Dogs are cute, but their poop stinks!

Day 238 – It’s estimated that there are around 900 million dogs in the world. That means there are a lot of bowls to fill, walks to be taken and poop to clean up. As this blog as mentioned on numerous occasions, I have been on a mission to make my home more environmentally friendly. Just taking the recyclables out to the recycle bin was just not cutting it. So, as I made my way around the house making changes that would benefit the planet, I came across the dog poop issue. I thought I solved the problem by purchasing 100% biodegradable and certified compostable poop bags. Unfortunately, as I was doing research on my biodegradable trash bags (Day 12), I found out a very important fact. Unless that biodegradable/compostable bag is finding its way to a commercial composter and not the landfill, it will not breakdown very easily. Oxygen and warm temperatures are needed in the composting process. Since these two important factors are missing in the landfill, these bags end up staying intact for a very long time.

I looked up commercial composting facilities that deal in dog waste and found nothing in my city or state. There are very few in the country. I looked into at-home dog waste composting systems and they did not appear to be ideal, especially living in a rather dense city dwelling. I’m sure the neighbors would not have appreciated that very much. I even looked up information about flushing dog waste down the toilet. From what I read it was not advised. Also, leaving where it lies is never a good option. People like myself that are magnets for stepping in poop, really do not appreciate those that do not pick up after their dogs. Not to mention there are health concerns connected to not properly disposing of dog waste.

My final solution was to try to minimize the number of bags I put in the trash. Since my dogs prefer to go number two in the backyard, this option was the easiest for us. So, I purchased a small metal garbage can. Once, the waste is picked up the bag goes in the can. I continue to use the same bag until it is filled. I used to use around two to three bags a day, wanting to make sure I kept the backyard clean of dog waste. Now we use one bag every two to three days*. If you do the math, we are down to under 150 bags a year instead of using over 1,000 bags.

As for those biodegradable/compostable poop bags, I will continue to use them. Since, Doogy Be Good bags are made from cornstarch and other bio-based components, when they do eventually breakdown, they will not be releasing any toxic chemicals.

On this National Dog Day find ways that you and your dog can help be more environmentally friendly.

*During the summer months, bag use increases compared to the cooler months. I don’t think I need to explain why.

Tomorrow, the importance of extended producer responsibility.

Cleaning Has Never Felt So Good

Day 225 – Clorox wipes have always been a staple on many back to school lists. However, the popularity of this cleaning wipe exploded when the pandemic arrived. Stores could not keep them on their shelves and the company could not produce enough to meet the demand.

As we emerge from the pandemic, the need for Clorox wipes has decreased, slightly. However, the need to clean and disinfect surfaces is still a top priority for many. So, I was very exciting to find out that Clorox has a compostable wipe.

Clorox® Compostable Cleaning Wipes pick up dirt — and compost back into dirt. They come in both Simply Lemon and Free & Clear, an unscented version for those who prefer a fragrance-free clean. Best of all, they’re safe to use around kids, pets and food. They’re made with a compostable plant-based cloth, which makes them safe to compost at home, or through your local municipal facility.” – Clorox

Since, they are compostable, they will only break down in conditions ideal for composting (air and heat). These wipes will not break down if placed in your garbage. Just one more reason to start composting!

A three pack of Clorox Compostable Wipes is currently less expensive than a three pack of regular throwaway Clorox wipes. Can the decision to use compostable wipes get any easier?

Tomorrow, green parking.

The Report on Chicago’s Waste

Day 222 – This past July, Chicago released a 64 page Waste Strategy report on existing waste conditions in the city. As I read through the document I made some notes that I found worth sharing.

