Sustainability Expo

Day 249 – A sustainability expo is coming to Morton Grove.

So, what’s a sustainability expo?

It is a gathering of like minded people, trying to conserve and protect the planet.

Go Green Illinois wants you to know:

Join the Morton Grove Environment and Natural Resources Commission at the Morton Grove Sustainability Expo. This free event is family friendly, all are welcome, and encouraged to attend.

Over 30+ vendors and exhibitors. Come learn about solar options in IL, sign up for a free energy audit, pick up a sapling to plant, design an eco-focus button, pick up some native plants, eco-friendly tools, or learn about composting, recycling, green lawn care and more!

Stop by the Go Green Morton Grove table for some free native plant seeds and enjoy a fun activity to show how your efforts to go green help us all combat climate change.

Don’t miss the electric car show!

Event will be inside and outdoors at the Morton Grove Civic Center: 6140 Dempster Street in Morton Grove. 

One can only hope that there is a sustainability expo coming to your neighborhood in the near future.

Tomorrow, drones and their impact on wildlife.

Help Save Wildlife

Day 247 – An endangered species is an animal or plant threatened with extinction. A few of the factors that may endanger a species includes overhunting or overharvesting, habitat loss, pollution and human-wildlife conflict. There are over 500 species of wildlife that are currently endangered.

Here are 10 things you can do today to help protect and preserve wildlife (shared by endangered.org)

  1. Create a backyard wildlife habitat. Put bird feeders and other wildlife attractants, such as bird houses and baths.
  2. Establish a pollinator garden with native vegetation in your yard. Native plants provide food and shelter for native wildlife. Attracting native insects like bees and butterflies can help pollinate your plants. Avoid planting invasive species. Non-native plants can overtake and destroy native species on which animals depend.
  3. Minimize use of herbicides and pesticides. Herbicides and pesticides are hazardous pollutants that can affect wildlife at many levels. Reduce use of fertilizer. Excess fertilizer will likely wash into streams and rivers and may lead to amphibian deformities and deaths.
  4. Reduce your use of water in your home and garden so that animals that live in or near water can have a better chance of survival. Don’t dump paint, oil or antifreeze or other chemicals, which pollute the water and can harm people and wildlife. Keep litter and pet waste out of the street drain, which often washes into rivers, lakes or the ocean.
  5. Place decals on windows to deter bird collisions. Millions of birds die every year because of collisions with windows. You can help reduce the number of collisions simply by placing decals on the windows in your home and office.
  6. Slow down when driving. Many animals live in developed areas and this means they must navigate a landscape full of human hazards. So when you’re out and about, slow down and keep an eye out for animals. Don’t litter because trash can attract wildlife to the roadside.
  7. Recycle and buy sustainable products. Buy recycled paper and sustainable products like Forest Stewardship Council wood products and shade-grown coffee to save rainforests.
  8. Don’t litter/otherwise destroy sensitive habitats, which may be home to native/visiting species that are endangered or threatened.
  9. Never purchase products made from endangered species like ivory, coral and tortoise shell. Buy exotic plants and animals only from reputable stores. 
  10. Learn about endangered species in your area. Teach your friends and family about the wonderful wildlife, birds, fish and plants that live near you. The first step to protecting endangered species is learning about how interesting and important they are.

On this National Wildlife Day take some time to appreciate and care for the amazing wildlife that surrounds us everyday.

Oyster Shells: Creating New Colonies

Day 246 – I have never eaten an oyster, but plenty of people enjoy the salty, slippery mollusk. However, they do so much more than offer a food source.

They play a vital role in habitat restoration with the growing understanding that oyster reefs purify the waters in which they live and create preferred habitats for commercial and recreational fish species. Oyster reefs help stabilize shorelines and mitigate some of the impacts of sea level rise while acting as a carbon sink in part by improving the water’s capacity to absorb excess atmospheric CO2.” – Oyster Recovery

So, it makes perfect sense that making sure these habitats are healthy and thriving would be a major priority. One of the ways this is being done is through discarded shells. The shells discarded by diners are being collected, cleaned and dumped into waterways around the country and the world, where they form the basis of new oyster colonies. Not only is this process benefitting ecological restoration, but it has kept 65 tons of shells out of landfills.

The oyster colonies also are being planted along coastlines as a shore stabilization and storm mitigation strategy: the bumpy underwater colonies can act as speed bumps for destructive waves headed for the shoreline, dissipating some of their energy.” – ABC News

Currently the oyster restoration and and shell recycling program are only offered in states located along the ocean shoreline. Hopefully, the program will expand across the country, where oyster shells continue finding their way to landfills.

Tomorrow, celebrating National Wildlife Day.

Battery Solutions: Making battery recycling easy

Day 243 – On Day 49, I spent some time writing about batteries and the difficulty in recycling them. After the EPA deemed them safe to throw away, anyone willing to take them to get recycled stop offering the free service. Now you need to pay a fee. I encourage everyone to use rechargeable batteries. They can be used 1,000 times and can be recycled easily and for free.

