from Past Shows

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Mike and Lisa Albrecht


Mike with Tom Shepherd


Paul Petraitis

Walter Marcisz

Ders Anderson

Carol Niec and Kerrie Rosenthal
of the Seed Keeper Company

The Boots

Nance Klehm

Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site


Abraham Lincoln lived in similar quarters
in New Salem, Illinois





Kathleen Thompson


Carding Mill and Wool House at
Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site













Rob Kartholl

Potato tower 1

Potato tower 2




Bee stressors

Dr. May Berenbaum







Jim Slama

Scott Mehaffey and Mike in the rose garden at the
Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Laura, Dan and Mike at the Flower Show

Bren Haas and Mike at #gardenchat in Chicago

Dave Coulter



Humanely raised livestock at Mint Creek Farm
Photo by Kate Gross (



The extremely talented Sunnyside Up at last year's Localicious





Sarah Batka, Jim Slama and Mike at last year's




Paul Fehribach







Dennis Dreher in his natural element



























May 3, 2015

Bringing clean energy to Illinois

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What would you say if I told you that we could bring 32,000 new jobs to Illinois and, at the same time, save consumers $1.6 billion, and reduce dangerous pollution from coal-fired power plants? You'd probably say, "Hey, you're talking about some kind of clean energy program, aren't you?"

And you would be correct.

I am referring to a bill that is being considered by the Illinois General Assembly, now in its spring session. It is called, rather prosaically, the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill, and it was introduced by Sen. Don Harmon and Rep. Elaine Nekritz and it has been cosponsored by 39 representatives and 19 senators. The official designation for the bill in the Ilinois House and Senate is HB 2607/SB 1485. According to the Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA), which, with the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, is backing this legislation, says that it would

  • Create 32,000  jobs per year once fully implemented. (source:  Illinois Science Technology Institute)
  • Save customers at minimum $1 Billion in net present value through  2030 through energy efficiency alone. That  translates into minimum savings of 7.9 %, or $8 --  $9/month, by  2030 for avg. residential customer in current dollars. (source: Citizens Utility Board)
  • Raise energy efficiency standards to 20% by 2025, building on successful energy efficiency programs that have saved customers more than $1 billion since 2007 and helped create a new industry in Illinois.
  • Fixe the state's flawed RPS, and raise the standard to 35% by 2030, helping IL compete for capital and   investment being captured by surrounding states; commit to priorities like rooftop solar, community solar and solar for low - income communities and for residents who lack roof access.
  • Encourage investments from capital markets. By ramping up renewables, will help IL attract investments   currently being lost to other states; will allow for expansion of energy efficiency industry, and help increase local clean energy supply chain that currently includes 400 Illinois firms.

Of course, nothing is easy, so there are two competing bills, one sponsored by ComEd and the other sponsored by its parent company, Exelon. The Citizens Utility Board is squarely on the side of the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill, saying,

CUB created three cost-benefit models for the Illinois Clean Jobs bill, based on electricity rates, past performance of efficiency programs and prudent assumptions about yearly increases in energy usage, key market costs and inflation. The consumer watchdog's analysis compared those models with a "business as usual" scenario—if efficiency standards stayed at current levels. Estimated customer savings through the legislation ranged from about $1.1 billion to $2.2 billion . The "base case" model, based on mid-range assumptions, projected the following statewide benefits by 2030, if the bill were fully implemented:

  • Total cumulative residential savings: $1.61 billion
  • Average electric-bill reduction: 7.86 percent annually
  • Average residential savings: $98.38 a year

Another supporter of that bill, not surprisinging, is alternative energy expert for The Mike Nowak Show Lisa Albrecht, who hasn't been on the show in way too long. In the interest of full disclosure, she is on the board of the ISEA and is an employee of Solar Service, Inc. Lisa knows her stuff and it's a pleasure to have her back on the program.

Meanwhile, the prospects for both wind and solar energy might have advanced significantly with the introduction of a a line rechargeable lithium-ion battery packs by Tesla Motors. Called the "Powerwall," the batteries are designed for both home and industry, and will theoretically allow smarter energy consumption. It will change the world. Or it won't. However, as writer Jeff MacMahon asks in Forbes, Did Tesla Just Kill Nuclear Power? Part of that, I guess, hinges on just how good Elon Musk's product is.

A bright star in the next generation of environmental leaders

As much as I hate to admit it--for purely snobbish reasons, I imagine--it was on Facebook that I saw a link to this article by Steve Stout in the Times out of Ottawa, Illinois:

'(It's) my life's work': IVCC's Williams honored for environmental activism

I knew immediately that it was about my friend Ashley Williams, a resident of Ottawa, who has been a relentless battler against the encroaching open pit frac sand mines in that part of Illinois. I was introduced to her shortly after I became aware of the effort to prevent a mine from being dug outside of the eastern entrance to Starved Rock State Park.

In 2013, she collected more than 16,000 online signatures protesting that development, which had been approved by the LaSalle County Board, and handed them to Governor Pat Quinn at his office. That, along with attending municipal board meetings and writing letters and organizing mailing lists and speaking out eloquently are several of the ways that she has influenced the environmental convertsation in LaSalle County.

Oh, and did a mention that she's 24 years old and that she attends Illinois Valley Community College? And that I'm almost put to shame by her energy and the idea that somebody that young can stand up to the oil and gas industry via confronting its cousin, the frac sand industry?

Well, thank goodness that there are people paying attention.

Last month, she was named as one of the top 20 community college students in the nation at the Phi Theta Kappa national convention in San Antonio, Texas.

Chosen from more than 1,500 students from approximately 800 community colleges in 48 states, Guam and American Samoa, Williams was selected for the 2015 All-USA Community College Academic Team.

This fall she will be studying at the Institute of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola University Chicago.

On today's show, she talks about her awards and updates the struggle to find respect for the land and the people of LaSalle County.


April 24, 2015

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An Earth Day walk along Lake Calumet

It was a last minute decision that brought me to the shores of Lake Calumet on Chicago's southeast side on the morning of Earth Day 2015. I had seen a post on Facebook by the Southeast Environmental Task Force about a hike to visit the lake, but I didn't make the decision to show up until the night before.

