April 17, 2016-I Grow Chicago, “Come to the Table” Dinner, Renewable Energy, Gardening Now

The Mike Nowak Show this week will be missing only one important ingredient—Mike. (He’s recovering from surgery and, although his crankiness and sense of humor are fully restored, his voice isn’t.) All the other ingredients for a great show will be very much in evidence, starting with three members of the team.

Peggy Malecki, one of today’s guest hosts, is publisher of Natural Awakenings Chicago, the magazine about healthy living on a healthy planet. Lisa Albrecht, a long-time team member, is a renewable energy specialist, vice president of the Illinois Solar Energy Association and a frequent speaker on renewable energy topics. Sarah Batka, another team member from way back, is program coordinator in horticulture for University of Illinois Extension, Cook County. She is also @frugalfoodgal, a voice for healthy food on a budget.

0416CHI NB-I Grow Opt2Peggy, Lisa, and Sarah will be talking today with Stephany Price, Executive Director of I Grow Chicago, an organization dedicating to providing a safe, inter-generational haven to children and at-risk community members. Through sustainable farming and educational programs in nutrition, movement yoga and the arts, they foster creativity, wellness and empowerment for individuals in the community as a whole.

Pilot Light logoKathleen Bolin of Angelic Organics Learning Center and Alexandra Desorbo-Quinn will join us in the studio to talk about the upcoming “Come to the Table Dinner,” which is a joint project of Angelic Organics and Pilot Light Chefs, a Chicago-based non-profit that integrates food and nutrition education into school curriculum.

Of course, Sarah will also talk about what you should be doing in your garden in the upcoming days and weeks, and Lisa will be filling us in on developments in renewable energy in Illinois. And the inimitable Rick DiMaio will talk about weather in the way that only he can.


April 10, 2016 – Dear President Obama, VegFest, and Illinois women protecting our water

Dear President Obama

Student, environmentalist, activist and The Mike Nowak Show team member Ashley Williams is back in the house this morning, and with good reason. On Thursday, April 14, she is hosting a screening of the film Dear President Obama, The Clean Energy Revolution Is Now in Ottawa, Illinois.  (Details here.)

Williams says the film, which is narrated by actor and activist Mark Ruffalo

takes a cross-county look at oil and gas drilling and fracking, highlighting numerous contamination crises, stories from victims,
DPO_Trailer_Placeholderand the devastating boom-and-bus economic impacts levied on
affected communities. Interviews with scientists, economists, health
professionals, geologists and whistleblowers provide the core narrative  of the film.

Director Jon Bowermaster joins us this morning to talk about his three years of work in more than twenty states, involving more than 120 interviews.

By the way, the film will also be in Chicago this week, on Wednesday, April 13 at Uncommon Ground Restaurant at 1401 W. Devon Avenue in Chicago at 6:30 p.m. This event is hosted by Food & Water Watch.

Welcome to the first annual VegFest

That’s always a scary thing to say because you never know if there will be a “second annual” whatever. But while I was broadcasting at the Good Food Festival & Conference this year, I was introduced to the 1st Annual North Shore VegFest, sponsored by Plant Based Nutrition for Life and Food Not Meds.

VegFest features keynote speaker Dr. Terry Mason, COO of  the Cook County Board of Health and a proponent of living healthfully with a plant based diet.  The deliberately modest event takes place on Saturday, April 16 from 11am to 2pm in the Forum Room at National Louis University, 5202 Old Orchard Road in Skokie.

Vegfest Flyer500

Carol A. D’Anca from Food Not Meds joins me this morning to talk about the fest and her particular mission, which is to raise nutritional awareness, inspire dietary change, and improve the health of the nation. She notes that

My mission…is closely connected to Veg Fest in a way that raises nutritional awareness and inspires change.  I educate through public speaking, teaching plant based food classes, community outreach and nutritional counseling. I’ve also been known to take groups to the south of Italy where my family or origin lives and show them the lifestyle, the gardens and the unprocessed food that is the staple of their diet.

Which means that my new mission is to figure out how to have Carol take me to Italy. I’ll let you know how that goes.

 Sharing the cost of rain readiness

If you’re a home owner in the Midwest, you’ve probably been touched by one of those “once-in-a-hundred-years” rain events…which seem to happen once every five years or so. Welcome to climate change, or, as meteorologist Rick DiMaio calls it, climate variability. Whichever noun you use, it pays to plan ahead, which is where the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) comes in.

One of their goals is to help homeowners and municipalities create efficient, replicable strategies for dealing with rain events, through a program called RainReady?. In their own words, “The way we build cities makes them flood, even in modest rainstorms, because asphalt and concrete prevent rainwater from soaking into the ground. We call this urban flooding.” Think about that for a second. In many cases, we have created our own flooding problems!

Which means that we need to work together to fix them. A few weeks ago, I received information from Rain Ready’s Harriet Festing about a bill making its way through the Illinois General Assembly. Introduced by State Representative Elaine Nekritz of the 57th District with the help of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD), this legislation,  HB 4659, gives MWRD the authority to establish residential cost-share programs in partnership with local units of government.

That means that you could get financial help for stormwater mitigation efforts like the installation of overhead sewers, backflow prevention valves and bypass pumps; the disconnection of downspouts and foundation drains; and installation of cisterns, rain gardens and porous pavement.

Rep. Nekritz, who is on the show today, says that the bill is still in committee, but you can help its passage by writing to your own state representative or senator via this link to urge their support for the bill.

