What comes to mind when you think of water? Do you think about being at the beach and gazing at the water? Or do you think about being in the water, either swimming in it or bathing or showering in it? Maybe you think of water in terms of precipitation. Does rain really affect you because you depend upon it? Do you grow food, either on a large or small scale?

I probably gave it away by the image I chose to go with this blogpost, but I think about drinking water. I recently used the program Noom to shed some of my pandemic pounds and the first thing I focused on was meeting my water goal. I foolishly thought that drinking enough water was something that I was already good at, because unlike other people, I actually like the taste of water. I was wrong. I was drinking only half of what I should! I needed a plan and the plan I came up with was to set an alarm for every hour-and-a-half and drink 8 ounces when it went off. It’s amazing how great I feel when I do this.

I think that most people are like me and assume their drinking water is safe. I’ve never had my water tested. I use a Brita water filter because I live in an apartment and don’t have as much control over my pipes as I might if I owned my home. I don’t even know if I need it. I do know that Brita filters filter out lead. Have any of our Chicago readers had their water tested for lead? Did you know that free water quality test kits are available through the Department of Water Management?

Water Conservation

There are two ideas that most people think of when considering water conservation: taking shorter showers and turning off the water when brushing their teeth. Yes, those are good ideas! Reduce and reuse apply to water, as well. But if you take a step back, there is so much water conservation in reducing in all areas of consumption, not just water consumption. An enormous amount of water is used in the production of clothing, for example. The fashion industry uses one tenth of all water used industrially.

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

I remember when I was introduced to Debra Shore. It was her first time running for commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. We had a mutual friend who knew her through her work with Chicago Wilderness and I went to a campaigning event at the mutual friend’s house. Debra won that election and every one since. She does a fantastic job of distilling the facts down to a place where someone like me, who does not work in the water space, can understand the issues.

In this WTTW news story, she is quoted along with State Representative for Illinois District 17, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, who sponsored the Pharmaceutical Recovery Act (HB4888). If you don’t have time to read the whole article, the gist is that it used to be common practice to flush unused medications but it has been identified that environmentally speaking, that’s not a great idea. Keeping them in your cabinet can lead to misuse leading to overdoses and even deaths. The bill hopes to expand collection and task pharmaceutical companies with the cost burden.

There’s not much we can do about the pharmaceuticals that enter the water through our bodies but we can certainly support pharmaceutical companies being mandated to have extended producer responsibility in taking back the products they produce.

I’m sorry to say that that bill did not pass in its current form, but because Representative Gong-Gershowitz is my state rep, I know that this is something she is going to keep fighting for. While we wait for it to be resurrected, did you know that many communities that are in our service area have places where you can drop off unused or expired prescriptions? 

I was going to provide links to all of them but they are very easy to find on municipal websites. The collection boxes are usually located at police or fire stations and generally they want you to black out personal information from the labels. Just like recycling and composting rules, you’re going to want to look at what they’ll take. I was surprised that a lot of the programs will also take pet prescriptions.

I think that the perfect place for these to be collected is at the pharmacies where they are purchased. I wonder if they will also collect empty pill bottles, but I’m trying to stay focused on drinking water here.

Evanston Township High School (ETHS) Sustainability School Board Committee

In 2019, three students at ETHS, Louise Bond, Mia Houseworth and Sarika Waikar started a sustainability school board committee. The committee is made up of students, staff and faculty and community members. I am one of the community members on this committee. I’m feeling a little wistful because these three students graduate this year. The committee will endure but we’re sad to see these leaders go. No surprise that I’m part of the waste subcommittee. One sustainable change we’ve made at the high school is to replace the plastic water bottles in the vending machines with an aluminum bottle brand called Open Water.  In my search for a photo of the product, I learned that Open Water is a woman-owned startup headquartered in the Chicago neighborhood of Bridgeport. Love it!

We’re excited about this switch because it’s a way to reduce the single-use plastic at the school and increase recycling since aluminum is the dream material for recycling. If you look at the link under Open Water you’ll learn that aluminum is recycled twice as much as other beverage containers. These bottles can be easily refilled at the water stations around the school. Of course, we will continue to encourage students and staff to bring their own refillable water bottles if they have them.

The weather has suddenly turned hotter and now I am thinking about heading to the beach to gaze at the water. I’ll be sure to bring some drinking water with me.

Author Details
Zero Waste Consultant | Collective Resource, Inc.

Mary Beth strongly believes that, “It’s always better to be doing something rather than nothing.” If you’re thinking of composting at home, she can help you work out what your particular “something” can be.

She’s confident a solution can be tailored to fit anyone’s needs and ambitions. “Anyone who eats can be a CRI customer, whether you are an individual or a large organization. I want you to understand the advantages of composting, and I can show you how CRI can make it easy.” Mary Beth has successfully designed waste diversion strategies for individuals, schools, houses of worship and other communities. She’s received the governor’s Environmental Hero award for her work at her daughter’s school. Whether you’re starting with a backyard bin, a kitchen bucket, a worm farm, or large-scale commercial collection, Mary Beth can be your good-natured guide.