Five years later, still crazy for the environment

April 21, 2013

Welcome to the 5th Anniversary Show!

Feel free to run out and buy me a two-by-four. The traditional 5th anniversary gifts are made of wood, representing strength and a solidified relationship, and silverware, representing connectedness. On second thought, lift some silverware from the next fancy party you’re at and pass it along to me.

Well, who knew that the grand experiment would last this long? Certainly not I. But as a lurch into another year at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, I would be remiss if i didn’t thank all of the good folks who have helped me along the way. People like Kathleen Thompson, Mike Sanders, Heather Frey, Joe McArdle, Beth Botts, Leah Pietrusiak, Mark Earnest, Jennifer Brennan and a bunch more, too numerous to name. And there’s the current team of Lisa Albrecht, Sarah Batka, Rob Kartholl and Denny Schetter.

On today’s show, we’ll get some work done but we’ll have a little fun, too. Since Denny has suggested it, I’ll pull out some of my favorite audio clips from the past five years. We’ll give away some stuff from my over-stuffed grab bag and who knows who might call in? And Jennifer Brenan will be here to talk about Dig In Chicago.

My thanks, of course, to my very loyal listeners and to all of you who log onto this website each week to read these words. We had 1.25 million hits on the site last year, and I’m sure we’ll crash through that number this year.

Okay, onto business.

Are yearly “once-in-a-century” storms the new norm?

A lot of you are bailing out from a week of near-apocalyptic rain in the Midwest. I knew things were bad when I walked out my back door early Thursday morning and saw the lake that used to be my backyard. Fortunately for me, just as the water started rising from the drain in the center of my basement, the rains stopped and the water in the basement–and the backyard–receded.

Many people in the area weren’t nearly so fortunate. So what is going on here?Jennifer and I will talk to Rick DiMaio, who will give us an overview of this week’s weather and a clue to what it means. To see the extent of the storm, take a gander at these graphs:


Another casualty of the rains was Lake Michigan. Friend of the show Josh Mogerman from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) blogged about the sewage-laden water that was released into the Great Lake as the relentless rain pushed our storm water system to the limit. Friends of the Chicago River wants even more photos of this rain event and wants to use the documentation to lobby for accelerating the timeline to complete the Deep Tunnel and Reservoir Plan. If you have pics of the flooding that you want to share, click here.

And there’s an unfortunate aftermath to all of this flooding if you have a garden–especially a vegetable garden. Now you have to determine whether your soil and/or plants have been contaminated by sewage-laden flood waters.

Check out this article from Franklin County, Kentucky Extension, this one from Purdue Extension, and this one from South Dakota Extension for some pretty good information.. I’ve culled some of their advice:

  • Consider the source of the flood waters. Rain water or water from a potable water source, or uncontaminated source does not carry the same potential hazards as water from a river, septic field, or other potentially contaminated source.
  • Following flooding, any leafy greens that are eaten fresh, such as lettuce or cabbage, should be destroyed. They are at risk of contamination for 90 days following a flood.
  • Leafy greens that will be cooked, such as spinach, should be cut back completely and allowed to re-grow before using. Cook them thoroughly before using.
  • Newly planted seeds and transplants may not survive even short-term flooding, and seeds may have washed away. Resist the urge to replant immediately; give the soil a chance to dry out first. Working wet soil will have long-lasting effects of soil compaction.
  • Gardeners should not attempt to make an unsafe, flooded garden product safe by using chlorine bleach or a similar product. The level of contamination on a flooded garden can be at dangerous levels
  • With rain and sunshine, the levels of the pathogens will disperse. After the first good rain, research shows that the majority of harmful cells are removed from the surface.
  • As for landscape trees and shrubs, it is difficult to say what the long-term effect of being underwater will be. When soils are completely flooded, oxygen is prevented from reaching the root system. Certainly, some trees are more tolerant of waterlogged conditions, but the longer the lack of aeration, the greater the chance of root death. The general thought is that most landscape plants can survive being submerged for about a week or so.

Ron Wolford, Cook County Extension Educator, provides even more links related to flooding and your gardens:

Safely Using Produce from Flooded GardensWisconsin Food Science
Repairing Spring Flooded LawnsMissouri Extension
Effects of Flooding on Woody Landscape PlantsWisconsin Extension
It’s raining, it’s pouring, it’s a good time for a site assessmentThe Garden Professors
Plants Tolerant of Wet Sites-Morton Arboretum

If you have more questions, consult your local extension office.

ComEd’s “Energy Doctor” is in the house

On this day before Earth Day, it’s a pleasure to welcome Sandra Henry from Commonwealth Edison to the WCPT studios on Milwaukee Avenue. Sandra is the program manager of ComEd’s Energy Efficiency Portfolio, and also serves as one of ComEd’s Energy Doctors. She is an elected regional director of the Illinois Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). She is also an LEED Accredited Professional.

You might have heard of Commonwealth Edison Company (or ComEd) before–and I say that tongue-in-cheek, of course. ComEd provides service to approximately 3.8 million residential and business customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population.

Whether it’s winter, summer, spring or fall, there are always ways that you can make your home more energy efficient. That’s the reason Sandra is in the studio today. She’s using her 20 years of experience to make suggestions and answer questions about how you can save energy–and money.

Here are twelve quick tips that you might find useful from ComEd’s page on low-cost and no cost solutions to energy problems.

  1. Turn off the lights whenever you leave a room.
  2. Keep your home at 78 degrees in the summer, or at the warmest temperature that is comfortable for you.
  3. When leaving home for more than 4 hours, raise the thermostat 5 to 10 degrees in summer and lower it 5 to 10 degrees in winter. Do the same at night before going to bed.
  4. Close south-, east-, and west-facing curtains during the day to keep out solar heat during the summer.
  5. Clean the coils at the back of your refrigerator twice a year.
  6. Only heat and cool rooms you use; close vents and doors to rooms that are not being used.
  7. Keep windows closed and shades down when air conditioning is on.
  8. Check and clean air conditioning filters monthly and replace as needed.
  9. Unplug electric chargers, televisions, and audio/video equipment when not in use (or plug them into a power strip you can turn off and on). These devices use electricity even when they are not in use.
  10. Turn off your computer or put it in ”sleep” mode when it is not being used.
  11. Run energy-intensive appliances such as the dishwasher and clothes washer at night. The heat produced by these appliances will not need to be offset by your air conditioner during the day. Wait until you have a full load to run the dishwasher and clothes washer, and use cold water when possible.
  12. Keep lamps and televisions away from the thermostat. The heat they generate will cause your air conditioner to work harder. If you’re running an old refrigerator in your basement that isn’t being used, unplug it. Old refrigerators can use three times the electricity of modern ones.

Sandra has even more information on the show today. Call in with your questions: 773-763-9278.