December 1, 2013
Welcoming Illinois Extension educator Ellen Phillips
Don't be misled by that headline. Ellen Phillips has been with Illinois Extension for a long time. She is a Local Food and Small Farms Educator whose programs have focused on increasing production, marketing, risk management on small farms while encouraging environmental stewardship. Works for me.
What I meant is that for a number of years, Ellen has been serving three counties in western Illinois--Boone, DeKalb, and Ogle--and five weeks ago returned to work in Cook County. And we're happy to have her. She and I first crossed paths when I interviewed her on Gargantua Radio Down the Dial. Obviously, that was a while ago.
The Extension website says that her her areas of expertise
include organic production, Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS), large scale and backyard composting, soil management, manure management, small farm crop production and marketing and livestock pasture management and grazing. In this role, she works closely with farmers, agri-business, homeowners and other agencies to identify educational needs, and deliver unbiased research-based information to clientele.
One of the things we'll discuss on the show this morning is the Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism and Organic Conference, which takes place in Springfield every year in the second week of January. In 2014, the conference runs Jan 9 and 10 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and Convention Center in Springfield, Illinois.
The conference is open to everyone interested in local food and farming. I t provides professional training for farmers to learn the newest techniques for improving production, crop protection or ways to add value through post-harvest handling. In addition, there will be five pre-conference workshops:
- pumpkin production
- season extension and year-round markets
- Good Agriculture Practices (GAPs) and food safety guidelines for Farmers Markets
- optimizing plasticulture and drip irrigation practices
- growing unique fruits and vegetables.
As you can see, GAPs, or Good Agricultural Practices, is another area that interests Ellen. These are the Best Management Practices that farmers use to minimize microbial contamination from seed to market. As Ellen tells me:
Farmers look at the farm from a whole farm perspective and develop a food safety plan including training their staff, record keeping, mock recalls and traceability. More and more markets (grocery stores, schools, and even farmers markets) are requiring farmers to become GAPs certified.
Gaps Certified means that a 3rd party organization such as USDA comes to the farm, evaluates if the farm is doing everything that is written in the plan. If they are, they are certified. The University of Illinois Extension has a cost-share program to help farmers cover the cost of the Audit which can be $1000 to $3000
There are a number of GAPs workshops in 2014. Each lasts from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There will be on February 10 in Cook County. If you're intrested, contact Ellen Phillips, firstname.lastname@example.org., or 708/449-4320. Two of the workshops will be webinars, In April and June, there will be webinars on Mondays. For the April sessions, contact Ellen Phillips. For June, contact James Theuri, email@example.com, or 815/933-8337.
Or perhaps you're interested in become a farmer. The University of Illinois has received a 3 year grant to train new farmers, after just completing the first year with almost 80 people trained. The Second year begins in December, 2014, and website registration begins July 1, 2014. In this part of the state, it's at the St. Charles Horticulture Research Center.
It covers everything from starting seeds, to marketing to writing a business plan. There's also a workshop called "Is Entrepreneurial Farming for you?” on December. 5 at Westchester.
Last but not least, Ellen tells me that the Kendall County Board Tuesday approved a special use permit that will pave the way for a poultry and small animal processing plant near Newark. She says this is important for people raising chickens in Illinois because, as of now, there is only one processing plant in the state.
Al and Mary Maly are behind the effort. They live on a 13-acre farmette in Kendall County, raising about 600 chickens and turkeys on their site. Presently, they must take their animals down to Arthur, Illinois for processing. Their proposed plant would handle about 3,000 poultry per day.
Lots to discuss. Ellen Phillips joins me in studio.
More on compost pick up in Andersonville
A couple of weeks ago, I welcomed some folks from the EESP, or Edgewater Environmental Sustainability Project. and one of the things we talked about was a new composting program that had just started in the Andersonville Neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. The initiative, which is the result of a coordinated effort by the Andersonville Development Corp., Chicago Compost Coalition, Loyola University and the Chicago Resource Center, allows people to have their food scraps collected and composted for a small fee.
This week, I'm happy to talk to Ellen Shepard, Executive Director of the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce and the Andersonville Development Corporation. She writes that their composting program
is part of the Eco-Andersonville initiative of the Andersonville Development Corporation. We have been working on it for about three years, sitting on committees with Jen Walling [Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council], lobbying in Springfield to get the legislation changed, and finally, becoming Chicago's largest neighborhood-wide residential compost pick-up initiative. The program was the brainchild of Brian Bonanno, our Sustainability Programs Manager. The commercial side of the program, for Andersonville restaurant pick-ups, has been supported by Han Pham and the good folks at Loyola. They provided a grant to help keep costs down and compostable bags for the restauarnts. In addition to the four restaurants Han mentioned on your show, two Andersonville restaurants are now on board, and we are actively seeking more.