I was partly inspired by an article written in the Chicagoist by friend of the show Josh Mogerman titled, Visit Lake Calumet—Chicago's Nearly Invisible Natural, Industrial Wonderland. In the story, Josh included a litany of fascinating and sometimes chilling facts about what is the largest body of water inside of Chicago's city limits:

  • Despite DNA evidence that Asian carp are swimming through the Chicago Area Waterways on their way to colonizing the Great Lakes, Lake Calumet is the only place where a live fish has been found . (Considering the proximity to Lake Michigan and lack of defenses between the two lakes, this was not really good news back in 2010 ).
  • Lake Calumet was once the center of a large wetland system that covered the area, but it has been so deeply dredged that freighters can chug up the Calumet River and into its waters. While most of the big boats are hauling petcoke these days, some of them still visit LaFarge and St. Mary's Cement on a regular basis on the edge of Lake Calumet. Consider that journey for a second— giant 600-foot long boats going for miles down the Calumet River backwards to reach the lake (the river is too narrow for the freighters to turn around and the boats are not nimble enough to make the journey backwards fully loaded).
  • The area around Lake Calumet was probably the only home of Thismia americana —an interesting flowering plant that used fungi for food rather than the power of the sun. It is assumed to be extinct, since the plant has not been seen since 1916 after the area was flooded with garbage dumps and industrial facilities.
  • Birds have not disappeared from the area— bald eagles have nested nearby. Which is an example of why the area is so fascinating. The same massive industrial footprint (and pollution emanating from it) looms so large it prevents development of the last vestiges of nature in the area—wildlife and wetlands still hang on along Lake Calumet's shores.

That led me to the Wikipedia entry about the lake, which didn't necessarily make the area any more attractive:

Formerly a shallow, postglacial lake draining into Lake Michigan, it has been changed beyond recognition by industrial redevelopment and decay. Parts of the lake have been dredged, and other parts reshaped by landfill.

Perhaps it's the very adversity that has challenged the lake over decades that makes people want to restore even a glimmer of its former luster as a natural area. Just last fall, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Governor Pat Quinn held a press conference on the shores of the lake to announce an agreement to purchase 282 acres of land from the Illinois International Port District with the intention of turning it into a recreational area.

That action is part of a much grander plan called the Millennium Reserve, which has a goal of transforming huge swaths of the southeast side of Chicago in order to

  • Honor its cultural and industrial past
  • Restore and enhance the natural ecosystems
  • Support healthy and prosperous communities and residents
  • Stimulate vigorous and sustainable economic growth.

Those goals seemed even more attainable after President Barack Obama earlier this year designated the Pullman Historic District a national monument. Given that Pullman is just across the Bishop Ford Freeway (I-94) from Lake Calumet, the conventional thinking is that a revived natual area around the lake will benefit from the influx of tourists to the new national monument.

Of course, a freeway can sometimes be as big a barrier as the barbed-wire fences that already surround the lake. As you will hear noted in today's show, Chicagoans don't need an excuse not to visit other parts of the City. And another barrier might be the fact that Governor Quinn has been replaced by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, who is zealously looking for ways to cut the Illinois budget.

Still, that didn't keep the SETF's Tom Shepherd from encouraging people to show up on a cold, blustery spring day at Harborside International Golf Course, which right now is the only place that you can access Lake Calumet without climbing over a fence. From there we were loaded onto buses and driven to an access point on the lake. Remarkably, there might have been eighty or ninety people there that morning, not to mention students from three area schools.

Tom is just one of the people I interviewed as we walked along the shore of this maltreated part of Chicago's history. Speaking of history, I also chatted with Chicago historian Paul Petraitis, as well as birder Walter Marcisz, Ders Anderson, Greenways Director for Openlands, Dr. Dennis Nyburg, professor emeritus from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and ecologist Teri Radke and friend Lois Kimmelman.

Yes, it was cold and windy, even for an April day in Chicago. No, there wasn't much to see in the way of flora or fauna--it was too early in the season for the former and the latter were pretty much hunkered down against the wind and the noise of more than a hundred people tromping through what little "habitat" there is. Yet, I learned that some birds still come to this area as they have for millennia, and it is a good spot for bird watching. We also saw what looked to be coyote feces, evidence that they were around, if not in sight.

Ultimately, I'm glad I was part of the hike, if only to be reminded that nothing changes for the better without people showing up.

I think I'll do it again next year.




April 17, 2015

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Five minutes with the Seed Keeper Company gals

Okay, it's really more like twenty minutes with the Seed Keeper Company gals. Maybe I need a new name for this segment, especially if the conversations keep running four times as long as advertised. I'll work on it.

But back to the Seed Keeper Company and the delightful women who started it. While they seem to be pretty successful already, if they were to create a business called "Rent-An-Aunt" and hire themselves out, I suspect that they would become millionaires overnight. I could be wrong about the dollar figure, but Carol Niec and Kerrie Rosenthal are that nice and that entertaining.

And they wear black boots. Gardening boots. You can see those on the left. But that's another story.

Ahem. Anyway, it's spring, and if you're a gardener, this is the time to be thinking about planting seeds. And if you're like me (not that I would wish that on anybody), the words "seeds" and "organization" rarely find themselves in the same sentence. Which is why Kerrie and Carol started the Seed Keeper Company. Not to help me personally but to help people like me.

Originally, it was simply about better way to store seeds. Together, they developed a seed filing system for seed packets and captured seeds complete with tips and seed planting accessories, including a plastic clip-lock container. Then came items like Seed Peepers and Peeper Keepers and Burlap Girdles (their own design) and programs like the Seed Keeper Project and more.

Did I mention that these gals are funny? You'll discover that when you listen to the podcast, during which we discuss cucamelons, burlap girdles, chickerariums (you'll have to listen to the show segment to know what that's about), and how the Seed Keepers got started. It's a ton o' fun and I hope you click below to check it out.

Nance Klehm knows The Ground Rules

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Nance Klehm likes to describe herself as "a steward of the earth." You might think, "That's nice," until you start exploring the rest of her resume:

Nance was honored as one of Utne Reader's Twelve Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World in 2012 . Her work has been featured in news and media outlets such as the Chicago Tribune , Reuters news service, on the MSN Money website, American Public Media's Weekend America program, BBC Radio Canada , Chicago Public Radio, Le Devoir (Montreal) and La Raza (Chicago).

Nance has lectured at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the University of Cincinnati, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. She has taught at the University of California – Los Angeles, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and Dartington College in the United Kingdom, as well as for countless community groups worldwide.

Oh, and did you know that she is providing the use of her land in Orangeville, Illinois for Nature's Farm Camp, which I talked about on this program with Tim Magner a couple of months ago? And that, In the fall of 2014, she hosted more than 250 people from around the globe at her place for something called the 3rd Radical Mycology Convergence, which was about teaching skills for working with fungi as personal, societal, and ecological medicine? Of course you didn't!

She likes the idea that a writer recently described her as a "renegade researcher," and since I haven't come up with anything better, I'll go with that. But as you can see, Nance ain't your ordinary horticultural type. Not by a long shot.

