Super sowing, green banks and not-so-clean air

January 30, 2011

Stand by for “Super Sow Sunday”!

Last week, I talked about ordering and swapping seeds with the ubiquitous Mr. Brown Thumb, and Jessica Rinks from The Forest Park Community Garden. But this seems to be the week of big events in the seed world. First, there’s National Seed Swap Day, which is either January 29, 30 or 31st, depending on what you read (they need to take a vote).

Of course, we all know what most people will be doing next week, February 6. Why, planting seeds! It’s the second annual Super Sow Sunday on Twitter. The way you get involved is to type #supersowsunday into your search function (assuming you’re on Twitter), which will hook you up to all kinds of people who love to plant seeds and who aren’t particularly found of football.

The event goes from about 6:30 -8:30 p.m. ET–you know, basically during the football game. During that time tweeters will connect with hundreds of gardeners from across the world and share planting tips, how to sow, and what seeds were successfu. You’ll also be able to ask questions of seed representatives from around the country. Apparently, there will also be some big seed giveaways. So, if you hate the Green Bay Packers as much as most Chicagoans do, and don’t give a rip about the crop of new commercials, this is one way to stay entertained.

The only caveat I have is that it’s still a little early to be starting seeds in this neck of the world. But you can do something called winter sowing. It’s a method for planting seeds in containers now and putting them outside, so that they begin to sprout when nature gives them the right conditions. Our Little Acre blog site provides a step by step photo essay on one way to accomplish this.

What does it mean to be a “green” bank?

That’s what I’m going to ask Steve Sherman this morning. He just happens to be one of the founders of GreenChoice Bank, which calls itself the “the Midwest’s first green community bank… committed to taking care of its customers, its community, and its planet.” Sherman is also a LEED AP ( Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional), chief operating officer and director of the bank.

There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house to launch two GreenChoice Bank branch facilities, recently retrofitted and seeking LEED EBO&M (Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance) certification. Each building is nearly 100 years old. One is at 5225 W. 25th St. in Cicero (ceremony 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 1) and the other at 838 S. State St. in Lockport (10:30 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 8). However, the flagship LEED Platinum location hasn’t yet opened, as it is in the long-delayed Green Exchange at 2545 W. Diversey Avenue in Chicago.

Among the ways that GreenChoice positions itself apart from other banks, in their words:

  • Sustainable principles guide every aspect of the bank’s operations.
  • They focus on supporting the local community, fostering green collar jobs creation
    and growth, and improving the sustainable business economy.
  • They understand sustainability because they are involved with the sustainable business
  • Customers know that, when they bank with GreenChoice, their funds are being leveraged
    responsibly and invested back into the community.

It’s time to stop the “clean coal” movement in Illinois

It was almost by accident that the subject of two coal gasifications bills came up during my show last week. I can’t exactly remember how they came into the conversation, but when I mentioned SB 3388 (Leucadia) and SB 1927 (Power Holdings), which have already passed the Illinois General Assembly and are now sitting on Governor Pat Quinn’s desk, I received a phone call from Tom Sheperd, who lives in the southeast side neighborhood that will be affected by passage of the Leucadia law.

The story, basically, is that Leucadia National Corp. proposed a $3 billion coal gasification plant to be located on the south side of Chicago on the site of a coke facility that has sat unused for about a decade. The Chicago Tribune lays out the issue in an article called “Seeking Permission to Pollute.” One of the more controversial aspects of SB 3388 is that the bill would require natural gas utilities to enter into a thirty year contract for power from Leucadia, which could total 8% of the state’s energy from natural gas.

Power Holdings has proposed a coal gasification plant to be located in downstate Jefferson County. That bill would require the state’s natural gas utilities to enter into a ten year contract for power from its facility.  According to an Illinois Environmental Council bulletin, Crain’s Chicago says that the natural gas from these facilities would be sold at prices that are roughly double the current market price of natural gas.

This is on top of the environmental risk that both of these plants pose. Coal gasification is often promoted as “clean coal.” Yet, many environmental groups will tell you that there is no such thing as “clean coal.” One of those groups is the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. Director Jack Darin says that Illinois Sierra Club has posted a petition on its website, urging Governor Quinn to veto both pieces of legislation. I’m talking to him about that on the show today.

Chicago’s Clean Power Ordinance put on hold…again.

It’s hard to imagine why, even as “clean coal” plants are proposed for the city’s southeast side, two major contributors of life-shortening pollutants continue unabated in Pilsen and Little Village. I’m speaking, of course, of the Fisk and Crawford coal-fire power plants that are an embarrassment to Chicago, as long as it wants to be considered the “Greenest City in America.”

Last year, 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore introduced the Clean Power Ordinance in an effort to force those plants to reduce their emissions or shut down permanently. The measure, which is co-sponsored by 16 aldermen, was referred jointly to the City Council’s Committee on Health, now chaired by Ald. James Balcer and the Committee on Energy, Environmental Protection and Public Utilities, chaired by Ald. Virginia Rugai. Last week I received a message from the Chicago Clean Power Coalition, comprising more than 50 health, community, environmental and business groups, stating that Ald. Balcer would be holding a hearing on the Clean Power Ordinance on February 14 at 10:00 a.m.

Not so fast.

On Friday, word came that that the hearing would be delayed indefinitely. Since a majority vote of the joint committee is needed for the legislation to advance to a vote by the full City Council, this makes the legislation dead in the water.

It’s doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Daley administration has put the heat on aldermen to make sure that nothing happens for the remainder of Hizzoner’s term. “I know the Administration would like us to just go away,” says Ald. Moore, “but the health and well-being of Chicago residents and the future health of our children and grandchildren are at stake.”

So now what? Moore says that he intends to go through with the hearing on the 14th, even if it’s unofficial. He will invite allies of the proposed ordinance to attend, as well as members of the Chicago Clean Power Coalition and citizens who are simply concerned about air quality in the city.

Meanwhile, there are mayoral and aldermanic races to be run, and Alderman Moore is having a fundraiser next Tuesday evening, February 1 at Uncommon Ground Restaurant on Devon Avenue. It’s called Greener Together: A Benefit to Re-Elect Joe Moore and I wiil be there to support this champion of environmental causes in Chicago. Even if you don’t live in the “Fightin’ 49th” Ward, consider making a contribution to a man who is working hard to make our city’s air clean.