The year of measuring trash: How much stuff do you throw away?

Eco-Tip | By Scott A. Rappe 

Have you ever wondered how much stuff you throw away? For years I wanted to measure our household waste stream. My opportunity finally came when Santa brought me a small spring-balance weighing scale. It took a lot of persistence, but I found the effort very enlightening. Here’s a breakdown:

Trash discarded by my family of four, during 2009 (1,800 pounds total)

First, I was amazed by how much paper we accumulated. Beyond an occasional Sunday newspaper and typical food packaging, the bulk of it was junk mail — 600 pounds of junk mail!

The next number that struck me was glass. No pretenses here: With two kids and two stressful professional lives, we drink a lot of wine.

The plastic number is a bit misleading. While the weight (47 pounds) was almost equal to that of the metal (43 pounds) I would bet that the volume was at least 100 times larger, so diverting it from landfills is really important. But while metal is recycled, plastic is only down-cycled, becoming less valuable with each successive use. Nonetheless, more than 60 percent of our non-food garbage ended up in our blue carts.

I am particularly proud of the quantity of food waste we diverted to the compost bin. We are a vegetarian family that cooks most of our meals at home, so we generate a prodigious amount of food waste. We separate our food waste into two streams: raw (peels, cores, rinds, seeds, roots, leaves, wet paper, coffee grounds & filters, etc.) which goes straight to the compost bin, and cooked (plate scrapings, pot scrubbings, moldy cheese and food-tainted paper) which goes to a bokashi fermentation bin, where it pickles for a few weeks before going to the compost bin.

All the compost produced is spread on our front and rear yards. We produced nine 5-gallon buckets last spring; I expect much more this year. Almost 30 percent of our garbage never leaves our property. Now that’s something!

I was disappointed that 10 percent of our waste still ended up in our black bin. This trash included everything that cannot be recycled in Chicago, mostly unmarked plastic, plastic films, foam containers, chemical-tainted paper and cardboard, etc. Missing from this tally are batteries and electronics, which were dropped off at the Goose Island recycling center, which the city operates off Division Street at 1150 N. North Branch St.

I suspect our total of 1,800 pounds is probably lower than what the average American family of four tosses annually, since we try to be very aware of what we purchase and discard. But it is still far above what any family of four should be throwing "away." This year we will continue to be vigilant with our purchases and do our best to reduce the amount of junk mail we get.

Watch for an upcoming article on our composting system.

Answer the Census; They're counting on you!

By Marjorie Isaacson 

By now you should have received a U.S. Census form in the mail. If you thought it was a piece of junk mail, think again. The consequences of not acting are expensive, and you'll pay these costs in taxes.

There is a big ad campaign going on designed to encourage the public to fill out and return the forms promptly. The cost for this outreach was $130 million, which sounded like a lot to me. But this sum pales in comparison to the costs of following up on the forms that aren't returned, estimated at $56 a household, as much as $1.5 billion.

According to the Census, those least likely to return forms are undocumented immigrants, Hispanics, young adults, city dwellers and residents displaced by foreclosures. For cities, getting an accurate count is crucially important because the statistics help determine funding for government services.

Census statistics are also published and free for anyone who wants to use them. It's a wealth of information for all kinds of businesses — a bargain, really.

One cost of the Census is that canvassers visit households that do not mail back a form. So do your part and avoid an inconvenient and embarrassing visit from a government worker.

New alderman brings change & continuity

President's Message | By Greg Nagel 

This spring brings transformation to East Village, but also many reassuring constants.

First, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the contribution of the East Village Association's outgoing two-term president, John Scheer. I served as John's vice president for two years and was always impressed with his diplomacy and ability to form consensus among the group. I'm going to strive to emulate John that way. John did a great job and I think we owe him gratitude for his dedication and contribution to our community.

As I'm sure you have heard, Mayor Daley has appointed a new 1st Ward alderman, Joe Moreno. Some of you might be familiar with Joe from 2008, when he ran unsuccessfully for Illinois' 2nd District seat as state senator. There were eight challengers for the state senate and all of them lost to their incumbents.

I got a chance to talk with Joe after his appointment as alderman. "I will be looking to the community groups for their advice and counsel," he said. "Also, I plan to continue what Alderman Flores has started."

