All posts by Mike Nowak

May 29, 2016 – Healthy Lawns: Healthy Non-Fossil-Fuel Investing

The logic of natural lawn care

Even if you host a program that often concerns itself with growing food, the subject of lawns is going to rear its ugly head eventually. Hey, lots of us have lawns. I even have enough of a lawn to have to mow every now and then, though it exists mainly as a reason for me to walk barefoot through my small Logan Square yard.

When it comes to how I treat my lawn, however, I think the appropriate phrase is “benign neglect”: no fertilizers, no pesticides, almost no watering, hand-weeding, perhaps a little compost applied every couple of years. The result? It looks good and it makes me happy and that’s all that counts, right?

4-Step
Which leads us to our first guest today, Steve Neumann of Logic Lawn Care in Evanston, Illinois. Their goal is to be sustainable in everything they do. They define sustainability as

An approach that meets the needs of our customers today, while focusing on improving, not harming, the environment and natural resources for future generations.

It’s with that philosophy in mind that Logic approaches fertilization, weed control, pest and disease control, landscape maintenance, design and installation and even edible gardens.

Because the average American homeowner is obsessed by lawn care, this conversation could last a few days. We have about half an hour, so get your questions in early.

Learn about urban gardening and food forests this summer!

What can you say about an organization that has donated more than 20,000 pounds of organic food to pantries and food kitchens in Chicago? I’m talking about the KAM Isaiah Israel Food Justice and Sustainability Committee, which first broke ground in April, 2009. Since then, they have grown food, taught others to do the same and even collected produce that would otherwise have gone to waste as part of their White Rock Gleaning program.

In addition, for seven years they have presented their Martin Luther King, Jr.  Food Justice and Sustainability Weekends in the dead of winter (usually around my birthday). In other words, they’ve been incredibly effective during a relatively short period.

The point person–but by no means the only fiercely dedicated individual–for these efforts has been architect Robert Nevel. He has appeared on my show many times and is back to promote the KAM Isaiah Israel Farm & Food Forest School 2016.

It’s an intergenerational experience designed to teach folks Interested in learning about growing food, designing and installing food forests and more. There are eight free workshops in July and August at KAM Isaiah Israel’s award winning micro-farm and food forest in Hyde Park. The class is filling up and Nevel will tell you how to get involved.

Remembering Margaret Eyre

There have always been a number of reasons to visit Rich’s Foxwillow Pines in Woodstock, Illinois: the exquisite selection of rare and and dwarf conifers and other trees, the chance to hear Rich Eyre wax poetic on his travels to collect those specimens, and the disarming wit of his partner in crime Susan Eyre.

But perhaps the best treat was the opportunity to talk to the MargaretandMikeirrepressible Margaret Eyre, who was the force behind the “Hosta Happenings” on site and, indeed, the nursery itself. She died in January of 2016 at the age of 97 and June 4 is the date of the  first Hosta Sale without her comforting presence.

As always, there will be more than 500 varieties of Hostas for sale, (at the very reasonable prices of $5 and up) to benefit Heifer International, and Bolivian handicrafts for sale to benefit Mano a Mano International Partners.

In addition, Heifer International will present a tribute to Margaret Eyre at 10am.  Rich and Susan Eyre are back on my show this morning to talk about this terrific event.

Investing in funds that allow you to sleep at night

I’ve discovered that I have something in common with Donald Trump. It’s pretty simple, actually. If you look at our tax returns, you’ll see that we make much less money than most folks think we do. However, doing that is a problem, because I don’t care who sees my tax returns. Not so much for The Donald.

Which leads us–indirectly, I confess–to the idea of financial investments. There are a lot of folks in the 21st Century who would like to sock their money into entities that will return a profit–but not at the expense of the planet. That is to say, they would prefer not to put money into the pockets of the oil, gas and coal industries, among others. Good luck with that, honey, has always been my advice.

