill

When we clean out our closets, move, are making way for new things, or are deciding which items in our lives “spark joy,” there is bound to become a donation bag.

It may be the giveaway pile or donate box, whatever you call it, it has to go somewhere.

The old books you’ve already read can be handed off to a friend looking for a new summer read, sold on Craigslist, or posted on the many Buy Nothing Project groups for someone else to enjoy.

More often than not though, with our busy lives, it becomes just too much work to try and find a new home for your items and coordinate a time to have it picked up. So the items get dropped off at a donation center because you want the stuff out of your house NOW.

Recently, I was asked which was a better place to donate your pre-loved items, Goodwill or Salvation Army? I didn’t have a clear answer, so obviously this became a good blog topic.

Salvation Army

According to their mission statement, “The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.

They work to meet all sorts of human needs from helping disaster survivors and stopping domestic abuse, to combating addiction and assisting the unemployed. Learn more about what they do here.

Donating clothing and goods to The Salvation Army helps fund addiction rehabilitation programs. You can donate at their Family Stores and drop-off locations or schedule a free pickup. We had The Salvation Army come to pick up our couch once. It was nice that they could take care of that.

According to CNN, the Salvation Army spends 82% of donations on aid and you can check out Salvation Army’s sustainable development goals here.

Goodwill Industries International

Goodwill is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization whose mission is “to enhance the dignity and quality of life of individuals and families by strengthening communities, eliminating barriers to opportunity, and helping people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work.” They seek to help all job seekers and in 2017, Goodwill helped more than 288,000 people find employment.

Donating your items to Goodwill helps create job opportunities by funding job training and services and they also claim it keeps billions of pounds of textiles and clothing from meeting their end in the landfill. You can calculate the impact of your donation on their website which is pretty cool. For instance, if I donate 5 shirts, that provides 31 minutes of on-the-job training.

But is that what really happens? This Huffington Post article does a good job of explaining what happens to your clothes when you drop them off at Goodwill. In reality, after the good stuff has been picked out and the unusable has become rags, the rest gets shipped overseas. I was not able to find anything that directly explained what they did with stuff when it didn’t sell, but here is a blog about their sustainability initiative.

What’s the Verdict?

It is up to you! Both are keeping materials from the landfill and helping others in the process. I am sure there are parts of each that some may not agree with, but both are better options than tossing your clothes in the garbage. To avoid having to go through all your clothes and donating every few months, be conscious of your purchases and only buy what you actually need, buy secondhand, or attend a clothing swap.

What are your thoughts?

Moving Box Madness

Almost immediately after our wedding, and then our honeymoon, K and I packed up our tiny apartment and said goodbye to our first place together.

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I was pretty sad about it because I get emotionally attached to things and places. There were so many good memories in that apartment!

What was even sadder though was the amount of waste that could have been if I had not been conscious of it the entire moving process.

The Boxes

We had some boxes saved in the basement from the previous move and purchased many, many more to pack up our belongings. On top of those boxes, we had tons of boxes from all of the registry items that we could finally fit into our apartment.

Just so many boxes.  Everywhere!

moving boxes

Just a small sample of the amount of boxes

Luckily, I was able to give away pretty much all of the moving boxes for them to be reused again. I gave some to my mom to pack up all those lanterns for our wedding, I posted some on Craigslist and gave some to a friend who was moving shortly after us.

The Plastic Bags

What was worse than the boxes, was the plastic packaging! As we opened new small appliances from our registry the amount of plastic bags just piled up to the point where I filled an entire gigantic bag with them.

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Recyclable plastic bags can be brought to your local grocery store and usually are not accepted in curbside recycling because the bags get caught in recycling machinery. So I just saved all the little bags until I filled up a big one and kept it in my car until I went to the grocery store next.

The Bubble Wrap

On top of the boxes and the plastic bags was the bubble wrap. So much if it. I have given some away, but still have plenty that I have posted on Buy Nothing Facebook groups. There have been a few leads, but no follow-ups so far. Any readers need some bubble wrap?!

While we usually purchase furniture pieces secondhand (we already bought a desk from Craigslist), we did get some new pieces that reminded me of why I hate ordering stuff.

For instance, our new bed frame was delivered 2 days early when K was out of town and was for some reason put down this unfinished set of stairs in the front of our apartment. It was so heavy that I couldn’t get it out alone and had to call in reinforcements. Thanks, Amazon.

