New models for recycling in Chicago, cleaning our river, and organic farming

June 12, 2011

If the Cubs can recycle, so can Chicago. Here’s Free Green Can.

There isn’t much that the Chicago Cubs have gotten right in the past few years. Hey, I should know–I was at Gargantua Radio down the dial for a long, long time and I witnessed their futility first hand. In fact, I was at the infamous “Bartman” game that broke Cubs fan hearts all over the planet. However, I applaud them for something they did just last year…and it has nothing to do with baseball.

The Cubs hired a company called Free Green Can to create a “Recycle on the Go” program by distributing 25 dual-purpose containers around Wrigley Field. They provide year-round opportunities for Cubs fans and Wrigleyville residents to recycle glass, plastic, paper and aluminum, as well as keep trash out of the neighborhood.

Free Green Can founder and CEO Steve Holland came up with the idea after attending his 11-year-old son’s baseball game at a local park. He passed a plastic water bottle to his son, who noticed that the one recycling can at the park was full and the waste cans were overflowing with recyclable containers. His simple-yet-profound question was, “Why aren’t there MORE recycling bins than trash cans?”

Holland didn’t have an answer. Predictably, his town said they couldn’t afford more recycling bins. So Holland decided to come up with an economic model that would provide recycling opportunity where there is a trash opportunity. The Free Green Can is a dual purpose recycle/trash container. The tasteful advertising on the outside of the container generates revenue that is shared with the municipality, venue or entity hosting the bin at no cost. Here’s how it works:

  • There are two separate and easy to remove 30+ gallon insert liners. One for recyclables (plastic, aluminum, paper, and glass) and the other for trash.
  • It is installed by using four grass or concrete anchors.
  • It has a lifetime guarantee.
  • It has a specially designed top to keep weather elements from entering and/or filling the Free Green Can.
  • Its unique design complements both modern and historical settings.

Holland and senior vice president of sales & marketing, Dave Whorton, say they have now contracted with the Chicago Park District and you will soon be seeing Free Green Cans in parks along the lakefront. This doesn’t address the lack of blue carts in 400,000 yards, or the fact that high rise recycling is awful, but it’s a start. Perhaps Mayor Rahm Emanuel is paying attention.

The MWRD does the right thing…finally

After more than a decade of opposing the measure and 13 million dollars spent fighting it, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago finally voted last week to endorse a new policy that backs more stringent water quality standards, which includes disinfecting wastewater dumped into the Chicago River from two of its treatment plants. The vote was 8-1 and the only dissenter was board president Terrence O’Brien.

The move was hailed by groups like Friends of the Chicago River, the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council., which said, in a release sent out this week:

Last week, the Illinois Pollution Control Board, which has been the venue for a record breaking debate over disinfection, issued a proposed decision that largely reinforces the policies put forth by U.S. EPA. The Pollution Control Board will take public comments this week before issuing their final decision on June 16

Congratulations to the people who have worked so hard for so long to clean up this waterway.

Sustainable Food Fundamentals:
She’s baaaack…farmer Kim Marsin from Sweet Home Organics

When we last visited with “commuting farmer” Kim Marsin of Sweet Home Organics. she and partner Rachel Reklau had just purchased a used tractor at their first auction. I guess I need to ask how the machine is holding up.

I reached Kim on the phone Saturday and she says that Sweet Home Organics is well into their farmers market season. You might remember that Kim and Rachel are part of a new breed of farmers who don’t own the land on which they grow crops. Primrose Farm, where they lease land, is owned by the St. Charles Park District. The farm itself is the last of a line of what used to be 3-5 working dairy farms. The former neighboring farms have since been torn down or turned into homes. The park district runs the farm as a living history farm open for the public for tours (on Wed and Saturdays).

Since Angelic Organics Learning Center has been so instrumental in helping me line up guests for Sustainable Food Fundamentals and, before that, Good Growing, I want to plug their summer and fall workshop calendar. There is a ton of stuff going on at various locations. Here are some of the highlights:

  • More classes on raising goats and chickens (which are very popular), and a new class on applying Biodynamic principles and practices in your yard at home.
  • Food preservation, winemaking, cheesemaking (including a 1 day class which combines cheesemaking with earth oven bread baking), pizza making, plus a new class all about apples in September.
  • Family camping opportunities at the farm, including Father’s Day weekend, Labor Day weekend, and a five day program at the beginning of August.
  • Even more day camps (filling quickly!), including an option for middle schoolers and a shorter animal camp for younger children
  • Even more family programming, with extra ice cream and farm animal days throughout the summer.

As always, Sustainable Food Fundamentals is sponsored by Pearl Valley Organix. They produce HEALTHY GRO™ products for your lawn and garden, as well as Pearl Valley Eggs. And they do it in a way that is sustainable, turning their chicken manure into several OMRI listed fertilizers, and even recycling their waste water on site at the Pearl Valley Farm. I’m proud to have them as a sponsor on The Mike Nowak Show.
“Green on McLean” update

I would be remiss if I didn’t include a link to Green on McLean community garden blogsite, particularly because Webmaster Kathleen has been working so hard on it. The garden is planted and growing and we now have TWO videos of two different workdays. Check it out!

Chicago Sustainable Backyard Program

Speaking of gardens, the Chicago Department of Environment’s has a great initiative underway, called the Sustainable Backyard Program. It promotes more environmentally -friendly landscapes in front, side, and backyards across the city. Not only that, but the city is giving out rebates just for doing the right thing. Their goal is to distribute 2,000 rebates citywide. Here’s the qualifying materials and plants:

TREES (up to $100 back)
NATIVE PLANTS (up to $60 back)
COMPOST BIN (up to $50 back)
RAIN BARREL (up to $40 back)

Funding for rebates comes from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Pollution Prevention Program and a USDA Forest Service Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Grant.

On Tuesday, June 14th, DOE will be hosting its 3rd city-wide workshop from 6:00-8:00pm at the Friends of the Chicago River Conference Room (28 E. Jackson, Suite 1800).

Meanwhile, you can “Like” the Chicago Sustainable Backyard Program on Facebook.