Shepard notes that Andersonville is working in many other ways to be a green community, including
· Streetscape recycling. First neighborhood in the city to do this.
· Parklets and bike corrals. First in the city to do parklets and the only neighborhood with two of them. We also have the most bike corrals and helped the city develop both of these programs.
· Green Building incentive program (we reimburse a portion of businesses' costs for select sustainability improvements). Improvements have included lighting retrofits, solar shades, and a bamboo floor.
· Sustainable Business “Merit Badge” program. This is an overhaul we are doing of our former Sustainable Business Certification Program, where business can earn “merit badges” for sustainability efforts in individual categories, such as energy efficiency, water conservation, etc.
· Andersonville Farmers Market. We just completed our fifth year. This was specifically designed to get Andersonville hooked into the local food system so that we can support local farmers and lesson the amount of fossil fuel and chemicals it takes to feed our community. We were the first in the city to do an evening market.
· Sustainability “blitzes.” We started with an exit sign blitz, where we got special pricing on retrofitting businesses' exit signs with LED lights, and we did a bunch of them at once. We also did this on a much smaller scale with low-flow water sprayers for restaurants' sinks.
· Green Gift Wrapping party. Coming up on Friday, December 20 at George's Ice Cream, 5306 N. Clark, as part of our Late-er Night Andersonville event. Every year we gather festive materials that would otherwise be headed for a landfill –blueprints, old movie posters, etc – and invite shoppers to come wrap their holiday gifts with them.
Brian Bonanno and Ellen Shepard are in studio today to talk about all of these efforts.
By the way if you're interested in the Andersonville Community Compost program, go to http://www.andersonville.org/eco-andersonville/composting/ or call 773/728-7552.
Sauganash Prairie Grove Habitat Restoration and Potluck
Team member Rob Kartholl (@copedog on Twitter) asked me to plug what sounds like a great event: the Sauganash Prairie Grove Habitat Restoration and Potluck, next Saturday, December 7. It's a Habitat 2030 project. Those people describe themselves as
a group of dynamic young(ish) volunteers who care about the remarkable natural areas of the Chicago region. We are continuing the illustrious history of local volunteer stewardship and helping to build a culture of 20-30-40-somethings who will understand and care about our preserves long into the future. We gather at weekend workdays to remove invasive plants, gather and spread seeds, and more. After hard, satisfying work, we gather around the brushpile fire for brats, s'mores, and whatever else we can figure out. Everyone is welcome! We'll show you the basics and help you discover the overlooked ecological treasures within miles of our city.
Get folks interested and invested in our environment while they're young, I always say. Here are the details:
Sat, December 7, 10am – 1pm, Sauganash Prairie Grove ( map )
RSVP via Facebook, Meetup.com, or the Forest Preserves of Cook County Volunteer page
Sauganash Prairie Grove, a mosaic of oak woodland and prairie, resides within the Chicago city limits! We will be lopping and sawing invasive shrubs like buckthorn, with a brush burn pile if conditions permit. We'll work 10AM - 1PM and feast around the fire afterward. Bring something to share. The entrance to the preserve is between Kilbourn and Kenneth Avenues on Bryn Mawr, so park along a side street. All you need is a pair of tough shoes or boots, a sweatshirt and coat if it's cold, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, a water bottle, and a hat. We'll supply work gloves and tools. We strongly recommend against nylon or other synthetic fabrics, as sparks from the fire will melt holes in them.
November 24, 2013
Gettin' that Home Grown groove
A couple of weeks ago, I played a song that several people had alerted me to. This particular website says that "This May Be The Best Song Ever Made About Gardening." Of course, most gardening songs--in my humble opinion--are pretty lame. However, this one really IS good.
It's called "Home Grown" and it's written by a guy named Keith "Fathom" Cross, whose own website is tagged with the words r&b/soul, blues, hip hop, rap, jazz, neo-soul and soul California. So he's obviously trying a lot of different styles. (He's also a PhD candidate at Stanford University in his spare time.)
The lyrics start like this:
Man I got that Home Grown.
I don't care ‘bout the Dow Jones.