Her latest venture (which is a relative term, since she tends to keep all of the plates in the air at the same time) is something called The Ground Rules, which examines the connection between urban dwellers and their soil. Believe it or not, she actually wants people to talk about their soil--one on one, in publications, and even at town hall meetings. The problem is that most people haven't a clue as to what goes on below the soil line. Here's my own hint: "It's the biology, stupid." Not that I'm calling anybody stupid. The point is that you can't fix your soil if you don't know anything about it.. That's where The Ground Rules comes in, and here's partly what it hopes to accomplish:

  • Run a fee-based organic waste collection service for institutions, organizations, restaurants and other food purveyors
  • Create top-notch, quality compost to be shared with our garden partners for their food production and our bioremediation projects
  • Train and educate citizens in:
    • Building compost systems and practices that meet their needs as well as meet City code
    • soil biology, structure, and chemistry
    • compost technologies
    • community bioremediation

The Soil Rules already has community soil center locations in a number of Chicago locations, including Humboldt Park (which includes a demonstration soil remediation site), Logan Square, Back of the Yards, Garfield Park and North Lawndale.

Like most projects, this one take money to get off the ground. That's why Klehm is running an Indiegogo campaign called "Feed Your Soil: The Ground Rules." Among the good that contributing to the project will do is to help the group continue work at its community soil center locations. It will also provide funds for publishing The Ground Rules Manual: Healing our Urban Soils Together, which will teach advanced composting techniques and bioremediation.

I've worked with Nance Klehm on a number of projects and she always leaves me impressed...and a little intimidated. But it's great to talk to her about The Ground Rules on today's show.

Follow up: Factory farm near Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site?

Last week, I reported on a hog factory farm had been proposed for Menard county, near the historic site of Abraham Lincoln's New Salem home. I interviewed Karen Hudson, an Illinois farmer, co-founder of Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water, and Regional Consultant for the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, who said that the operation would house more than 9,000 animals. Along with local residents, she was worried that it would cause problems such as contaminated wells, polluted rivers and streams, degraded water supplies and the risk of antibiotic resistant pathogens. (You can listen to that interview, which I recorded at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, here.)

Now the bad news.

I received this message from Priscilla Hall Reynolds with Menard Citizens for Clean Air and Water:

We have received confirmation that IDOA has granted approval of the Grigsby Protein Realty 1 LLC and this is our reaction:

This is yet another illustration of how citizens of Illinois and their elected representatives are being overruled by unelected state agency personnel and bad state law that puts the profit-seeking interests of LLC corporations ahead of their own citizens and communities.

Numerous local organizations, hundreds of residents and the Menard County Board went on record opposing the operations. Dozens of people, including engineers and other experts, reviewed the application, scientific studies and economic impact reports. We raised numerous credible issues with multiple siting criteria.

The department was presented with testimony and multiple documents that should have given it pause to at least require more information of the applicants as well as the use of available technology to avoid some of the inevitable negative environmental impacts.

We are simply stunned that it did not.

We find it unconscionable that at a minimum, the Department did not require the use of bio-filtration for odor and toxic emission control. This simple, low-cost process has been effectively used elsewhere since the late 1990s, and even USDA verified its effectiveness in a 2011 report. For the Department to allow any confined feeding operation to be built with this knowledge is a failure to have operators comply with two of the required siting criteria in the Livestock Management Facilities Act.

Priscilla Reynolds says that's just the beginning:

[T]his is only the half of it--an identical CAFO is proposed four mil es from the Menard site in Cass Co. It's sited less than a mile from Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area. Hunters from all over the US make it their destination. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent to create and maintain these places for people's enjoyment. This just doesn't smell right to me.

She urges citizens to write to their state represenatives to demand a change in the Livestock Management Facilities Act (LMFA).

You can connect with Menard Citizens for Clean Air and Water on their Facebook page here. ICCAW's Facebook page is here. Another organization fighting against factory farm animal mistreatment is Crate Free Illinois, which also has a Facebook page.


April 10, 2015

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Five minutes with Kathleen Thompson

There have been a boatload of people over the years who have contributed to the success of my show, but over the past seven years, none has been as important to me as Kathleen Thompson. It doesn't hurt that she has been my partner in business, art and life for 37 years. While she's basically the person behind the design of this website, she has also contributed in innumerable ways to many aspects of my program.

And since Kathleen has worked very hard on the "new look" of, I thought it only fitting that she should stand up and take a bow. If you haven't looked at the home page lately, it's now geared more toward making it easy for folks to track down my podcasts and the blogs I wirte about them (also known as This Week's Show).

Thanks for all of your hard work, sweetie!

Will a factory farm spoil Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site?

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I recenntly discovered a Food & Water Watch website with some messy statistics:

  • There is one factory farmed hog for every three people in Illinois.
  • The number of factory farmed hogs in Illinois grew by 22 percent to 3.9 million between 1997 and 2007.
  • The size of average Illinois egg factory farms nearly doubled to nearly 821,000 million hens between 1997 and 2007.
  • In 2009, an Iroquois County hog operation manure spill tainted 19-miles of a local stream, killing fish for several days, including the native northern pike.
  • In 2008, the Illinois EPA investigated an estimated 90,000-gallon manure spill from a 6,000-head Adams County hog facility after construction equipment broke a sewer line.
  • The 3.9 million hogs, nearly 150,000 beef cattle, 12,000 dairy cows, and 4.9 million egg-laying hens produce as much untreated manure as 89 million people — nearly 7 times the Illinois population.

Karen Hudson is an Illinois farmer, co-founder of Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water, and Regional Consultant for the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, and has been on my show before. She contends in a letter to the Peoria Journal Star that her organizations know more about where factory farms are located than the IEPA does:

Where are all the factory farms in Illinois? The Illinois EPA (IEPA) still has no idea. In early February, the Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water (ICCAW) and other groups filed comments to the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) due to IEPA's lack of an accurate inventory of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in Illinois. ICCAW performed vigorous independent research using Illinois Department of Agriculture datasets obtained via the FOIA, Secretary of State Information, and GIS mapping in an attempt to compile a correct accounting of CAFOs in Illinois. Astonishingly, we discovered as many as 560 CAFOs statewide, while the IEPA's inventory only accounts for 254. This is just a snapshot of the deficiencies revealed by ICCAW's independent research. IEPA blames a lack of personnel and resources as their excuse and claims they will complete an accounting only as new complaints filter in about existing facilities and as existing resources allow for inspections. More than three years ago, the IEPA agreed to complete a comprehensive inventory of CAFOs after ICCAW filed a citizen complaint with the U.S. EPA under provisions of the Clean Water Act, which triggered a federal investigation. As a result, the federal EPA awarded a failing grade to the agency due to the lack of regulation of CAFOs. IEPA continues to resist an IPCB reporting rule that will finally lead to an accurate accounting of all CAFOs in Illinois and demonstrates a lack of commitment in regulating these massive operations that pollute land, air and water. (italics mine)

Even worse, Hudson reports that a hog factory farm has been proposed for Menard county, near the historic site of Abraham Lincoln's New Salem home. Hudson says that the operation would house more than 9,000 animals, along with local residents, she worries that it would cause problems such as contaminated wells, polluted rivers and streams, degraded water supplies and the risk of antibiotic resistant pathogens.