  1. In 2020, the City of Chicago generated 4.13 million tons of materials. That includes waste from residents, institutional, commercial and industrial.
  2. Annually, approximately 40,000 to 44,000 tons of yard waste are generated from low density residential structures in Chicago, but very little has been collected through 311 pickup requests.
  3. High contamination rates strain recycling equipment and lessen the value of recycled commodities.
  4. From 2015 to 2020, there was an average of over 75,000 tons of materials collected each month; an average of 9 percent of which was diverted from landfills.
  5. Private companies and high-density residential buildings are not required to report their rates for garbage collection service.
  6. While some service areas show relatively consistent performance over time, there is a general trend of declining performance across all areas (relating to recycling).
  7. CPS manages waste and recycling services for 642 schools.
  8. Increased material diversion through reuse and recycling has potential to create more jobs than would be created through disposal.
  9. The Illinois Commodity/Waste Generation and Characterization Study Update published in 2015 calculated the market value of recyclable materials, including subcategories of paper, plastic, glass, and metal, that were ending up in landfills. The study found that the value of these materials was more than $360 million.
  10. The study found that slightly over a quarter of material placed in Blue Cart bins is unrecyclable contamination, including recyclable materials in plastic bags.
  11. Making cans from recycled aluminum requires 95 percent less energy and generates 90 percent less green house gas emissions than virgin stock.
  12. In 2004, there were eight active landfills in the region, and as of 2020, there are only four. These four landfills had an average life expectancy of 12.4 years as of January 2020. There are no active landfills in Chicago or Cook County.
  13. In addition to landfills in Illinois, Chicago’s waste is disposed across state lines in Indiana. In 2019, over 2.6 million tons of waste generated in Cook County (including the city of Chicago) were sent to six landfill locations in Indiana.
  14. On average, each Chicago resident generates a little over 3 pounds of waste per day at home, or a little under 3,000 pounds of waste per year for each Chicago household.
  15. COMMUNITY EDUCATION PROGRAMS MATTER

Here’s a list of things the city offers that you might not know about.

  1. Since 2014, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), in partnership with Seven Generations Ahead and Lakeshore Recycling Systems, has been expanding a commercial composting pilot program to reduce organic waste, improve purchasing, and provide waste diversion education to CPS students, faculty, and staff. The program has expanded to 14 CPS schools and (prior to the COVID-19 pandemic conditions) resulted in over 2,500 pounds of materials diverted from landfills every day.
  2. Yard waste collection is available to Chicago residents through the 311-request program.
  3. Composting is available through commercial composting companies, Illinois Food Scrap Coalition and Zero Waste Chicago.
  4. In 2020, the Chicago Department of Public Health and Department of Streets and Sanitation introduced a pilot program offering rotating e-waste drop off service at district sanitation offices.
  5. The Chicago Department of Public Health (in partnership with the Chicago Police Department) provides for pharmaceutical disposal at police stations across the city. In addition, there are secure drop off sites located at hospital centers, select pharmacies, and at water reclamation plants managed by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD).
  6. Foam packaging and food service containers are not accepted in Blue Cart bins or City drop off locations. Dart Container Corporation offers free drop off collection at 7575 S. Kostner Avenue for all polystyrene foam except for packing peanuts, which can often be reused for shipping.
  7. Shredded paper is not accepted in Blue Cart bins because it clings to and contaminates other items and does not respond to recycling equipment like whole paper. The City, Aldermen, and other organizations sponsor events for personal document shredding and collection (or collection of pre-shredded paper) for residents.
  8. Flexible plastic film, including plastic bags and common packing materials, can become tangled and damage recycling equipment, and is not accepted in Blue Cart bins. Recyclables placed in Blue Carts should also not be bagged. This material can be recycled if collected separately, and several Chicago grocery stores and businesses host collection sites for plastic film. A list of participating businesses by zip code can be found at PlasticFilmRecycling.org
  9. Chicago Public Libraries have hosted innovative Repair Cafes and other programs to better manage Chicago’s materials.

Here’s some ideas of how the city wants to reduce our waste.