The economy could crash tonight
And yo' whole life savin's couldn't save yo' life!
I'm a crop farmer. I got what you need.
And I ain't blowin' smoke when I say I grow trees.
It's funny: this economy is based on greed,
But more people don't farm who got mouths to feed.
Some folks save money; I save seeds.
I don't water my lawn or spray weeds.
The money I do spend on waterin' crops
I get right back, cause I don't shop for groceries.
I got breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the yard,
So that recession ain't hittin' me as hard.
My stock grows exponentially.
What, the Wall St. Journal never mentioned me?
and there are two more verses, plus what could be described as an epilogue. Keith says this about the song:
This is a song about the freedom gained through growing your own. For me it is a dream which I've barely begun. I don't yet have the land or the skills to make it a reality. With your support, I will get there, and continue to motivate others to do the same. Given the content however, to charge for it may seem hypocritical, so if you want a free copy, just let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
That's a great attitude and I'm pleased to have him on the show this morning.
A lot has been happening on the southeast side of Chicago in the past few weeks regarding the storage of petcoke. For one thing, this has become a real news story, with real media outlets now regularly covering it. That's partly because the citizens of the East Side and South Deering neighborhoods decided they were mad as hell and they weren't going to take it anymore. That meeting was attended by our own Lisa Albrecht.
That can only be bad news for KCBX Terminals and Beemsterboer Slag Corp., the companies that are storing this by-product of the tar sands oil refining process. The constant glare of the media has forced Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the U.S. EPA, the Illinois EPA and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to at least make noises about getting something done to protect the health and well-being of the citizens.
The latest action is a lawsuit that has been filed agasint Beemsterboer by the City of Chicago and the Illinois Attorney General's Office. According to the Chicago Sun-Times story, the lawsuit
seeks a court order for the company to remove petcoke and metallurgical coke or “metcoke” from its 22-acre Chicago facility at 2900 E. 106th St. It also seeks to stop the company from storing, handling, screening, loading and unloading petcoke, metcoke and other “unpermitted” materials at its location until it obtains a permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
While KCBX is not mentioned in this lawsuit, they are are already under scrutinty from the U.S. EPA, which is seeking to determine if the company has violated provisions of the Clean Air Act.
Hell, even the circus that is the Chicago City Council has gotten into the act, with two aldermen proposing ordinances that would call for stricter regulation of the pet and metcoke or ban their storage outright.
Meanwhile, the pressure from the citizens of the area continues. This morning (Sunday, November 24) at 10:00 a.m., People against Petcoke will be holding a protest March. They will meet at 106th Street and Burley Avenue Chicago, IL (next to Riverfront Tavern) and will march to the KCBX south site on Burley Avenue.
Then, next Friday, December 6 from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m., the Southeast Environmental Task Force is presenting a photo exhibit called Welcome to Petcoke Town at Under the Bridge Studios,10052 S. Ewing Avenue in Chicago. It features works by Jeff Lucas, Lloyd Degrane and student photographers, all of whom live near the toxic pet coke piles.
A clarification regarding compost pick up in Andersonville
Last week we had some folks in studio from the EESP, or Edgewater Environmental Sustainability Project and one of the things we talked about was a new composting program that had just started in the Andersonville Neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. The initiative, which is the result of a coordinated effort by the Andersonville Development Corp., Chicago Compost Coalition, Loyola University and the Chicago Resource Center, allows people to have their food scraps collected and composted for a small fee.
Unfortunately, at the time, I didn't have the website handy for folks who want to get on board with the Andersonville Community Compost program. To do that, go to http://www.andersonville.org/eco-andersonville/composting/ or call 773/728-7552.
We'll talk more about this next week.
Other things on the radar screen
The second hour today will feature a few things about this and that, including
- A disturbing story in this week's New York Times called The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear. If this doesn't get alarm bells ringing in your head, you might not be human.
- For the first time, a power company has been fined for killing birds at a Wyoming wind farm.
- Interested in keeping GMOs off of your Thankgiving table? Green America has some ideas.
- I received this story from Pat Skach, who does the weather segment when Rick DiMaio isn't available: Global Warming Since 1997 Underestimated by Half. That can't be good news.
