Greenheart Beat: January
Edited by: Annan Shehadi, Graphic Designer
Contributions by: Andrea Dennis (Outreach Director), Molly Friend (Outreach Coordinator), and Melissa Trinley (Short-terms Program Manager)
On January 21st, we observe Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday. It is not only a day off, but a day of celebrating those who fought against injustice, as well as a day of service. If you are interested in spending your day off of work to give back to your community, please visit these resources for opportunities to do so: Chicago Cares & MLK Day of Service.
This month’s issue of Greenheart Beat will provide some more information about Martin Luther King, Jr. and raise questions about the state of civil rights and social justice in the post-civil rights movement era. This issue will also help you take steps on limiting plastic waste from eating out, information about service opportunities, and thoughts on New Year’s Resolutions.
Green Practices for Eating Out
By: Melissa Trinley
We all enjoy calling our favorite River North lunch spot and taking our food to go, but how many of us remember to request that the disposable silverware not be provided to us? We return to our kitchens, put our food on a plate and grab a fork, spoon or knife and either toss the plastic silverware into the garbage or add the takeout silverware to the pile. No harm done, right? When you by a bottle of water post afternoon workout, for your commute or in the airport do you think twice about how that bottle was made and what industry you are supporting? Here are some facts to chew on next time you order take out or buy that bottle of H2O.
- most disposable silverware is made from plastic called polystyrene, because this type of plastic is difficult to recycle not all recycling centers will accept it (look for the number 6 to indicate this type of plastic)
- the typical disposable fork or spoon contains petroleum
- in a landfill it can take anywhere from 10 up to 100 years to decompose one piece of plastic silverware
- the average disposable paper cup is also lined with a petroleum based product
- every year 17 million barrels of crude oil are used to make plastic bottles
- 29 billion bottled of water are sold in the U.S. alone (more than any other nation)
- only 13% of the 29 billion plastic water bottles are recycled
Greenheart enacted social responsibility efforts because we know that disposable products are not sustainable. In keeping with our overall mission, as an organization we strive to be sustainable and eco-friendly in our day-to-day operations. It can be easy to forget what we have pledged so here is a reminder of some non-negotiable practices of Greenheart:
- never to provide disposable plates or silverware or water bottles at events (use compostable when necessary);
- remember to try and eliminate the use of disposable silverware, cups and water bottles when possible.
After all, this practice is not only good to mother earth, but to you as well—who wants to eat from a fork made of the same substance that creates gasoline?
Large events are typically a culprit of disposable products in use. As part of our social responsibility initiative Greenheart pledges to host sustainable conferences. This means that we use LEED certified green hotels, ask our catering company not to use disposable products, arrange community volunteer events during conferences, and offset staff travel. As each department plans its 2013 conference season keep in mind all of these Greenheart social responsibility initiatives. It may take a little more planning to eliminate water bottles and disposable products, but it is worth it to be good to the world, good to our health and put Greenheart into action.
Remember the Greenheart pledge!
Winter Staff Volunteer Opportunity is Near
By: Molly Friend
For the third year in a row we will be doing our winter volunteering at St. Thomas of Canterbury Soup Kitchen in Uptown. The volunteering will be offered two Tuesday afternoons at the end of the month or in early February. Molly will be sending out an email with specific dates and how to sign up at a later time. St. Thomas Soup Kitchen serves large numbers of guest who may be homeless or living in poverty. This is a wonderful opportunity to interact with a population in Chicago who we often look past. If you have any questions about volunteering with the Soup Kitchen email Molly firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Andrea Dennis
I spent lots of time in Ohio over the break. When you are driving in the back of the family vehicle or at one of many holiday dinners, conversation starters, fillers and jokes come in handy. And what better than the age-old New Year’s Resolution topic? Of course, you might come across the occasional cynic: “I don’t believe in resolutions”. And they are 99% right. Who really sticks to their resolutions? But for me, it is not a question of belief. Resolutions exist, even if they are not followed through. It is more about intention. So during family dinners I asked for three resolutions:
- Creative Resolution
- Practical Resolution
- Far Fetched Resolution
Now, although I have not previously received permission to share my 85 year old grandmother’s resolutions with the public, I figure only a few people read this blog, so I am taking the liberty that she will agree to it. Grandma’s are full of humble wisdom, and when she reveled her resolutions to the group, it also happened to be her birthday—double the wishes! Granny’s resolutions started with me having a beau for creativity (not sure her plan for this one), getting organized for practicality, and being 16 again as the far fetched dream. This was pre-dinner salad. Then after the salad was finished, she chimed back into the conversation I was having with my cousins and sister, and said she would like to rewrite her resolutions. “Of course you can Grandma, what do you want them to be?” Well, I would like all of three of them to be that I am a better person. I was writing these on the paper tablecloth and so I rewrote them next to her previous three. She took one last look at them and then said, “Yes—I want to be a better person; and I take back wanting to be 16; I would rather be in my 30s again.” Good news for her 28 year old granddaughter! I really think granny nailed the dream of any resolution: simply be better. Who knows what the universe will throw your way in 2013? Friendships, love, health, work, etc… if you strive to be better in all facets and in each present moment, whoaaaa, resolutions could take a tale spin towards total transformation. Of course Grandma Doris means this in the simplest ways. She is not wanting to be 30 again, or the most organized 85 year old on the block, she just wants to be better. And so do I. Shouldn’t we all?
For Andrea’s Reflections on 2012, see her blog post, “2013 and the Two R’s.”
Post-Civil Rights Movement: Are Things Really That Much Better?
