Spring renewal, a net-positive energy campus and a landfill that won’t die

April 14, 2013

Here she is–star of radio,TV and print: Melinda Myers

For a lot of gardeners in the Midwest, 2012 is a year we’d like to forget. The heat and drought took their toll on our annuals, perennials, vegetables and lawns. It’s kind of a blessing that the 2013 growing season is off to such a slow start. It’s giving us a chance to slowly ease into the processes that came all too quickly last year.

So it’s a pleasure to welcome gardening expert Melinda Myers back to the show to talk about garden renewal in 2013. Since she hails from just north of here, in Milwaukee, Myers knows the problems that northern Midwest gardeners have experienced and how to fix them. In fact, she’s traveling all around this part of the country to spread the gospel of Garden Revitalization.

She also happens to be a TV and radio host, author & columnist, with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. That includes more than 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening, The Birds & Blooms’ Ultimate Gardening Guide , and Jackson and Perkins’ Beautiful Roses Made Easy: Midwestern Edition.

Melinda hosted “The Plant Doctor” radio program for over 20 years as well as seven seasons of Great Lakes Gardener on PBS. She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments which air on 115 TV and radio stations throughout the U.S. If you want to get some great tips for early April, just click here.

Melinda and I also want to tell you about the Milorganite Community Garden Giveaway. On Earth Day (April 22 nd , 2013) Milorganite will reward five community gardens that are having the greatest impact in their communities. Those gardens will receive a one year supply of Milorganite organic nitrogen fertilizer, which amounts to 56 bags, each weighing 36 pounds.

All entries must be submitted by April 15 th, so get thee to it! You can find details for the contest here.

Can AGC become the first Illinois “net-positive” energy campus?

It was almost exactly three years ago that I talked to Dan Schnitzer, the Director of Sustainability and Operations for a Chicago charter school called the Academy for Global Citizenship, located on the City’s southwest side near 47th Street and Cicero.

This time around, I’m pleased to have Sarah Elizabeth Ippel with me in the studio. She is is the founder and executive director of AGC and recently was named to Huffington Post’s 50 people “who are changing the world” and GOOD’s “100 people pushing the world forward.” Not bad for somebody who started out at 23 by riding her bicycle to the Board of Education with request: to reimagine what is possible in public education today.

She has followed through on that idea, creating a school that opened in 2008 and now has 300 kindergarten through fifth grade students, 90% of whom are minorities and 83% from low-income families. It is now on track to add one grade level per year to create the first southwest side pre-K to 12th grade International Baccalaureate Education institution in the Chicago Public School district.

Among its accomplishments:

• AGC has been internationally recognized for our progressive environmental, global and academic programs.
• AGC has raised literacy rates by 62% in three years.
• 93% of AGC’s Third Grade & Fourth Grade students are meeting or exceeding math standards.
• 100% of AGC’s K-5th Grade students are learning a second or third language.
• AGC has presented to the United States Department of Education on fostering systemic change.
• AGC was recognized by the Obama administration as a Green Ribbon School, part of the first award in U.S. history.
• AGC was invited to the White House by Mrs. Obama to be recognized the Midwest’s first and the nation’s second recipient of the USDA’s highest honor in its Healthier US School Challenge Gold with Distinction Award, presented in conjunction with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative.
• In our 4 years of operation, AGC has welcomed over 5,000 visitors from as far as Japan, Sweden and Nigeria.
• AGC has published a Sustainable Schools Handbook: The Key to Greening Your School that has been utilized by schools locally and across the globe.

Now, the school is looking to break ground on an Illinois first: a net-positive energy campus, which will be in Chicago.

And on May 16th, a group of renowned chefs are coming together for an event at Terzo Piano that will benefit AGC and their net-positive campus. Here’s the list: Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia, Bar Toma and Terzo Piano), Jimmy Bannos and Jimmy Bannos, Jr. (The Purple Pig), Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and Xoco) Iron Chef Jose Garces (Mercat/Garces Group), Paul Kahan (Avec, Big Star, Blackbird, The Publican and Publican Quality Meats), Bill Kim (bellyQ, Urbanbelly, Belly Shack), Jeff Mauro (Food Network’s “Sandwich King”), Giuseppe Tentori (Boka and GT Fish & Oyster), Marcela Valladolid (Author and Host, Food Network’s “Mexican Made Easy”), and Takashi Yagihashi (Takashi and Slurping Turtle).

Cook County landfills rising from the bathtub like Glenn Close?

Never underestimate the power of money to affect public policy in a bad way.

Last year, I stood across from the River Bend Prairie Landfill at 138th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue and watched as Governor Pat Quinn signed into law a General Assembly-approved measure that banned the operation of landfills in Cook County.

End of story, right? Not so fast.

According the organization No Chicago Landfills, Land and Lakes Co., which operated the River Bend Prairie site, “now say they want to “mine” their landfill for scrap metal and recyclables so that they can continue to make a profit. This process involves digging up decades-old, rotting waste and extends the life of the landfill.”

So the Cook County Board of Commissioners is planning a vote that could put this matter to bed for good. After all, the State of Illinois has already passed a law banning landfills in Cook County and the City of Chicago has a ban that will last at least until 2025. No brainer, right?

Ah, but something is amiss, though it’s hard to tell exactly what that might be. For some reason, some of the commissioners, including those pesky “good government” types, do not seem to have the backs of the good citizens of Cook County.

This is making environmental and community leaders nervous and rightly so. Commissioner John Fritchey has stepped into the fray and has introduced an ordinance to ban new and expanded landfills in unincorporated Cook County. Community residents on the south side and south suburbs have battled with operators to stop plans to reopen a landfill on unincorporated land between Dolton and the southern border of Chicago.

Without such a ban, they say, waste companies will once again be able to pursue landfills anywhere in Cook County, including areas that have been designated for environmental restoration – such as the Lake Calumet region. According to Fritchey, “This legislation will protect communities that have long suffered from dump sites and landfills and will also protect millions of taxpayers’ dollars in preservation and restoration work across Cook County.”

On Monday, Aprill 15 at 10:30 a.m., Commissioner Fritchey, People for Community Recovery, Golden Gate Community Recover and the Southeast Environmental Task Force will hold a news conference on the 5th floor of the Cook County Building, 118 N. Clark Street in Chicago. They will urge the Cook County Board to pass Fritchey’s ban on landfills.

Tom Shepherd from the Southeast Environmental Task Force joins me this morning to talk about why this issue just won’t go away.