- We might be releasing more methane into our atmosphere than we ever thought. And it's coming from leaks in our gas pipes...just another part of our fraying infrastructure
- Last but certainly not least, Dr. Lora Chamberlain informs us that there is a public meeting about the new fracking regulations in Illinois this Tuesday, November 26, 2013, 6:30pm-8:30pm at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), 726 S. Halsted Street, Student Center East, Rm 302, Chicago IL 60607. As she points out, the hearing is two days before Thanksgiving (!), a nice strategy for keeping comments to a minimum.
More info as it comes out at: www.facebook.com/FrackFreeIllinois and at www.facebook.com/events/587043554666212/?context=create
Information regarding the format of the public hearings and other cities hosting them can be found at : www.dnr.illinois.gov/.../Pages/PublicHearings.aspx
Read the rules at www.dnr.illinois.gov/.../hydraulicfracturing.aspx
Comments on the proposed rulemaking may be submitted to the Department until
Friday, January 3, 2014 .
Electronically at: www.dnr.illinois.gov/OilandGas/Pages/OnlineCommentSubmittalForm.aspx
Or by mail/hand delivery to the following address:
Robert G. Mool, Department of Natural Resources, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield IL 62702-1271, 217/782-1809
Dr. Lora asks that you copy all comments about the rules sent to the IDNR to:
– www.facebook.com/FrackFreeIllinois ,
– JCAR@ILGA.gov (the General Assembly),
– Governor Quinn: www2.illinois.gov/gov/Pages/ContacttheGovernor.aspx
November 17, 2013
Visit "Illumination" at the Morton Arboretum for the holidays
If you're a regular listener (insert joke here about irregular listeners), you know that when the holiday season arrives, I don my gay apparel--vest, evening jacket, cravat and, of course, top hat and pitch pipe--and show up at dinner events, parties, and venerable institutions like the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Morton Arboretum to sing songs of the season.
My caroling group is called, appropriately enough, The Frozen Robins, and, in case you're interested, yes, we are for hire. (I'm so glad you asked!)
I'm particularly excited this year about a new event at the Morton Arboretum, at which we will be appearing numerous times during November and December. It's called Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum, and I get goose bumps just thinking about it, even though I haven't seen the lights yet. Here's some of the fun that will be part of the event:
Illumination is an outdoor event on a one-mile, gently rolling, paved path that takes approximately one and one-half hours to complete. Please dress for the weather. Food and beverage concessions are available for purchase.
Walking along the paved trail you can:
- Hug a tree to make it grow brighter
- Sing to a tree and watch it change color
- Interact with light and color with a swipe of your hand
Illumination runs November 22 to January 4, 2014* (closed November 28, December 2, 9, 16, 24, 25).
It starts each night at 4:30 with last entry at 8:30 p.m. Building and grounds hours vary during Illumination. Please see admission & hours page for more information. You can purchase tickets online HERE.
Member: $10 Adult/$5 Child (2-17)
General Admission $15 Adult/ $10 Child (2-17)
A $5 transaction fee will apply to all phone orders.
General Admission: Daytime Arboretum admission for the same day as your Illumination ticket is included with your ticket price.
The Frozen Robins will be caroling for Illumination from 5 to 8pm on these dates:
Friday, November 22
Saturday, November 23
Saturday, November 30
Saturday, December 7
Saturday, December 14
Saturday, December 21
Saturday, December 28
Saturday, January 4
Join us for what promises to be a one-of-a-kind event! We might even invite you to warble a tune with us!
Chicagoans fight back against petcoke on the Calumet River
Three weeks ago I reported on how large piles of petroleum coke or "petcoke," a by-product of refining tar sands oil, were growing at an alarming rate along the banks of the Calumet River in southeast Chicago.
The irony is that just as the piles of coal that had lined the river for years have begun to disappear, thanks to the shuttering of three coal-fire plants in the Chicago area, the petcoke piles have begun to appear at KCBX Terminals and Beemsterboer Slag Corp. Residents in the neighborhood have been complaining about the black dust that settles on everything in their houses and, worse, ends up in their eyes and lungs.
With the controversial BP Whiting, Indiana refinery about to finish a $3.8 billion expansion, which will make it the world's second largest coker, the environmental future for the area looks dim, indeed. According to Henry Henderson at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) ,
BP Whiting is now the second biggest producer of petcoke amongst American refineries. They will be spitting out 6,000 tons of the stuff a day; more than 2 million tons annually.
Various local media also reported on this environmental catastrophe in the making, including the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Tonight on WTTW . After being alerted by the Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF), the NRDC produced its own video of the rising piles of petcoke along the Calumet.
