Method – They Practice…What They Make

I have noticed lately that I’m not the only person in the natural cleaning aisle. In an industry abundant of chemicals and a plethora of scents, many of which do not smell like what they are advertised as, natural cleaning projects are, for a lack of a better term, a breath of fresh air. One such natural cleaning product is Method Home, which offers a wide variety of natural cleaning products – from multipurpose cleaner to floor cleaner to hand soap. Method Home’s Web site states “We follow the precautionary principle: if there’s a chance the ingredient isn’t safe, we don’t use it, period.”

Method also does not use any of the traditional ingredients such as phosphates or bleach, which are known to do harm to the environment. Method’s new facility has incorporated

Method

Copyright Method

this philosophy physically in their manufacturing and distribution center located in Chicago’s historic Pullman District – yes, the same Pullman who developed the luxury sleeping cars.

Green Cleaning, Green Energy

Method’s green cleaning supplies manufacturing facility is powered by clean energy. These energy-efficient sources include:

  • Wind Power – a 230 ft, 600 kW refurbished wind turbine will supply 30% of the center’s energy
  • Solar Power – three solar power trees with 60 PV modules on each tree can supply up to 45.9 kW of energy; with Chicago’s estimated 2,500 sun hours per year, these solar trees can generate approximately 115 MWh annually
  • Hot Water – hot water is supplied to the facility’s office sinks and showers by a 120 gallon solar-powered heating system
  • Energy Efficiency – the building’s rooftop and concrete are designed to reflect light, minimizing heat build-up, which lowers the air conditioning use during the summer
  • Natural Lighting – skylights provide natural lighting, which will decrease energy use; but will also contribute to better worker health and productivity
  • Biodiesel Shipping – Method’s fuel-efficient fleet of trucks runs on 20% biodiesel fuel, which will emit 20% less carbon than traditional trucks

Method’s manufacturing facility not only is energy-efficient and provides green cleaning supplies, while considering the environment, the company has also considered the aesthetics of the building and it’s influence upon the community. Conveniently located near public transportation, employees can get to work by train or bus, which lessens the carbon footprint. The building is not enclosed by a fence, which, according to Method, is a welcome invitation for residents to visit the factor. The company is also giving back to the community by providing a real life classrooms to schools. Method is working to offer school visits , so students can learn about renewable energy, hydroponic farming, and green manufacturing.

Method has many other components to their green manufacturing, which will be discussed in future posts.

Community Colleges Adding Green to Community – Part 5, Elgin Community College

The foceccus of our fifth part in our series about Chicago area community colleges sustainability efforts circles back to a more urban environment – Elgin Community College (ECC). Located approximately 25 miles west of Chicago, Elgin is the seventh most populated city in the state of Illinois.

Creating a More Responsive Sustainable Community

According to Ileo N. Lott, Ed.D. Dean of Sustainability, Business, and Career Technologies, unlike other Chicago area community colleges, “The campus [ECC] does not have a master plan for sustainability, but our commitment to sustainability is reflected in ECC’s Strategic Goal #5 to ‘strengthen educational and workforce partnerships to create a more responsive and sustainable community.'”

Lott explains that partnerships to grow sustainability throughout the campus continue to be a main focus. He states that ” Globally, the focus of sustainability is to accomplish the best outcomes while maintaining and, better yet, reducing resources. We are measured by our effectiveness in reducing our resources based upon the investment we make in our educational and workforce partnerships.”

With the creation of the Business and Career Technology Center in 2010, ECC seized its commitment to sustainability. The Energy Business Management Program, which “focuses on preparing students for work as mid-level technicians in the renewable energy industry as technicians in large, commercial facilities in the area of environmental controls and computerized building automation. Many companies…are required to measure their energy management consumption…,” explains Lott.

Sustainable practices is a part of the curriculum for all career and technology programs at the College, demonstrating the importance of sustainability to its students as a best practice for most organizations today.

Showing Green On Campus

ECC's Building A.

ECC’s Building A.