  1. Reframe Chicago’s materials as resources, instead of waste.
  2. Identify opportunities to include goal setting, metrics, and data sharing to demonstrate progress and increase transparency.
  3. Equip consumers with the education and tolls needed to drive innovation in evolving waste systems.
  4. Increase transparency in the process and build trust among Chicago’s residents more efficiently.
  5. Shift the cultural norms towards circularity and away from traditional disposal models.
  6. Maintaining clear and consistent messaging around recycling contamination.
  7. Developing a directory of participating retail take-back options for e-waste and household hazardous waste in Chicago.
  8. Establishing a revenue-sharing partnership with a textile recycling company for collection of clothes, shoes, and other textiles otherwise ending up in landfills.

Chicago has a long way to go when it comes to sustainability. However, I do believe we have the potential to become better and even become a leader on the ways a large city addresses waste, reuse, recycling, and building a circular economy. It won’t be easy and it will take residents, commercial business, industrial corporations and institutions to help improve our current conditions.

Tomorrow, sustainable school bag options.

Fun at the Beach

Day 208 – When you think about items you would need for the beach, I’m sure a towel is high on the list. Beach toys are also a must have. Children of all ages and even children at heart, love playing in the sand. Having good tools to dig those gigantic holes and build epic sandcastles is a must. Today’s post gives a few examples of towels and beach toys made from sustainable materials.

Beach Towels

Rupert and Bird – Each towel consists of fabric made primarily from recycled plastic bottles, equal to twenty-two bottles saved from the ocean or landfill. Each purchase contributes to 1% for the Planet. 

Nomadix – All products are made using certified post-consumer recycled plastic. Thirty plastic bottles equals one Nomadix towel. They also contribute to 1% For The Planet.

Evolve – Ultra-softexclusive Ecolite™ fabric is sustainably made from recycled plastic, with an average of 20 plastic bottles recycled to produce each sand free towel. 10% of all profits are donated to environmental charities. 

Beach Toys 

Love Lotte Eco Beach Toy Set – Made from bamboo fiber, this set is sturdy, but also biodegradable. So, in case anything goes missing, it will breakdown in the sand within 12 months and not become plastic waste. It’s a bit pricey for a beach toy, but knowing you are purchasing a sustainable product is well worth the $36.

Green Toys – I wrote about Green Toys on Day 152. Green Toys are made from 100% recycled plastic. They contain no BPA, phthalates, PVC, or external coatings. The toys are also dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. They have a wide range of bath/beach toys.

Rogue Wave Beach Toys – Pail and shovel is made from a certified compostable plant-based plastic. That means no petroleum, and no micro-plastics! Material is made in the US, BPA-free and oil-free. At the end of their very long life of play, they will compost back to soil in active landfills and commercial compost facilities.

Make your next trip to the beach a good one, for you and the planet.

Tomorrow, 100% recyclable is not exactly 100%.

Preserve: Reusable Plasticware

Day 207 – It may sound counterproductive to write about plasticware, especially during Plastic Free July. However, Preserve is not your typical plasticware. Preserve has been making products good for people and the planet since 1996.

Here are just a few of the ways Preserve is making a difference:

  1. Preserve’s plastic products are made from 100% recycled plastic.
  2. Preserve’s plastic products are dishwasher safe and made to last.
  3. Preserve’s products are made in the U.S.
  4. Preserve has a line of 100% compostable items that are plant based and gluten free.
  5. Preserve has a take back program called Gimme 5, which collects #5 plastic that they transform into new Preserve products.
  6. Preserve even takes back their own products that reach the end of their life. They then recycle and create new products from those items.
  7. Preserve is a Certified B Corporation.
  8. Preserve makes a line of products made from ocean plastic. Through sales of our POPi products, they support organizations that prevent plastic from reaching the ocean. 25% of proceeds from POPi products are donated to non-profits that work on issues including:
  • Developing better recycling systems around the world.
  • Researching the effects of plastic in the ocean and on marine life.
  • Creating catchment technologies (ways to trap plastic in waterways before it reaches the ocean).
  • Providing better end of life solutions for recovered and recycled packages that were heading for the ocean.

I recently purchased the On the Go Party Set (currently sold out) and couldn’t be happier with the product. The plates, cups and plasticware will be used for countless parties to come.