Earlier this month, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit against KCBX, charging that the company is violating state law by not safely storing the petcoke. Meanwhile, Beemsterboer is under investigation by the Illinois EPA for similar reasons.
So it's not particularly surprising that when KCBX requested for a permit revision to add conveyors and equipment to its facility near 107th and Burley, residents of the area finally decided that they had had enough. A loud and angry contingent of citizens showed up at a meeting called by the IEPA last Thursday to discuss the matter. You can see from this video shot by the Chicago Sun-Times that the IEPA folks had that "deer in the headlights" look in the face of community outrage.
The very next day, the U.S. EPA got into the act, announcing that it was conducting its own investigation of both KCBX and Beemsterboer, citing lack of compliance with the Clean Air Act.
Our very own Lisa Albrecht was at Thursday's meeting along with Thomas Frank, a resident of East Chicago, Indiana, a member of Tar Sands Free Midwest, an activist and artist. They will talk about standing up for the right to breathe (relatively) clean air.
Creating a sustainable Chicago neighborhood in Edgewater
In September I received an email from a colleague about a new composting program that had just started in the Andersonville Neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. The initiative, which is the result of a coordinated effort by the Andersonville Development Corp., Chicago Compost Coalition , Loyola University and the Chicago Resource Center, allows people to have their food scraps collected and composted for a small fee.
The program was launched on October 19 as the first of its kind in Chicago. However, sometimes new programs can travel a bumpy road on the way to being established (of course, I'm not talking about any kind of national health insurance program...those are a snap to roll out). In the case of the Andersonville effort, it's composting bins ready for pickup that have been either stolen or thrown away as garbage.
Hey, there will always be setbacks with ground breaking initiatives. That's to be expected. The fact that this is being done at all in Chicago (you know, the city that finds it difficult to recycle a soda bottle) is the remarkable thing. And the environmental progress in the Andersonville and Edgewater neighborhoods can be attributed to a group called EESP, or Edgewater Environmental Sustainability Project.
Their mission is encapsulated here:
We will collaborate with all who live and work in the Edgewater/Andersonvile area in order to create a model sustainable, green community within Chicago by establishing goals and timelines within the following target areas:
1) Energy Efficiency;
2) Planning & Development (including Transportation);
3) Green Schools;
4) Reduce, ReUse, Recycle;
5) Parks & Greening;
6) Water & Air;
7) Renewable Energy;
8) Public Education;
9) Neighborhood Beautification & Cleaning:
Somehow it's not surprising that a player in Edgewater's leap into the world of composting is Edgewater resident Senator Heather Steans, whose composting bill, SB 99, was passed in Illinois in 2009. The bill brought some badly needed common sense to the antiquated Illinois composting laws, thanks in part to staffers like Jennifer Walling, now Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC).
Joining me in studio today are Hahn Pham, Compost Coordinator at Loyola University, Chicago; Anne Comeau, EESP Co-chair; and Tom Murphy and Killian Walsh from EESP. On the phone will be Senator Heather Steans from the Illinois 7th District.
Band of Farmers expands the reach of CSAs
I didn't have much of a chance to visit the Logan Square Farmers Market this year, even though it's in my own neighborhood. The problem is that the market is held on Sunday morning and early afternoon, when I'm broadcasting and doing post-show work. End of story.
Or not. Late in the season I managed to carve out some time to stop by the market and was hailed by a friend of The Mike Nowak Show, Jody Osmund of Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm. It's been more than two and a half years since his wife Beth was on the show to talk about their meat CSA, which produces food that has been raised, slaughtered and processed in a humane fashion.
If you read their website, their philosophy is no accident:
We didn't become farmers because we are Local Foods activists.
We became activists because we are farmers making our living from local foods.
Kathleen and I bought some sustainably produced meat products and Jody promised to be in touch. He followed through this week when he alerted me to the upcoming 2013 Federal Employees’ Health and Benefits Fair hosted by the Chicago Federal Executive Board. It will be at the Metcalfe Building at 77 W. Jackson Boulevard on November 21. Chicago Health and Human Services is the main force behind the fair, which is for current and retired federal employees. and this is where it gets interesting.
According to Jody, this will be a historic event. For the first time, there will be a CSA (Community Supported Agriculre) Fair in conjunction with a Federal employee health benefits fair in Chicago. Around 1200 federal employees are expected to attend and will they have a chance to learn about getting healthy food from local farms.
