waste

Nerding Out Over Compost In Colorado

One of my very best friends currently resides in Denver, Colorado.  My other very best friend, Sam, and I had the chance to visit her over the weekend. We used all of our Southwest points to get us there for free!

 

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The view from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

 

We had the chance to do some early morning yoga at Red Rocks Amphitheater and the weather was gorgeous!

 

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It was a pretty big yoga class!

 

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It was nice chance compared to my usual yoga in a studio in the basement of my gym…

 

Besides being a mountain yogi, I was able to explore some of the waste differences between Denver and Chicago.

For instance, city recycling bins are purple! Here in Chicago, recycling bins can be a number of colors depending on who you get service through.

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In the city, Chicago’s carts are blue. Our building recently just switched to a private hauler (stay tuned for that post) and now both our garbage and recycling bins are blue. They are slightly different shades, but both blue nonetheless. How confusing is that?

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On Saturday, we went out to eat at Denver Central Market, which is basically a fancy food court. You could pick from a number of local items and could sit wherever you want at communal tables.

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They had amazing clearly labeled compost, recycling, and trash bins. Unfortunately, I ate everything on my plate (pizza), so there was nothing to dispose of!

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Not only can you compost at eateries, but Denver also has a city compost collection program. It is not free and is not available in all areas of the City, but I am still jealous that the city runs a program like this.

 

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Kitchen compost container

Residents who sign up for the program get a green cart that is picked up weekly.

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Other than me nerding out about Denver’s waste systems, we did do other things such as visit the Denver Botanic Garden and go to a Colorado Rockies game.

 

 

It is neat to experience other cities and how they handle waste issues. What city were you most surprised by in a visit?

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.

Your Beyond Repair Clothing Does Not Have to Be Destined for a Landfill

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My cousin sent me this text message the other day.

It is a good question and while there are plenty of places in the Chicagoland area where you can bring your gently used clothing, there are not so many places to drop off clothing and textiles that are longer wearable or useful.

The U.S. EPA has found that 85% of all discarded textiles (that’s 12 million tons) are sent to landfills every single year.

USAgain

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USAgain has drop-off collection bins all around the city. They accept clothes, shoes and household textiles (like towels, bedding, tablecloths, etc) regardless of condition.

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Chicago Textile Recycling

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Chicago Textile Recycling provides textile recycling outlets and fundraising opportunities for organizations, businesses, and municipalities. They collect used clothing, shoes, and household items for reuse and recycling, resulting in a diversion of over 2.5 million pounds of waste from area landfills annually.

Unfortunately, they don’t have as many drop-off options as USAgain does within Chicago and Cook County (as in they have zero). There is a drop-off box at their warehouse in Hillside just outside the city and about 20 locations within Lake County.


Patagonia Worn Wear

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Through the Patagonia Worn Wear Program, you can return Patagonia products that are well beyond repair to be recycled it into something new, or repurposed, by bringing it to a local store or mailing it in.

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The North Face Clothes the Loop

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The North Face Clothes the Loop allows you to bring in used apparel and footwear of any condition or brand and receive a $10 reward towards your next purchase of $100 or more. Items are repurposed for reuse to extend their life or recycled into raw materials for use in products like insulation, carpet padding, stuffing for toys, and fibers for new clothing.

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Other Options:

 

So now you know that your stained and ripped clothing can be used again!

Lots of Food Scraps- Good or Bad?

It’s Compost Awareness Week!

 

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Even though I have been collecting my food scraps for compost collection for over a year now, I only started weighing our compost bucket last August.

I keep a little spreadsheet with the totals from each month.

  • August 11.22 lb
  • September 5.88 lb
  • October 7.04 lb
  • November 15.74 lb (house plant and outdoor plant)
  • December 11.48 lb (Not including our Halloween pumpkin)
  • January 10.38 lb
  • February 15.5 lb (dead house plant, RIP)
  • March 17.22 lb (chicken carcass, cleaned out the fridge)
  • April 12 lb
  • May 18.74 lb
  • TOTAL TO DATE = 125.2 POUNDS

While the numbers have fluctuated and have been going up, I have been bothered about whether or not that is a good thing.