There are many articles and documentaries that explain how modern factory farms abuse animals, but one relatively painless way of getting the message is through The Meatrix ®, an award-winning series of short animated movies about problems created by industrial agriculture.

You can connect with ICCAW on their Facebook page here. Another organization fighting against factory farm animal mistreatment is Crate Free Illinois, which also has a Facebook page.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture is scheduled to make a ruling on the Grigsby Family Partnership's hog-containment facility in Menard County by April 17.

Benjamin Vogt and The Ultimate Pollinator & Native Plant Gardening Guide

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Benjamin Vogt is no slouch when it comes to putting his money where his mouth is. From his base of operations in Lincoln, Nebraska, he is a fierce advocate of growing native plants. For instance, he tends an award-winning a two-thousand square foot organic prairie style garden that has been featured online at Garden Design and Fine Gardening, and in print in the Omaha World Herald and Lincoln Journal Star.

He owns a native plant garden coaching and design business, Monarch Gardens , and has presented nationally on sustainable wildlife gardening and the ethics of native plant gardens at nurseries, botanic gardens, conferences, garden clubs, libraries, and outdoor living events.

He is also an author, blogger and lecturer at University of Nebraska-Lincoln...and he's even a poet, for goodness sake.

So I wasn't very surprised when I saw that he had put together a fabulous entry on his blog, The Deep Middle, called The Ultimate Pollinator & Native Plant Gardening Guide. It covers a wide range of information about...well...pollinators and native plants. Here's an example of the links and information he provides:

Milkweed / Monarch Issues

A rundown of all the key topics, with links.

Conservation photographer Joel Sartore takes action and prairies up his Nebraska farm.

How monarchs use milkweed, from toxicity in certain species of milkweed to butterflies self-medicating. 

Can milkweed be bad for monarchs?

The loss of monarchs is a loss of far more

How the farm bill hurts monarchs via High Country News.

There's much, much more, but I want you to go to his site to get that information, so he can be the beneficiary of the Internet hits, not me. It's great having him back on the show.


April 2, 2015

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Five minutes with Rob Kartholl

I'm introducing a new segment to the show this week, called "Five minutes with..." All it means is that I plan to grab a few of my friends in the horticultural and enviornmental world and make them part of the podcast, whether or not they like it. Umm...that didn't come out right. And it might be five minutes or it might be longer, as this segment is. Anyway, this week, I start with an old friend of The Mike Nowak Show, Rob Kartholl, who was the 2014 farm manager for the KAM Isaiah Israel Garden, which grew and distributed more than two tons of organic produce for pantries and hot meal kitchens in the Hyde Park area of Chicago.

This year, the ever-nomadic Kartholl is going back to his family roots to work at Fischer Farm History Museum in Bensenville, Illinois. He wants folks to know that there will be a work day on Saturday, April 11, when repainting the chicken coop and painting the brooding house will be priorities. For more information, click onto the Fischer Farm link above, which takes you to their Facebook page.

"The Messenger" and the disturbing decline of songbirds

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Just last year, I talked on the program to Annette Prince, director of the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, which is an all-volunteer conservation project dedicated to the protection of migratory birds through rescue, advocacy and outreach. Through programs like LIghts Out Chicago, it is trying to mitigate the deaths of what might be a billion birds per year that fly into buildings.

Unfortunately, human-created buildings and lights are just part of the problem.

For example, since 1967, some bird populations have decreased by as much as 80 percent; many others have lost half of their numbers. As National Geographic writes,

A National Audubon Society report called "Common Birds in Decline," for instance, shows that some widespread species generally thought to be secure have decreased in number as much as 80 percent since 1967, and the 19 others in the report have lost half their populations. The figures reflect an array of threats faced by birds throughout North America...

Migrants return from Central America to find that the brushy field where they nested the previous year is now a strip mall.

Millions of songbirds annually suffer bloody death in the claws of domestic cats. Millions more collide with city skyscrapers or communications towers, or fly into the glass windows of suburban houses.

And climate change could degrade or even eliminate habitats in ways that scientists have only recently begun to study and try to forecast.

Canadian filmmaker Su Rynard took notice of this alarming trend and gathered scientists, ecologists, bird enthusiasts and a remarkable film crew to create Songbird SOS Productions, Inc. and its documentary, The Messenger, which chronicles songbird decline and what can be done to stem the losses.

Rynard and her crew travel to the far corners of the globe to track and report on warblers, buntings, swallows, thrushes and more--seemlingly all of which face insurmountable odds to survive not only their migratory journeys across continents and oceans, but even more dangers close to home. More importantly, they draw the connection to the continued existence of songbirds and our own tenuous place on the planet. The reaction to songbirds to the ecosystems around them might just give us a clue that we ignore the environmental damage we are causing to our world at our own peril.

And yet, the film manages to remain upbeat by revealing of the sheer beauty of their songs, their movements across the sky--which are captured in detailed and unprecedented footage--and the determination of these remarkable creatures to survive. Also inspiring is the determination of scientists, activists and citizen observers to reverse the destructive tide of modern civilization's onslaught against these fragile animals.

The Messenger just received word that it will have it's world premiere at the Hot Docs International Film Festival on April 28, 2015.

Meanwhile, there are still a few days to support their Indiegogo campaign, which runs to April 7. As of this writing, producer Joanne Jackson informs me that they have reached 80% of their goal. It's an inspiring documentary and I urge you to see it and support it if you can.

It's a potato, it's a potato tower!

The 2015 version of the Chicago Flower & Garden Show turned out to be a gold mine...if you were carrying around an mp3 recorder, as I was. This is the final of several interviews that I conducted with folks who I either sought out or who wandered into my line of vision at one time or another.

The latter applies to Breanne Heath, who is proprietor of The Pie Patch Farm, a a pick-your-own farm located in the Back-of-the-Yards neighborhood of Chicago, which specializes in perennial fruits and annual vegetables traditionally used in pies: strawberries, apples, pears, plums, raspberries, rhubarb, sweet squash and pumpkin, sweet potatoes and concord grapes.

But she is also one of the stalwarts at The Peterson Garden Project, and on this particular day at the Flower Show, she had just finished a demonstration about using what she called a "potato box" or "potato tower" to grow...uh... potatoes. I guess I should add that this device is probably most useful if you have limited space, as in a backyard or community garden.

It's a simple contraption, as you can see on the left, and it's just one of many ways to grow potatoes in containers. The advantage of Breanne's method is that she uses bolts and wingnuts to attached the sides of the container (see photo 2), which means that as you build up the sides and the soil, you can still remove a lower plank to harvest "new" potatoes at the bottom. Very cool.

Breanne notes that she uses cedar wood, which doesn't rot as quickly as other kinds. The potato box pictured is around eight years old and still going strong.