Tomorrow, fun at the beach is becoming more environmentally friendly.

Eco Packaging is Not a Fad

Day 185 – More times than not the news about the state of the environment can be rather depressing. It does seem like an uphill battle. Thankfully, more and more companies are making changes to be more environmentally friendly. Many have started with their packaging choices.

Eco packaging can come in a variety of forms:

  1. Made from post consumer recycled (PCR) material – PCR is created by consumers after a product has reached the end of its use. The benefit of using post-consumer content is it reuses refuse in the manufacture of goods, preventing items from ending up in the landfill or needing to rely on raw materials.
  2. Compostable material – Compostable products are made from renewable resources such as corn or bamboo. Compostable products need the proper conditions to breakdown. A commercial compost facility is a place where the perfect balance of heat, moisture, and oxygen is created to break down organic and plant-based materials. Without this perfect ecosystem, compostable products don’t break down. If compostable products are disposed of in the trash, which is what people commonly do, they won’t break down.
  3. Recyclable material – Cardboard, paper, aluminum and glass are all more easily recycled than plastic.
  4. Biodegradable material – If something is biodegradable, then, given the right conditions and presence of microorganisms, fungi, or bacteria, it will eventually break down to its basic components and blend back in with the earth. Ideally, but not always, these substances degrade without leaving any toxins behind. Some companies are beginning to use plant based packaging made of things like cornstarch, mushroom, sugarcane and coconut.
  5. Reusable packaging – Reusable packaging is packaging that can be used over and over again. Reusable packaging is key to a successful circular economy.

Kellogg’s – Kellogg’s already uses recyclable cardboard boxes for all of its cereal, and as part of their zero-deforestation pledge, most of these boxes are made from recycled carton board.

Lush – Lush makes handmade cosmetics using natural ingredients. Where possible, they use no packaging at all. For products that do require packaging, Lush uses sustainable, recycled materials for 90% of all packaging. Lush pots and packaging materials can also be recycled, composted or reused.

Colgate – Toothpaste tubes are usually made of a mix of materials that make them impossible to recycle. The company has been able to use high-density polyethylene to make a tube that can be recycled (much like milk cartons) but is also compatible with Colgate’s high-speed production equipment. The tube can even be ground up to be used to make something else.

Don Maslow Coffee – t’s using Elevate Packaging’s compostable films which are durable, yet moisture and oxygen resistant. As a result, every element of its coffee bags, including the seals, can be composted removing a huge amount of plastic from waste streams.

Alter Eco – Chocolate company Alter Eco has created wrappers, which are now fully compostable and non-toxic. The company spent three years developing the new material to ensure it protects the products as well as traditional packaging. It can be composted in industrial facilities but will also biodegrade if it ended up in the normal streams. Alter Eco has also created fully compostable stand-up pouches for its quinoa products.

Alima Pure – The certified B Corp sells its makeup in refillable compacts. So, when you’re done with your foundation (for example) just pop it out of the compact, then buy a refill magnetic pan filled with your desired new foundation and pop it in. Alima Pure is also proud to be carbon neutral and a member of 1% for the Planet.

Plaine Products – Plaine Products makes bath and body products packaged in aluminum bottles and eco-friendly shipping cartons. Plaine Products offers a refill program where you can send your bottle back to be refilled with product again and again, so you can save money and cut down on waste.

Who Gives a Crap – Their products are 100% plastic free and have options made from 100% recycled paper or 100% bamboo. Additionally, 50% of profits are donated to help build toilets for communities in need around the world. 

No Evil Foods – No Evil Foods sells a variety of small-batch, plant-based meat alternatives using sustainable ingredients. The brand’s innovative packaging uses fully compostable materials printed with plant-based ink.

Environmentally friendly packaging is out there, you just need to look for it. We also need to encourage more companies to use it.

Tomorrow, coming out of the pandemic and realizing that going back to “normal” is not an option.

We Have Reached the Half Way Mark!

