Category Archives: Favorites

Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches

Trash at Kathy Osterman Beach - Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches by Michael Courier

Please stop trashing Chicago beaches. And please do not trash any other beaches, parks, or public spaces. (Monday, May 28th, 2018 at 9:20 am)

Trash at Kathy Osterman Beach - Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches by Michael Courier

A duck swimming through debris at Kathy Osterman Beach in Chicago. I had to alert a family, because their child was attempting to play in this water. (Monday, May 28th, 2018 at 7:38 pm)

Trash at Kathy Osterman Beach - Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches by Michael Courier

Overflowing trash cans between Foster and Osterman Beaches. (Monday, May 28th, 2018 at 9:30 am)

Please Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches

We have seen videos of divers in the ocean, swimming in a sea of trash. We’ve seen birds caught in plastic bags, and a seahorse clutching a cotton swab. We’ve seen whales washed ashore, starved to death because they consumed too much plastic and not enough food.

In Chicago, it’s easy to learn about these issues and think we are powerless to do anything about them. It’s easy to think these problems exist far away — but that is not the case.

We know about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but we do not realize that Lake Michigan receives about 11 million pounds of plastic debris each year. The plastics that are plaguing our oceans are also affecting Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes.

Trash at Kathy Osterman Beach - Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches by Michael Courier

Trash left along the edges of Osterman Beach during the Memorial Day weekend. (Monday, May 28th, 2018 at 9:55 am)

Trash at Kathy Osterman Beach - Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches by Michael Courier

To know more about the psychology of littering, the Chicago Tribune published a nice article about the topic. (Tuesday, May 29th, 2018 at 5:25 am)

Close to Home

The Great Lakes Basin contains about 34 million people in the United States and Canada, and we share that home with more than 3,500 species of plants and animals. The Great Lakes contain about 20% of the world’s fresh water drinking supply, and is our source of drinking water here in Chicago.

The beaches along the Great Lakes are a major attraction for locals and tourists. They’re a place to relax, have fun, and to connect with nature. As summer approaches, our beaches become more popular — and in the process, they are being trashed.

This past Memorial Day weekend, I documented the waste left behind at Kathy Osterman Beach. With trash cans overflowing, people left their garbage piled next to them — while others left their garbage wherever they wanted. There were diapers, condoms, tampons, shoes, toys, straws, bandages, unopened containers of fruit, a grill, a makeshift bonfire, and numerous alcohol bottles spread about the beach and grassy areas.

The Chicago Park District spends about $4.7 million dollars a year cleaning up the lakefront and parks within the city. Besides emptying trash cans and picking up trash, the Parks Department uses a beach cleaner to remove debris from the sand. While helpful, the cleaner misses items along the edges of the beach, but it can also miss smaller debris — like straws, cigarette filters, and pieces of broken glass.

Trash at Kathy Osterman Beach - Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches by Michael Courier

The Chicago Park District uses a machine to help clean up debris from Osterman Beach. (Tuesday, May 29th, 2018 at 11:17 am)

Trash at Kathy Osterman Beach - Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches by Michael Courier

While the Park District puts forth considerable effort to clean the beach, not everything is removed. Smaller debris can often be overlooked, or slip through the machine that cleans the beach. (Tuesday, May 29th, 2018 at 10:34 am)

Trash at Kathy Osterman Beach - Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches by Michael Courier

Cigarette filters are made of a type of plastic known as cellulose acetate and are a common form of litter. Not only do they transfer toxins into the environment, but they are also a source of microplastics. (Tuesday, May 29th, 2018 at 10:32 am)

Trash at Kathy Osterman Beach - Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches by Michael Courier

Chicago laws and beach rules prohibit the use of alcohol in public spaces — which is seldom enforced. Glass containers should be enforced more strictly. Broken glass can do considerable harm to people, pets, and wildlife. (Tuesday, May 29th, 2018 at 10:56 am)

How We Can Help

To understand a problem, we must first recognize that there is a problem. Because the Park District spends considerable time and effort cleaning up parks and beaches, it’s easy to miss how much trash they collect. It’s also understandable to lose track of how much trash we generate, because our waste is efficiently transported away from us on a daily basis.

In 2013, the United States produced 254 million tons of waste, or 4.4 pounds of waste per person per day; only 34.3% of that waste being recycled. Since January of this year, China is no longer accepting most recycling material from other nations, because they are tired of being the “world’s garbage dump” — this has sent ripple effects across the world, and has caused some U.S. cities to send their recycling to the landfill instead.

The European Union is currently considering a ban on all single-use plastic items, and American businesses and universities are starting to ban their usage as well. National Geographic has launched a Planet or Plastic? campaign to help bring awareness to this problem, and organizations have formed around this cause.

Trash at Kathy Osterman Beach - Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches by Michael Courier

If you needed a heavy-handed metaphor to drive home the point, I’ve got you covered. (Tuesday, May 29th, 2018 at 7:07 am)

We must make better choices when it comes to single-use plastics like bottles, cups, lids, bowls, plates, bags, straws, forks, spoons, knives — and yes — even sporks. Alternatives to these items exist, like reusable straws, or we can use more traditional, sustainable items.

If you work within the food industry, you have the ability to make an impact as well. Instead of automatically handing out plastic utensils with takeout, offer customers a choice, or offer compostable or biodegradable options instead. Similar options also exist for takeout containers.