March 26, 2015

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A report on bee health from Dr. May Berenbaum

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It's not news that pollinators of all kinds--whether honey bees or native species--have experienced severe population declines in the 21st Century. The condition known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) became well known in 2006, when western honeybee colonies experienced serious losses. Over the poast few years, CCD appears to be subsiding. But the question of why it happened in the first place has yet to be answered satisfactorily.

That doesn't mean that pollinators are out of the woods. They are still dying off in unprecedented numbers, and a number of researchers point to pesticides as a primary culprit, especially a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids, which have become the world's most used pesticides. In the wake of those bee losses, the European Union voted in 2013 to ban the use of three neonicotinoids--clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam--for two years.

Could that happen in the United States? Just this year, 125 conservation, beekeeping, food safety, religious, ethnic and farming advocacy groups urged President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the use of what are often called "neonics" in this country. Just about every day, I receive an email from an environmental group asking me to write or call my elected officials to get them to ban neonics.

But are pesticides--specifically neonicotinoids--the smoking gun regarding bee loss?

As far as I can determine, it's not that simple. I have talked to a number of entomologists in the past nine years, and they all pretty much agree that bees face a wide range of threats--parasites, fungal diseases, nutrition issues, habitat loss, fungicides and, yes, the ubiquitous pesticide use. And now, a new USDA study seems to show that neonicotinoids play less of a role in bee loss than has been the accusation against them.

University of Illinois entomologist Dr. May Berenbaum is one of those scientists who are looking at the "all of the above" answer to the question of bee decline.. I ran into her on the last day of the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, and interrupted her day off for a quick interview about the state of the bees in early 2015. For starters, she says that bee populations have increased slightly as we move into the 2015 growing season.

She's dubious about whether a ban on neonicotinoids in this country would do any good, noting that growers would either go back to earlier, more toxic chemicals, or move on to newer pesticides, such as sulfoxaflor, which was recently approved by the EPA. And, unfortunately, there are more in the pipeline. However, that isn't stopping the Candadian province of Ontario from moving forward with a proposal to limit the use of neonicotinoids by 80%.

This controversy is far from resolved. Stay tuned.

Environmental law update from Springfield

Let's face it--the State of Illinois is a financial mess. Faced with a $1.3 billion hole in the current (yes, I said current) budget, the General Assembly and Governor Bruce Rauner came to a bipartisan agreement this week that basically moves funding from a lot of different places in the budget to fill the gap.

However, if you think road repair is important, you won't be thrilled with the $250 million that came out of that fund. And if you're me (not something I would wish on anybody), you're not particularly happy that $98 million was diverted from the Illinois Power Agency Renewable Energy Resources Fund, which is intended to promote clean energy.

Here are some other environmentally related funds that took a hit in this negotiation

$6 million from Natural Areas Acquisition Fund
$6 million from Partners for Conservation
$15 million Park and Conservation Fund
$3 million from Renewable Energy Resources Trust Fund
$6 million from EE trust fund
$15 from Solid Waste Management Fund

And that's before we get to the $6.6 billion gap in the coming year's budget. Strap in, folks, it ain't gonna be pretty.

Meawnhile, people like Jen Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, spend a lot of time in Springfield trying to get planet-friendly legislation passed. She recently sent out a laundry list of proposals that she'd like to see get passed. They read something like this list from the IEC newsletter:

  • In House Environment, a proposal to allow temporary and permanent drop offs for composting advanced.   HB437.  In Senate Environment, a proposal to ban sharps from recycling advanced. SB793 .
  • On the House floor, HB1362 to increase compost usage, HB2495 to encourage consistent labeling for recyclable and compostable containers, and HB198 which would ticket non-electric vehicles in EV spots, all moved to the Senate.
  • Monarch License Plate - HB3465 would create a Monarch Butterfly license plate in Illinois to fund efforts to plant more milkweed.  This bill moved out of committee this week.  Read more in the Pantagraph .
  • House Agriculture Committee - HB2487, which would protect seed libraries and HB3240, which would increase fines for building on a waterway without a permit, both advanced out of committee.  We expect HB352, a bill to authorize bobcat hunting to be heard in committee next week.  Look for more info from us next week and take action here .

An issue that has been on my radar is the Illinois Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act, which, since January 1, 2012 prohibits landfills from knowingly accepting any CEDs (covered electronic devices) for disposal. This includes televisions, computers, printers, computer monitors (both residential and non-residential) and more.

Unfortunately, the rising cost of recycling and the low annual recycling goals set by state law for electronics manufacturers has caused counties like Will and Lake to scramble to pay for recycling electronics. The problem is that once manufacturers meet certain weight goals, they no longer have to pay recycling contractors to process items. Thus, HB1455 is being championed by counties and municipalities in Illinois and would adjust the goals and penalties of Illinois' electronic recycling law to provide more opportunities for electronic recycling.

Regardless of the diversion of fund to the Renewable Energy Resources Fund in the current budget, a good clean energy bill continues to a major goal of environmental groups in Illinois. The Illinois Clean Jobs Bill - HB2607 and SB1485 - is a step in the right direction. However, Exelon has introduced legislation (HB3293), m, which seems mostly a way to protect its nuclear power plants.

We're just getting to April, so the wheeling and dealing in Springfield has just begun.

Rick DiMaio and our cool, cool spring

I know that many of my listeners miss my weekly chats with meteorologist Rick DiMaio, so I try to bring him onto my podcasts as often as possible. In our conversation this week (recorded as about four inches of March snow was falling in Chicago), we chat about what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is calling the warmest winter on record worldwide. Ladies and gentlemen, that is NOT a contradiction.

As usual, a number of different subjects come up as well. Rick DiMaio fans...enjoy!



March 19, 2015

A week of festivals in Chicago:

The 11th Annual Good Food Festival & Conference...

It's only fitting that my final interview leading up to the Good Food Festival & Conference is with Jim Slama, who is the founder, president and guiding force behind Family Farmed, which has been putting on this event for eleven years. He's not exactly a slouch when it comes to making his presence felt regarding environmental matters. From Family Farmed's website:'s work earned the Yahoo! for Good Green Award. In 1999 Jim was named by Crain's Chicago Business to its “Forty Under Forty” annual list of leading young business and civic leaders. Jim also received the Chicago Tribune Good Eating Award for his contributions to the Chicago food and beverage world. Jim was the founding publisher and editor of Conscious Choice magazine. During his 14 years tenure, Conscious Choice was named nine times by Utne Reader as a member of the Best of the Alternative Press.

Yeah, but what have you done for us lately?

Actually, the answer to that is the Good Food Festival & Conference, which brings together farmers, producers, policy stakeholders, financers, merchants, innovators, chefs, entrepreneurs and, of course, the public--all under one roof, with the common goal of figuring out ways that we can all eat tastier, healthier food.

As i write this, the event has already begun and runs at the UIC Forum, 725 W Roosevelt Road in Chicago, from March 19 through 21.