Having a heavy compost bucket means we have a lot of food scraps and that can mean one of two things:

1.  We are finally figuring out what can be composted and just collecting more of it

OR

2. We are just wasting a lot of food 

So which one is it? What do you think?

Numerous Unnecessary Wedding Paper Goods

If you have not planned a wedding in the past 10 years, do you have any idea how many wedding paper products the wedding industry wants you to buy?

It is just not wedding invitations anymore, my friend.

Here are all of the suggested items to buy:

  • Save the Dates
  • Bridal shower invitations
  • Bachelorette party invitations
  • Rehearsal dinner invitations
  • Engagement party invitations
  • Thank you cards
  • Gift tags
  • Place cards
  • Menus
  • Programs
  • Table number cards
  • Stationary suites
  • Napkins
  • Coasters
  • Signs for literally everything (wait this is where the cake is? The giant cake did not give it away)

 

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A catalog from Wedding Paper Divas

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Same Wedding Paper Divas catalog

I can easily tell you that I do not need/want half of these things.

Cross these off right now.

  • Save the Dates
  • Bridal shower invitations
  • Bachelorette party invitations
  • Rehearsal dinner invitations
  • Engagement party invitations
  • Thank you cards
  • Gift tags
  • Place cards
  • Menus
  • Programs
  • Table number cards
  • Stationary suites
  • Napkins
  • Coasters
  • Signs for literally everything

What You Can Do or Not Do Instead

First of all, most wedding-related invitations can be replaced by email, and the market has responded to that. Green Envelope lets you create and send beautiful invites via email. As much as I would love to do e-vites for the actual wedding, I do have a sentiment for formal invitations in the mail.

Even more so, you don’t need gift tags if you don’t provide favors. #SorryNotSorry I am throwing a giant party for you, you don’t need another koozie/bubbles/mints/matches/etc.

Instead of individual place or escort cards try a seating chart. They are all over Pinterest. Keep in mind that escort cards are basically going to be thrown out immediately unless you have weirdly sentimental guests who like to keep them forever for no particular reason other than feeling bad throwing them out (me).

Individual menus can be also be replaced with a singular menu board, preferably one another bride could use again, such as a chalkboard. Or just surprise your guests!

So far, I have not gotten into much of the necessary paper portions of the wedding yet.

That will come soon enough, but I have done one thing.

To ask my bridal party, I purchased handmade recycled cards, because everyone loves a good snail mail surprise in their mailbox.

I could have just sent a text to be real anti- wedding paper products, but my friends and I do enjoy sending each other things that are on a piece of paper and not a screen.

 

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Cards ready to be sent

 

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…

 

The Never Ending Recycling Saga

This seems to never end.

I previously posted about how I finally got our maintenance to stop stuffing the recyclables from our blue cart into the trash cans so they could avoid putting out the blue cart in the first place.

It was a short-lived win.

Today, the garbage cans were out.  There was no blue cart in sight even though it is recycling week (Chicago operates on a once every other week pick up schedule).

Out of curiosity, I went down to check out if there were any recyclables that had been confiscated from their rightful place in the blue cart.

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Sure enough, there were.

And I know these weren’t in the trash can to begin with because those are our recyclables. That’s K’s beer can and our tomato sauce can. I would never have put them in there.

Reluctantly, I trudged to the side of our building to retrieve our blue cart, at the same time that my neighbors were just getting home. I asked if they used the blue cart.

They do, and that launched them into an enthusiastic response of how upset they were that it’s not being handled correctly. They have called and left notes, but alas nothing had changed.

That meant I got to call maintenance again. He is probably going to start screening his calls now. I had to explain yet again that all they needed to do was take out the cart on the same day as garbage. THAT. IS. IT. No extra effort on their part is involved.

 

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Out of pure frustration and annoyance, I took all the recyclables and put them back in the blue cart.