Day 119 – Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of getting water in our basements during or after a heavy rain. If you haven’t, consider yourself very lucky. It is not fun and the clean up is a real pain. Many times the problem is caused by too much rain, too fast. The sewer system can not keep up.
Now imagine, showers and laundry being done during these downpours. All that added water to an already overtaxed sewer system is just way too much to handle. The result is the release of untreated wastewater into the Chicago River system.
“As little as 0.3 inches of rain, depending on the location and severity, can trigger a combined sewer overflow at any number of over 300 outfalls that flow directly into the Chicago River and Little Calumet River.” –Friends of the Chicago River
The Friends of the Chicago River created Overflow Action Days. Just like Ozone Action Day alerts people to reduce their ozone producing activities, Overflow Action Day alerts people to reduce their water use. Overflow Action Day is an attempt to relieve pressure on the sewer system to protect the river system.
Here are some ways to reduce your water use during Overflow Action Days, as suggested by the Friends of the Chicago River:
Reduce your shower time: A ten minute shower can use as much as 40 gallons per minute. Depending on your showerhead, reducing your shower by three minutes can save between eight and 22 gallons of water.
Delay laundry: Rainy days are lazy days. You have our permission. Delaying laundry will reduce the amount of soapy water that might end up in the river.
Delay dish washing. But if you must, use a dishwasher if you have one. Running a full dishwasher requires about 20 gallons of water compared to 40 gallons if you washed the same number of dishes by hand.
Flush less: Each flush can use between 1.6 to five gallons of water. Don’t use the toilet as a wastebasket. It’s estimated 75% of indoor water use is in the bathroom and a quarter of that is through toilets.
You can sign up for Overflow Action Alerts. You can also keep an eye on the weather. If significant rain is forecasted consider reducing your water use. Do your part to help protect our rivers and the plants and animals that call them home.
Day 53 – Back on Day 43, I wrote about 1% for the Planet and their mission to connect businesses and individuals with non-profit organizations protecting the planet and making a difference in the world. In my post I stated that I had joined the movement and signed up to be an individual member. I thought I would share what organizations I have chosen to support this year. It was not easy to pick from such an impressive list of non-profits. I choose six organizations that connected to me on a personal level.
“Gateway to the Great Outdoors (GGO) was developed to provide low-income students across the US equitable access to comprehensive environmental education. By combining STEAM instruction with outdoor learning, GGO enhances the quality of health, science literacy, and environmental stewardship for children who would otherwise be excluded from this transformative experience. GGO presents children an opportunity to see, hear, taste, and touch a more fascinating world than the one they’ve grown accustomed to.”
Being a former teacher, this organization appealed to me because I know how powerful education is and how important positive personal experiences can have on a child. My fondest memories of being a teacher were the field trips I took my students on. Being able to expose them to activities that they might not have otherwise experienced was extremely rewarding.
“In a country that wastes billions of pounds of food each year, it’s almost shocking that anyone in America goes hungry. Yet every day, there are millions of children and adults who do not get the meals they need to thrive. We work to get nourishing food – from farmers, manufacturers, and retailers – to people in need. At the same time, we also seek to help the people we serve to build a path to a brighter, food-secure future.”
The pandemic has opened my eyes to the amount of food my family consumes. I have always known that they eat a lot, but having them home 24/7 has made me more aware on just how much. The pandemic has also made me even more thankful that my family has a sufficient, if not at times, an abundant amount of food to feed them. I can’t imagine how terrifying it is not knowing where your next meal will come from or if there will be enough food to feed your family.
“The Alliance for the Great Lakes is a nonpartisan nonprofit working across the region to protect our most precious resource: the fresh, clean, and natural waters of the Great Lakes. The Alliance for the Great Lakes connects and empowers people to advocate, give back, and take action to protect the lakes.”
I have spent my whole life enjoying Lake Michigan. As a kid my family would go to West Beach in Indiana during the summer and spend hours playing in the waves and sand. As a young adult, I was introduced to Pentwater, Michigan. A place where the waters of the lake look so pristine and the sunsets are extraordinary. Today, I have the pleasure of living near the lake and enjoying the beauty and endless picture perfect opportunities it offers.
“Since our founding in 1963 as a program of the Welfare Council of Metropolitan Chicago, Openlands has been at the forefront of the urban conservation movement. As one of the first organizations in the United States to address environmental issues within a metropolitan region, we have focused on people as much as nature. Over 50 years later, Openlands remains committed to urban conservation in the greater Chicago region. Openlands’ emphasis on people, places, and policy is the framework and driving factor of the organization.”
I am the happiest when I am out in nature with my camera. Documenting the beauty that is all around us brings me immense joy. Living in a big city has not prevented me from enjoying nature on a daily basis and I am extremely thankful for those that protect these areas.
“Since 1979, Friends has been working to improve the health of the Chicago River system for the benefit of people, plants and animals; and by doing so, has laid the foundation for the river to be a beautiful, continuous, and easily accessible corridor of open space in the Chicago region.”
I have enjoyed the Chicago River for years. Living just a couple blocks from the North Branch, I have gone on countless trips to the river to photograph wildlife. I have also strolled along the Riverwalk and photographed the breathtaking cityscape. The river has provided a unique beauty to Chicago that many cities do not have the pleasure of having.
“Urban Growers Collective (UGC) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that was co-founded by Laurell Sims and Erika Allen in the fall of 2017. Our approach is to demonstrate the development of community-based food systems and to support communities in developing systems of their own where food is grown, prepared, and distributed within the community itself. Working closely with more than 33 community partners, our goal is to build economic opportunity for youth while mitigating food insecurity and limited access to high quality, affordable, and nutritionally-dense food. We operate eight urban farms on 11 acres of land, predominantly located on Chicago’s South Side. These farms are production-oriented but also offer opportunities for staff-led education, training, leadership development, and food distribution. Each farm utilizes organic growing methods, intensive growing practices, and year-round production strategies to best maximize growing space.”
Since, my family started composting I have become more aware of the amount of food we waste. Since we collect all the food that would normally be thrown in the trash and place it in a bin to be composted, I get to see how much we collect. It’s nice to know that now that food is being composted and not left to sit in a landfill. It makes me sad to think about the amount of food we did not rescue. Composting has given me a new appreciation for food and where it comes from, how it is grown and who benefits from growing it and/or making it.
I hope this post has introduced you to some organizations that you might not have heard about before. I also hope that you consider supporting these organizations or finding ones that resonate with you. We might not have the time and energy to roll up our sleeves and get a little dirty fighting for a cause, but there are people out there already in the fight. All they need is some support and that’s where we can step in.