The CSA part of this event came is a joint project of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA) and a budding CSA Marketing Coalition called Band Of Farmers.Their first official event was a CSA Fair and Farmer Talent Show in March of this year, and they plan even more events in the future, including another Band of Farmers Talent show at the Good Food Festival and Conference in March of 2014.
Wes King, Executive Director of the ISA, hopes the Federal Employees' Health and Benefits Fair will lead to bigger and better things. He points to the Fair Share CSA Coalition in Wisconsin, which has a CSA health insurance rebate program. Wes says that you can get a rebate for signing up for a CSA through the Fair Share Coalition. He hopes the same thing will happen in Illinois and he believes that the CSA fair is a good first step in that direction.
I'm pleased to have Jody Osmond and Wes King on the program this morning. And while I have him on the phone, I will get an update on the progress of a national Farm Bill from Wes.
November 10, 2013
Speaking and marching for clean energy
In September the EPA announced new emission standards for new power plants across the US and is currently working on standards for existing facilities that will be announced in June 2014. Even as the predictable opposition rolls out, the EPA has been hosting public listening sessions, soliciting community input, in 11 different cities across the country. Chicago was host Friday, the last day for live testimony with about 500 individuals giving 3 minute statements. The agency will continue to accept written comments until December 7th. So if you didn't get down to the listening, please submit your comments online! Carbonpollutioninput@epa.gov
Here's the statement that Lisa presented to the EPA:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Lisa Albrecht and I am a Renewable Energy Specialist at Solar Service, a local solar installer that has been building solar energy here in Chicago since 1977. I serve on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Solar Energy Association, an organization dedicated to the education and proliferation of solar energy in our state.
I am here today in support of strong emissions and pollution control standards for new power plants, particularly those using toxic, limited and dangerous fossil fuels.
The role of government is complex. However I feel that a major responsibility of our local, state and federal entities, and therefore the EPA, is to safeguard our future, not just for tomorrow but for generations to come. Our planet is in peril and we are already witnessing the impacts of dirty energy.
The risks threaten our health, food, water, weather and even political stability. I myself have asthma after living in Asia and being exposed for years to toxic coal emissions and many of those i know and love suffer from environmental illnesses. These new standards will ensure a healthier future.
Fossil fuels have had their place in history. They have developed the worlds economies and gotten us to where we are today as a civilization. But they are yesterday's technologies built on yesterday's understanding of the risks and environmental costs of the emissions spewing constant pollution into our atmosphere.
It is time to embrace a new tomorrow. The new standards will offer a transition to a new energy era and an emerging economy, the clean energy economy.
Renewable energies offer a sustainable, economic and affordable energy solution. They are clean, efficient, stable, safe and offer solutions to the many challenges we face as a planet today. They are available everywhere, offering energy independence with abundant and free fuel source.
The truth is that the more we invest in fossil fuels, the more expensive they become. We have mined the easiest fuels out of the ground and are now investing billions in extracting harder sources of energy in more vulnerable areas, threatening our very existence and vital resources we need for survival such as drinking water and farmland.
But what is missed by many is that the more we invest in clean energy the less expensive and more efficient it becomes! Solar energy for example has delivered more power to the grid in the past two years than the prior 40. And that capacity will double in the next two years. Wind is already proving affordable energy to millions of us citizens. The opportunities for renewable energy are endless and logical. These are mulit-billion dollar industries and the combination of these with energy efficiency and new technologies we have yet to discover will employ those working today in displaced and aging industries.
I urge the EPA to stay strong in their mission to deliver a better future.
I encourage president obama to continue to develop clean, renewable technologies and ask ALL public officials to not take the easy road of status quo but to stand for our future by enforcing standards that will ensure our survival. Thank you for you leadership and courage.
The Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club hosted a public rally at noon at the Federal Plaza with several hundred folks in attendance. In fact Lisa and I were there watching speakers like Cheryl Johnson of People for Community of Recovery, Brandon Leavitt of Solar Service, Inc. (where Lisa is employed) and Senator Michael Frerichs rev up the crowd as they called for clean energy standards and Eco-equality.
"Twist and Seal" can keep you safe from electrical shock
Question: How many of you have run indoor electrical cords out to your yard to run your Christmas lights or water features? Can I see some hands? Yep, I thought so. Uh, you know that's not very safe, don' t you? And even if you use outdoor cords, what about the connections that are exposed to rain and snow?