Day 183 – Half the year is over and my family has made a lot of changes for the better. However, we still have another half to go, to learn and share ways to help protect our planet. Some changes have stuck, while others didn’t make the cut. I thought I would share what is working and what has not.

Our Top Ten Most Loved Changes

  1. Composting – On Day 2, Day 118 and Day 149, I have written about how awesome composting is and how using Waste Not Compost has changed our lives. For anyone wanting to make a difference, this is my #1 suggestion. Since, starting back in December 2020, my family of six has diverted 258 pounds of food waste from the landfill. Instead that food has created nutrient rich soil. Anyone that can add $10 to their weekly budget, should be composting!
  2. Recycling through the North Park Recycling Center – On Day 4, I wrote about how my family stopped putting our recyclables in the blue bin. After finding out how dismal our recycling percentage is in the city, I decided to send our recyclables to the North Park Village Recycling Center. We go once a month and sometimes I can stretch it out to two months. If you can avoid putting your recyclables in the blue bin and can find a reliable recycler, I encourage you to go that route.
  3. Using a Zero Waste Box – On Day 77, I wrote about how we invested in a TerraCycle Zero Waste Box. It has actually been three boxes. I first purchased a candy wrapper and snack bag box, thinking that would cover a lot of non-recyclable waste we were producing. I then moved into the kitchen box, which accepted many other things, like plastic packaging, paper Packaging, cleaning accessories, coffee and tea accessories, party supplies and dining disposables, interior home furnishings, prescription drug packaging, fabrics and clothing. I have finally came to the realization that the All-in-one box is the way to go. Just a few of the items accepted in the All-in-one box: art supplies, books & magazines, E-waste, eye wear, home cleaning accessories, fabrics, and clothing, office supplies, pet products (non-food), plastic cards, shipping materials, storage media, plastic and paper packaging, kitchen gear, filters (air/water), coffee capsules and coffee bags, party supplies and dining disposables. With the help of zero waste boxes, we have gone from two bags of garbage a week to one bag of garbage every three weeks.
  4. Reusable produce bags and storage bags – On Day 13 and Day 34, I wrote about how we switched to reusable produce bags and storage bags. This has been a game changer. The amount of plastic produce bags and Ziploc Storage bags (of all sizes) that we have avoided is substantial. This change is a no brainer and very easy to do!
  5. Blueland Products – On Day 21, I wrote about switching our cleaning products to Blueland and their line of plastic free products. We have know had a chance to use every product, but the glass cleaner and dish soap (still working on our original supply). We love every product, especially the foaming hand soap and dishwasher tablets. It feels so good to avoid purchasing all those cleaning products in plastic bottles. It’s also awesome that all the Blueland tablets arrive in compostable packaging.
  6. Who Gives a Crap – On Day 26, I wrote about switching to Who Gives a Crap toilet paper. This has been a real feel good purchase. Not only are we saving trees by using toilet paper made from recycled paper, but the company donates funds to build toilets in countries without such facilities. Love this company!
  7. Cloth Napkins – On Day 38, I wrote about how we have cut back on our paper towel use. A big thanks goes to my sister-in-law for making us cloth napkins that we use everyday, for every meal. Because of these pretty pieces of cloth, we have drastically cut back on our paper towel use.
  8. Plastic free laundry detergent – On Day 51, I wrote about ditching the liquid laundry detergent in the plastic bottle and going with Meliora’s powered detergent in a reusable canister. I have been using the detergent for months and have been very happy with it. I love that cleaning my laundry has become plastic free.
  9. Reducing the purchase of food in plastic containers – This one hasn’t been easy, but by cutting some products out of our lives and switching to glass or aluminum packaging, we have reduced our plastic waste. We no longer purchase spreadable butter and have avoided purchasing fruit in plastic packaging (strawberries and blueberries), just to name a few changes we have made. We will continue to work on this one.
  10. The switch to plastic free toiletries – We have made the switch to bar soap in plastic free packaging, bamboo toothbrushes and plastic free deodorant. We recycle our toothpaste tubes and shampoo bottles though TerraCycle.