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At least the bed frame came early because our new mattress didn’t show up at all. Through countless calls and legitimate hours on the phone with UPS, we ended up having to pick up our mattress from the customer pickup center. Not ideal.

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As destroyed as the box was, fortunately, the mattress itself was okay. Ugh, eye roll.

I am so glad that we are basically done with finding pieces we were missing for our new apartment. The boxes, the plastic, the styrofoam, it was just so overwhelming.

If you aren’t convinced yet, read Buzzfeed’s recent piece, “The Hidden Environmental Cost of Amazon Prime’s Free, Fast Shipping.” I for one am not a Prime member and happily accept the standard shipping.

The Oops Tag

I have been “recycling” in Chicago for over two years now and the other day finally saw something I had only heard of on the internet…

The Oops Tag.

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First of all, I say recycling in quotes because I do not fully believe that even half of what I have diligently cleaned and separated makes it to a recycling facility.

But anyway, these oops tags were rolled out by the Department of Streets and Sanitation last summer in an effort to educate Chicagoans about what can and cannot go in the blue bin.

The tag is supposed to be marked with what contaminant was found in the blue bin but looks like that did not happen in the above case.

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These blue bins were obviously not mine, but of a neighbor’s down the street. I noticed the tags as I walked through the alley, but I did not snoop in the bins to see what the issue was to warrant the tags.

While Chicago’s recycling rate is the pits, I am not sure these tags will do much to combat that. Now that I live in a building with an alley, people’s blue bins are much more accessible and people toss stuff in other people’s bins all the time. So controlling what happens in your bin is kind of difficult.

 

I Think I Finally Won

I think it happened.

It is finally over (maybe).

RedPlum coupons have not been on my doorstep the past 3 Tuesdays. The first Tuesday it was not there, I figured it to be a fluke. The second Tuesday, I got more hopeful. And the third Tuesday, made me feel triumphant!

redplum2

Victory!

This was not an easy victory, as I highlighted previously multiple times. It came at a price of being so consistently persistent that I vowed to tweet at the Chicago Tribune every week until it stopped showing up on my doorstep. Something no other sane Chicagoan would put themselves through.

I started on this journey back in January and tracked every piece of it.

  • January 9: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • January 9: Emailed insideshopper@chicagotribune.com to have our address removed
  • January 9: Received automated email response “Thank you for contacting the Chicago Tribune Inside Shopper department – your email is important to us. Please expect a response within 24 hours.”
  • January 10: Did not hear back in 24 hours.
  • January 11: A Twitter follower suggested using an online form to unsubscribe. I filled out the form.
  • January 16: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • January 23: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • January 30: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • February 6: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • February 13: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • February 20: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • February 22: Called the number listed to be removed and was told it would take 2-3 weeks.
  • February 27: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • March 6: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • March 13: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • March 20: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • March 20: Called again to be removed and asked if it would take 2-3 weeks, they said no.
  • March 26: Direct messaged RedPlum on Twitter
  • March 27: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • March 27: RedPlum responded to my Twitter message, saying: “Thank you. Your address was removed from our distribution list on 1/12/18. We are contacting the Chicago Tribune, who handles delivery in your area, to make them aware of the delivery error.”
  • April 3: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep, called and tweeted at the Chicago Tribune

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  • April 10: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep, called and tweeted at the Chicago Tribune. This time, they told me they would tell the delivery people that I have already called multiple times.

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  • April 17: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep, called and tweeted at the Chicago Tribune

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  • April 17: Received a reply to my tweet from a Chicago Tribune digital editor

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  • April 19: Got a voicemail from Chicago Tribune customer service referencing my tweets. When I called back it was just the same number I had been calling for weeks. I asked for the representative who had left the voicemail (Lillian), the person on the phone could not get her.
  • April 24: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep, called and tweeted at the Chicago Tribune

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  • April 25: Got another call from Lillian about my tweets. She asked for my address again (I have literally given it to them 25 times by now). She did inquire if I was the owner of the building because technically if RedPlum is being delivered to a building with multiple units, it is the owner who would have to go through this horrendous process. I assured her that no, I was not the owner, no one in my building wants it, and there was no way the owner would slave away at this. Lillian said she would follow up with the distributor and to allow 1-2 weeks for service to stop.
  • May 1: Did not receive
  • May 8: Did not receive
  • May 15: Did not receive

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So maybe, just maybe, I have won the battle with RedPlum and InsideShopper. I did not want to get too excited the first week it didn’t show, but I am hoping 3 weeks in a row means this has finally come to an end.

