Earth Day and lots, lots more

April 17, 2011

Poo Free Parks™ is coming to Elmhurst

I just can’t seem to stop talking about dog poo. Perhaps I need to talk to my shrink about that. But it’s not entirely my fault. Dog poo stories keep dropping in my lap…so to speak. Like this one about a business called Poo Free Parks ® , the brainchild of a guy named Bill Airy in Denver, Colorado. He figured that most people who walk their dogs in public parks would be more likely to clean up after their pets if there were a way to make it a little easier.

And just like that, he created a business that supplies, installs and maintains Earth-Friendly Pet Poo Bag Dispensers providing free Pet Poo Bags to dog owners. Not only that, but the service is set up to provide public education as well as waste bags. The dispensers are made of 100% recycled aluminum and the bags themselves are biodegradable. Even better, the program is designed to be administered at no cost to the public by giving businesses the opportunity to sponsor dispensers and bags.

But the best thing on the Poo Free Parks ® website is this nugget:

The American Pet association estimates that this country’s seventy-one million pet dogs produce over 4.4 billion pounds of waste per year. That’s enough to cover 900 football fields with 12 inches of dog waste!

See? I TOLD you dog poo was an important story.

Madam Editor stops by to plug a great benefit

Many of you know that I write a column–and an occasional article–for Chicagoland Gardening Magazine. The person who holds the blue pencil over my works of genius is Carolyn Ulrich, who is the editor of the magazine. Once a year or so, I bring her onto the radio show to let her plug an event, which earns me a little leverage for the next time she sends me an email starting with “Did you really mean to say…?” FYI, no writer likes being corrected.

It does help that she usually wants me to say something good about Growing Home, which helps homeless and disadvantaged folks gain employment through learning about organic agriculture. What I really mean to say is that they grow stuff–in the city and out of it–and 100% of the proceeds from their sales of organic produce are used to improve their training program and pay for upkeep of their farm sites.

Growing Home is holding its 9th Annual Benefit on Thursday, April 28 in Preston Bradley Hall at the Chicago Cultural Center. It all starts about 5:30 p.m. The keynote this year is being provided by some guy named Bill Kurtis. I’ll do a little research and see who he is. Also, the event will honor Kathy Dickhut, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Housing and Economic Development, for her long-time support of Growing Home, and the groundwork she has helped to lay for urban agriculture in Chicago.

Dinner will be provided by some of Chicago’s best chefs. Vegetarian appetizersare courtesy of Chef David Rosenthall of Inspiration Kitchens . Meat and vegetarian entrees will be presented by Chef Paul Virant of Vie. Dessert will be served by local social enterprise Sweet Miss Giving’s. And, of course, there is the silent auction, where you can bid on all kinds of goodies.

Take the Garlic Mustard Challenge

Cathy McGlynn is back on the program today to talk about fighting one of the most pernicious invaders in America: garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Cathy is Coordinator of the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership (NIIPP) , which works to prevent and control new and current plant invasions and raise public awareness concerning the threat posed by invasive plants. May is Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month, but NIIPP is getting a head start by participating in the United States Forest Service’s Garlic Mustard Challenge. Garlic mustard grows in the understory of forests and woodlands and displaces native plants and perhaps the best way of combatting it is to pull it out by hand.

Cities, agencies and organizations are all pulling together (get it?) to participate in the Illinois version of the Garlic Mustard Challenge. Click onto the link to find out where you can volunteer between now and the end of May to help eradicate this particularly nasty plant. Believe me, you’ll be getting some pretty good exercise, too.

Play “Where’s My Walderman?”(#chicoal) at Chicago City Council

Could it be possible that the Clean Power Ordinance might actually come to a vote in the Chicago City Council this week? Well, if you know anything about Chicago politics, you probably don’t want to hold your breath. You might turn blue.

To back up a little bit, 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore introduced the ordinance last year, an effort to force the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired plants to reduce their emissions or shut down permanently. The measure, which in early February was co-sponsored by 16 aldermen, now has 26 aldermen on board as co-sponsors.

Do the math. There are 50 aldermen. If you need half of 50 to pass a law, and 26 aldermen have already signed on as co-sponsors…uh…50 minus 26 equals…end of story, right? But like I said, you need to understand Chicago politics. You can go to the Chicago Clean Power Coalition website to see that a committee hearing on the Clean Power Ordinance will be held this Thursday, April 21. So all it has to do is pass out of committee and onto the floor for a vote. Right?

That’s where Lan Richard and the Eco-Justic Collaborative come into the picture. Lan says that all kinds of goofy (and I mean that in the way I mean “corrupt”) things can happen to thwart the passage of good legislation–especially in Chicago. Aldermen have a way of “disappearing” just before important votes. Which is why the Eco-Justice Collaborative and the Chicago Clean Power Coalition will be keeping tabs on ALL aldermen with a program they call “WHERE’S MY WALDERMAN?”

They will be utilizing the internet and Twitter (which is the Internet, too, but let’s not quibble) , in an attempt to keep track of aldermen and get some questions answered. If an alderman leaves the room at vote time, here’s what they say they’ll do:

We’ll embarrass them with tweets as we search for them in the restroom, under the chair, down the drain or wherever. These tweets will be captured on a dynamic website, which will include their photo if present OR a “Waldo” photo with a big MISSING if they are not. Sleeping? Hiding behind Mayor Daley? Playing games on a smart phone? In the restroom? If missing …. we’ll poke fun and take note for posterity.

I know I’ll be Tweeting on Thursday. If you do, too, remember to use the hashtag #chicoal. If you don’t Tweet and you don’t know what a hashtag is, don’t worry. On the day of the hearing Eco-Justice will reveal a website where they will be posting the committee proceedings in real time. Encourage friends and family to watch! They’ll also post a second hashtag to use for each alderman the day of the hearing. You can then use TWO hashtags: “#chicoal” to direct all tweets to the website and a second hashtag comment on specific aldermen.

See? Good, clean fun. I can hardly wait.

Good Growing: Working towards zoning to help urban farming

If you think policy can be difficult when it comes to clean air, just try to figure out the laws regarding urban farming. The problem is that the very concept of urban farming is so new that many legislators and city administrators are having a hard time wrapping their heads around it. And, yup, that’s exactly the story in Chicago.

Angelic Organic Learning Center‘s Martha Boyd is also a member of a group called Advocates for Urban Agriculture, which has been tackling this issue. They have a special urgency because the Chicago City Council is considering a new ordinance that would affect the legal circumstances and permitted practices of urban agriculture in Chicago. AUA prepared a collection of responses to frequently asked questions and concerns in an effort to help make sense of the ordinance and clarify its potential implications for urban ag practice in Chicago. You can get plenty of background information at this AUA web page.

If a lot of it seems dense and indecipherable, well, that’s the way city government works…or not. Martha and I will continue to try to unravel some of the mystery of all of this on today’s show.