For the 30 Schneider Electric employees who joined us for Monday’s  Great Lakes Action Day at 63rd Street Beach, the workweek began not with interminable meetings and overflowing inboxes, but with sand dunes, a refreshing Lake Michigan breeze, and . . . 1,000 pounds of cheat grass?!

Yes, you read that right. Despite the rainswept, humid day, our indefatigable volunteers spent four hours restoring the native plantings of 63rd Street Beach, removing a truly heroic amount of invasive plants and beach litter.

 The morning began with a habitat-restoration project in the dunes just south of the beach. We targeted two invasive plant species, cheat grass and sweet clover, that blanketed the landscape and smothered the native wildflowers; barely two hours later, with our volunteers’ hard work, great swaths of land were clear once more, ready to be reclaimed by the purple coneflowers and dune grasses that once called it home. All told, the Schneider Electric team filled 43 ten-gallon trash bags with an average of 25 pounds of plants each, totaling a whopping 1,075 pounds.

  bags of sweet clover and cheat grass Schneider GLAD volunteers

 Energized by the morning’s successful habitat restoration, our volunteers made quick work of the afternoon beach sweep, collecting 119.8 pounds of litter in about 90 minutes. Along with the usual suspects, like cigarette butts, plastic scraps, and broken glass, our volunteers discovered some bizarre trash, including a full-sized mattress lurking under the water—too deep to collect, sadly, but a poignant example of human impact in this urban ecosystem.

 The two winning teams of volunteers, each of which collected about 25 pounds of trash (!), were awarded Great Lakes vinyl stickers generously donated by sticker-vendors-turned-conservation-activists Great Lakes Proud. As our group rested on the beach and savored homemade peach sorbet, the sun finally broke through the clouds, illuminating the huge difference made by only a few hours of stewardship. Schneider Electric has long supported Shedd’s conservation efforts, including the recent installation of solar panels on our roof, and Monday’s GLAD proved to be one more shining example.

                Schneider Group shot

-Charlotte Kuliak, Great Lakes and Sustainability Assistantship