Cultivating Roosevelt’s Schaumburg Campus: SUST Senior Sarah Tag Reports on Her Summer Internship at RU

During the summer of 2015, several Roosevelt University students majoring in Sustainability Studies have been doing internships or pursuing study abroad opportunities in various locales around the world, from Chicago to Hawaii and from Schaumburg to Scandinavia. We’ve invited them to write up reports from the field on their activities, adventures, and advocacy work in the service of environmental conservation, sustainable development, and social justice.

This post is from Sarah Tag, a senior SUST major who is working this summer and fall as RU’s Schaumburg Campus on a wide variety of sustainability projects.

Restored prairie along the detention pond at RU's Schaumburg Campus (S. Tag, Aug 2015)

Restored prairie along the detention pond at RU’s Schaumburg Campus (S. Tag, Aug 2015)

This summer, I have had the privilege of working as Roosevelt University’s environmental sustainability student associate for the Schaumburg campus. The tasks for this position are varied, but among my most important responsibilities are monitoring and maintaining the community garden, as well as keeping an eye on things through the tall grasses and flowers of the prairie walk.

As part of monitoring and maintaining the community garden I am often checking and double checking our automatic irrigation system and making adjustments, checking the rain barrel to make sure it is full and functioning, weeding, laying wood chips, taking pictures of the flora and fauna, and regularly corresponding with gardeners to answer questions and resolve any issues.

Generally things run fairly smoothly, although the job is not without its challenges.  One of my toughest issues arose when I had just begun my position in Schaumburg, and spotted a tick while working on one of the irrigation heads.  I then took it upon myself to minimize the issue:  I did some research on the CDC website, and sent an update to the community gardeners with helpful tips.  I also worked with the landscaper to have the tall grasses that abut the community gardens cut back a bit, leaving a buffer zone between them.  Then I did the really heavy lifting.  I spent numerous hot days loading a wheelbarrow full of wood chips (from trees that were cut on campus), pushing them over to the garden area, laying them down, and spreading them neatly.  Wood chips not only deter weeds, but also discourage ticks.

Schaumburg's wild fauna (S. Tag, Aug 2015

Schaumburg’s wild fauna (S. Tag, Aug 2015

When I say the job is a privilege, however, it is no exaggeration.  I have walked through  the prairie walk on so many days and said to myself, “Is this really my job?!  I am so lucky!”  One of my favorite things to hear when I get out there is the song of the goldfinches flying above me.  I can identify them without even looking up above my head now, and I grin every time.  I know their dip-swoop pattern of flying and their fluttery song well.  I have seen and heard other animals and critters too, even a toad.  From the exotic to the mundane, every day on this job has been an adventure.​

Submitted by Sarah Tag on 26 Aug 2015

Posted in Agriculture, Biodiversity, Conservation, Education, Food, Gardening, Landscaping, Roosevelt, Schaumburg, Schaumburg Campus, Students, Sustainability

RU Wins State of IL Grant to Conserve Energy and Save Money

RU's Schaumburg Campus (photo: M. Radeck)

RU’s Schaumburg Campus (photo: M. Radeck)

Roosevelt University was awarded a grant in April 2015 that was applied toward upgrading the energy efficiency  lighting systems for its National Historic Landmark Auditorium Building at the Chicago Campus as well as for the entire Schaumburg Campus facility. The grant was made by the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation. It not only enables Roosevelt to take another stride toward energy efficiency and environmental awareness; it also helps the University reduce the cost of its monthly electricity bill.

Installation of the systems was completed last month and we are looking forward to seeing what our savings will total. At the Schaumburg Campus alone, estimated cost reduction could total $13,600 annually. The university expects to save 169,681 kilowatts hours of electricity through the grant program.

For more information on this and other RU sustainability initiatives, contact Rebecca Quesnell, Environmental Sustainability Student Associate (rquesnell@roosevelt.edu).

Posted in Climate Change, Conservation, Economics, Energy, News, Roosevelt, Schaumburg Campus, Sustainability

Illinois’ New Clean Energy Bill

by Jim Lockafeer for SUST 240

A wind farm in rural McLean County, Illinois (Photo by Tim Lindenbaum via Creative Commons)

A wind farm in rural McLean County, Illinois (Photo by Tim Lindenbaum via Creative Commons)

Clean energy is very important when it comes to lessening our impact on the planet. It can generally be defined as an extremely wide variety of technologies and techniques that help to conserve and create energy. Clean energy is becoming more and more recognizable here in Illinois with things like solar panels and wind turbines in use all across the state.