For those that feel the need to continue using alkaline batteries, then you should consider recycling them responsibly. Battery Solutions will do the job for a fee. They have various recycling kits to fit various needs.

We are ready to handle any volume, any size, any chemistry, any battery ever made. – Battery Solutions

They have responsibly recycled 178,934,861 batteries, have 6,956 partners and service 3 countries.

Battery Solutions has built their business on sustainability.

  1. Recycling – We are committed to recycling every possible material from every battery.
  2. Conservation – Partnering with local groups in southeast Michigan, we have contributed hybrid vehicle and electric vehicle battery shells to be turned into wildlife habitats.
  3. Device Renewal – We restore broken and unwanted cell phones and tablets back into usable tech.
  4. Education – We offer tours and education programs on site at our facilities, working with EGLE (The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy) as well as smaller local groups to promote battery recycling.
  5. Global Connections – To help secure the future for these young recyclers, we are committed to supporting recycling at all levels. Outside of our direct community involvement, we are also supporters of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Stop throwing recyclable material in the trash. Battery Solutions can help you with that goal.

Tomorrow, a recycle challenge.

Seven Generations Ahead: Building ecological sustainable and healthy communities

Day 242 – Who is Seven Generations Ahead?

SGA works with local government, community and private sector leaders to help communities make the changes they need to build a healthy and sustainable future. Through community-wide sustainability planning and implementation, project design and implementation, educational conferences and forums, community network development, consulting, and programs, SGA is a catalyst for local community solutions to global environmental issues. SGA’s work covers a broad range of sustainability topic areas, including: energy efficiency and renewable energy; transportation; healthy community development; waste reduction; water conservation; green business; procurement; local, sustainable food; healthy eating; open space and ecosystem enhancement; and sustainability education.” – Seven Generations Ahead

Seven Generations Ahead works with various networks, in order to achieve sustainability and healthy communities.

  1. PlanItGreen is the sustainability plan for the communities of Oak Park and River Forest, Illinois.
  2. The Fox Valley Sustainability Network (FVSN) brings together the public and private sectors from around the Fox Valley to cut across boundaries and create a healthy, sustainable and vibrant Fox Valley.
  3. GreenTown conferences are the best way to work with community stakeholders, civic leaders and passionate citizens to jump start a network.
  4. The Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC) grew out of a one-year food scrap composting forum planning process to support research, programs, education and policy initiatives.
  5. The Wasted Food Action Alliance (WFAA) aims to develop a working strategy and action platform that makes Illinois a leader in reducing wasted food through collaboration, education, and policy.

Seven Generations Ahead (SGA) works with schools, businesses, institutions, and municipalities to provide support for all steps along a path to zero waste from planning to implementation.

  1. Zero Waste Schools
  2. Food Waste Reductions and Composting

Seven Generations Ahead created the Illinois Farm to School Network (IFSN).

IFSN is comprised of teachers, early care providers, food service staff, farmers, students, and others who are working to change food purchasing and education practices in their communities. The network provides training, connects partners, and shares resources about all aspects of farm to school– including local food sourcing, hands-on nutrition education, and school gardening.” – SGA

Seven Generations Ahead also created a project called It’s Our Future.  The project will equip young leaders in Oak Park/River Forest to advocate for climate change solutions that benefit all members of our community.

Seven Generations Ahead is an amazing resource for any community. They are committed to building a healthy and sustainable future for us all.

Tomorrow, a company that will recycle your batteries, for a fee.

Don’t Trash Glass Program Comes to Chicago

Day 241 – We hear it all the time.

“Recycling is not working.”

“We can not solve or waste issue with recycling.”

Though, I do believe these statements are true, we also need recycling. Even if it’s not perfect. Cardboard, glass and aluminum are all great options to avoid plastic. However, in order for them to be reused they need to be rescued from the landfill and recycled.

More than 28 million glass bottles and jars end up in landfills each year.

A pilot program to help save as many glass bottles from entering the landfill is underway in Chicago. The Don’t Trash Glass Program (DTG) is an eight-week program which seeks to collect glass containers at Greater Chicago area bars and restaurants to be recycled into new bottles, fiberglass and more. 

The program is funded by the nonprofit Glass Recycling Foundation (GRF) based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in partnership with Legacy Marketing in Chicago and beer importer Constellation Brands of Victor, New York. The organizations and businesses involved in the program include glass hauler GlassKing, of Phoenix, waste hauler Lakeshore Recycling Systems (LRS) and glass recycler Strategic Materials, which is headquartered in Houston.” – Recycling Today

The hope is that with more education and information, restaurants and bars will understand the importance of recycling. The goal is to create a self-sustaining program that will be scalable in other parts of the country.  

Keeping highly recyclable materials out the landfill is our first step in the fight against waste. If we can not move forward in creating a circular economy with the materials we have, then we will run out places to bury it all

Tomorrow, building healthy and sustainable communities.