The Chicago Flower & Garden Show at Navy Pier...

Meanwhile, not that far away, on the lakefront, a show that has been running--some say as far back as 1847!--is the Chicago Flower & Garden Show presented Mariano's. Under the leadership of current president and show director Tony Abruscato, the quality of the event has slowly but surely improved. This year's show, with the theme "Do Green. Do Good." acquits itself rather well.

Among the features are 25 or so feature gardens, a marketplace, seminars and workshops, garden gourmet, kids activity garden, tablescapes, art of floral exhibit and much more.

I'm not offering a comprehensive review of this year's show, mainly because I spent most of my time there in the marketplace booth for Chicagoland Gardening Magazine, selling and signing copies of my book, Attack of the Killer Asparagus (do you have your copy yet? Seriously, what are you waiting for??) Anyway, in putting this week's podcast together, I let myself be moved by the moment...provided I had my recorder with me.

So, when I noticed that an old friend, landscape architect Scott Mehaffey, was involved in the design for a rose garden called A Classic Rose Garden, and he also happened to be standing in it and talking to garden show patrons, well, it was a no brainer to get a quick interview with him.

Then, as I was strolling through the show, I ran into a colleague and friend of The Mike Nowak Show, Dan Kosta from Vern Goers Greenhouse in Hinsdale. Now Dan had nothing to do with the flower show, except that he bought a ticket and showed up with his friend Laura. But we had just been through a couple of days of unusually warm weather, and I knew that Dan would have some good advice about what to do and what not to do in the garden in Chicago right now.

...and the people who tweet about them

What good is having a gardening or food show, if nobody knows about it? And in the 21st Century, that means more than justl the traditional media. It means Facebook and Google+ and Pinterest and Instagram and Tumblr and, of course Twitter.

Enter Bren Haas (@BG_Garden) and her fellow garden writers/bloggers/reporters, who get together every Monday night at 8pm Central Time and participate in something called #gardenchat. If you know nothing about Twitter, the hashtag (#) is a way to identify a word or a phrase that can be used by all tweeters to connect them to an online conversation. Of course, people can tweet anytime using #gardenchat, which they do.

Normally, Bren runs #gardenchat from her home in Ohio, bringing in a "guest" tweeter (I was actually in the guest chair once), but occasionally she hits the road to attend events like the Chicago Flower & Garden Show at Navy Pier. She gathered a bunch of Twitter types together at the Sheraton Chicago, where we had coffee, cheesecake, chocolate cake and, though we were sitting all together at a table, barely looked at each other for an hour as we tweeted our little hearts out.

We live in a strange century.

Anyway, Bren appears on this week's podcast, talking about her own love of growing things and how #gardenchat came together.

Listen to this podcast segment ON DEMAND.

Listen to this entire podcast ON DEMAND.


March 12, 2015

Is there a place for the "post modern" hedgerow in the 21st Century?

In 2014, I welcomed Dave Coulter of Osage, Inc. to the program to talk about his study of hedgerows and how they might find a place in our fields and landscapes in the 21st Century. Dave is a certified arborist and former educator at Triton College, who has had what can only be described as a life-long fascination with hedgerows. In an article for the Solutions Journal called Life in the Margins, he explains how that came about:

One of my favorite memories from my childhood was finding a box turtle living under a line of gnarly Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) trees in my suburban Chicago neighborhood. It was not until many years later that I realized that this row of rough trees, threading through backyards and along roadsides, was a remnant farm boundary--a 19th Century hedgerow that had outgrown its purpose and yet, managed to persist into modern times.

In studying these agricultural artifacts, Coulter became aware that they were havens for numerous species--whether reptiles, mammals, birds, insects or more. Again, he writes,

Who cannot see the myriad possibilities offered by a new generation of hedgerows, linear assemblages of plants designed specifically for biodiversity, or for food, pollinators or endangered species? We are missing opportunities, that are right in front of us, to creat new niches for life. How many suitable spaces--urban and rural--do we pass every day that are otherwise going to waste?

Dude. I'm with you. And so, apparently, is the Midwest-Great Lakes Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration. Their 2015 chapter meeting is called Cultivating Ecological Restoration within Human Dominated Landscapes and it will be held at the Chicago Botanic Garden from March 27-29.

One of the symposia on March 27 is a presentation called "Life Along the Edges - A Discussion of the Value of Field Margins, Hegerows and Buffers in the Modern Landscape." Hmm, I wonder what that symposium is going to be about?

It's great to have Dave back on the show this week to talk the presentation on March 27.

Listen to this podcast segment ON DEMAND.

Humane, sustainable meat production is not an oxymoron

In another interview leading up to The Good Food Festival & Conference, I talk to Raya Carr, who is the sales manager for Mint Creek Farm, a family operation in Stelle, Illinois that raises premium, grassfed meats for the Chicago area. And if you think that eating any kind of meat is destroying the planet, this is what Mint Creek Farm says about that:

Who would have guessed that a combination so simple as sheep on grass could help with global warming?  Grasses and legumes naturally process and fix carbon in the soil.  Rotationally grazing perennial pasture is actually one of the best carbon-dioxide-absorbing natural systems there is— even better than planting trees, because the forage plants are kept in their vegetative state by the regular grazing of livestock.  Raising sheep and laying hens was originally part of the Carrs' plan to enliven and enrich the natural prairie ecosystems in their area that have been so depleted by modern mainstream agricultural practices.  They now raise sheep, cows, pigs, goats, and various poultry, as well, with the of goals of bringing back biodiversity and fertility to the land through organic farming methods and making  life-giving, grass-fed meat and eggs available here in a region where it is hard to come by. 

You also need to meet Mint Creek Farm's resident "Farmer Poet," Harry Carr, who just happens to be Raya's dad. I think he's located at the intersection of sustainability and performance art, though I'm not exactly sure. Anyway, Mint Creek is participating in FamilyFarmed's Good Food Business Accelerator and Raya is speaking at the Good Food Festival's Trade Day on Friday, March 20, in a panel called Scaling Up Local Meat.

They're among the local, sustainable and humane meat producing operations that are providing a badly needed alternative to the factory farm operations in our country that are creating misery and sickness in the name of cheap food.

The Good Food Festival & Conference is returning to the UIC Forum in Chicago for three days--March 19, 20 and 21. The three days look something like this:

Thursday: Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference
March 19th 9:00am-6:00pm

The Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference helps address one of the biggest challenges facing the growing Good Food movement: helping food and farm businesses gain access to investment that will help them scale up and meet the demand for local, sustainable food.  More than thirty businesses exhibit at the Financing Fair. Click here for the schedule.

Friday: Trade Day including Trade track, School Food track, Producer track, and Food Policy Conference
March 20th 9:00am-7:00pm

Each focused “track” on this important business-to-business day approaches the growth of Good Food from a unique perspective, and we encourage you to experience them all! Resource, network and buy from more than 100 exhibitors, then enjoy lunch at the Good Food Court.  Click here for the schedule.

