Saving the planet by marching, planting, recycling ink and driving EVs

February 10, 2013

Live from Forward on Climate in Washington, D.C. next week!

If you heard my conversation with IIT’s Blake Davis a few weeks ago about his 50 Year Plan for Survivng Climate Change, you know that if we don’t get serious about solutions now, the next few decades are not going to be pretty.

It is that sense of urgency that has led the Sierra Club and to organize what they hope will be the largest climate rally in history next Sunday, February 17, at noon at the Washington Monument on the National Mall. It will be followed by a march to the White House to show President Obama the broad public support for climate solutions, while also challenging him to keep his commitment to making climate action a top priority during his second term.

Well, I certainly don’t intend to miss the largest climate rally in history, so I’m packing up my laptop, grabbing a couple of microphones and next week I intend to fire up the Skype from the National Mall. Co-host Lisa Albrecht will also be there with me, while Sarah Batka, Rob Kartholl and Denny Schetter hold down the fort here in Chicago.

Speaking of Chicago, if you can’t make it to the event in D.C., there’s a march right here in Grant Park, starting at 11:00 a.m. Central Time (which coincides with the noon start in Washington, D.C.).

PLEASE MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD! We have only one planet and, frankly, we’re running out of time. It might already be too late.

MELA Conference 2013: Navigating Change

Speaking of change…it also needs to happen in the way we landscape our backyards, parks, corporate campuses and other green areas. That’s what the Midwest Ecological Landscape Alliance (MELA) is all about. (Full disclosure: I am one of the co-founders, though I was never paid for my participation and I am not currently involved in its day-to-day workings.)

Basically, MELA is all about sustainable landscapes, wherever they are. The companies, organizations and individuals who are MELA members know that the last few years have not been wonderful in the horticultural industry. And when you ask people to give up their old ways of doing things for something that is more earth-friendly, you might encounter resistance.

So, for the MELA Conference 2013, the goal is to look at the challenges that sustainable landscaping business presents and how to meet them. To that end, Gabriel Spitzer, award-winning environmental journalist whom you might remember as a WBEZ reporter, will serve as a “Conference Reflector.” His job is to listen to speakers and attendees and help them both figure out a way forward. Gabriel stops by my show this morning, along with Stephen Bell, Director of College Partnerships for the Illinois Green Economy Network.

By the way, the conference is Thursday, February 28, 2013, at University Center of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois. Who should attend? Arborists, Ecological Restoration Experts, Educators at Public Gardens and Non-Profit Groups, Growers at Nurseries and Garden Centers, Landscape Architects and Designers, Landscape Contractors, Municipal Leaders, Park District Leaders, Policy Makers, Product Suppliers and Manufacturers, HOA members, NGOs and even Students. Foe more information, call 312-857-MELA.

How recycling can “Evolve” beyond “Big Ink & Toner”

Did you know that

  • more than 500 million inkjet cartridges and 70 million laser cartridges are sold in the U.S. annually?
  • every year, more than 400 million cartridges with a combined weight of 200 million pounds are buried in our nation’s landfills?
  • thirteen ink cartridges are thrown away every second in the U.S.?
  • a laser cartridge thrown into a landfill can take up to 450 years to decompose?
  • some components made of industrial grade plastics will take more than one thousand years to decompose?

This is not a good way to run an office, if you ask me.

That’s why it’s good to see a company like Evolve Recycling getting into the picture. Evolve doesn’t just recycle ink and toner cartridges–it reuses these ubiquitous symbols of waste in America by remanufacturing them. You’ve heard of Big Business and Big Ag? Welcome to Big Ink & Toner. (You might want to watch this funny YouTube video from marketer extraordinaire Jeffrey Hayzlett.)

But Evolve Recycling wants to take on Big Ink & Toner by paying up to $10 per cartridge (yes, you read that right) and reclaiming and remanufacturing millions of ink items. According to their information about the program, this is unlike Big Ink & Toner, who merely offer award points to their customers. Those same companies don’t actually reuse those cartidges. Rather, they grind them into pellets, which is a less efficient way of dealing with the plastics.

Also unlike BI&T, Evolve Recycling accepts all national brands of ink and toner cartridges. The remanufactured products are then sold under private labels in a variety of office supply stores. Evolve says that it can even provide business customers with free sustainability reports so they can track the cartridges all the way through the remanufacturing process.

Evolve also offers a $10 “payback” for iPods/MP3 players, digital cameras, GPS devices and laptop computers.

So how do they do it? I don’t really know. I mean, why don’t more companies pay for used cartridges and small electronic devices? That’s why I have Rich Fischer, chief sustainability officer for Evolve, in the studio today, to explain how the program works and how they can afford their “buy back” initiative.

Retracing the first automobile race in America

Since I seem to be on a “did you know” roll today, I have another question for you.

Did you know that the first automobile race in America was held in Chicago in 1895? From the Wikipedia entry:

The Chicago Times-Herald race was the first automobile race held in the United States. Sponsored by the Chicago Times-Herald , the race was held in Chicago in 1895 between six cars and won by Charles Duryea ‘s Motorized Wagon . The race created considerable publicity for the motocycle, which had been introduced in the United States only two years earlier.

Well, the race will be recreated this week. The 2013 Chicago Electric Vehicle Rally will retrace the route of that first US auto race.The Rally is being run to encourage the advancement of high mileage/low emission vehicles in America, and coincides with the 2013 Chicago Auto Show.

Chevrolet, Fisker, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Tesla, Toyota, and Volkswagen have confirmed their participation.

The 54.5 mile course will be on open Chicago roads that go through five Chicago Parks,
pass alongside twenty-two other parks and travel along fifteen Chicago boulevards. The route passes the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago City Hall, Michigan Ave, Lincoln Park Zoo, Wrigley Field, President Obama?s hom. the University of Chicago, Northwestern, Loyola, DeVry, and Columbia Universities, with a rest stop at Chicago’s Center for Green Technology, where EV charging stations are available.

David Funcheon from 101 Celsius, a leading distributor and installer of solar thermal evacuated-tube systems, stops by to talk about the big race.

Want to attend “The Big Commie Garden Fabcon?”

If you work on a community garden or are interested in starting one, there is still an opportunity to sign up for The Big Commie Garden Fabcon, otherwise known as Connecting Chicago Community Gardeners. It’s a conference on February 23 at the Chicago Center for Green Technology (CCGT) that will attempt to pull together community gardeners and their organizations from all over the City.

Here is the Eventbrite page where you can register for the event. The conference is free but the suggested donation at the door is $5.00. Pretty darned reasonable.

Registration begins at 9:00am and the event will run from 10am-3pm. It features a panel discussion (which I will moderate), workshops and a chance to network with gardeners from your region. A light breakfast and lunch will be included.