Not so coincidentally, Nekritz is joined on the program this morning by one of my favorite environmentalist-politicians, Commissioner Debra Shore of the MWRD.  In addition to commenting on HB 4659, Debra ShoreCommissioner Shore wants Cook County residents to be aware of another initiative that she supports.

From her newsletter:

The Cook County Board will soon consider a proposed ordinance (Item 16-1983) governing the safe disposal of pharmaceuticals in Cook County. The goal of this measure is to build upon and expand an existing collection program administered by the Cook County Sheriff’s Department so that there are no “collection deserts” in Cook County and to require the producers of pharmaceutical drugs to provide financial support for the free and accessible collection of unwanted or expired pharmaceuticals for all County residents.  

Shore notes that not only is abuse and misuse of pharmaceuticals becoming a public health crisis, but traces of those same medicines are showing up in the waters and aquatic species of Cook County. Importantly, the ordinance prohibits producers from charging residents point-of-sale or point-of-collection fees for drop-off sites or for mail-back envelopes. Shore notes that “cost increases, if any, will be negligible — on the order of one dime for every $100 of prescription drugs.”

She asks that you contact the Cook County Commissioners to get them to support this measure. You can find the list of commissioners who are not yet sponsors of the ordinance here (scroll down the page).

By the way,

In conjunction with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Chicago Field Division, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) will host the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday, April 30, 2016, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the following three water reclamation plants (WRP):

  • Calumet WRP, 400 E. 130th St., Chicago
  • Stickney WRP, 6001 W. Pershing Rd., Cicero
  • O’Brien WRP, 3500 Howard St., Skokie

April 3, 2016 – Chicago Farm Report, Band of Farmers and fixing electronics recycling laws

Oh, hum…how positively ordinary to be doing a radio show from inside a studio this week. That’s what happens when you broadcast live from a great event like the Good Food Festival & Conference. If you missed the show last Saturday, you can catch the podcast here.

Chicago Farm Report

One of the people who joined me last week was Patrick Barry, who has just started a Facebook page  and blog called Chicago Farm Report. It is also the name of a brand new segment on The Mike Nowak Show. Patrick and others on his staff will join me regularly to report on the world of urban agriculture, Chicago style.

Patrick Barry yard June 2015And if you’re wondering what qualifies him to make these reports, I advise you to take a look at the photo above. That’s his yard in the middle of last summer. I think he knows what he’s doing, and I welcome him to the show.

Band of Farmers: The Chicagoland CSA Coalition

One of the folks who got left out of the mix last week was Robin Schirmer with an outfit called Band of Farmers: The Chicagoland CSA Coalition. Their purpose is to educate consumers about local foods in general and the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model in particular.

As it so happens, I might have had a hand in helping this group of farmers get organized. Recently, Schirmer wrote to me,

In early December 2013, you interviewed Jody Osmund and Wes King about their budding (and as yet unnamed) marketing coalition for CSAs. I was listening, and had recently given notice to Tomato Mountain Farm (where I coordinated their large, home delivery CSA) and the only prospect that excited me was a longstanding itch to help create a CSA coalition like the one in Madison. I knew both Jody and Wes and connected with them and Band of Farmers was born in early 2014 (though by design we didn’t go live until the 2015 season).

Well, whaddaya know.

Anyway, in addition to the serious side of Band of Farmers, there is Band of Farmersthe not-so-serious side–namely, the 4th Annual Farmer Talent Show. They describe it as “the event that started it all” and it features music, dance, storytelling, comedy and performance art–all performed by farmers, of course.

The show takes place next Saturday, April 9 from 3 to 6pm at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Avenue in Chicago.

Today I welcome Jody Lee Osmund from Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm, Marcy Prchal from Troggs Hollow and Stephanie Douglass from Growing Home Inc. to talk about their businesses individually and collectively as Band of Farmers.

What happened to electronics recycling in Illinois?

Back in the heady days of 2011, the Electronic Recycling and Reuse Act passed in Illinois, which banned 17 electronic items from landfills. According to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, effective January 1, 2012 these electronic devices listed were banned from landfills: televisions, monitors, printers, computers (laptop, notebook, netbook, tablet, desktop), electronic keyboards, facsimile machines, videocassette recorders, portable digital music players, digital video disc players, video game consoles, small-scale servers, scanners, electronic mice, digital converter boxes, cable receivers, satellite receivers, and digital video disc recorders.

Yay! Finally, the good guys win!

Fast forward to 2015-2016, and these are the kinds of headlines you’re seeing in this state:

What the heck happened?

Kane County recycling coordinator Jennifer Jarland, who appears on my show today, writes,

Back in 2012, when the Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act banned electronics from landfills and required manufacturers of electronics to fund recycling programs in Illinois, there was money flowing from manufacturers to recycler/processors, and even down to the collectors.

At that time, the county was able to pass along a per-pound revenue to the cities that were acting as collection locations. That heyday lasted a couple of years, until 2014, when the volumes being collected began to exceed the weight goals the state has set for the manufacturers. Once annual weight-goal requirements are met, manufacturers don’t have to fund the recycling programs, and without the additional revenues, costs are threatening to fall back to local governments.

Electronics recyclingThe Illinois law was revised in 2015, but it still didn’t do the job! One of the problems is the fact that so many people are now trying to recycle their old cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions, which weigh much more than current models and which contain toxic materials that cost more to recycle. Houston, we have a problem.

We’ll try to straighten out this mess with Jennifer Jarland and with Walter Willis, executive director of the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, Illinois (SWALCO). Willis notes that the Illinois Product Stewardship Council is suggesting yet another batch of amendments to the law, some of which have been borrowed from what he calls more stable programs in Oregon and Washington.

We’ll see how that works out.