Joe also mentioned that Raymond Valadez would be staying on as ward chief of staff, and that Manny Flores would be advising him and providing support. This was welcome news to the EVA board, as we have had an excellent working relationship with Raymond over the years. Lastly, Joe mentioned that he has some new ideas and ways of doing things. Joe and Raymond were the two people Manny recommended to Mayor Daley.

Joe will not be officially sworn in until April 14, and 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno will be EVA's keynote speaker at our May 3 meeting.

More change: We have a new EVA officer group elected. Neal McKnight as VP and Nicole Semple as treasurer are welcome additions to our leadership. Dana Palmer continues as secretary and my move to president from vice president represent stability.

I'm forming the rest of the board and hope to have this finalized by the next general meeting. As in any volunteer organization, having people willing to donate their time and energy is critical for its survival so I'm very thankful to the people who have stepped forward.

As we move forward this year, I'm very hopeful our neighborhood will come together as one community. I've always felt that united we stand and divided we fall. We agree with each other far more than we disagree, and only once in awhile a contentious issue comes up. When that happens, I will use my position to ensure that everyone's voice is heard, but in a respectful and neighborly way.

At our first meeting we welcome arborist Mark Duntemann, and our discussion will include the prospects for planting trees on Augusta between Ashland and Western. I look forward to seeing you there.

Moreno new 1st Ward alderman

Proco “Joe” Moreno will be sworn in April 14 as the new 1st Ward alderman.

A 14-year resident of the ward, Moreno is vice president of Buhl Press Inc., a printing company in west suburban Berkeley. He is a leader in the Metropolitan Leadership Institute of the United Neighborhood Organization, a Latino nonprofit group that works with city agencies. UNO has political ties to Mayor Daley, who appointed Moreno alderman on Monday.

“He has proven over the years that he can work effectively with the diverse communities of the 1st Ward,” Daley said in a City Hall press conference.

Raymond Valadez, chief of staff for Ald. Manuel Flores and a candidate to replace him, will stay on as Moreno's chief of staff. Flores left the 1st Ward post in January to chair the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Moreno, 37, has served as a member of the Jose de Diego local school council and on the board of the Humboldt Park Social Services agency. Moreno also lost in a run for the state Senate in 2008.

“He also brings with him a great deal of valuable private sector experience. He is a well-rounded person and a committed public servant and I know he will do an excellent job in the Council,” Daley said.

Parkway trees a budding topic at April 5 meeting

Chicago plants thousands of trees a year, but few in East Village. The April 5 meeting of the East Village Association will dig deeper into the reasons for that, and explore how to make the neighborhood a greener place.

Guests in this run-up to Arbor Day will include Mark Duntemann, whose Chicago company Natural Path is a consultant on urban forestry management. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott.

Bringing more trees to East Village is one of EVA's goals for the year, and an agenda item leaders plan to press on the new 1st Ward alderman. As the original sponsor of the Frankie Machine Garden at Wood and Haddon, EVA has a long track record on urban greening.

This year EVA is trying to revive a stalled 1990s city plan to beautify Augusta Boulevard, which lacks much of the landscaping associated with the city's boulevard system. The project would have constructed sidewalk bumpouts as bookends to street parking.

Since then city agencies have expanded their own forestry work in the Chicago Tree Intiative. The Chicago Park District and the Streets & Sanitation department each plant thousands of trees annually.

That effort goes beyond beautification: A city climate action plan aims to lower energy costs in part by shading sidewalks from summer heat.

Getting a jump on first-Monday meeting date

East Village Association members will continue to meet on the first Monday of the month. The new board members find the early date fits their schedule, and members have come out for nearly two years of regular 7 p.m. Monday meetings in the Happy Village game room at Wolcott and Thomas.

Fourth of July or election dates often bumped EVA meetings off the calendar when the date was set as the first Tuesday, as set in the bylaws. The EVA board would reschedule those meetings, even though the postal service could never guarantee prompt notice of the change.

This year's board is proposing that the first sentence of Article X of the bylaws be amended to read: "General meetings shall be held monthly and shall be open to the public." That would allow the board to schedule the meeting time, date and place, and use e-mail and this website to spread the word on schedule changes.

The new language will be debated at the Monday, April 5 meeting, and members will vote on the proposal May 3.

2010 EVA board organizes

Minutes for March 8, 2010 board meeting
Submitted by Dana Palmer

Board Members: Greg Nagel, Brodi Cole, Nicole Semple, Neal McKnight, Dana Palmer, Rich Anselmo, Scott Rappe, Stephen Rynkiewicz and Steve Crane
Non-Board Members: Marjorie Isaacson

  1. The president from East Village Neighbors met with the board regarding the possibility of EVN and EVA rejoining as one group, EVA. General consensus from the EVA board was positive and it was agreed that current EVN members would be welcomed into EVA.

