5 Tips for Cultivating a Zero-Waste Lifestyle

Is a truly zero-waste lifestyle possible, or will we always require waste removal for some items? While that extreme level of waste reduction seems unrealistic, an NYU environmental science major claims that she was able to fit all of her waste from four years into just one 16 oz. jar!

While that level of waste removal may not be realistic for everyone, zero-waste is put forth as an ideal to emphasize the importance of striving to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible. If you’re looking to do your part in preserving our beautiful earthly home, here are five zero-waste tips to try:

1. Simplify

A zero-waste lifestyle goes hand in hand with a less materialistic, more minimalist way of life. Think twice before buying just about anything, from consumer goods to furniture to clothing and electronics. Do you really need it?

2. Make Plastic the Enemy

One of the first things those striving for a zero-waste existence do is cut out plastics from their lives as much as possible. Plastics take a long time to decompose in landfills, and some types take many decades, such as Styrofoam. Avoid buying items made of plastic or packaged in plastic whenever possible.

3. Favor Reusable Items

Instead of using tissue, carry a cloth handkerchief. Phase all single-use products out of your life such as plastic dishware, silverware and straws. Buy higher quality items that last instead of disposable varieties. Doing so can cost you less in the long run as well.

4. Filter Your Own Water

Instead of buying water in bottles, jugs or from a delivery service, invest in a water filtration pitcher and filter your tap water. When taking water along with you, use a reusable glass or safe metal bottle to transport it.

5. Think Ahead

Most importantly, whenever you purchase anything at all, think ahead to its entire life cycle. How long will it last? Is it breakable or durable? Where will it end up at the end of its life cycle? Can it be recycled or refurbished? How much of a carbon footprint does buying and using the item leave? Be thoughtful about every item you purchase and mindful of its potential impact on the environment.

Adopting a zero-waste lifestyle takes some time, planning and effort. It likely won’t happen overnight. However, once you start thinking in these terms, the zero-waste lifestyle gets easier over time.

Use these five tips to make it easier to reduce, reuse and recycle instead of discarding things into the dumpster or trash container. While this lifestyle requires some sacrifices, it is also very rewarding to know you are helping the planet through sustainable living.

At Lakeshore Recycling Systems, we believe in the zero-waste ideal. While we offer premier waste management and dumpster services, we can also assist you with all your recycling needs. Contact us for more insights about reducing your business or residential waste production and being kinder to the environment.

Lakeshore Raised Nearly $70,000 for Lupus Society of Illinois

Since early summer, Lakeshore has been raising money for Lupus Society of Illinois and on October 20 we pulled the raffle drawing winners, with 30 amazing prizes available. Together, the Lakeshore team along with vendors, families and friends, raised close to $70,000 for Lupus Society of Illinois. Our six Lakeshore facilities alone raised over $30,000 for this amazing cause.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack healthy cells. Anyone can be impacted by lupus, but it predominately affects women. About five million people live with lupus worldwide and some celebrities who have the disease include Selena Gomez, Nick Cannon and Toni Braxton. There is currently no cure for lupus and that is why Lupus Society of Illinois and Lakeshore raises money and awareness for the disease.

Alan Handley’s, Lakeshore’s CEO, 14-year-old daughter, Maddie Handley, was diagnosed with lupus two years ago. This year she was named the Chicago Lupus Walk Ambassador by Lupus Society of Illinois for her support to raising awareness for this organization.

Lakeshore wants to thank everyone who participated for their generosity and support of such a prevalent cause. To find out if you’re a winner, watch the video from today’s drawing below.

Key Things to Know About Recycling Glass

Glass is one of the most easily recyclable items of all consumer materials. Most glass jars and bottles that are manufactured in the U.S. today are comprised of around 27 percent recycled glass. This saves energy and results in less stress on the environment.

The Recycling Process

In the glass recycling process, collected glass is broken up, cleaned, sorted and crushed. It is then mixed with other materials and melted down to be reused within new/recycled glass items.

However, not all glass is recyclable. Some types cannot be made into other items, so recycling it is not feasible. These glass types should be thrown in the dumpster or trash receptacle.

It’s important to be aware of which types of glass can be recycled and which cannot, especially since non-recyclable glass in the recycle bin can contaminate the whole load. The following is a guide on what types of glass can and should be recycled – and which should not:

Clear Glass

Clear glass, sometimes referred to as “flint” glass, comprises over 60 percent of all glass containers made in the U.S. Clear glass is a combination of soda ash, limestone and silica (sand). Clear glass is preferred by many companies, especially food manufacturers due to its transparent nature. However, some foods and products degrade when exposed to light, which leads us to the colored glass types we’ll discuss below. Clear glass can be recycled.