Sustainability is not only a philosophy at ECC, but the campus has started showing its belief in sustainability and green practices too. The College’s Building A; which houses the biology, microbiology, anatomy, physiology and other science and medical classes; was recognized as the 2013 recipient Project of the Year by the Construction Industry Service Corporation (CISCO). According to an ECC press release, “It [Building A]  [received] LEED Silver certification, which underscores the college’s focus on environmental stewardship.

After the decision to incorporate sustainability, ECC became a member of the Illinois Green Economy Network, which led to hands-on opportunities for the campus to adopt sustainable practices.

For example, the … Energy Management students conducted an energy audit for light usage in the manufacturing building that led to more efficient LED bulbs being used throughout the building. Additionally, several water bottle filler stations were installed across the campus to encourage the use of refillable water bottles. Each station keeps a tally on how many plastic water bottles have been saved.”

Lott states, ” Future plans at ECC [include] to continue to make sustainability a campus and community effort. There is a campus-wide sustainability committee and, most recently, a student-led club, Student Organization for Sustainability (SOS). Additionally, other student led clubs such as the CEO club have  embraced sustainability in sponsoring of Earth Day Events and promoting the entrepreneurial mindset.”

 

 

 

Community Colleges Adding Green to Community – Part 4, College of Lake County

Located in the Chicago area’s northernmost county, the College of Lake County has established a Sustainability Plan which, according to David Husemoller, CLC sustainability manager and adjunct horticulture instructor, “… is a three-year plan with goals and action items to be reviewed annually. Goals are organized in three areas: Greening Our Campus, Greening Our Curriculum and Greening Our Community.”

Broken down to a series of goals, the Sustainability Plan states that “Greening Our Campus  involves integration of sustainability principles and practices into all college operations including administrative decision-making, social responsibility, employee education, and physical facility management.”

Greening Our Campus includes:

 Buildings and Energy – minimize building energy consumption through conservation, efficiency and improvement measures. An example of this goal includes expanding the use of renewable the exploration and a feasibility analysis of logo-largesuch projects as the integration of geothermal heat and cooling sources and the conversion of the aging heat air handlers to solar-assisted systems. Another example is “…to provide physical and virtual access to energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies to be used as models for community and curriculum demonstrations.”

One such project is the geothermal system scheduled for the main campus at Grayslake, which will consist of a shared field and loop circling the campus. This geothermal system eventually will be used to heat and cool all the buildings on campus. As of this blog posting, drilling is completed and the pressure testing of wells is next.

According to Husemoller “We [CLC] expect to see 50% savings on water heating for buildings with solar thermal panels installed last year. We are experiencing savings in energy as we convert from metal halide and fluorescent lighting to LED fixtures, but those energy figures are difficult to highlight as they are confounded by changes in IT systems.”

According to the CLC Sustainability Plan “Greening Our Curriculum involves engaging faculty, staff and students in incorporating a foundation of understanding of sustainability context in all educational experiences offered by the institution. Through participation in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), the College of Lake County developed Student Learning Objectives in Sustainability and a set of definitions for identifying courses in sustainability offered by the College.

An example of Green Our Curriculum is  Student Engagement, which will offer unique opportunities for CLC students “to influence, participate, and learn from sustainability efforts on campus and in the community.”

Included in this student engagement is:

  • Communicate information and updates to all college students on institutional sustainability commitments and performance including materials in New Student Orientation, and opportunities to provide feedback and suggestions.
  • Work with offices and departments that coordinate student services and student leadership to integrate sustainable practices and activities into existing student life.
  •  Coordinate peer-to-peer sustainability outreach for students to receive training and support in representing and promoting sustainability resources and events to the student body.
  • Create partnerships within the community and on campus to offer extra-curricular experiences for students to be exposed to sustainability concepts as they impact their education, lifestyle and future.

Further Thoughts

Community Colleges are their own animal – these colleges truly reach into the community to not only educate community members, but much more. These colleges pose their own unique challenges as far as sustainability is concerned.