  2. New EVA President Greg Nagel requested secretary Dana Palmer to not only do general reports from both the monthly membership meeting and board meeting but to also compile a list of “to do's” after each board meeting and e-mail it to the Board members so that everyone knows and is reminded of the tasks they committed themselves to do.

  3. Greg Nagel also asked secretary Dana Palmer to draft a letter to be sent to the new alderman's office informing them of the newly elected officers for EVA.

  4. A contact list was generated for current officers and board members.

  5. Greg Nagel discussed the possibility of nominating one or two current EVN officers to the EVA board as a way to welcome their group back to EVA. Greg also stated that he will personally call all current board members about their interest in serving another term as well as contacting other individuals who have been recognized as possibly being interested in serving on the board this term.

  6. Brodi Cole transitioned position of Treasure to Nicole Semple. Brodi, Nicole and Greg agreed to meet at the bank to finalize the transition. Nicole was also given the key to the post office box and has agreed to gather the mail. She also agreed to look into the possibility of finding a new location for the P.O. box that is easier to access. Brodi has agreed to transfer funds from the PayPal account into the bank account before fully terminating her position.

  7. Aldermanic position for first ward should be filled soon. Scott Rappe has agreed to draft a letter to give to the new alderman informing them of EVA, our history, views of various topics, what we would like to be notified of and priorities that we may have.

  8. Steve Crane is still working on finalizing the current membership list and will retrieve the PayPal list from Brodi Cole to do so.

  9. Steve Rynkiewicz agreed to update the website with the new officers. He also mentioned that EVA might want to look into finding a new web host or reassess the budget for the website since the current “cheap” services has been maxed out.

  10. Suggestions were made regarding May membership meeting speakers. Marjorie Isaacson suggested inviting the West Town Chamber of Commerce and the West town SSA to speak. Other suggested speakers for meetings to come were the La Salle principal. Scott Rappe agreed to gather the contact information for the principal. Neal McKnight also suggested a friend who is an Arborist to come and speak regarding urban planting of trees and possibility of having trees for Augusta Boulevard.

  11. The Board also discussed the fact that the current bylaws state Membership meetings will be held the first Tuesday of each month but they have for the past year been held on Mondays due to a schedule conflict with the previous EVA president. The board was in agreement to propose an amendment to the bylaws to state “General meetings shall be held monthly and shall be open to the public.” This proposal will be brought to a vote at the May Membership meeting.

  12. The board also agreed to discuss at May's board meeting the possibility of changing the location of the meetings.

  13. Corex signs: Greg Nagel and Rich Anselmo will work together regarding Corex signs notifying the public about EVA meetings and events.

  14. An opinion letter was requested of the EVA board from the Pulaski Park Neighborhood Association in regards to the Near North Montessori School and its plans to build a gymnasium. The main issue stated was in regards to the location and placement of the gymnasium in relation to the current school and adjacent building. However, the public hearing is scheduled for March 19, which does not give EVA enough time to bring the issue to the membership meeting and gather a vote on the opinion or position of the group. Therefore, the board unanimously agreed to not weigh in on the issue due to time constraints and inablility to bring the issue to a general Membership meeting. Greg Nagel will write a letter or e-mail to the Pulaski Park association to inform them of our decision.

Unanimous vote for EVA leaders

Minutes for March 1, 2010 membership meeting
Submitted by Dana Palmer

Meeting Commenced at 7:07 p.m.

  1. EVA officer nominations: The nominating committee consisting of Rich Anselmo, Stephen Rynkiewicz and Scott Rappe made nominations for EVA officers. Nominations included Greg Nagel for President, Neal McKnight for vice president, Nicole Semple for treasurer and Dana Palmer for secretary. Stephen Rynkiewicz voiced a motion to strike a vote since no else was running against the nominees. Greg Nagel seconded the motion and a unanimous vote was had to elect all four nominees into office.

  2. Treasurers Report: Pay-Pal account is not yet settled. To be discussed at next Board meeting.

  3. Planning, Preservation and Development: Scott Rappe raised two topics. The first topic involved an email he received from an East Village resident residing close to the intersection of Thomas and Ashland who had concerns about up-zoning and double lot development in her area. Rappe encouraged letters and a visit to Ald. Walter Burnett to help address issue.