Enter local inventor Bryan Nooner, who has come up with a way to keep those exposed connections dry. Nooner says that “When you use a Twist and Seal, you eliminate the need for wrapping plug connections in duct tape or plastic bags.” Anybody out there who has ever done that? Can I see some more hands? Heck, even Nooner himself says he's done that. So have I.
It's called Twist and Seal because of the way it works. You place the connection inside a plastic shell that contains foam on the inside. To close, you push the shell together while twisting, which compresses the foam around the cord and holds the connection together. While the device isn't water proof (it should not be submerged), it is moisture resistant.
Since he invented what is now called the Twist and Seal Original for large connections, he has developed the Twist and Seal Mini, for holiday lighting, and the Cord Dome™, which protects multiple electrical cord connections of any size and shape.
Exposed extension cord connections bothered Nooner so much, in fact, that he invented a product called Twist and Seal that keeps cord connections safe and dry. The product's name—Twist and Seal—was derived from the way the device works. The foam on the inside of the unit is slightly larger than the plastic housing on the outside. As you push the shell together around two joined extension cord plugs and twist it, the foam compresses down to create a radial compression around the cord. Voila—the cord connection inside stays dry and the cords never get pulled apart.
Nooner must be doing something right--his device won the Silver Award for the Most Innovative Product of the Year at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas in 2012. This year, he continued his streak, with The Mini being picked as Sky Mall magazine's “Top Pick” for the entire show, and the Cord Dome™ being pronounced the National Hardware Show's “Most Innovative Product of the Year” for 2013.
Bryan joins us in the studio today to tell us how he went from high school biology teacher to award-winner inventor.
Sandra Henry, ComEd's "Energy Doctor," is back in the house
On my Fifth Anniversary Show at WCPT on April 21 of this year, ComEd's "Energy Doctor," Sandra Henry appeared on the program to talk about her 20 years of experience in helping people make their homes and lives more energy efficient. Sandra is the program manager of ComEd's Energy Efficiency Portfolio. She is an elected regional director of the Illinois Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) . She is also a LEED Accredited Professional.
And now, I'm happy to say that, for the next few weeks, ComEd will be a sponsor of The Mike Nowak Show. This is a good time of year to talk about energy efficiency, as the "Hawk" begins to talk in Chicago and the temperatures plummet.
In fact, ComEd has launched its Smart Ideas awareness campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to encourage customers to become more energy efficient and conscious of the energy they use. Much of it is everyday, small acts that are more about commons sense than expensive retrofitting--things like turning off lights when leaving a room or switching to compact fluorescents. They call it “The Power of Small Changes.”
For instance, ComEd's Home Energy Savings program offers customers a comprehensive home assessment that evaluates opportunities for energy efficiency improvements and provides financial incentives for completing those improvements.
Meanwhile, in December 2012, ComEd launched its Smart Home Showcase contest to customers owning single- family homes in the communities that are part of the company's smart meter pilot program. There were four winners, who received free, ener gy efficiency home makeovers valued at $45,000 each. They are Alison Tisza from Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood; Lisa Polderman and Leticia Gonzales of Berwyn; and Brandon Smith of Maywood.
Brandon Smith stops by the studio today to tell us how the contest (and his good fortune) made him more aware of energy efficiency, whether his electric bills have gone down, and whether or not his family has made changes in their behavior to reduce their energy usage. Any bets on which side of the energy fence he's on now?
And, of course, the "Energy Doctor,' Sandra Henry is back in studio as well, to answer your energy conservation questions.
November 3, 2013
A potpourri first hour, starting with a KickStarter for The Plant...
It's a little bit of everything in the first hour of today's show, and we hope you'll join in the conversation at 773/763-9278 or post on Facebook at The Mike Nowak Show or tweet to @MikeNow.
I start with a request I received from John Edel of The Plant, who I ran into at the Bioneers Chicago event at Roosevelt University on Friday. If you don't know about The Plant, at 1400 W. 46th Street in Chicago, you should. It started as a 93,500 square foot meatpacking facility, but is being transformed into something quite remarkable.
The goal is to make The Plant a net-zero energy vertical farm and food business operation, and it's being done by integrating all of the businesses and operations that inhabit that building on Chicago's south side. Here's how they describe it:
[O]ne-third of The Plant will hold aquaponic growing systems and the other two-thirds will incubate sustainable food businesses by offering low rent, low energy costs, and (eventually) a licensed shared kitchen. The Plant will create 125 jobs in Chicago's economically distressed Back of the Yards neighborhood – but, remarkably, these jobs will require no fossil fuel use. Instead, The Plant will install a renewable energy system that will eventually divert over 10,000 tons of food waste from landfills each year to meet all of its heat and power needs.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I advise you to peruse the website--especiall this page--to get an overview that will leave you shaking your head and wondering why the rest of the world doesn't operate this way.