Husemoller notes “It can be a challenge keeping folks engaged across three campuses [Grayslake, Waukegan and Vernon Hills], but we had some success recently with a shoe and clothing/textile recycling drive with significant involvement across the board. Community colleges generate a significant amount of their carbon emissions from commuters. We have events highlighting alternative options for transportation. CLC serves a hub for the county bus transit system. CLC is installing more bike paths, connecting with the regional path system.”

Other accolades CLC can be proud of include:

 

Community Colleges Adding Green to Community – Part 3, McHenry Community College

Part three of this ongoing series about Chicago area community colleges and their sustainability efforts explores the most rural area of this huge area — McHenry County College (MCC).

Located in Crystal Lake, “McHenry County College has had a long standing, 20-year commitment toward sustainability,” stated Kim Hankins, Director, Sustainability Center at MCC.

McHenryCountyCollegeLogoThis commitment began in 1994 with the the Lou Marchi Total Recycling Institute (LMTRI), which, according to the MCC Web site “… was established through an endowment by a former continuing education instructor and community leader for environmental issues, to promote recycling in the community. The LMTRI has helped establish used paint and athletic shoes recycling programs; co-sponsored electronic and hazardous waste collection events; assisted with green business programming; and hosted Earth Day events and a variety of environmental programs.”

Sustainability Center

MCC’S Sustainability Center focuses on “….three interconnected areas, which creates a holistic approach to sustainability,” as stated on the College’s Web site.

These three areas are:

  1. Green Campus including physical campus and campus operations.
  2. Green Education that includes curriculum development for a green economy and training for employees and students about sustainable practices.
  3. Green Community including how MCC shares with the community resources that improve quality of life.

Aligning with green campus is the installation of  335 solar panels on the Shah Center in McHenry. “In June 2014, the Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN) awarded MCC a $250,000 grant to go towards a 91 kW solar photovoltaic installation,” as stated on the Web site.

These solar panels account for approximately 50 percent of the necessary power to run the Shah Center, while providing McHenry County residents with an estimated reduction of 75 tons of carbon per year.

MCC offers a variety of credit and noncredit workshops focusing on sustainability and the environment. The credit classes cover many subjects — from Alternate Fuel Vehicles, which discuss vehicles that run on compressed natural gas (CNG) , propane (LPG) and bi-fuel vehicles that alternate between gasoline and CNG or LPG to hydroponics, which studies hydroponic systems for growing horticultural crops and plants in indoor environments to a Creative Leadership project, which is part of the Fast Track Business Management program, which focuses on promoting green technology.

Even if a class is not specifically geared toward sustainability, Hankins explained that this sustainability and green thinking is embedded into each curriculum. For example, as part of the lesson on decision making in Introduction to Psychology, the decision whether or not to recycle is used as the example.

Green Community, College

MCC reaches out to the community to promote sustainability. MCC’s Sustainability Center and the LMTRI publish the annual McHenry County Green Guide, which is full of lots of new and reusing information, including a Green Living section on where you can purchase green products locally and online. And, the Sustainability Center provides education for the college and the community about solid waste.

As stated in it’s Sustainability Plan, MCC’s vision is that the College…”will be a premier model of sustainability and environmentalstewardship through campus practices and education for District 528 and the greater McHenry County community. Through leadership and education, McHenry County College will improvethe quality of life for current and future generations.”

 

 

Community Colleges Adding Green to Community Part 2 — Harper College

So, next in my series about sustainability and Chicago area community colleges is Harper College. Located in Palatine, Harper College holds a special place in my heart and mind because Harperthis was the community college I attended after high school and before I transferred to Northeastern Illinois University. The College has grown and changed — I had difficulty finding where I was supposed to meet someone – didn’t even recognize the campus! But, that’s a good thing! And, I was also very happy to learn about the green efforts the College is making toward sustainability.
In order to move forward with its sustainability efforts, Amy Bandman was hired as Harper’s first Sustainability Coordinator, who has stated that “…the biggest sustainability challenge is community engagement – those at the school have to take ownership of being green and healthy, but it’s hard because Harper is a commuter school.”

Moving Forward

Even though community engagement may be a struggle, there have been many sustainability victories at Harper — the most significant being the drop from 2.18 million gallons of water usage to 1.85 million gallons between May 2014 and May 2014 – that’s a difference of .33 million gallons in one year.