By: Annan Shehadi
There was a time when human beings were bought and sold, forced to work without compensation, and had zero rights. It was socially and institutionally acceptable and legal to treat human beings as private property. In the United States, those human beings were Africans, brought over in mass numbers as slaves, owned by white people of European descent, and abused for economic profit. After the Civil War, when the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was adopted, slavery became illegal. How did white plantation owners of the South deal with this? Not well. A new structure of social organization and disenfranchisement must be instituted in order to keep a system of racial and class hierarchy. Jim Crow was born.
After the Civil War, slavery was abolished, but a new system of racial caste was born in the United States. Jim Crow, named after a popular minstrel song stereotyping African-Americans, was a system of racial segregation and oppression in the United States; it was a set of state laws for white supremacy that took place in many states, not just the South. Jim Crow legally segregated all public places and other institutions including schools, restaurants, transportation, hospitals, marriage, the military and more, and disallowed African-Americans from voting or holding government offices. In came the era we know as the Civil Rights Movement, where members of the African-American community protested and fought for equal rights within the United States. Since we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. this month, I will focus on his role within the civil rights movement and his beliefs.
Committed to non-violence, Martin Luther King, Jr., as we know, was one of the major organizers of the civil rights movement in the South during the 1960s. He believed that the United States needed a complete reconstruction of society moving away from national and international violence, poverty, racism, militarism, etc. and towards a peaceful and socially and economically just nation with foreign policies for peace and economic justice, as well. He believed that large, peaceful and well-organized protests were a way to get media coverage of the struggle against segregation and for full equality, and news of this struggle spread to the North and were well known amongst government politicians. MLK Jr. did not support any particular US Party because he felt both the Democratic and Republican parties did little to endorse racial equality. He also believed that African-Americans should be compensated for the historical atrocities committed against them, which left them in a state of poverty, and segregated neighborhoods with little resources and opportunities. The struggle for equality and justice grasped the entire nation in different ways and racial inequality and segregation became unacceptable amongst much of the public, finally changing legal policy.
Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in a world without war, without police brutality, without racism, and with full economic and social justice. What would he think of the United States today, where it is commonly stated and believed that we, Americans, live in a colorblind, fully integrated society with opportunities for all? I think he would be gravely disappointed. There were great achievements of the civil rights movement. Yes, Jim Crow was dismantled, institutions became integrated, individual racism has dwindled, and affirmative action has helped to diversify institutions and provide opportunities to African-Americans that they didn’t have before, but what about institutionally? Is there really economic and social justice? Stated plainly, no. As Michelle Alexander stated in her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, “We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” The United States went from slavery, to Jim Crow, and now prisons and the criminal justice system. There are more African-Americans under correctional control than were enslaved in 1850. No, it is not because African-Americans commit more crimes than anyone else. In fact, the rate of incarceration has little to do with the rate of crime. Crime rates in the United States have dropped while incarceration rates have increased; while other countries are dismantling prisons and have decreasing incarceration rates, incarceration rates in the U.S. has increased exponentially in the past few decades and are the highest in the world. Three decades ago, the US had about 150 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. Today, the US prison population has quadrupled, with 760 prisoners per 100,000 citizens, while Mexico has 208 and Germany has 90. The War on Drugs that began in the 1970s has much to do with these incarceration rates. A majority of people under correctional control within the US are due to drug charges, and a majority of those charges are for possession; these are not big-time drug dealers, nor people who have committed violent crimes, yet the harsh legal sentences allow those charged to be in prison for many decades. An overwhelming majority of those charged are African-American. No, it is not because African-Americans are more likely to use drugs than anyone else. In fact, the rate of drug use amongst different ethnicities and races tends to be the same. So why do people of color, a majority being African-American, represent more than 60% of the prison population?
The designed segregation of neighborhoods makes it easy and convenient for the drug war to be waged in African-American communities. Stop and Frisk policies, which are used by many police departments, most notably the NYPD, are policies that are legal under federal law, allowing police departments to stop and search anyone, whether on foot or in a vehicle, for no reason at all. The police often target African-American and Latino communities, who then get shuffled into the criminal justice system. Once someone becomes a prisoner in the criminal justice system, they are denied opportunities for the rest of their lives. These people will spend their entire lives trying to find legitimate housing and get back into the mainstream economy, being denied application after application because of their charges or convictions. Most will never be able to vote again. Is it any wonder that those who served time in prison end up going back to prison? While countries like Germany use drug rehabilitation and treatment for those caught with major drugs, the United States sends mostly African-Americans and Latinos to prison for many years (marijuana included), effectively disbarring them from the rest of society forever.
Because of this policy of mass incarceration, which creates another system of racialized control, one can argue that the United States has regressed after the achievements of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. would indeed be horrified by this new system of control and the silence of all communities. In order to have a real revolution, the one MLK Jr. dreamed of, we must recognize that institutionalized racism and economic injustice still exists to a great extent and work to change the policies of the criminal justice system.
If you are interested in learning more about the policies of the US and mass incarceration, which greatly effects communities in Chicago, here are some resources:
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Green Your Routine
A fun and interactive workshop on ways to incorporate elements of green living into your everyday lifestyle, led by Rachal Duggan (GH Shop team member) and the Chicago Conservation Corps.
Saturday, January 26th from 2–5pm, Greenheart Shop
RSVP: Alex Pavel, email@example.com
Greenheart Transforms Book Club
Tuesday, Jan. 8, 5:45–7:30pm, Greenheart Center (snacks included)
Tuesday, Jan. 22, 5:45–7:30pm, Greenheart Center (snacks included)
Movie Screening: “Opening Our Eyes”
Thursday, Jan. 17, 6:30–8:30pm
Greenheart Center (snacks included)