A few months ago, back in the middle of February, Illinois legislators introduced what has been referred to as a “groundbreaking” clean energy bill. The bill’s goal is to increase the states renewable energy standard by requiring 35 percent of energy consumed in Illinois to be generated by clean renewable sources by 2030. Currently the standard calls for 25 percent by 2025, and experts were worried the state would not meet these goals because of issues with how the standard is currently structured. The bill also calls for raising the state’s energy efficiency standard with 20 percent energy use reductions by 2025 and proposes a market-based strategy to reduce carbon emissions from power plants to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

Photo: Forbes

Photo: Forbes

Back when this bill was first introduced, it was sponsored by two Illinois State Senators and was largely supported by the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, a group of 26 organizations and 33 businesses. At the latest forum to discuss the bill (April 9th, 2015) it was officially backed and cosponsored by 39 representatives and 19 senators. The bill gained support not only for its expected effect on reducing pollution, but also because many of its supporters see it as a way to create jobs. In fact, according to the Daily Herald the bill has potential to create 32,000 new jobs here in Illinois. Clean jobs in Illinois have been growing rapidly, with around 40 percent of firms in the clean energy field adding workers in 2014. With this clean energy bill (hopefully) going into effect, expect that number to jump even higher in the near future.

It is great to see Illinois taking clean energy seriously. People are expecting big things from this bill, as expressed by State Representative Rita Mayfield (60th District), who is cosponsoring the legislation and has gone on the record stating, “This bill will create thousands of new jobs in the clean energy industries, it will save consumers money on their electric bills, and it will deliver huge public health benefits by reducing dangerous carbon pollution.” It certainly is going to be very interesting in the years to come to see how this bill plays out.

Each week during the Fall 2014 / Spring 2015 semesters, students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 240 Waste classes at Roosevelt University contribute blog posts on urban and suburban sustainability issues to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.

Posted in Climate Change, Conservation, Economics, Energy, News, Planning, Students, Sustainability

Kicking the “Paper or Plastic?” Habit through Reusable Bag Legislation in Chicago and Its Suburbs

by Danielle LaBella for SUST 240

Making everyday habits more sustainable is becoming a national trend, and larger cities are setting the standard. The dispute involving paper-versus-plastic-versus-reusable bags has been going on for years among the public as well as in municipal governments. In April 2014 here in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and his team voted overwhelmingly in favor of a partial ban on plastic bags. By August 2015, retailers in the City of Chicago larger than 10,000 square feet will be required to eliminate use of plastic bags, or they will suffer a fine of $300-$500 per violation. Small independent and non-franchise stores will be unaffected at first, but will have to follow suit by August 2016.

LaBella 240 blog image3

Chicago’s logo to encourage reusable bag use

 

Activists living in Schaumburg feel their city should be leading the reusable bag movement, stopping the nonsensical paper-versus-plastic choice given to customers at retail establishments. After the ban idea was shut down by Schaumburg officials, activists wrote a counter-proposal to charge consumers $.10 per paper or plastic bag. There is hope that reinforcing reusable bags by punishing bad habits could be proactive steps in their movement. However, Schaumburg officials have decided to wait for the outcomes of the Chicago plastic bag ban before they initiate action.

Schaumburg Trustee Marge Connolly claims the winding and sometimes hard to recognize Schaumburg borders with its many neighboring suburbs will create confusion for consumers in regards to where they will need to use reusable bags, and could furthermore create a competitive disadvantage for Schaumburg businesses. Activists disagree with this reasoning, as cities such as Evanston are instituting the same law as Chicago in August; and like Schaumburg, Evanston borders not just the city but other suburban communities. Moreover, Schaumburg retail locations such as Whole Foods Market, Aldi, and Ikea are already following the reusable bag trend. Time will soon tell how Chicago’s and Evanston’s legislation will affect future suburbs’ actions.