What didn’t work out

  1. Reusable shaver – On Day 71, I wrote about how I switched to a reusable shaver. Unfortunately, I have found that I am not a very skilled shaver. I had numerous cuts, but the last one was a doozy. I decided that for now, I needed to go back to a safer option. I am using a Gillette razor with replaceable blades and recycling those blades through TerraCycle.
  2. Misfits Market – On Day 36, I wrote about how we started a biweekly (every two weeks) subscription to Misfits Markets. We received shipments for numerous months. A couple weeks ago we decided to suspend our prescription. We had three orders with items missing and replaced with products we did not want. I was also not a fan of the packaging. Even though it was all recyclable, there was a lot. We are making a point to visit farms markets this summer to enjoy locally grown produce.

As you can see, almost all the changes we have made are working and we don’t mind doing them. They are all easy and not too difficult to implement. What changes are you ready to make?

Tomorrow, celebrating International Plastic Bag Free Day.

Block Party: Tips for making it eco-friendly

Day 180 – One of the best ways to celebrate summer is having a block party. Gathering the neighbors for some food and fun has been a wonderful tradition shared by countless neighborhoods throughout the years. This year is extra special, since last summer we were not able to gather together.

Here are some suggestions on how you can have an amazing block party, while still being environmentally friendly.

  1. Don’t use disposable tablecloths – Invest in reusable tablecloths that can be used year after year. I found a great deal on tablecloths at Home Goods. There are also a variety of reusable tablecloths made from recycled material.
  2. Ditch the plastic cutlery – Not everyone has a plethora of kitchen cutlery to put out for guests. However, there are reusable options that can replace the typical disposable plasticware. Preserve is just one brand that offers reusable plasticware that can be used countless times. They are dishwasher safe and can be recycled through the companies take back program. Just make sure you tell your guests to not throw out the cutlery.
  3. Switch from disposable to reusable plates – Paper plates are very easy, but they do add to landfill waste. Choosing a reusable option is ideal. Preserve offers reusable plates. Like their cutlery, they are dishwasher safe and can be recycled, once they can no longer be used. They also offer compostable plates as do many other companies. If you must use disposable plates, always choose paper over styrofoam.
  4. No water bottles – A fraction of the plastic water bottles that end up in recycling, actually end up getting recycled. So, the best way to avoid this problem is to avoid using plastic water bottles. Try to use large containers to hold water and encourage your guests to bring a water bottle or glass to fill. You can also provide a reusable cup option, instead of the usual disposable SOLO cup. If you end up using SOLO cups, check out TerraCycles free recycling program. Aluminum cups are another plastic free option.
  5. Compost food waste – Check to see if any of neighbors are composting. If they are composting at home, they might be able to take a little extra. If they are commercial composting, they can request an additional bin or two to collect food waste from the block party. There’s no doubt block parties can produce a great deal of food waste. Many dishes sitting outside for numerous hours are usually not saved for future meals.
  6. Avoid the individual snacks – Try to purchase in bulk when buying snacks for your party. The packaging from individually wrapped snacks will add up. This type of packaging is not recyclable and will end up in the trash.
  7. Encourage neighbors to power off – Remind your neighbors to turn off lights and electronics while outside enjoying the block party. Block party day is the perfect excuse to unplug and get outdoors to spend time with the neighbors.
  8. Have recycling stations – If you will have items that can be reused or recycled, be sure to have a few places where neighbors can drop off those items and avoid putting them in the trash.
  9. Avoid using paper towels – Block party clean up is inevitable. Consider using reusable rags instead of paper towels. This will considerably cutback your waste.
  10. Have fun! – Keep your fingers crossed for good weather, enjoy the day and feel good about putting the extra effort into making your block party environmentally friendly.

Tomorrow, sustainable bathing suit options.

Toothbrushes: Sustainable Options

Day 177 – It’s National Toothbrush Day! The toothbrush as we know it today was not invented until 1938. However, early forms of the toothbrush have been in existence since 3000 BC. Ancient civilizations used a “chew stick,” which was a thin twig with a frayed end.