Maine is Holding Companies Accountable for Their Packaging Waste

Day 239 – Maine is the first state in the nation to hold big corporations and brands accountable for the plastic waste and packaging they have created. Maine has joined more than 40 jurisdictions around the world to require companies that create packaging waste help pay for the costs of recycling. The new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Packaging law (LD 1541) will increase recycling rates, reduce packaging pollution, and save taxpayers money. 

For far too long all the responsibility for finding ways to recycle product packaging has been on the consumer. Finally, the responsibility will be on the manufacturers and companies that are producing the items. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a special type of waste management policy created to safely and responsibly dispose of difficult-to-recycle products and materials. EPR shifts the costs of dealing with difficult types of waste from town governments, to manufacturers and corporations, that have control over the safety and recyclability of the products they make and sell. 

Natural Resources of Council of Maine lists the problems that new EPR for Packaging law will target:

  1. Provides incentives for producers and big corporations to make less waste and more eco-friendly packaging.
  2. Takes the financial burden off taxpayers—so towns will no longer have to cut programs or raise taxes due to recycling costs.
  3. Creates a uniform list of materials collected in each participating municipal recycling program.  

There is no doubt that having this Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging Law, will make a huge difference in the waste produced in Maine. We can only hope that the example set in Maine will be the playbook that all states throughout the country follow.

Tomorrow, a company upcycling materials into new products.

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.

Yoga Mats Made from Recycled or Renewable Materials

Day 237 – Many yoga mats are made from PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride). Back on Day 179, I wrote about the harmful effects of PVC and its potential to lead to health issues. So, you can bet having a yoga mat made from PVC is not a wise choice. Here are a few examples of yoga mats made with safer and earth friendly materials. One brand is made from natural rubber, another natural cork and a third, recycled wetsuits.

Jade Yoga

Jade Yoga is the first brand in the US that makes yoga mats with natural rubber. When harvested sustainably, natural rubber is a renewable material that can decompose at the end of life. Jade Yoga provides tips for properly recycling / upcycling old yoga mats. Jade Yoga plants a tree for every yoga mat they sell—so far, they’ve planted more than two million trees with their partnership with Trees for the Future. They also have a Community Partners program where people who generally don’t have a chance to try yoga can receive a grant to do so.

Urbivore

This mat is made from a thin layer of natural cork on top of a natural rubber backing—both are biodegradable and renewable materials. Cork is naturally antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal, which means it requires minimal maintenance and won’t give off a bad smell. Cork is made from the bark of cork oak trees, mostly grown in Portugal. A cork oak tree stripped of its bark can absorb more CO2 in the regeneration process, so it actually helps combat climate change.

Suga

Suga recycles wetsuits into yoga mats. The name Suga comes from the combination of the words “surf” and “yoga”. Suga has diverted 12,500 wetsuits from the landfill. Not only are the mats made from recycled material, but they are also recyclable. When you are done with your old mat, you can send it back to Suga to make new ones. Suga mats are made in the US.

The next time you are in search of a new yoga mat, consider how healthy the mat is for you and the planet.

Tomorrow, celebrating the dogs.

The Race to Save Earth’s Ice

Day 234 – When I think about giant pieces of cloth being placed over mountain ice to help prevent it from melting, it makes me think of one of those doomsday movies. Like I feel it could have been a scene in the movie The Day After Tomorrow. Sadly, this science fiction sounding scenario is happening in real life. 70m long strips of reflective material are being placed over the ice on the Pressena glacier, in the Italian Alps, to try to preserve it from the intense rays of the sun.

What’s even more disturbing about this situation is that this is not the first time scientists have used tarps to help prevent the melting of glaciers. The first attempts to partially cover a glacier came in 1993 on the Zugspitze in southern Bavaria in Germany. Since then several glacier areas in Switzerland and Austria have followed suit. Since 2004, glaciers have been partially covered at eight locations in the Swiss Alps at altitudes of between 2,250 and 3,250 m above sea level. It is estimated that it would cost $1 billion a year to cover all the Swiss glaciers.

In the Northern Cascades as the winter season neared an end, mountain snowpacks were still running a decent amount above average. Then temperatures soared into the 80s, 90s and even triple digits. In the higher elevations, the snow didn’t stand a chance. Snow depth gauges at Paradise Ranger Station around 5,400 feet up Mt. Rainier measured 106 inches of snow on the ground on June 6, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center. A month later on July 5, there were only 8 inches up there. Summer melting of the snowpack is an annual occurrence but the National Weather Service in Seattle says 30% of that meltoff came in the four days between June 26 and June 30. Paradise reached the upper 80s on June 28 and then hit 91 degrees on June 29.

Global warming is real and it is happening. There is only so much scientists can do to hold back the damaging effects. At some point we need to come together as inhabitants of this planet and figure out a way to decrease the temperature, before we have nothing left to protect.

Tomorrow, charcoal vs. gas grilling.