“In just one year we [Harper College] have reduced paper towel consumption by four and a half tons just by switching to hand dryers — this has saved the college over $12,000,” explained Bandman

The College has also made progress achieving the goals set in its 2013 Climate Action Plan. In its January 15, 2015 American College & University President’s Commitment, Bandman reported that “Harper College has achieved its first target set forth in phase one of the climate action plan, achieving 5% reduction in energy use of purchased utilities compared to the base year of 2010 and 15% offset of carbon emissions from purchased utilities via renewable energy certificates.

Also, per the climate action plan, all newly constructed buildings at Harper must meet LEED Silver status.

Landscaping at the College is not untouched; Harper  has planted more native plants and now grow these plants in house in the greenhouse in peet pots, thus, reducing the waste of plastic pots. Also, vegetated swales can be seen in the north parking lot and near the new parking garage.

Harper’s Welding Technology department has even become involved in sustainability efforts. The Welding department build two new bicycle racks which hold seven bikes — these racks, which are placed in front of the new buildings promote both welding and bicycling.

According to the College, “The [welding] class will work each semester to fabricate two bike racks and Physical Plant staff will continue to install the bike racks on campus. This is a great opportunity to showcase student work on campus while helping to contribute to Harper’s green efforts. Instructor Adam Phan shares his excitement for “spotlighting our program and giving the students such a great opportunity to have a long lasting, positive impact on campus; this is really something we can all be proud of.”

Harper is also moving toward stream recycling where all items that can be recycled can be thrown in the same bin instead of having to separate items, making it easier for those on campus to participate in recycling efforts. Also, those water bottle filling stations located throughout campus have eliminated 718,000 one-use bottles, according to Bandman.

Involvement

In addition to Harper’s Environmental Club, the Sustainability Department is offering a Sustainability Series with various programs. The next program is Whole Home Efficiency: Ways To Save Energy and Money on Tuesday, July 21 — free lunch will be provided. For more information about this and upcoming events check out http://goforward.harpercollege.edu/about/consumerinfo/sustainability/.

 

 

Christmas Is Over – What To Do With That Tree?

The holidays and you have to get back to “life as normal”, which means packing away all of those Christmas decorations and cleaning up including getting rid of that dried up old Christmas tree. Don’t want to throw your Christmas tree and have it end up in a landfill? The best thing to do is recycle that tree! Many villages offer free recycling services where you can take your tree to be turned into the mulch and they’ll give the mulch back to you so you can use it for compost, or you can just donate the mulch. If you’re unsure about these services contact your city hall for this information.

But, if you’re looking for some more unusual uses for that old tree, here are some suggestions:

  1. Planters – trunks and larger branches of Christmas trees should support large planters or possibly be the base for a compost pile.
  2. Bird feeder – spread small branches with margarine or peanut butter and dip it in bird seed. If you already have a bird feeder it may take a few days for the birds to find this xmastreefeeder so don’t fret!
  3. Winter Season Garden Cover – pine boughs are an excellent, natural garden cover for those cold, harsh winter months.
  4. Wildlife habitat – Even if you live on a small property, place your old Christmas tree at the edge of your yard, which makes a great, small winter wildlife habitat for squirrels, rabbits and birds. Some may even build nests in the tree.
  5. Sachet – if you’re feeling crafty and love that fresh Christmas tree scent all year long make a sachet using the tree’s pine needles. Best places throughout the home for these scented treats are bathrooms and the kitchen.

 

Chicago Ban on Plastic Bags – August 2015

We see them strewn on the sides of streets, in parks, in forest preserves and just about everywhere else — plastic bags! They’ve become more of an annoyance instead of a convenience.

After last month’s statewide ban of single-use plastic bags in California, Chicago is set to join California and other major US cities Seattle and Austin in this cause in August 2015. Chain stores which are defined as a group of three or more stores that have the same owner or franchise stores of more than 10,000 square feet, will no longer be allowed to offer plastic bags.