Studies suggest that effectiveness of reusable bags depends on the material and number of times it’s used. Click here to read more about this debate, and how reusable bags contribute to waste reduction and are thus a small but helpful contribution to a sustainable future.

LaBella 240 blog image1My boyfriend and I recently ordered take-out at a restaurant in Chinatown called Joy Yee Noodle. To my shock, our food came in a reusable bag! I have never experienced this before, and I was greatly impressed by this initiative. We have now used this bag many times, perhaps out of appreciation towards this effort. We soon discovered their original location is in Evanston. Having locations in areas with a soon-to-be partial plastic bag ban may have propelled this inspiring kick-start.

Even Chicago high school art students have been recently involved. They were encouraged to participate in the 2015 Chicago Farmer’s Market reusable bag design contest. Plans like these help educate people on new lifestyle habits that are necessary for a sustainable future. To find out more about current campaigns and ways you can help, click here!

LaBella 240 blog image2

During the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 semesters, students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 240 Waste classes at Roosevelt University contribute blog posts on urban and suburban sustainability issues to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.

Posted in Business, Chicago, Education, Recycling, Schaumburg, Students, Sustainability, Waste

Burn, Baby, Burn! Prescribed Fire at RU’s Schaumburg Campus Encourages Native Plant Communities to Flourish

Yesterday, instead of worrying over their taxes, an enthusiastic burn crew did a prescribed burn of the detention pond at RU’s Schaumburg Campus. This was the 3rd time this artificial wetland has been burned since 2011 in an effort to mitigate invasive species growth and encourage the establishment of native wetland and prairie plants.

Prescribed burn of the detention pond at RU's Schaumburg Campus, 15 Apr 2015 (photo: T. Shelton)

Prescribed burn of the detention pond at RU’s Schaumburg Campus, 15 Apr 2015 (photo: T. Shelton)

Weather conditions were good for the 3rd prescribed burn of the detention basin and restored prairie at RU's Schaumburg Campus

Weather conditions were good for the 3rd prescribed burn of the detention basin and restored prairie at RU’s Schaumburg Campus

 

Posted in Biodiversity, Conservation, Education, Events, Invasive Species, Landscaping, Restoration, Roosevelt, Schaumburg, Schaumburg Campus

Going Green with the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition

by Robert Green for SUST 240

The Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition (GCRC) is an organization that aims to reduce the environmental footprint of the foodservice industry in Chicago. GCRC provides educational assistance and support to restaurants and other foodservice operations throughout the area in efforts to increase their environmental sustainability and to help them acquire “Guaranteed Green” certification.

So what does it take to get “Guaranteed Green” certification? In order to receive certification a restaurant must go through the Green Restaurant Association or Green Seal. Both independent organizations have established environmental standards for restaurants and both have been providing certification services for over two decades.

Rooftop Organic Farm Hosted by Uncommon Ground, Certified Green Restaurant in Chicago, Illinois (photo: Zoran Orlic of Zero Studio Photography / Uncommon Ground)

Rooftop Organic Farm Hosted by Uncommon Ground, Certified Green Restaurant in Chicago, Illinois (photo: Zoran Orlic of Zero Studio Photography / Uncommon Ground)

The Green Restaurant Association grades restaurants on seven different categories including water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable furnishing and building materials, sustainable food, energy, chemical and pollution reduction, and disposables. The certification process is very detailed. Green Seal, in comparison, has 31 standards that cover 375 product and service categories. Food service standards include a review of the restaurants purchasing decisions. To decrease their environmental impact, restaurants are encouraged to purchase environmentally responsible food, beverages and supplies. Restaurants must purchase a specific amount of food from sustainable sources and purchase environmentally preferable products and services.

Waste reduction is another focus of the evaluation process. Certifiers look to see if restaurants recycle their used cooking oil and if they are composting their food waste. Restaurants are also encouraged to donate left over food, if possible, and avoid the use of non-essential disposable products. They also look at policies and procedures for cleaning, site operations and general maintenance. There are many other criteria that are used to evaluate restaurants for the certification process. This is why GCRC is an invaluable resource for different restaurants and food service operations in Chicago that are looking to acquire this type of certification. They will assign an individual to assist an operation seeking certification for three months. The assistance is free of charge.

