“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” In case you didn’t know, Margaret Mead said that, and it is one of my all time favorite sayings, maybe because it proves its truth over and over and over again.
I use that quote because I found it on the website of our first guest this morning. Her name is Jennifer Molski and the site is hfchristmastreerecycling.com. The “hf” stands for Homewood and Flossmoor, neighboring suburbs on Chicago’s south side. And, as you can probably figure out, their goal is to keep as many Christmas trees (and lights!) as they can in their neck of the woods out of landfills.
Somehow, I got on their mailing list a few years ago, and I’ve been meaning to have them on my show ever since. Well, this year it finally happened. Their story is pretty simple. When Jennifer and her husband Tony moved to Flossmore from Chicago in 2009, they were surprised at how many Christmas trees were being left on the curb for transport to landfills.
So they followed Margaret Mead’s lead and took measures into their own hands. They contacted Irons Oaks Environmental Learning Center to see if they would be interested in serving as the drop off location for the Trees, then enlisted the Western Avenue School Green Team and asked them to be co-presenters. The rest is history:
Soon we had the support from the Villages of Homewood and Flossmoor. In our first 7 years we’ve collected an estimated 4,300 Christmas Trees. These vital nutrients are being diverted from landfill and being put to good use at various HF Park District locations.
We’ve made a personal commitment that each year we would do something to expand the program and in 2011 we added Holiday Lights Recycling. To-date we have collected 6,400 pounds of non-working or broken Holiday Lights.
But even that isn’t good enough for them. In 2013 they received a grant from The Pollination Project which recognizes “individual change makers” across the globe and they used that money to create their website. Ultimately, their goal is to create a “zero waste” campaign.
Meanwhile, the Community Christmas Tree and light drop off date is Saturday, January 6, 2018 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 NOON at Irons Oaks Vollmer Road parking lot, 20000 Western Avenue, Olympia Fields, IL 60461, but trees can be dropped off any time at that same location through Thursday, January 18, 2018. Pick ups are available in the HF area on Saturday, January 13 for elderly or disabled who are unable to bring their own trees. You must schedule a pickup at 312-804-0496 or write to email@example.com.
If you live in the City of Chicago or in other suburbs, the Chicago Tribune has information about how to get your trees and lights recycled and where you might also score some wood mulch in the bargain. Lake County Forest Preserves is also encouraging you to keep your trees out of landfills.
And while we’re talking about all things recycling, Peggy and I are pleased to welcome Kay McKeen back to the show. Kay is the Founder and Executive Director of School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education, otherwise known as SCARCE. This is a woman who was the Illinois Recycling Association Recycler of the Year in 2016, so she knows her stuff, especially about recycling for the holidays. She tells us, “I worked with the City of Wheaton’s Susan Bishel and she created this short video on the proper recycling!”
Looking back on 2017
The rest of the show, including our weather and climate segment with meteorologist Rick DiMaio, involves looking back at some of the environmental stories of the year. Here are a few.
If you’re a regular listener to the show, you know that I’ve been a harsh critic of the City of Chicago’s recycling program. So when it made the Chicago Reader’s 2017 Worst of Chicago List under the headline Chicago’s dismal recycling rate punctures any sense of civic pride, I knew it was going on this blog.
On December 3, Peggy and I interviewed reporter and author Carey Gillam, who wrote Whitewash: The Story of Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, which is about the chemical glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. Just last week, this headline announced, U.S. EPA says glyphosate not likely to be carcinogenic to people. What does that mean? The environmental e-mag Grist weighs in here.
- Climate and Weather
In its Year in Review 2017 Inside Climate News tallies some of the environmental stories of the year, including news about wildfires and hurricanes, sea level rise, polar ice disappearing and more. Rick DiMaio also looks back at an intense weather year, including record warmth in February, heavy rain and flash flooding on July 12, and October 14 record rainfall.
- Monarch butterflies
As in recent years, the fate of the monarch butterfly continues to be on our radar. Yale Climate Connections asks What’s behind monarchs’ late 2017 migration? , while Phys.org reports on Misplaced monarchs: Clusters of butterflies stuck up north. This was all after a story by the late, great DNAInfo Chicago (whose demise is a story in itself) about how Monarch Butterflies Flying High This Year After Recent Declines. What will 2018 bring for this iconic insect? We’ll soon know.
- Virgil Family Hoop House
On October 15, Nicole Virgil was on the show to talk about a controversy involving a hoop house in the back of her Elmhurst yard. The city deemed that the structure was in violation of city code and ordered it taken down. The Virgil family fought back in court, but on December 21, mySuburbanLife.com featured a story with the headline DuPage County judge dismisses Elmhurst hoop house lawsuit.
- Mighty Earth “Clean It Up, Tyson” campaign
On September 17, we were introduced to an environmental group called Mighty Earth, and Chicago field organizer Celest Nahas, who was working on the “Clean It Up, Tyson” campaign to get the meat producing giant to employ more sustainable practices. On November 16, I moderated a Clean Water/Clean Food Forum in anticipation of the delivery of 63,000 signatures to Tyson CEO Tom Hayes on November 30.
- Nutrient Pollution
Speaking of meat production, The New Republic had a story this month that it headlined, The Most Overlooked Environmental Crisis of 2017. It’s something that Peggy and I covered a number of times on the show, specifically on October 22, when we discussed the disappointing progress in the battle against algae in Lake Erie. Some of the pollution is caused by nitrogen and some of it by phosphorus, but all of it continues to put our oceans and our fresh water lakes in peril.
That’s just some of what we hope to briefly cover during today’s final show of 2017. Other topics might include the surprisingly controversial proposal for the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, the fate of EPA region 5 under the (shudder) Trump Administration, and the success of Chicago’s plastic bag ordinance (though it is stupidly characterized in this particular article.)
We hope you’ll join us.