Chicago Alderperson Environmental Score Card

Day 168 – We tend not to give much attention to what our elected officials are doing, until a decision made by our alderperson directly affects us. I know I have been guilty of this. However, when it comes to the environment, we should all be paying attention.

For the first time, the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) has released an Environmental Scorecard for the Chicago City Council. Scores are based on the environmental impact of each alderperson’s voting record over the last two years. 

“For the first time, you can see whether your alderperson has used their power in the City Council to protect you, plants, animals and our environment or whether they used their power to aid big polluters and dirty fossil fuel special interests instead.” – IEC

Here’s how scores are tabulated.

For each bill, alderpersons are evaluated on whether they voted with the pro-environment position (“+”) or against it (“-“). For bills that the environmental community supported, a YES vote is a + and a NO vote is a -. For bills that were opposed, a NO vote is a + and a YES vote is a -. The votes are then tallied, and an overall score is calculated. For instance, someone who voted pro-environment on six bills and against four bills is given a 60% score.

The only votes not counted were those when an alderperson had an excused absence (noted in the chart as “A” ), which generally meant that they were not present in city council on that day due to an illness or other unexpected circumstances. Alderpersons who had absences were scored according to the other votes they cast.

When an alderperson is present in city council on the day of a vote but fails to cast theirs, we have counted it the same as a “no” vote on the ordinance. This circumstance is noted in the voting chart as “NV” and counted the same as a “+” when this action supports the pro-environment position. It is indicated as “nv” and counted as “-” when it does not help the pro-environment position.

Click HERE to view the list of ordinances and how your alderperson scored on environmental issues.

“The Chicago Environmental Scorecard is published by the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) for purposes of public education. It provides a record and analysis of votes in the Chicago City Council on a wide range of environmental and conservation ordinances to create a better-informed citizenry.

Since 1975, the Illinois Environmental Council has worked to safeguard Illinois—its people, its plants and animals,
and the natural systems on which all life depends by building power for people and the environment. Representing over 100 environmental organizations in the state, IEC carries out its mission to advance public policies that create healthy environments across Illinois through education, advocacy, and movement building.” –
IEC

I was happy to find out that my alderperson, Matt Martin (47th Ward) scored a 100. How did your alderperson score?

Tomorrow, a summary of my behind the scenes tour at SCARCE.

Even Wind Energy has Waste

Day 167 – When we think of renewable energy sources, we usually think of clean, waste free options. Sadly, even sustainable energy sources can create waste. According to a study by University of Cambridge (2017), turbine blades are set to account for 43 million tons of waste by 2050. Most blades end up in landfills, because they are hard to recycle.

Thankfully, wind turbine maker Vestas, unveiled new technology which it says enables wind turbine blades to be fully recycled, avoiding the dumping of old blades. Using the new technology the glass or carbon fiber is separated from the resin and then chemicals further separate the resin into base materials, that are “similar to virgin materials” that can then be used for construction of new blades. 

The project aims to develop the technology for industrial scale production within three years and also sees potential for the technology to be used for airplane and car components.

If we are to fully embrace a world where renewable energy sources are common place, we need to start finding ways to recycle all the materials involved in harnessing these sources of energy. Sending turbine blades and solar panels to the landfill will not help our situation.

Tomorrow, checking to see if your alderperson is doing his/her part in protecting the environment.

The Power of Wind Energy

Day 166 – It’s Global Wind Day!

“It is a day for discovering wind energy, its power and the possibilities it holds to reshape our energy systems, decarbonize our economies and boost jobs and growth.” – globalwindday.org

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy created a list of benefits that wind power offers.

  1. Wind power is cost-effective. Land-based utility-scale wind is one of the lowest-priced energy sources available today
  2. Wind creates jobs. The U.S. wind sector employs more than 100,000 workers, and wind turbine technician is one of the fastest growing American jobs.
  3. Wind enables U.S. industry growth and U.S. competitiveness. New wind projects account for annual investments of over $10 billion in the U.S. economy.
  4. It’s a clean fuel source. Wind energy doesn’t pollute the air like power plants that rely on combustion of fossil fuels.
  5. Wind is a domestic source of energy. The nation’s wind supply is abundant and inexhaustible.
  6. It’s sustainable. Wind is actually a form of solar energy. For as long as the sun shines and the wind blows, the energy produced can be harnessed to send power across the grid.
  7. Wind turbines can be built on existing farms or ranches. Wind power plant owners make rent payments to the farmer or rancher for the use of the land, providing landowners with additional income.