    The second topic involved Pedestrian Designation previously supported by Alderman Flores. According to Rappe, Ald. Manuel Flores instructed his chief of staff to go forward with the pedestrian designation to include the area on Division from Wendy's to Ashland. However, it now appears that nothing has been done since alderman Flores resigned.

  4. April 5, 2010 Membership Meeting: Possible speaker for the upcoming membership meetings were suggested and included possible speakers from La Salle school principal, the new alderman for the 1st Ward, a library spokesperson and someone to speak about urban farming or local produce.

  5. Meeting adjourned at 7:41 p.m.

Aaron Bilton, Thomas Tomek join EVA board

Two new directors joined the East Village Association board in March. President Greg Nagel named East Village Neighbors president Thomas Tomek and former EVA president Aaron Bilton, an EVN co-founder.

Bilton and Tomek replace Steven Crane and Rich Anselmo, who served with past president John Scheer.

Continuing on the board are Scott Rappe, who now co-chairs the Planning, Preservation and Development committee with vice president Neil McKnight, and newsletter editor and webmaster Stephen Rynkiewicz.

Scott A. Rappe - Planning, Preservation & Development Committee Co-Chair/Board Member

I came to East Village in 1988, and after spending a year restoring a building on Division Street for my father's office, I bought a burned out four-flat around the corner, on Wolcott. I deconverted the building from four to three units and, after marrying my wife Grace and having children, expanded our living space into a second apartment. I have a small architectural firm on Division Street that focuses on serving the design needs of families, small businesses and the communities they inhabit.

My sons, Matthew & Nicholas are growing up in a house two blocks south of where their grandfather was born, and two blocks west of where their great-grandfather was born. They attend Pritzker School where they are getting a top-notch education with a wonderfully diverse group of really smart kids in the care of some of Chicago’s best teachers. They are happy, healthy, city kids reaping the benefits of all that a close-in urban neighborhood has to offer.

I became active in the East Village Association in 1997, when a developer requested a zoning change to build seven townhomes, with garage doors facing the street, on two under-sized city- lots. Organizing with my neighbors under the banner of EVA, we were able to positively influence the development, reducing the number of units to five and eliminating the garage doors and driveways. In the end, the developer made more money selling fewer, larger units, neighborhood children are safer not having to cross seven driveways on their way to school and twelve years later, the larger townhomes have higher property values and lower turn-over, adding stability to our community. The participation of the community made this a win-win situation for all parties and raised my awareness of the value of a neighborhood organization.

In the past twenty years, I have seen incredible changes in the community around me. The problems that we have faced as a community have gone from daily gunshots & slum-lords, to more gunshots & wholesale demolitions, to declining gunshots & relative peace and quiet. I have always loved East Village, but today, I marvel all the more at what our community has to offer.

Stephen Rynkiewicz - Newsletter/Webmaster/Board Member

Stephen Rynkiewicz has enjoyed the vintage buildings of East Village and the company of his neighbors since joining EVA at the 1998 summer barbecue. He was part of EVA's preservation efforts and garden walk before launching in 2007. An Internet producer for the Chicago Tribune, Rynkiewicz has edited the EVA newsletter since 2008.

Thomas Tomek - Board Member

I’ve lived on Winchester Ave. in the East Village with my wife Paula since 1985. Our 2 children are enrolled at LaSalle II Magnet School in the neighborhood. I am very interested in our neighborhood and the local school community.

I grew up in Des Plaines, IL where I graduated from Maine Twp High School. I received a BFA from Northern Illinois University and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago.

I’ve been owner & principle at Tomek Design & Illustration Inc. since 1994 and also a partner at Atomek Design Ltd.. since 2005. I’ve made a career as a graphic illustrator and artist/ painter.

I’m a 10 year member of the CAPS program at the 13th District Wood St. Police Station. I’ve served as the president for the East Village Neighbors for a year from 2009 to 2010. I am currently an EVA board member, since the merger of the EVN & EVA.

I’ve worked with the Alderman of the 1st & 32nd wards in conjunction with both CAPS & EVN on a number of issues.

I feel a unified effort from the neighborhood will make a positive difference in the quality of our lives. Sensitivity to intelligent development and respect to the rich architectural history of our neighborhood is priority. I am excited to be a member of the EVA.

Aaron Bilton, Board Member