The proposal, which was supported by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, was passed in April 2014 by a vote of 36-10.  Those retailers not compliant to the new law will face fines between $300-$500.

According to a April 30, 2014 Chicago Tribune article, “Environmental advocates said the ban would reduce the number of reusable-bagbags littering parkways, fluttering in trees, bloating landfills and clogging drains. But store owners and plastic bag manufacturers said the paper bags likely to replace plastic pose cause their own share of environmental woes and, because they cost more, will lead to higher prices at city stores.”

Some not-so-fun facts about plastic bags from reusit.com:

  • Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide. Consider China, a country of 1.3 billion, which consumes 3 billion plastic bags daily, according to China Trade News.
  •  About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute.
  • A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
  • The U.S. goes through 100 billion single-use plastic bags. This costs retailers about $4 billion a year.
  • Plastic bags are the second-most common type of ocean refuse, after cigarette butts (2008)
  • Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down.
  • It is estimated that worldwide plastic bag consumption falls between 500 billion and 1 trillion bags annually. That breaks down to almost 1 million every minute.
  •  In good circumstances, high-density polyethylene will take more than 20 years to degrade. In less ideal circumstances (land fills or as general refuse), a bag will take more than 1,000 years to degrade.
  • Every square mile of the ocean has about 46,000 pieces of floating plastic in it. (UN, 2006)
  • Ten percent of the plastic produced every year worldwide winds up in the ocean. 70% of which finds its way to the ocean floor, where it will likely never degrade. (UN, 2006)

Of course, not everyone is for this citywide ban, citing economic reasons.

Tanya Triche, vice president and general counsel of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said in a statement reported by ABC Chicago. “Driving up expenses for retailers and forcing customers to pay more at the store while not helping the environment flies in the face of the city’s goal to make Chicago one of the nation’s greenest cities and support companies that have invested significantly in Chicago’s neighborhoods.”

Will this ban help one of the greenest cities in the nation be even greener? We still have about 10 months to see what will happen, but Chicagoans can start getting into greener habits in preparation for this ban. Many major chain stores offer reusable bags for sale for as low as 99 cents. There are many Web sites out there for reusable bags and, sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can get these bags for free. In my opinion, reusable bags are better than plastic and even paper too because many times these bags are made from recycled material, they hold more items and can be easily cleaned and reused.

 

 

 

 

Back to School….Green

So, it’s just about that time again – school back in session! I’m sure these words are music to many parents’ ears, but kids, on the other hand, are dreading waking up and sitting inside for eight hours once again.

What are some things we can do to instill green habits in the next generation of stewards of the Earth?

  • Not every piece of clothing needs to be new. Sure, you want to wear a brand new outfit on that first day of school, but there are many “fashion conscious” thrift stores popping up where kids can find something “new” to wear without breaking the  school_45bff72d1bbank and being better to Mother Earth too.
  • If possible, pack lunches in reusable containers and lunch bags
  • Buy products with minimal packaging
  • Walk, cycle or bus to school
  • Buy Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified paper products – the FSC is  an organization that certifies wood and paper products grown in forests that are responsibly managed.
  • Reuse school supplies that are in good condition — save money and resources by purchasing what’s really needed! If you can’t reuse the supplies, donate them to your local school, daycare or another place that may use them, such as a library.

Outside of the basics, keep kids in touch with nature. Take the kids out for a fun evening walk – catch fireflies, view the constellations.  Instead of sitting in front of the computer or TV for hours after school, get out and stretch your legs and imagination. Weather permitting, schedule some fun outdoor events on the weekend – go for a family bike ride or visit a local nature center.

Oak Park Aims to be Destination for Midwest’s Green Film Festival

Oak Park, Ill. has always been known as a fairly progressive, liberal and creative town. Located next door to Chicago, Oak Park boasts the childhood home of Ernest Hemingway and a plethora of other cultural attractions, Oak Park has added “green community” to their list of community positives.

In 2011 the Oak Park/River Forest (suburb next door to Oak Park) area developed PlanItGreen, “[t]he Environmental filmfest-logo-2014-large-303x360Sustainability Plan for Oak Park and River Forest…[it] is a project designed to develop and implement an environmental sustainability plan” which will be discussed in a future blog.