However, I recently received a news release about a business called ETHO Capital, which stated that

ETHO, the world’s first broadly diversified, socially responsible and fossil-free exchange-traded fund (ETF), is available for trading on the New York Stock Exchange…

The ETHO ETF is based on the Etho Climate Leadership Index (ECLI), an index of 400 U.S.-listed stocks that is completely divested of fossil fuel companies, rigorously screened for sustainability criteria, and constructed of only the most climate-efficient companies in each sector.ian-monroe

“Uh…okay,” I said, skeptically. Let’s have you on the show to talk about how that works. To that end, co-founder, president and chief sustainability officer Ian Monroe joins me on the program this morning. He is also Founder of Oroeco and a lecturer on climate change and life cycle assessment science at Stanford University.

In the meantime, I remembered that I had run into a fellow named Tom Tom_Nowak2013Nowak (no relation) at an environmental rally at Daley Plaza about a year and a half ago. Since I never, ever delete emails (not something I recommend as a standard business practice.–except to Hillary Clinton), I was able to track him down.

Tom is founder and Principal of an outfit called Quantum Financial Planning LLC, a Fee-Only financial planning and Registered Investment Advisory firm located near Grayslake, Illinois. I’ll be honest with you–I don’t even know what “fee-only” even means.

However, he sent me a website about Low Fee Socially Responsible Investing. That site can send your down a number of roads, including “fossil free,” “political accountability,” “racial harmony,” “peak water portfolio” and more.

I have always thought that no matter who is doing the talking, the people behind leading you through investments are basically sharks who have smelled your blood in the water. To that end, you should check out this article from Grist called Looking for a Fossil-Free Investment Fund? Check the Fine Print. You might also want to look at this story from The Guardian.

I also suspect that most folks are like me in that a) they don’t trust investment companies and b) they don’t have any money to invest anyway.  Am I wrong? Perhaps I’ll get some answers this morning.

 

 

May 22, 2016 – Mike and Peggy Murder Two Hours on the Radio

One of the things I’ve noticed about America is that if you work on Sundays, you’re going to get left out of most of the good stuff–parties, weddings, Super Bowls, graduations, Sunday brunches, picnics, reading the Sunday paper, listening to NPR (and if you say that out loud in my presence, you can expect to find a dead fish on your doorstep on Monday morning), and more.

Well, I have worked on Sundays for pretty much the past decade, and when it comes to booking guests, I’ve heard every excuse in the book. But there comes a time when you soldier on and do the show anyway, if only to protest against a day that 90% of the population treats as a holiday (or holy-day, but don’t get me started) and that for you is just another work day.

Today is a day to soldier on. Fortunately, I have the stalwart Peggy Peggy and MikeMalecki from Natural Awakenings Chicago sitting in with me.  In the first hour, we will do a kind of potpourri of gardening, environmental and green living stories. Who knows where that will take us?

I should say, however, that I expect a visit from a horticultural buddy of mine, Annie Haven from Authentic Haven Brand out in California. They make a product called #MooPooTea, which is manure based. As they describe it,

Manure tea is very similar to compost tea, in fact, it is compost tea but uses composted livestock manure.Annie Haven

The manure is collected and composted in the sun over the course of several months.

The livestock are raised in pastures that contain native grasses, where the cattle are allowed to graze just as nature intended.

Manure teas are used as a soil conditioner in vegetable gardens, flower gardens, lawns and compost piles. Watering plants with manure tea conditions the soil so plant roots can better absorb nutrients. It also provides valuable nutrients, minerals and beneficial microorganisms that supports growing strong and healthy plants.

In the second hour, we welcome in Stephen M. Cutter, who I first talked to when I was doing my show at Progresso Radio down the dial. He and friends have developed an idea for a ride-sharing company…but not just any ride sharing company.

G-RideG-Ride, as they call it,

is a conscious rideshare company promoting the utilization of hybrid and electric cars, focusing on sustainability for both drivers and riders.  With our IMPACT into the market, we are planting a tree with every ride, and since rideshare companies are currently giving millions of rides per day, with G-Ride we could potentially be planting millions of trees per day, every 100 rides saving an ACRE of rainforest.

They’re hoping to launch the effort within months, and given the controversies surrounding the ride sharing company Uber, it should be interesting to watch what happens.

Last but not least, meteorologist Rick DiMaio is off watching one of those aforementioned graduations today, but in his place is Patrick Skach, who is retired co-op weather observer with the National Weather Service and a climate research contributor with the College of DuPage Meteorology Department…and a really good guy.