Even though wind energy has many benefits there are also challenges.

  1. Wind power must still compete with conventional generation sources on a cost basis. Some locations may not be windy enough to be cost competitive.
  2. Good land-based wind sites are often located in remote locations, far from cities where the electricity is needed.
  3. Turbines might cause noise and aesthetic pollution. Concern exists over the noise produced by the turbine blades and visual impacts to the landscape.
  4. Wind plants can impact local wildlife. Birds have been killed by flying into spinning turbine blades. Most of these problems have been resolved or greatly reduced through technology development or by properly siting wind plants. 

Overall, the pros of windy energy outweigh the cons.

Take a little time today to celebrate the wind as a renewable resource and learn about how it is helping in the fight to decrease greenhouse emissions.

Tomorrow, recycling those giant turbine blades.

My First Visit to the Farmers Market

Day 165 – I’ve driven by farmers markets. I’ve even walked by a few. However, I have never visited one with the intention of buying something. This past Saturday, my youngest daughter and I spent the morning visiting a couple farmers markets in the neighborhood and we came home with some goodies.

We first visited the Northcenter Farmers Market (Northcenter Town Square- 4100 N. Lincoln Ave.). This farmers market started on June 5th and will continue every Saturday through October 30th. They are open from 8am-1pm. There are 16 vendors listed, though some are only on site on certain dates. Be sure to check the dates.

We purchased the following:

  1. Fresh strawberries – Liz Madsen Farms
  2. Raspberry croissants – La Provence Bakery
  3. Blueberry lemon scone & triple chocolate cookie – Hilary’s Cookies

We then walked over to the Horner Park Farmers Market (2741 N. Montrose Park, northwest corner of the park, the area bounded by Montrose Avenue (N) and California Avenue (W), in front of the Field House). This farmers market started on June 5th and will continue every Saturday until October 2nd. They are open from 9am-1pm. Check out their Facebook page to see the vendors participating this summer.

We purchased the following:

  1. Spinach – Avrom Farm
  2. Green Lettuce – Vangies Farm
  3. Bouquet of flowers – Vangies Farm

We had such an enjoyable morning. It was a beautiful day to be outside. Not only did we get some good exercise, walking around the neighborhood, but we also supported small businesses and farms. We look forward to visiting more famers markets in the city throughout the summer. Check out the full schedule HERE!

Tomorrow, celebrating a renewable energy resource.

Sustainable Phone Cases

Day 164 – Our household was in need of a couple new phone cases. There were numerous options for environmentally friendly phone cases. We decided to go with Pela.

Here are a few of the reasons we decided to purchase Pela phone cases.

  1. Their cases are 100% compostable. They will completely break down in 3 to 6 months, in proper composting conditions.
  2. They are Climate Neutral Certified. They offset and reduce all of their greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. They are a certified B-Corporation. B-Corporations have met the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
  4. They are a member of 1% for the Planet. They take 1% of their profits and donate to environmental organizations.
  5. Pela’s 360 program will take your old phone case (from another brand) for FREE to recycle or upcycle it for you and if it’s an old Pela case, they’ll upcycle it into a new Pela product or compost it for you.
  6. Pela offers a Screen Protection Guarantee Policy on almost all of their phone cases.

Pela also has Habitat, which offers a line of plastic free personal hygiene products. They also created Lomi, a countertop composter. Pela has a line of plastic free pet care products called Barxby. They also have a line of compostable sunglasses and blue light glasses, Pela Vision.

If you end up switching to a more sustainable phone case and the company does not offer to recycle your old case, be sure to check out TerraCycle’s PopSockets Recycling Program. Through this program you can recycle phone cases. You can also drop off your old phone cases at the Northcenter Neighborhood Association’s Recycle Popup. Our next popup is on June 19th.

We look forward to the arrival of our new environmentally friendly phone cases. They should be arriving any day!

Tomorrow, our first farmer’s market experience.

Wildland Farming: Ecological Restoration

Day 163 – A farm in the UK has gone wild and it has people wondering if this could be the solution to our over farming problems. For 16 years the Knepp Wildland Project (West Sussex) has been home to grazing animals that are helping to boost biodiversity while also providing sustainable, high-quality meat.