In addition to setting benchmarks and goals to reduce energy and water consumption and just have greener communities, Oak Park has gone one step further and established the well-known green film festival, One Earth Film Festival, which has grown in just three years.

According to the One Earth Film Festival Web site, “[it] is a Chicago area film festival that creates opportunities for understanding climate change, sustainability and the power of human involvement through sustainability-themed films and facilitated discussions…[to] stimulate, energize and activate communities…maximizing citizen reach and expanding the movement.”

“The festival offers a broad coverage of topics – from films about energy, waste and water, but has evolved to cover more metaphysical and philosophical topics as well and how this affects our environment,” states Ana Garcia Doyle, One Earth Film Festival Founder and Team Lead.

Some films the festival has presented in the past include Musicwood, which chronicles three of the world’s most famous guitar makers as they travel to the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska, where Spruce trees are being logged at an alarmingly high rate. Sitka Spruce trees are used to make acoustic guitar soundboards. Another film, Comfort Zone explores “an in-depth look at what happens when global climate climate issues come to our backyards.”

In addition to screening 30-40 films, Doyle emphasizes involvement through getting speakers to discuss the featured films and panel discussions after the film has been filmed which then turn the question back to the audience “what can you do?”.

The 4th Annual One Earth Film Festival is March 6-8, 2015. Check the festival’s Web site for further information.

 

 

Say Goodbye to Bug Bites…Naturally

So, here it is July – the middle of the summer, which means for many of us, including myself, bug bites! Bugs, especially mosquitoes, love, love the taste of my blood – I don’t get it – I break out in terrible painful welts, but I hate using harsh chemicals to protect myself from these nasty bites. Thankfully there are some natural alternatives to regular bug sprays, especially any containing N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, or, more commonly known as DEET.

What is DEET?

A common ingredient in many over-the-counter insect repellents, DEET is a colorless yellow oil which works as a true repellent to mosquitoes. Even though DEET is a miracle ingredient for those of us who serve as a buffet to mosquitoes and other biting mosquitoinsects, it has been found that DEET has been found to inhibit the activity of a central nervous system ensyme acetylocholinesterase, which in essence, plays a role in the function of the neurons which control muscles. DEET has also been known to have effects on the environment including. It has been found have a slight toxicity for coldwater fish such as rainbow trout and tilapia and it also has been shown to be toxic for some species of freshwater zooplankton.

What Can I Do?

So, you’re wondering what can I use instead of a chemical-based insect repellent? I don’t want to use chemicals or expose others or the environment to DEET or other chemicals. There has to be an alternative. There are! You can find natural alternatives on the shelves of such stores as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, or even just the common grocery store or big box store. Natural and chemical-free is becoming more the norm nowadays. Personally, I’ve had luck with Burt’s Bee’s All Natural Outdoor Herbal Insect Repellent, which contains such key ingredients as peppermint oil, cedar and lemon eucalyptus. If you want to try your hand and making your own easy, inexpensive bug sprays or creams you can find many recipes online, including this recipe: http://tinyurl.com/mmbuv2c.

The Natural Resources Defense Council also suggests if you want to use a chemical-based repellent containing Picaridin. the NRDC states  “[Picaridin is] structurally based on chemicals in peppers…appears to interfere with the mosquito’s ability to smell it’s prey. …may be less effective than DEET. A 20% Picaridin formulation has been shown to repel mosquitoes for 8-10 hours.”

The NRC continues, saying ” Picaridin is much less irritating to the skin than DEET. It has very low toxicity and does not appear to cause adverse neurological or reproductive effects. Nor does it cause cancer in animals.”

Other Things Of Note

Of course, ridding your area of any standing water helps prevent mosquitoes – standing water is just a breeding ground for these pests. Also, check the mosquito forecast – if it’s high then stay indoors or at least in a screened-in area. And, proper clothing is key – wearing clothing that covers your arms and legs minimizes your chances of being bitten by mosquitoes or other biting insects.

 

 

 

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