Thank goodness I succeeded because we are about to move! Fingers crossed our new building doesn’t get it or I am going to have to start all over. At least my current neighbors can thank me for ridding them of such unnecessary waste!

Meet The Less-Wasteful Vendors of My Wedding

It’s the nitty-gritty of wedding planning. Less than 30 days left until the big day.

We got our marriage license, we are making our final payments, and I am picking up my dress in 2 weeks. Crazy crazy!

I wanted to recap some of the unconventional vendors I am including in one of the most important days of my life and why it’s important to support these types of businesses.

My wedding is by no means zero waste, but I did my best to include more conscious decisions while planning and even applied it to my shower and suggested it to my maid of honor for my bachelorette party (We shall see how she does. Love you Britni!).

You kind of need to pick and choose where you really want your less-waste decisions to shine or it will drive you insane. For instance, I would rather have something visible like composting than something no one would notice like using all natural, vegan, organic makeup.

So here it is.

My Less Wasteful Wedding Vendors

(And Also Those That Aren’t) **

**I have said this before, obviously, the most zero waste option would be just get married at City Hall in an outfit you already own and be done with it, but I am having a ceremony, with a reception, with guests, in a large city. #sorrynotsorry

Venue: The Joinery

I booked our wedding at the Joinery well before it became a green event space backed by the Green Wedding Alliance. The building was saved from demolition, therefore keeping construction materials out of the landfill.

the joinery front

Source: The Joinery

Dress: House of Brides Couture

My dress is not vintage or reused, but bought from a standard bridal store chain. I had mulled about doing a vintage dress but ended up falling in love with one at a store on a whim visit with a friend from out of town. So that was that.

Hair

It’s my stylist that has been cutting my hair since I was sixteen years old. She uses standard hair products, so no “natural” hairspray over here.

Makeup

All regular. Full of chemicals.

Florist: Avium Flowers

I previously posted about my wedding flowers from Avium here. This small, women-owned business will locally grow and put together my wedding flowers. Afterward, the flowers that don’t get taken home will be composted.

avium flowers2

Source: Avium Flowers

Food: Big Star

Instead of the standard wedding fare, we opted for food we knew our guests and ourselves would be excited to eat. It was soothing to know that one of the biggest pieces of your wedding budget was going to go towards food people have literally been talking about since we signed the contract a year ago.

We are having tacos. That’s right. Big Star tacos. 🌮

big star tacos

Source: Big Star

They were happy to accommodate my requests for no straws or plastic water cups. Additionally, since Chicago has strict laws about donating prepared food, Big Star agreed to provide my guests with takeout containers to take some tacos home, if there are even any left.

If there are some taco stragglers at the end of the night, they will be composted. More about that below.

Waste Disposal: Healthy Soil Compost

My normal compost pickup service also composts at events, so it was only natural that I chose Healthy Soil. They will drop off and pick up the bins, hauling whatever is left over to be eaten by worms and turned into fertilizer.

compost HSC

Source: Healthy Soil Compost

Invitations: Minted

While I opted to use an online service for our invitations, I did pay the additional fee to use recycled paper and print an extremely tiny, barely visible, recycled paper symbol on the back of them.

Day of Coordination: Prickly Pear Events

All of my vendors are then being coordinated by Green Wedding Alliance member, Prickly Pear Events, who so far has kept me thinking of different ways to incorporate less waste into my event.

That’s it! Catch up on the rest of my wedding planning journey with Waste Not Want Not Wedding.

Who is Bea Johnson?

While most people involved in reducing their waste have heard of her, most of my friends and family who read this blog have no idea who Bea Johnson is.

Well, Bea Johnson, of Zero Waste Home, started the whole Fit-My-Entire-Family’s-Annual-Waste-in-A-Mason-Jar trend.

That’s right.

Her family of four can fit all the waste that they produce annually in one jar.

 

This is her family’s waste for 2017. Source: https://zerowastehome.com/about/bea/

The reason I am bringing her up is because I had the opportunity to hear her speak on Monday at the Shedd Aquarium thanks to an event put on by my buds over at Zero Waste Chicago.

