Sustainable Iowa City Newsletter - March 2019


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March 2019 | Visit us online at

Re-purposing textile waste for a purpose

Crowded Closet's new location

Crowded Closet's new location on Highway 6.

Mark your calendars for the grand opening of the new location of Crowded Closet, a local thrift shop operated by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), at 10 a.m. on Monday, March 25, 2019.

Crowded Closet supports the local community by sharing thousands of dollars of inventory with those in need each month, with the help of CommUnity (formerly the Crisis Center), and other service partners. For 40 years, Crowded Closet called Gilbert Court in Iowa City home. The operations are largely run by over 250 volunteers processing donations into items for sale, funding numerous relief, development, and peace projects put on around the world by MCC.

Crowded Closet has now moved to the old Kmart building at 851 Highway 6 E., a larger space with better access, providing an improved shopping experience. Donations can be brought to the new location, and doors will officially open for customers March 25.

Crowded Closet's old location

Crowded Closet's old location on Gilbert Court.

Though Crowded Closet is a thrift shop, not a recycling center, goods that are not sold still have value. Leftover textiles, books, and other items are sold to recyclers, and some materials can be upcycled and given new purpose. Donors can be sure that textiles given are reused or recycled in some way.

“We try to practice the best stewardship we can with the donations that come in,” said Crowded Closet volunteer coordinator Christine Maust Beachy. “Everyone donates each item assuming it has value and can be turned into money that can do good for others.”

The EPA estimates that in 2015, over 5 percent of solid waste in the U.S. was textiles, and only 15 percent of textile waste is recycled. It takes an enormous amount of energy requiring fossil fuels to produce and transport new textiles, so reusing and recycling these goods can make a difference in reducing carbon emissions. Crowded Closet offers the community an opportunity to give purpose to  used textiles.

Curbside organics service resumes March 18

infographic describing yard waste suspension

Curbside compost pickup will resume on Monday, March 18. Until then, curbside organics will be collected by appointment only, in order to conserve fuel, as there is a lower volume of organic waste in the winter months.

To schedule an appointment for pick up, call 319-356-5151 at least 24 hours before your regular collection day.

To learn more about the curbside organics collection program, how to join, and how to reduce your food waste, visit

Put your upcycling skills to the test

Upcycling convention graphic

Do you have what it takes to turn everyday household items into something practical and creative?

The Upcycling Competition will bring together creative and resourceful minds to compete for the best invention made of recycled or upcycled materials. The event will be held at 6:30 p.m. on March 13 at the East Side Recycling Center.

Winners will be determined from four different categories: Adult, Student, Most Creative, and Most Recycled Materials Used.

Participants must sign up prior to the convention to compete. Register by contacting Rachel Oswald at 319-339-5399 or

This event is hosted by Green Iowa AmeriCorps, City of Iowa City Parks and Recreation, and the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center. For more information, visit

Apply to receive funds from Farm to Street dinner

Diners eat at Farm to Street dinner

Applications are now open for local organizations to receive revenue from the annual Farm to Street dinner in August.

The dinner, hosted by Johnson County, Iowa City, and the Iowa City Downtown District, serves a meal of local foods to members of the community. The beneficiary of the event will be expected to have two members serve on the Farm to Street planning committee, recruit 20 volunteers to help clean after the event, provide an informational table at the event, and prepare to give a report at the 2020 Farm to Street dinner discussing what the funds were used for.

This organization should be working to enhance the local food system. Past organizations benefited have included Table to Table and the Iowa Valley Global Food Project.

Find more information and apply online by April 30.

Upcoming Events

Endangered Species Series

Graphic for Endangered Species Series

Kids ages 5 to 12 are invited to learn more about endangered species, threatened by harmful environmental conditions.

Sign up to attend the Getting to Know Endangered Species event focusing on elephants on Sunday, March 24 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in Meeting Room B at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, 220 S. Gilbert St. The event is $6 for Iowa City residents and $11 for nonresidents. Register online and stay tuned for more events.

Butterfly survey training

monarch butterfly

Learn how to identify butterflies and join in a citizen scientist effort to monitor butterfly populations through the Iowa Butterfly Survey Network (IBSN).

Established in 2006, the IBSN conducts research using volunteers of all skill levels to collect data. Of the 120 species of butterflies believed to inhabit Iowa, more than one-fourth are listed as endangered, threatened, or “of special concern,” making their long-term survival questionable in the state.

Those interested in volunteering are invited to a training in survey techniques, which will be offered from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 6 in the Social Hall at Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, 220 S. Gilbert St.

Go online for more information and to sign up.

Learn to Garden!

plants in a small garden

Get ready for gardening season and sign up for low-maintenance gardening classes.

The Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department is offering several classes over the next five months, showing each step of starting an easy garden at home. Sign up to join in from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays in the Edible Classroom at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, 220 S. Gilbert St.

March 9: Bed Placement and Layout

April 6: Seed Starting

May 11: Bed Preparation and Planting

May 18: Gardening for Health and Fun

June 8: Container Gardening

July 13: Eat your Greens

Aug. 10: Composting and Fertilizing

Each class is $22, and all seven classes are $115. Learn more and register online

Paint a rain barrel!

Painting rain barrels

Combine your creative talents with your passion for the planet.

Green Iowa AmeriCorps and Iowa City Parks & Recreation are providing rain barrels to paint from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 6 in the parking lot next to the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center, located at 3910 Napoleon Lane. 

Paint and brushes will be provided. Barrels are in limited supply, and will be sold for $24.

For more information, and to register for the event, visit

painted rain barrels

Farm Connection: Farmers, the Community, and You

Infographic for event

Learn more about the farmers growing food for your community at the Johnson County Food Policy Council’s annual public forum, Farm Connections: Farmers, the Community, and You.

Hear from panelists and presenters discussing local farming and food production from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 9 at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, 3109 Old Highway 218. Lunch will be provided for free to participants by Local Burrito catering.

For more information and to register, visit the event’s Facebook page.

Take the Climate Action Pledge

Christine Maust

Join the Iowa City community in taking the Climate Action Pledge -- declaring actions you can take in your daily life to benefit the planet.

Christine Maust Beachy, the volunteer coordinator at Crowded Closet, pledges to climate action by donating her used clothes, shoes, and other goods. Textiles require a lot of energy to produce and transport, so giving new life to old items can benefit the environment.

Take the Climate Action Pledge at

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