Around 3.5 billion toothbrushes are sold worldwide each year. Considering most people use plastic toothbrushes that ends up being a great deal of plastic ending up in the landfill. Every toothbrush that you have ever used is still buried in a landfill somewhere.

So, what can we do to avoid adding to our plastic waste problem?

Bamboo Toothbrushes – There are countless bamboo toothbrushes on the market. Bamboo is compostable. Unfortunately, many of the bristles on these toothbrushes are not. So, they need to be removed before composting. Brands like EcoRoots, Brush with Bamboo and The Humble Co. offer bamboo toothbrushes.

Wooden Toothbrushes – There are some toothbrushes made from responsibly-harvested wood. One company, Redecker, even uses boar hair that is sourced as a byproduct of the meat industry, meaning their toothbrush is totally compostable.

Recycled Toothbrushes – Some companies (Radius) use recycled material in the production of their toothbrushes. Preserve toothbrushes are made from 100% recycled plastic from yogurt cups and once you’re done with the toothbrush, you can recycle it through Preserve’s take-back program.

If you are looking to replace your old toothbrush with a more sustainable option and want to avoid tossing that old brush in the trash, TerraCycle will take it, along with your empty toothpaste tubes and floss containers. The Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycle Popup will take it, too!

Not adding more plastic to the landfill should put a smile on your face. Knowing that smile is made brighter with an environmentally friendly toothbrush should make you feel good.

Tomorrow, cool shades that are eco-friendly and help others.

An Inside Look at S.C.A.R.C.E.

Day 169 – On Day 48, I wrote about SCARCE ( School & Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education). They have been around for 31 years and are making a difference in their community and countless others in the state of Illinois and beyond.

The tour started in the area designated for teachers and non-profits. There was an amazing collection of text books, workbooks, reading books and supplies for the classroom. Teachers can take a box supplied by SCARCE and fill it up with the items they need. Each box only costs $5.

We then moved on to area where they accept all their donations. I have been on the other side of the door, dropping off items collected at the Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycle Popup. It was interesting to see how they handled such a large volume of donations. The main ingredients to their success are volunteers and major organizational skills. There is a place for every item they receive. If they don’t have a place, they will look for one. If they don’t accept an item you are looking to part with, they will help you find where that item can go. If it exists, SCARCE will most likely know about it.

Next to the donation drop-off area, is a section of the building that absolutely blew my mind. I was not impressed by the actual space, but by what SCARCE was preventing from entering the landfill. Huge boxes of brand new books, box after box. Books that would have been tossed out because they were not purchased at Target or Walmart (or similar stores). Thankfully, one of the companies responsible for taking back books that were not bought, decided that it would be better to donate the books than it would be to throw them out. To think, this is a normal practice, carried out by countless other companies. Now, some of those books will make it into the hands of kids that need them most.

We were shown a room where they film their educational webinars and podcast. It was then on to a large room, where they conduct their onsite educational programs. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, they have not had a chance to really use the space. However, with restrictions lifting, they are excited to start inviting back groups. Students, mom groups, scout troops and various other organizations can learn about a variety of environmental topics during the classes. Everything from renewable energy, importance of rain barrels, effects of erosion, composting and recycling are covered, along with so much more!

The last stop was the scarce-ly used books and records section. The public is welcome to peruse this area, for LP records, CDs/DVDs, and YA/adult fiction and non-fiction books. The collection is quite expansive.

It’s crazy to think that there are not more organizations in the state or even the country like SCARCE. They get donations from all over the country and even outside the country. As Beverly (staff member and daughter of the founder of SCARCE, Kay McKeen) said during the tour, “What we do here is not rocket science. This could be replicated around the country and the world.”

Thankfully, SCARCE exists and continues to make the world a better place. As they stress in their message to all the people they help and educate, “If everyone did a little to help the environment, then it would add up to be a very significant difference.”

Tomorrow, environmentally friendly bug spray.