Amber/Brown Glass

Around 31 percent of all glass produced is amber or brown in color. To create it, a small amount of sulfur, nickel and carbon is added to clear glass. Brown or amber glass bottles are often used for bottling beer. This type of glass can be recycled.

Green Glass

A small percentage of glass produced in the U.S. is a variety of shades of green. Green glass is often used for wine bottles to preserve its integrity. To produce green glass, chromium, copper or iron is added. Green glass bottles can and should be recycled.

Glass That Cannot Be Recycled

Not all glass types are recyclable. Non-recyclable glass should be thrown in the dumpster or trash receptacle. Use this list to determine if an item can be included within the glass recycle bin:

  • Any glass mixed with other materials.
  • Decorative glass.
  • Mixed-color glass.
  • Dirty glass or glass caked with food waste.
  • Ceramics or dishware.
  • Pyrex and other types of heat-resistant glass.
  • Window glass
  • Mirrors
  • Crystal
  • Light bulbs
  • Computer or television screens
  • Cathode-ray tubes

While recycling should be conducted whenever possible, not all glass types are recyclable. Consult this article to determine if a glass item can be recycled. When in doubt, throw it in the dumpster, or contact Lakeshore Recycling Systems with any questions or concerns.

Remember also to thoroughly clean and rinse any glass item you will be recycling. The cleaner the better. The goal is to ensure a pristine load at the recycling center. This assists in creating recycled glass items that have as much integrity and strength as brand new glass items.

So, What Exactly Do Those Recycling Numbers Mean on the Bottoms of Plastic Items?

You might have glimpsed numbers on the bottoms of plastic containers and bottles. Are you aware of their meaning and how these numbers apply to sustainability and recycling practices?

When it comes to recycling and eco-friendliness, all plastics are not created equal. Some are less harmful to the environment than others. Knowing the meanings of these numbers can help you to make greener decisions about your food, drink and product purchases.

Playing the Numbers Game with the Environment

Every plastic container has a recycling number symbol within a triangle. This system ranges from 1 to 7 and relates to its biodegradability, the amount of toxic chemicals within the plastic, how likely it is to leach into the environment, and ultimately how safe it is.

The following is an overview of the plastics that each recycling number refers to:

#1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET)

This thin plastic type is made into bottles used for water, soda and various household products. It is usually clear and can begin to accumulate bacteria if reused. It can be recycled into many items including carpet, tote bags, paneling, furniture and even polar fleece.

#2. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

This plastic type tends to be opaque in color. It is used for shampoo and conditioner bottles, yogurt containers, milk jugs, butter tubs and detergent jugs. It can be recycled into plastic picnic tables, recycling containers, pens, fences, detergent bottles and more.

#3. Vinyl (V or PVC)

This plastic type is used in food wrappers and pipes for plumbing; however, it is usually not picked up in curbside recycling programs. This type of plastic contains phthalates and DEHA, which can cause multiple health problems including miscarriages, developmental issues and cancer. This plastic can be recycled into flooring, decking material and roadway speed bumps.

#4. Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

This softer plastic is used for shopping bags, squeezable bottles, clothing and some food wrappers. It can be recycled into compost bins, trash cans and liners, floor tiles and sturdy envelopes.

#5. Polypropylene (PP)

Polypropylene is used in ketchup bottles, medicine containers, syrup bottles and some yogurt containers. It can be recycled into mops, brooms, bins, pallets, auto battery cases, traffic signal lights and other hard plastic consumer products.

#6. Polystyrene (PS – also known as Styrofoam)

Styrofoam has a bad reputation in terms of recycling and sustainability – and rightfully so. It can leach toxic chemicals into the environment and is generally not accepted into recycling programs. Avoid buying products with Styrofoam packaging whenever possible. However, there are ways to recycle it into egg cartons, meat trays, insulation and foam packing used in shipping.

#7. “Other Plastics” (Miscellaneous)

Any plastic that can’t be classified in the above six areas is labeled with a 7. Most contain toxic polycarbonates and bisphenol-A (BPA), which act as hormone disruptors that can cause reproductive issues, infertility and hyperactivity. Sunglasses, electronics cases, nylon and bullet proof materials are all in this category. These items can be recycled into synthetic building materials and custom products.

While avoiding the use of plastics is the most eco-friendly approach, the categories of 2, 4 and 5 are generally considered the safest and least toxic.