If you design or package products, how can you reduce your reliance on single-use plastics? If you plan events, can you find more sustainable alternatives? If you work in an office, what steps can you take to help reduce plastic consumption? How can you reduce waste within your organization? How can you reduce waste in your community?

At home, there are steps we can take as well. Besides reusable containers and bottles, we can consider using bamboo toothbrushes over the traditional plastic options, or buy in bulk whenever possible. There’s even alternative ways for you to compost in the city. For me, I’ve also cut back on my use of individually packaged items like string cheese and granola bars, but I also spend time picking up garbage around my neighborhood and at Osterman Beach.

Trash at Kathy Osterman Beach - Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches by Michael Courier

A glass bottle left behind at Osterman Beach during the Memorial Day weekend. (Tuesday, May 29th, 2018 at 6:32 am)

Trash at Kathy Osterman Beach - Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches by Michael Courier

More waste at Osterman Beach during the Memorial Day weekend. (Tuesday, May 29th, 2018 between 5:45 and 7:45 am)

Trash at Kathy Osterman Beach - Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches by Michael Courier

As sunset nears, and the Memorial Day weekend draws to a close, you can see glimmers of plastic debris abandoned in the sands of Osterman Beach. (Monday, May 28th, 2018 at 7:24 pm)

While trash in our public spaces is an ugly scene — it is also a symptom of a much larger problem.

We have a consumption problem, that leads to a waste problem. We consume too many disposable products to meet our fleeting needs, then discard them without a passing thought. These products fill up our landfills, pollute our water supplies, ruin our landscape, and they wreak havoc on our wildlife.

Together, through awareness and action, we can find solutions that meet our needs, and treat our environment with greater respect in the process.

There are a lot of ways you could help. Where would you like to start?

All photography and editing performed by Michael Courier, with music from Sergey Cheremisinov.

Afterward: About the Video

Much of this video was recorded on Tuesday, May 29th, shortly after sunrise. It was recorded before the Chicago Park District removed garbage from the beach. Part of the issue with our waste management is actually a testament to the efficiency of the system. Though it took the Park District roughly five hours to remove debris from Osterman Beach, it was done without much awareness from the general public. Unless you were at the beach until the very end of Memorial Day, it’s hard to understand how much trash was left at the beach.

Trash at Kathy Osterman Beach - Stop Trashing Chicago Beaches by Michael Courier

(Tuesday, May 29th, 2018 at 7:17 am)

MCA’s 50th Anniversary

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 50th Anniversary Celebration - Event Photography by Michael Courier Photography

The opening ceremony for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s 50th anniversary celebration.

The most surreal event I’ve ever photographed would have to be the 50th anniversary celebration for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. It was a complete sensory overload in the best way possible — there was dancing, music, public performances, and gallery talks of all sorts. The crowds were electric, and it was such a great time!

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 50th Anniversary Celebration - Event Photography by Michael Courier Photography

Cheryl Lynn Bruce leads a gallery discussion at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago during their 50th anniversary celebration.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 50th Anniversary Celebration - Event Photography by Michael Courier Photography

Art by Snapchat by Brendan Fernandes — a dance performance directed through Snapchat.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 50th Anniversary Celebration - Event Photography by Michael Courier PhotographyMuseum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 50th Anniversary Celebration - Event Photography by Michael Courier PhotographyMuseum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 50th Anniversary Celebration - Event Photography by Michael Courier Photography

The performers in Art by Snapchat shared their space with Felix — a 26-foot-tall skeleton of a fictional cat, created by Maurizio Cattelan

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 50th Anniversary Celebration - Event Photography by Michael Courier Photography

Beautiful, art-inspired cakes on display by Emily Nejad

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 50th Anniversary Celebration - Event Photography by Michael Courier PhotographyMuseum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 50th Anniversary Celebration - Event Photography by Michael Courier Photography

Open 24 Hours by Edra Soto

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 50th Anniversary Celebration - Event Photography by Michael Courier PhotographyMuseum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 50th Anniversary Celebration - Event Photography by Michael Courier Photography

Rehearsals for Ways of Being by Rachel Ellison.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 50th Anniversary Celebration - Event Photography by Michael Courier Photography

The South Shore Drill Team performs outside of the MCA.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 50th Anniversary Celebration - Event Photography by Michael Courier PhotographyMuseum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 50th Anniversary Celebration - Event Photography by Michael Courier Photography

Whistle Hang Out by Liz McCarthy.

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 50th Anniversary Celebration - Event Photography by Michael Courier Photography

Frank Abagnale Speaking Event

Frank Abagnale Jr. speaking at an event with RISMedia - Event Photography by Michael Courier Photography

Frank Abagnale Jr. speaking at an event with RISMedia at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.

Toward the end of 2017, I photographed an event for RISMedia with Frank Abagnale Jr. as the guest speaker. As someone who is familiar with the background of his life, it was a wonderful opportunity to photograph him. As someone who is also a technology geek and is interested in how technology affects society and law, it was fantastic experience to spend some time talking with Frank after the event about a variety of different topics.

Frank Abagnale Jr. speaking at an event with RISMedia - Event Photography by Michael Courier PhotographyFrank Abagnale Jr. speaking at an event with RISMedia - Event Photography by Michael Courier PhotographyFrank Abagnale Jr. speaking at an event with RISMedia - Event Photography by Michael Courier Photography

A fancy ice sculpture on display at the Palmer House Hilton during an event with RISMedia.