Saturday: Good Food Festival
March 21st  10:00am-5:00pm

FamilyFarmed invites you to a day of samples from local food artisans, workshops, chef demos, and fun learning experiences at the Kids' Corner! Meet Good Food resources, shop exhibitors, buy products, and enjoy lunch at the Good Food Court. More than 100 exhibitors! Click here for the schedule.

Oh, and let's not forget

Friday, March 20, 7:00pm - 9:30pm at UIC Forum

You're invited to join award-winning Chicago Chefs as they prepare savory dishes for your tasting pleasure. pairing with local farmers who use sustainable growing methods, these artisans will demonstrate how "farm to table" results in extraordinary creations that will excite the senses and delight the palate. The party is complete with unique beverages created by Chicago-area and regional distilleries and breweries, providing the perfect complement to these amazing meal offerings. And back by popular demand is the band Sunnyside Up, playing terrific bluegrass and swing!

The Mike Nowak Show will be part of the Saturday grand finale, and it is even possible that I will be podcasting live from the event. Stay tuned.

Listen to this podcast segment ON DEMAND.


March 5, 2015

Talking southern cooking, sustainability, the Good Food Festival and more
with Chef Paul Fehribach of Big Jones Restaurant in Chicago

I have to start with The Good Food Festival & Conference, which is returning to the UIC Forum in Chicago for three days--March 19, 20 and 21. In case you've been on the Planet Nadnor for the past eleven years, the GFFC, as it's sometimes affectionately know, is pretty much the premiere foodie event of the year. And if you've been to any part of this remarkable conference, you know why.

The three days look something like this:

Thursday: Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference
March 19th 9:00am-6:00pm

The Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference helps address one of the biggest challenges facing the growing Good Food movement: helping food and farm businesses gain access to investment that will help them scale up and meet the demand for local, sustainable food.  More than thirty businesses exhibit at the Financing Fair. Click here for the schedule.

Friday: Trade Day including Trade track, School Food track, Producer track, and Food Policy Conference
March 20th 9:00am-7:00pm

Each focused “track” on this important business-to-business day approaches the growth of Good Food from a unique perspective, and we encourage you to experience them all! Resource, network and buy from more than 100 exhibitors, then enjoy lunch at the Good Food Court.  Click here for the schedule.

Saturday: Good Food Festival
March 21st  10:00am-5:00pm

FamilyFarmed invites you to a day of samples from local food artisans, workshops, chef demos, and fun learning experiences at the Kids' Corner! Meet Good Food resources, shop exhibitors, buy products, and enjoy lunch at the Good Food Court. More than 100 exhibitors! Click here for the schedule.

Oh, and let's not forget

Friday, March 20 7:00pm – 9:30pm at UIC Forum

You're invited to join award-winning Chicago chefs as they prepare savory dishes for your tasting pleasure. Pairing with local farmers who use sustainable growing methods, these artisans will demonstrate how “farm to table” results in extraordinary creations that will excite the senses and delight the palate.  The party is complete with unique beverages created by Chicago-area and regional distilleries and breweries, providing the perfect complement to these amazing meal offerings. And back by popular demand is the band, Sunnyside Up , playing terrific bluegrass and swing!

The Mike Nowak Show will be part of the Saturday grand finale, and it is even possible that I will be podcasting live from the event. We're working on the technology, folks. I'll get back to you on that.

But I am one of the media sponsors of the event and, as such, I get to talk to some pretty cool people on my podcasts. One of them is Paul Fehribach, who is Executive Chef and co-owner of Big Jones in the Andersonville Neighborhood of Chicago. Not only is he going to be part of Localicious on Friday and be doing cooking demos on Saturday, he is receiving the Good Food Chef of the Year Award fromt the festival for his outstanding commitment to local, sustainable, heirloom sourcing.

So it was a treat to go up to Andersonville to chat with Paul. It's a wide ranging conversation that runs the gamut from his definition of sustainability to who his cooking heroes are to what exactly is "southern" cooking. I hope you get a chance to listen.

MELA 2015 Conference focuses on stormwater management

Also on the show is Dennis Dreher, who works for an outfit called Geosyntech Consultants. He's a guy who knows about things like conservation design, sustainable development, stormwater and floodplain management, stream and wetland protection, water quality planning, watershed management, and biodiversity protection. All of that knowledge comes from his work for organizations like the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (which was folded into CMAP) and Chicago Wilderness, where he served on the Green Infrastructure Vision Task Force. He has been asked to speak at Pathways: Stepping Stones to Sustainable Landscapes, the 2015 Conference for the Midwest Ecological Landscape Alliance (MELA).

The conference also features Debra Shore, a Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), who opens the Conference with a profile of stormwater management in Chicagoland. Among the other speakers will be

  • Christine Nye, Horticulture Manager at The Shedd Aquarium
  • Michael J. Curry, BS, PLA, ASLA, GRP, President/Owner, GreenSite, Inc
  • Nicky Obenauf ecolgist and project manager for Davey Resource Group's Natural Resource Consulting team in Chicago
  • Heidi Natura, ASLA, Registered Landscape Architect, LEED AP BD+C, Founder/Partner, Living Habitats

The event will be held on Thursday, March 12 from 8:00 am to 3 pm at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn and you can register here.

Listen to this entire podcast ON DEMAND!


February 26, 2015

Weather, recycling and the One Earth Film Festival 2015

Tune in to any day this week to hear the latest installment of The Mike Nowak Show. I just added one of those gizmos that allows my smartphone to play through my car radio (it cost me all of about $20, unbelievably), then called up the GDGDRadio app, and there I was, listening to Internet radio in my own vehicle. It's that simple, folks. Of course, you can use other apps as well, like Tunein, Spreaker and more. You can also follow The Green Divas on their Facebook page.

Let's get to what's on this week's show.

  • Any time I get the chance to talk weather and climate change with meteorologist Rick DiMaio, I jump at it. In this conversation, Rick and I chat about the second of back-to-back cold, nasty winters in the eastern part of the U.S. (California is another matter altogether.) At the same time, however, you can take a look at an article like this one in the Washington Post with the headline, Even as the eastern U.S. freezes, there’s less cold air in winter than ever before.


Believe or not, that's true. From the story:

One may wonder how the cold air supply is so compromised after the relentless blasts of frigid air in the eastern U.S. the past two winters.

“You just need to look around and see how big the globe is,” Martin says. “The thing this simple analysis makes clear is that there is such an obvious difference between regional weather and global climate. There’s a better way to measure global change than backyard thermometers.”

Martin points out that while the U.S. has shivered, Alaska and northern Europe, in particular, have been much warmer than normal. And he is convinced the hemispheric warming signal reflects growing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

“The only way to have systematically smaller pools of cold air is to have greater retention of infrared energy [from greenhouse gases],” Martin says. “The planet can’t cool the way it used to.”