There are huge benefits to joining GCRC and becoming a “Guaranteed Green Restaurant”. Aside from doing a huge service to the community, restaurants receive the benefits of promo across different print media and access to additional resources for healthier products and services. They also get the opportunity to use the “Guaranteed Green” emblem which says a lot about an establishment and its dedication to protecting the environment. While the certification process may be challenging, food service operators are sure to reap benefits that make the process a worthwhile investment for their establishments, customer base, and the community as a whole.

Each week during the Fall 2014 / Spring 2015 semesters, students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 240 Waste classes at Roosevelt University contribute blog posts on urban and suburban sustainability issues to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.

Posted in Business, Chicago, Economics, Food, Green Design, Students, Sustainability, Waste

Composting Bio-Bins: Flood Brothers Disposal & Recycling Plant

by Nida Mufti for SUST 240

There is no denying that food waste is a major environmental problem. An alarming amount of food waste is dumped into municipal landfills, causing the detrimental greenhouse gas methane to be released into our atmosphere. A recent report estimates that the U.S. produces about 60 million metric tons of retail and consumer food waste, of which 32 million metric tons ends up in municipal landfills.

Chicago’s restaurant industry is guilty of throwing out a great proportion of unused food. According to Sarah Hiddler’s article posted on Illinois Food Scrap Coalition, on November 11th, 2014, “It is estimated that on average, 10% of food purchased by restaurants is thrown away. Think about that: if your restaurant buys $100,000 worth of food in a year, $10,000 of what you spend is tossed into the trash!” Needless to say, that’s a devastating amount of food being thrown away that could instead be used for composting.

A vital process of composting is to monitor the temperature of the Bio-Bins. (Shown above: Michael Flood of Flood Brothers Disposal & Recycling Services). Courtesy of Rich Nickel, Daily Herald)

A vital process of composting is to monitor the temperature of the Bio-Bins. (Shown above: Michael Flood of Flood Brothers Disposal & Recycling Services, photo courtesy of Rich Nickel from the Daily Herald.)

Fortunately, there are companies such as Flood Brothers who are genuinely trying to make a difference by composting and minimizing the amount of food waste sent to landfills. Flood Brothers Disposal & Recycling Services was established in 1930 and is one of the last family-owned and independently operated disposal and recycling businesses in the Chicago area. The company thrives to care for the environment, its employees and customers. According to Rich Nickel’s article posted on the Daily Herald on March 17th, “In a continuing effort to improve waste recycling in our communities a test program is under way at the Flood Brothers plant to recycle food waste in a innovative way.”

Flood Brothers partnered up with Chicagoland restaurants, food service organizations, and grocery stores to collect food scraps and organic materials. Thereafter, the scraps are placed in vermicomposting Bio-Bins. Nickel states, “Compost is very versatile. It can be used immediately or stored for a later gardening or planting season. Compost can be directly mixed into soil or used as a rich top dressing for indoor and outdoor plants.”

I was curious to learn how the testing phase was going and contacted Brian Flood, owner of Flood Brothers. One of the reasons Mr. Flood and his company started composting is “because everybody wants to get out of the regular way of disposing trash.” It was important for the company to make strides forward by offering services to divert food waste from landfills. Mr. Flood stated, “The testing phase is going well. We realized [the] breakdown is more difficult than we thought; it’s a slow process, but it’s going very well. We’ve been working with food processor companies to improve methods and in just one month we’ve been able to keep 10 tons of food waste out of the landfill.”

Compost: organic matter added to soil nourishes gardens and improves plant growth.

Compost: organic matter added to soil nourishes gardens and improves plant growth.

Clearly, Flood Brothers is headed in the right direction to help make a difference in the way food waste is disposed. Nickel states, “After the testing phase of the program is complete, Flood Brothers plans to increase the number of Bio-Bins and capability for composting. The compost will then be available to customers at a nominal cost.” Customers can then use the compost for natural and healthy methods of gardening.

If you would like more information about Flood Brothers Disposal & Recycling Bio-Bins composting program please visit floodbrothersdisposal.com.

Each week during the Fall 2014 / Spring 2015 semesters, students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 240 Waste classes at Roosevelt University contribute blog posts on urban and suburban sustainability issues to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.

Posted in Chicago, Education, Recycling, Students, Sustainability, Waste | 1 Comment