And it just happens to be Pat’s birthday today! As least some people don’t use every little excuse to take the day off.

May 15, 2016 – Breaking Free of Fossil Fuels; A Visit from Horitculturist Dan Kosta

Breaking Free from Oil, Gas and Coal all over the world

Oh, hum, another day, another oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This time, thanks to Shell Oil, about 90,000 gallons of oil are adding to the mess already left behind by the BP disaster of 2010.

Is it any wonder, then, that a group called Break Free from Fossil Fuels has spent the past two weeks mounting protests all over the world to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground and to move quickly to renewable energy sources? The countries in which those events have been held are the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil, Ecuador, Germany, Turkey, and Canada.

The mass actions started on May 4 and culminate tomorrow, May 15 in Whiting, Indiana, the site of the BP Whiting Refinery. It is being called the largest civil disobedience in the history of environmental movement, and will probably involve more than 1,000 people from all over the Midwest.

Break Free – Midwest takes place at Whiting Lakefront Park, 1798 119th Street,  Whiting, Indiana 46394. While the event starts at noon, there is plenty of activity, beginning at 10am CDT.
Here’s what the official event schedule looks like:

10:00 a.m.: Water Ceremony – Blessing led by Raven R. Roberts, Whiting Rally 2014Potawatomi/Miqma Chicago Uptown Chapter, with flute music by Bill Buchholz

10:30-11:30 a.m.: March Prep Workshop: Street Theatre / Puppetista / & Drum Line. Cantors, percussionists, and actors meet-up for march practice. Find us in the parking lot adjacent to the pavilion. Open to all.

11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.: Resource Fair –  Information from organizations represented at Break Free, Food available for purchase, Other activities.  More information and vendor list here.

12:00 – 12:30 p.m.: Kayaktivists’ Demonstration – in the Waters of Lake Michigan

12:30 p.m.: Public Press Conference 

1:00 p.m.: Rally – at the Whiting Lakefront Park Pavilion.  Join world, national, regional, and local leaders as we rally to demand a just transition from fossil fuels – a transition that protects jobs, communities and our future.

2:30 p.m. (approximate): March Begins

You certainly haven’t seen a preview of any of this in your local or national media and you’re unlikely to see any of it after the fact, either. I guess that’s why my show exists.

I will be talking to activist and artist Thomas Frank from the site of the protest tomorrow, along with The Mike Nowak Show team member Ashley Williams, who seems to be everywhere there’s an environmental injustice. I hope you join us.

Get your gardening questions ready–Dan Kosta is in the house

Just when you thought we had settled into a comfortable spring gardening season, the temperatures dip into the 30s on the 15th of May.  That’s why I have my own meteorologist on the show, Rick DiMaio. His job is to ‘splain why he didn’t see this coming.

It’s also why I have people like Dan Kosta on the program. Dan is a regular on The Mike Nowak Show, though he hasn’t been here since I moved to Que 4 Radio.  A lot of what you need to know about Dan is in his email address, which contains the word “snipologist.” That’s because he’s passionate about bonsai.

He has been seriously involved in bonsai as a hobby since 1986. He OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhas run the bonsai departments of two greenhouse businesses and he’s a two-term past president of the Prairie State Bonsai Society, as well as its newsletter editor and current publicity chair.

But the reason you should call into the show today at 312-985-7834 is because Dan is a horticulturist who works at Vern Goers Greenhouse and has been in the industry since 1976. His jobs have included grower, insect control, assistant greenhouse manager, greenhouse purchaser, and salesperson.

In other words, he knows his stuff.  For instance, he writes that

Boxwood leaf miner has started to show up here.  It causes blotchy yellow patches on the foliage.  Black vine weevils are affecting more Heucheras.  The grubs feed on the roots and can kill the plant.  Impatiens downy mildew will likely be strong due to our mild winter.  There has been a lot of damage to perennials from rotting over winter and from frost heave to the plants. 

Not to be an alarmist or anything, but if you want to keep your plants alive(!), I strongly suggest that you tune into Sunday’s show.