If you have further questions or require assistance with any type of recycling, contact Lakeshore Recycling Systems for more information and a range of helpful services.

Tips for the Proper Disposal of Batteries

Batteries can pose a challenge for businesses and households looking to do the right thing in terms of waste management. From small batteries in watches, to standard AA, AAA, C and D to computer and car batteries, proper disposal techniques can be confusing.

Batteries are electrochemical in nature, converting the substances within them into electrical energy. Some contain heavy metals like lead, mercury, nickel and cadmium as well as corrosive acids. These materials can contaminate the environment if batteries are not disposed of properly. Placing larger toxic batteries in landfills can pollute the soil and groundwater. Burning them can release toxic materials into the atmosphere.

Becoming More Eco-Friendly

The U.S. Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act of 1996 makes it easier for battery manufacturers to collect and recycle small sealed lead-acid batteries and Ni-CD batteries. Batteries must now be easily removable from all products and include a recycling symbol/message on their casing. Mercury has also been removed from many consumer batteries, making them less toxic to the environment.

The following is an overview of proper waste management for common battery types:

Coin or Button Style Batteries

Small batteries used in watches and other small electronics often contain hazardous substances like mercury. They should be disposed of at a designated collection point for hazardous materials.

Carbon Zinc and Single-Use Alkaline

Small single use batteries can be discarded in your regular trash. These include AA, AAA, 9V, D and C. When disposing of 9V batteries, it is recommended that you adhere a piece of tape over the terminals to prevent the risk of short circuiting and fire.

Single-Use Long-Lasting Lithium (Li)

Li batteries are used in cameras and other electronics that require a lot of power. While these can also be thrown in the regular trash, there are more eco-friendly disposal options available in most communities. It is recommended that you adhere a piece of tape over the end of the battery to prevent the risk of short circuiting and fire.

Rechargeable Batteries

Rechargeable batteries come in many forms ranging from those used in consumer products to cell phones, laptops and tablets. While they are eco-friendly due to their rechargeable nature, disposing of them poses a risk to the environment. Disposable batteries are considered hazardous and should be taken to a designated battery collection point.

Automobile Batteries

Car batteries contain both sulfuric acid and lead. Because of this, they are considered hazardous waste. Most service stations will dispose of used car batteries for a cost, or find a hazardous waste disposal site set up to take them.

While there are many types of batteries and different ways to properly dispose of them, a little research can help keep you informed about the appropriate steps to take when it comes to eco-friendly ways of battery disposal.

Lakeshore Recycling Systems is here to assist you in all facets of waste management and recycling. If you have questions about any item, we’re here to provide guidance. We can also provide waste removal and recycling services for your residential and commercial needs.

Chicago Youth Learn About Recycling from the U.S. Green Building Council

On August 5, 2017, about 30 Chicago students spent their day learning about sustainable waste management and recycling practices. It was part of a program offered by the U.S. Green Building Council in its first annual recycling educational program.

The program is called Illinois Emerging Professionals Sustainability Day Camp. Donations from sustainNU, a University member of USGBC dedicated to furthering recycling efforts in the community, helped make the event possible for the students.

Starting Early to Create Habits of Recycling, Sustainability

This year, the camp took place in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood at the Elliott Donnelly Youth Center. Since the cost of the program was taken care of by donations from sustainNU, it was free for the middle schoolers who attended.

The participants enjoyed hands-on programs and activities with a focus on recycling techniques and sustainability. Other topics covered included storm water management, energy efficiency, urban gardening and even art projects related to recycling and sustainability.

Those overseeing sustainNU were excited about the opportunity because it was a chance for them to give back to the community. They are dedicated to assisting with the integration of sustainable practices into daily life, and these habits are best cultivated at an early age.

Chicago Organizations Committed to a Better World

Kathia Benitez, the director of sustainability at sustainNU, said the group was very proud to support a community event focused on social justice, recycling awareness and sustainability education. She said that as a USGBC member and University, sustainNU was committed to a better future for the planet through healthy, green and sustainable practices. Supporting the Illinois Emerging Professionals Sustainability Day Camp fit right into the group’s mission and vision.

One of the main goals of the program was to spark interest in science, recycling, a healthier world and related technologies and practices. Starting early increases the chance of children incorporating sustainable thinking and living into their lives. Professionals from all around the Chicagoland community convened to create and facilitate a range of vibrant activities. The entire experience was very hands-on for the children, but some of the activities also resulted in take-home projects and educational materials.