Rick DiMaio has been talking on my show about the important difference difference between "regional weather and global climate" for almost seven years! Which is just one of the reasons why he's back on the show this week.


Cook County Steps Up to Keep Demolition Debris Out of Landfills

Next up is Bryant Williams, who is Manager of Engineering Services for the Cook County Department of Environmental Control. He's also the current president of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, a wonderful grassroots group on Chicago's southeast side that has fought environmental degradation for 25 years.

Believe it or not, Cook County is becoming a national leader when it comes to environmental efforts, which includes a law that went into effect in 2012 called the Demolition Debris Diversion Ordinance. In an article for Index Publishing Corporation, Deborah C. Stone, Chief Sustainability Officer and Director for the Cook County Department of Environmental Control writes that

The ordinance requires that a minimum of 70% of all demolition debris generated in the demolition, dismantling or renovation of single-family, commercial and industrial structures be diverted from the waste stream.

It further mandates that a minimum 5% of the material in residential structures be reused. Reuse has even more environmental benefits than recycling, as it uses the components in their final manufactured form and avoids the energy use needed to recycle into new components, and wastes less of the materials.

Under the ordinance, contractors are required to submit a demolition debris diversion plan at the beginning of demolition projects that meet the 3D criteria, as a condition of receiving a demolition or renovation permit from Cook County.

That has resulted in a diversion of more than 500,000 tons of material away from landfills! Bryant is on the show today to talk about webinar that the USEPA is co-sponsoring, which will focus on the ordinance, which is sometimes known as "3D."

The webinar happens on Thursday, March 5 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. CST and concerned communities and businesses that would like to learn more about 3D can register here.

Listen to this segment ON DEMAND!


The One Earth Film Festival Is Back

The second hour of today's podcast is completely devoted to the Fourth Annual One Earth Film Festival. More than 35 films will be presented at 30 venues throughout the Chicago area over three days--March 6 to 8. You can find the complete schedule of events here. That includes the Green Carpet Gala on Friday, March 6, screenings for kids and families, and the Young Filmmakers Contest.

The One Earth Film Festival is hosted by a group called Green Community Connections, which calls itself a "deep roots" organization. They state that

One Earth Film Festival is the Midwest premier environmental film festival, creating opportunities for understanding climate change, sustainability and the power of human involvement through sustainability-themed films and facilitated discussion.  We engage private, public and non-profit sector community partners in the sponsorship and production of the film festival.  The 2014 festival drew 2500 from throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.

I went out Forest Park to meet with three of the folks from Green Community Connections--Cassandra West, Gina Robbins and David Holmquist--to talk about the films and the criteria for choosing them.


Angel Azul...or Can Art on the Bottom of the Sea Save our Coral Reefs?

I also managed to have a conversation with filmmaker Marcy Cravat, who directed and produced a remarkable documentary called Angel Azul, which I the opportunity to view before we chatted. That film alone is a reason to spend some time at the One Earth Film Festival. Here's how Marcy describes her own film:

Angel Azul explores the artistic journey of Jason deCaires Taylor, an innovative artist who combines creativity with an important environmental solution; the creation of artificial coral reefs from statues he's cast from live models. When algae overtakes the reefs however, experts provide the facts about the perilous situation coral reefs currently face and solutions necessary to save them.

If the rest of the entries are as good as Angel Azul, this is going to be one heck of a film festival. You can follow the action on Facebook here.

Listen to this segment ON DEMAND!


February 16, 2015

This Week's Show is Back!!!

You could call it a vacation or call it a re-examination or call it what you will. After a few weeks of skipping the writing part of my program, I'm back in the saddle and moving forward.

As many of you already know, you can hear my podcasts every day from 1 to 3 pm CST on, which is the home of The Green Divas. On GDGDRadio, I present the full two hour program. However, if you're interested in specific show segments, they are always available On Demand on my own podcast page.

We're very close to revamping the website--including creating a tutorial on how to listen to my shows online--so stay tuned, as they say. Here's what's on This Week's Show:


    C.L. Fornari, who you can find at, is an author, speaker, blogger, radio & TV host and, of course, a gardener. Her latest book is Coffee for Roses: ...and 70 Other Misleading Myths About Backyard Gardening. Don't worry--she doesn't yell at you for having fallen for some old gardening half-truth. Her approach is to gently let you know that sometime "garden advice" has no basis in science...or reality. I truly enjoyed chatting with her about where these myths come from and how they get passed along from one generation of gardeners to the next

By the way, during our conversation, we refer to The Garden Professors: Science-based gardening information. You can also find this group on Facebook. Personally, I find The Garden Professors a bit intimidating; not so much with C.L. Fornari.

Listen to this segment ON DEMAND!


Will GMO Food Labeling Come to Illinois?

Food & Water Watch is working hard to get a law passed that would label Genetically Modified Foods sold in the State of Illinois. Organizer Jessica Fujan says that, unlike efforts in other states that focused on statewide referenda, this one is aimed at the General Assembly--in particular, the Illinois Senate. You can keep up to date with Food & Water Watch Illinois on their Facebook page.

Listen to this segment ON DEMAND!


Why Tim Magner Wants to Create Nature's Farm Camp for Kids

Tim Magner has been on my program several times, first as an author, then as proprietor of something called Truck Farm Chicago. Now, with the help of people like Elena Marre and Nance Klehm, he is working on pulling together Nature's Farm Camp. The idea is that it's a place for kids to have fun while connecting with nature, food, each other and themselves. I can't argue with that. They are also in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign, which you can link to here.

Listen to this segment ON DEMAND!

On the podcast, I talk a little bit about the "Monarch Massacre," as the Washington Post puts it. Well, at this moment, they are resting in Mexico, preparing for their northward journey in March. On a website called Monarch Joint Venture, you can read the story 2015 Population Update and Estimating the Number of Overwintering Monarchs in Mexico. Basically, the overwinter number is slightly better than last year but not enough to make you pop the champagne corks. It's going to take time, folks.

I also mention an interesting article by Chip Taylor, director of Monarch Watch, regarding the “Petition to protect the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus) under the Endangered Species Act.” While it seems that it might be a good idea, Taylor argues eloquently that there are pitfalls in taking this approach. You can read his full comment in his piece called Monarch Conservation: Our Choices.

  • And here are the three stories I briefly mention during the podcast, in case you want to follow up:

American Dockworkers Are Savaging Your Recycling Bin (Shanghai Scrap, the personal Blog of author Adam Minter, author of Junkyard Planet)

Keep daffodils away from food, supermarkets warned (BBC News)

An Uninvited Guest, Treated Like a Monarch, Makes Itself at Home (The New York Times)

It's good to be back.

Past Show Archives