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I have not been to the Shedd in ages, mostly because I am terrified of fish and only like free museums, but they are super involved in conservation through their Great Lakes Action Days and plastic waste reduction through their Shedd the Straw campaign.

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The evening started out with an action expo of numerous local organizations and businesses striving to reduce their waste. I knew most of the organizations in some way or another and got to see a lot of familiar faces.

I did get to pick up some low-waste powder laundry detergent from Meliora Cleaning Products, which I am super excited to test out. That’s a post for another day.

After the expo, we filed into the auditorium to hear Bea speak about living without waste.

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Bea’s journey to a zero waste lifestyle started in 2006 when her family first moved to be closer to town and it’s walkability. She outlined her failures with making her own cosmetics, shampoo, and even toilet paper.

She and her family follow the 5 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, & Rot, which I have posted about before.

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Her family refuses what they do not need and say no to single-use plastics, promotional freebies, junk mail, business cards, and more.

Then they reduce what they actually need. One thing that she said really struck me, “Once we pass our comfort level, anything beyond that becomes excess.” That is absolutely true. She has 4 kitchen cooking utensils, uses only white vinegar and Castille soap to clean, and her entire wardrobe can fit in a carry-on suitcase.

The family approaches reuse by swapping out disposables for reusable alternatives, which means glass jars for food, an old pillowcase for bread, and buying secondhand.  Everything they buy is from a thrift store or from E-Bay for super specific purchase you can’t easily find.

After that, they recycle what they cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse. Contrary to what people believe, living a zero-waste lifestyle encourages you to recycle less. Whatever is left is composted, or rot.

Overall,  Bea Johnson finds the best benefit of her lifestyle is the simplicity, which is something I can get behind. Although I understand and support her lifestyle, I know that for some people, it is just not attainable, which is totally fine.

You may never be able to fit a year’s worth of trash in a jar and that’s okay (I know I won’t). Every small step or implementation of one of the R’s is a step in the right direction.

 

 

I advise you to learn more about Bea and Zero Waste Home. It is really interesting. And with that, I leave you with these two pieces from Monday:

“When you live with less you have more time to do what is important to you.”

“It’s a life based on being instead of having.”

 

Short-Term Challenge Leads to Long-Term Changes

There is one more week left in my Lenten challenge of not eating packaged snacks.

It has been going pretty well so far and I am pretty surprised at my ability to cut out my daily crunchy pretzel/goldfish/pita chip/Wheat Thin snack.

I’ve replaced that snack with a handful of almonds and dried cranberries and it has been satisfying enough.

To be honest, I am definitely going to continue with this new habit. That also does not mean I won’t indulge in a box of Cheez-Its every now and again. Just now there won’t be a need to be purchasing packaged snacks every week or so at the grocery store.

Saving money, saving packaging, and saving calories.

Persistence: The Key To Getting Rid of Mail You Don’t Want

RedPlum you strike again!

Ugh, I hate walking out my door and every Tuesday this evil red bag is just sitting there, waiting to be tossed directly into the recycling.

redplum

This isn’t the first time I have spoken out about RedPlum. Back in January I finally tried to get rid of it once and for all and two months later they are still showing up on my doorstep.

Here is a detailed look at where we are so far:

  • January 9: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • January 9: Emailed insideshopper@chicagotribune.com to have our address removed
  • January 9: Received automated email response “Thank you for contacting the Chicago Tribune Inside Shopper department – your email is important to us. Please expect a response within 24 hours.”
  • January 10: Did not hear back in 24 hours.
  • January 11: A Twitter follower suggested using an online form to unsubscribe. I filled out the form.
  • January 16: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • January 23: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • January 30: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • February 6: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • February 13: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • February 20: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • February 22: Called the number listed to be removed and was told it would take 2-3 weeks.
  • February 27: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • March 6: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • March 13: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • March 20: Received an InsideShopper/RedPlum on my doorstep
  • March 20: Called again to be removed and asked if it would take 2-3 weeks, they said no.

And here we are.

Every Tuesday that red bag appears on my doorstep, I make a note of it on my phone.

Hopefully someday soon I will be able to write a blog post about how I successfully got unwanted coupons to stop from showing up at my door.

Fingers crossed.