Gardening, Creativity Help Kids Integrate Sustainable Practices

For example, the students got an introduction to urban gardening through making a “seed package” with bio-degradable filter paper that could be planted in their yards at home. Some planted them in their youth center’s play area.

The kids also learned about the difference between incandescent bulbs and much more efficient LED bulbs. They also received souvenir T-shirts and notebooks to help remind them about what they learned at the event. The sustainNU donation also facilitated art supplies and refreshments at the event.

One of the art projects involved the children painting natural, sustainable images on foam bricks. Some of the paintings depicted wildlife, flowers, bees and portraits of nearby Lake Michigan. The bricks now form a “Sustainability Wall” that surrounds the youth center.

As a leader in recycling, waste management and waste diversion, Lakeshore Recycling Systems loves to hear about programs like this taking place in the community. If your business or residential area requires assistance with  recycling or waste management, you can count on us to help you connect with the most eco-friendly solution possible.

5 Eco-Friendly Strategies for Construction Companies

The mindset of consumers, public servants, property owners and corporations has shifted toward protection of the environment. Most say they would pay more for an eco-friendly product or service over a more affordable but less sustainable one. With this approach spreading to all sectors, the construction industry is following suit.

Sustainable, eco-friendly construction strategies are key to making this shift. Implementing more green processes is essential to longevity in the industry. From creating sustainable business practices to making use of the recycling center whenever possible, there are a number of things construction companies can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

The following are five of the top eco-friendly construction industry waste management strategies to consider implementing into your construction business:

1. Use Safe, Sustainable Materials

Using more natural, recycled, non-toxic and environmentally friendly materials and construction components is a key step to becoming more eco-friendly. This would apply to paints, building materials, insulation, solvents and adhesives. Doing so reduces the risk of respiratory conditions, toxicity, skin irritation, headaches and other issues from conventional construction materials. Both workers and the people who visit or reside in the structures will benefit.

2. Buy Local

Buying materials locally versus items that have been transported hundreds or thousands of miles reduces the carbon emissions required for the transaction. Buying in your geographic region can also make the construction process more efficient while also lending support to area businesses and the local economy.

3. Use Green Demolition and Recycling Practices

Instead of immediately dumping all materials from demolition sites into landfills, construction companies can assess what can be reused or brought to the recycling center. Materials like carpet and other flooring materials can often be repurposed. Industrial crushing of wood and drywall can create new aggregate materials for future construction projects. Taking as much material to the recycling center as possible reduces waste as well as your carbon footprint.

4. Favor Solar and Wind Power

Recommending and favoring more eco-friendly alternatives to traditional HVAC systems and solutions is another way to help preserve the environment. Harnessing the power of the wind or sun and reducing energy usage can be accomplished by installing seamlessly integrated turbines, roof panels and photovoltaic windows.

5. Include Green Space and Multi-Use Areas

When designing and building properties, the addition of green spaces and flexible-use functionality can improve the eco-friendliness factor of a structure. While some of this will be the job of the architect and landscape designer, construction companies can choose to operate with these considerations in mind when working with planners, designers and clients. Adding courtyards or rooftop green spaces to commercial buildings can improve air quality for those who spend time there.

Using less toxic materials, finding energy-saving solutions and recycling as much as possible is key to running a more eco-friendly construction company. Construction companies can use these five tips to reduce their carbon footprints and run a more sustainable business going forward.

If you’re ready to make your construction company more eco-friendly, contact Lakeshore Recycling Systems. We can offer insights on how to maximize your recycling center services, waste management options and other commercial solutions.

10 Eco-Friendly Yard Waste Management Tips

There are numerous ways to minimize waste and help preserve the environment. Practicing eco-friendly approaches to waste management is one of the most beneficial things you can do. The goal is to create an eco-friendly landscape that requires minimal maintenance and naturally reduces waste management needs. Consider implementing these 10 eco-friendly landscape design and waste management tips in your business or residential property:

1. Compost Yard Waste

Grass clippings and plant trimmings should be composted as much as possible. If you have a surplus, contact Lakeshore Recycling Systems to learn more about proper yard waste management practices.

2. Less Lawn Space

The less lawn you have, the less you have to water and care for it. This tip allows you to keep some of your lawn, but replace portions of it with a low-impact walkway or eco-friendly foliage.

3. Choose Drought-Resistant, Low-Maintenance Plants

Low-maintenance foliage uses less water and also requires less pruning and plant maintenance steps. In addition to yucca, cactus and other succulents, you can also opt for easy-care plants like pansies, marigolds, tulips and asters.

4. Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is a practice of grouping plants by their watering needs in order to reduce the amount of water you use. Consider the slope and incline of your property when deciding on placement; plants in the lowest portions of your yard will naturally receive the most moisture.

5. Mulch Around Bushes and Trees

The use of a professional mulch service can improve the health of your foliage and also reduce water usage. Proper use of mulch can help soil to retain moisture and support healthier, more robust plant growth.

6. Use Low-Maintenance Grass

There are a number of grass species that require less water and maintenance than other turf types. Some of the most popular include Eco-Lawn, Fleur de Lawn, Pearl’s Premium and Bluestem Enviroturf.

7. Consider Synthetic Turf

You can avoid the labor and resource-sapping nature of lawn care altogether by using synthetic grass. Synthetic turf has become extremely realistic and lifelike in recent years, and it requires no watering, cutting, weeding or fertilizing.

8. Use Certified Wood

When installing landscaping elements like porches, decks or stairs, use wood that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Avoid using chemically-treated wood and instead favor rot-resistant species like cedar, or eco-friendly synthetic materials.

9. Reuse and Recycle

Whenever possible, reuse existing components or repurpose items from local building sites that have been discarded. Get creative so that you can recycle as much as possible and reduce the amount of new materials used and the volume of items you must discard overall.

10. Landscape for Reduced Energy Use

Strategically planted bushes and shade trees can also help your home or business property to use less energy in all seasons. They can block the harshest rays of the sun in summer and offer a buffer against wind, storms and harsh elements in winter.

Your yard or commercial property grounds should be a consideration when assessing your overall waste management needs. Contact Lakeshore Recycling Systems for more insights about the best practices and options available to you.

6 Tips for a “Greener” Office and Workplace

With environmental awareness on the rise, most business owners are looking for a more eco-friendly approach to waste management. Consumers are increasingly seeking out companies that keep the environment in mind in all of their practices. A majority say they would rather shop eco-friendly businesses than those not making it a priority.

A greener workplace and office has many benefits, from raising worker morale to enhancing brand goodwill and image to actually boosting profits. The following are some tips for cultivating a greener workplace:

1. Go Paperless

As much as possible, strive to keep your business practices “paperless.” In our current digital age, this will be easier to do than ever before. Use cloud commuting to allow for easy document editing and file sharing without the need to reprint them every time.

Some other paperless office practices include:

  • Store documents digitally and print them only when absolutely necessary.
  • Contracts can be signed on touch-screen tablets.
  • Use warm air, hand dryers in rest rooms instead of paper towels.

2. Buy Green-Minded Materials and Products

Take the time to research the source and production process for all of the supplies and materials you purchase regularly for your business to ensure that they are made in a sustainable fashion. Buying local is always more eco-friendly than having products shipped great distances.

Other factors to consider:

  • Are the products and their manufacturing processes free of toxic and ozone-depleting substances?
  • Are they made from easily renewable resources and materials?
  • Can they be recycled?
  • Are they repairable (not disposable or “throw away”?)

3. Encourage Carpooling and Mass Transit

A majority of commuters still take their personal vehicles to work, and many drive alone. Encourage and organize carpooling groups at work, and consider paying for (or contributing to) workers using mass transit options such as the bus or train.

4. Allow Telecommuting

Technological advances are allowing people to work from home more easily and without any lapse in quality. Establishing guidelines and deadlines can help to ensure productivity and worker success. The worker will make a smaller carbon footprint, and you’ll save on resources at the office.

5. Eco-Friendly Break Room Tips

  • Forego those single serving pod coffee makers and make large batches that can be kept in a vacuum sealed pitcher.
  • Buy bulk condiments instead of single-serve.
  • Encourage workers to bring their own coffee cups and glass or hard plastic refillable water bottles instead of providing them with plastic bottles of water and/or Styrofoam or paper cups.
  • Provide clearly marked recycling bins and remind workers about compliance.

6. Update to Eco-Friendly Components

When the lease on your current office equipment and appliances is up, upgrade to the most eco-friendly options available. When it’s time to buy new models of any business component or electronic device, recycle the old ones instead of discarding them.

Many older model electronic devices work just fine or can be refurbished to provide years of use. When remodeling your workplace, insist on eco-friendly building materials and practices.

One of the most important components of business waste management today is minimizing it as much as possible. These six tips can help with making your workplace more eco-friendly and doing your part in creating a better environment.

A Look at Lakeshore Recycling’s Aerobic Digester