Anyway, John wrote to me to say that that the folks at The Plant have launched a KickStarter Campaign to convert a loading dock into a new ADA-accessible entryway . From the street, you'll be able to see straight through to a new retail area where Plant businesses will sell their produce and foods--a co-op retail area featuring living walls.
He says that the building permits are in hand, so once the goal is reached, construction can start immediately. Here are some highlights of the KickStarter Campaign:
- Makes the Plant ADA accessible to all.
- Provides a welcome station with sustainability displays for the public.
- Includes a co-op retail area where people can purchase the foods made and grown at the Plant.
-Demonstrates closed-loop production and industrial reuse in an easy to understand way.
The living foyer will also provide space for tours to gather and for folks to lock their bikes. Much of the material for the ramp and living walls will be recycled from inside The Plant, but the glass wall, LEDs and all of the masonry work aren't cheap! And, to be honest, the campaign is off to a slow start. So if you believe in the future of sustainability...heck, if you believe in the future of anything, I urge you to log onto the KickStarter Campaign HERE and send a few bucks their way.
...followed by the Obama drama, "Waiting for Keystone XL"
Lisa Albrecht writes:
Hot off the presses Friday, the Obama administration issued an Executive Order “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change”. While we're still digesting it, it appears that much of the content appears to be about adaptation, resilience and preparedness and not so much about conservation or prevention. Is the US government missing the mark here or is this just an opening move with more to come? Many environmentalists, including Bill McKibben, say the true test will be the final decisions on the Keystone Pipeline.
With so many great conferences and conversations about climate change, what will it take to start to turn the corner? Government regulations? Putting a price on Carbon? Or is there an opportunity for a clean energy economy to shift the tide? Al Gore And David Blood have an interesting OpEd this week in the Wall Street Journal titled The Coming Carbon Asset Bubble.
The irrepressible Christy Webber stops by
It's been awhile since Christy Webber was on the show, and that's a shame. I don't say that because her company, featuring Christy Webber Landscapes and Christy Webber Farm & Garden Center, is one of my sponsors (ding!) I say it because she is one of the most entertaining people in horticulture and she always makes great radio.
And she was just involved in a television venture that I'm sorry I haven't seen yet. It's called The Hiring Squad: Meet the New Boss, which just aired on Spike TV. As far as I can tell from the clip (which you can see by clicking on the above link), it's a reality show where Christy's employees vote for a new boss...and then hilarity ensues. Honestly, I'm not sure what it's all about, but I'm sure that Christy will have plenty to say about it.
But the serious reason that Christy is in studio this morning is something that she helped launch on September 3 of this year--the International Network for Urban Agriculture, or INUAg. Here's what they say they want to accomplish:
INUAg.org is an up-to-date, organized and searchable resource for individuals, communities and organizations interested in urban agriculture. We are striving to be comprehensive in geography, sector, topic, growing methods, business models, policy and other topics as urban agriculture grows.
INUAg is based in Chicago serving a global membership. Inuag.org has forums for members to exchange ideas, best practices and resources. INUAg is looking to develop partnerships with existing urban agriculture organizations and coalitions to help expand the viability and success of urban agriculture.
I suggest you peruse the INUAg website to see more of how the group hopes to connect urban agriculture all over the planet. Pretty ambitious.
Meanwhile, I welcome Christy Webber to our bright and shiny studios, where I'm sure we'll have a great time.
Bioneers Chicago: today is the final day
Yep, today is the final day of the Great Lakes Bioneers Chicago event, Celebrating Community Resilience! at Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605. I spent an entire day there on Friday, working pretty hard, frankly, but learning a lot and meeting a ton of people who want our future to be better than our present.
It continues to run through 5:15 p.m. today and while you can no longer register online, you can show up and pay at the door. Here's the schedule for today.
Our own Lisa Albrecht is involved in her second workshop of the event, Renewable Energy for Resilient Communities. If that particular subject doesn't move you, perhaps this one will: How to Design a Food Forest. Unfortunately, they're at the same time, but that's how conferences sometimes go.
Lisa and I are proud to have been part of this huge event, and we'll be chatting about it on the show today.