Earth Day in Chicago: Moving Design And Chicago Conservation Corps Volunteers Celebrate Their Green Ideas

Left to right: Rick Valicenti, Liz Ferruelo, Erin Borreson and Robyn Paprocki

Left to right: Rick Valicenti, Liz Ferruelo, Erin Borreson and Robyn Paprocki

An Earth Day 2013 quick quiz: How long does it take a banana peel to decompose? How long for a plastic jug? (Answers at the end of this article.)

Chicagoans produce 7.6 million tons of trash each year and an average family of four uses about 400 gallons of water each day.

The local volunteer organizations Moving Design and Chicago Conservation Corps saw these sobering statistics as an opportunity to raise awareness about environmentalism and encourage methods of creative reuse. They did just that over the past month with a call to action for sustainability in the West Loop and celebrated their efforts during a gathering on Saturday, April 20 at Haymarket Brewery at 737 West Randolph Street.

“This is the culmination of our work to convey a message that we can improve the neighborhood through sustainable interventions,” said Liz Ferruelo, one of the events facilitators.

Image 4Those interventions involved posters and graphic devices -— including a sidewalk stencil created from coffee grounds —- to inform and inspire residents to take steps in their daily lives to create less waste.

“We developed a sustainability graphic design and photo competition,” Ferruelo said. “It’s kind of a modern-day version of the W.P.A.-inspired posters from the New Deal.”

Like-minded designers welcomed the opportunity to use their skills for a worthy endeavor. Craig Stover, an industrial designer at Streng, created an old-school contraption called an evaporatr, which dries clothes by air alone, without gas or electricity. He created a template for anyone to build their own evaporatr indoor laundry rack.

“The big idea was you don’t necessarily have to build a green house to live a sustainable life,” Stover said. “It’s a pretty easy thing to start drying your clothes by air.”

L-R Liz Cook Nikole Gramm

Liz Cook and Nikole Gramm

Another Moving Design mini-intervention was “pop-up parks,” essentially tiny plots of green grass placed throughout the West Loop. Graphic designers Liz Cook and Nikole Gramm came up with the idea after walking through the neighborhood and not seeing much grass.

“There was no functional green space,” said Gramm who recently moved to Chicago from Portland, a city with no shortage of green space. “We thought little parks might make people want BIGGER parks. And, if people begin thinking about green space, that can extend to green foods and it can impact other areas of their lives.”

All the designs created for the sustainability effort can be seen at the Use Less/Do More website.

Earth Day quiz answers: How long does it take a banana peel to decompose? Three weeks. A plastic jug? 450 years.

Author: Bill Motchan

Bill Motchan is a writer and photographer, and a former resident of the West Loop. He can be reached at

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