“Not only are herds of animals roaming free, the project has brought solutions to some of the natural world’s most pressing problems: from soil restoration and flood mitigation to water and air purification, pollinating insects and carbon sequestration. Wildland farming can be an effective, low-cost method of ecological restoration. Rare species like turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons and purple emperor butterflies are now breeding at Knepp, and populations of more common species are rocketing. Only the surplus of animals that the land cannot sustain are harvested, there’s no soil degradation from intensive farming practices and the amount of carbon locked in the soil is increasing. Knepp could be used as a prototype for rewilding abandoned and over-farmed land.”weforum.org

Even though many current farming techniques are using less pesticides and finding ways to maintain nutrient soil, it seems like allowing nature to take over at least some of our lands could be very beneficial. We could also learn a great deal from ancient farming techniques.

Eliminating hunger is one of the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, but with 690 million people still going hungry, our agricultural heritage has plenty to teach us about how to feed our growing population without destroying the planet.

Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) are outstanding landscapes of aesthetic beauty that combine agricultural biodiversity, resilient ecosystems and a valuable cultural heritage. Located in specific sites around the world, they sustainably provide multiple goods and services, food and livelihood security for millions of small-scale farmers. These ancestral agricultural systems constitute the foundation for contemporary and future agricultural innovations and technologies. Their cultural, ecological and agricultural diversity is still evident in many parts of the world, maintained as unique systems of agriculture.”Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Until we can entrust our farming to nature and the techniques created by our ancestors, we run the real risk of depleting our farmlands of the rich nutrients they need to survive. The current way is no longer working, we need to look to the past in order to ensure a successful future.

  • To learn more about the Knepp Wildland Project, click HERE.

Tomorrow, cases that protect your phone and the planet.

Children’s Clothing: Grow. Recycle. Repeat.

Day 162 – On Day 61, I listed some options for clothes that have been worn out and are not suitable for donation. There are numerous places that will take and recycle your well lived clothes. Today, I wanted to include another option for you.

Carter’s has partnered with TerraCycle to recycle your child’s worn out clothing. Any non-donatable baby & kid clothing (newborn – size 14) brands are welcome. However, no shoes or accessories, at this time.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Sign up for the program. If you don’t have a TerraCycle account yet, create one here! To earn reward points and ensure your points can be tracked and awarded, use the email address on your Carter’s Rewarding Moments account. (Take a peek at your Carter’s account or sign up to be a member  here.)
  2. Fill a box with the baby and kids clothes you don’t plan to hand down or donate.
  3. Log into your account, download and print your FREE shipping label.
  4. Seal your box, affix the printed shipping label and drop it off at any UPS location.

Be sure to ship when your box is full to minimize the transportation carbon footprint for this program. Be sure the clothes are dry. Once collected, the clothing is separated by fabric type, shredded, and recycled into materials that are used for stuffing in workout equipment and furniture, as well as for home insulation.

So, there is no reason to throw out your child’s old clothes if they can not be donated. Those torn pants and stained shirts can be given a new life.

Tomorrow, the advantages to wildland farming.

Random Acts of Green

Day 161 – I can only hope that this blog has brought some people a few good ideas and a little inspiration when it comes to living a more environmentally friendly life. I am just one of thousands blogs/websites that offer helpful information. Today, I wanted to share one of those thousands.

They may be located in Canada, but their message is for the world to hear. Random Acts of Green is a climate action community where everyone is empowered to take action together and promote environmental sustainability. Their mission is to prove that we can all make changes that add up to make a big collective impact. They are dedicated to encouraging and motivating people to choose greener choices.

They offer membership to businesses and individuals. However, information on their blog is free to everyone.

You could read about various topics, all focused on sustainability and the environment.

  1. 15 Sustainable Products to Try
  2. How Does Paint Get Recycled
  3. 8 Best Upcycling Garden Ideas for an Eco-friendly Outdoors
  4. It’s Time to Breakup with Plastic
  5. 9 Ways to Extend the Lifespan of Your Food and How You Can Use Up Everything

A little reading can lead to some action that can result in significant changes in helping the planet. Take a little time to educate yourself on how you can make a difference.

Tomorrow, a great option to recycle those well used children clothing.

Why are Fireflies Disappearing?

Day 160 – When I was a kid, lightning bugs (fireflies) were one of the main indications that summer had arrived. My sisters and I always made sure to be extra careful when catching them. We only wanted a brief moment with the magical insect. We were always quick to release them back into the warm summer, night sky.

Sadly, my kids have not had the same experience I had growing up. The opportunities to enjoy a good chase around the yard, trying to catch those flashing lights, has ceased to exist. The number of fireflies has decreased over the years due to numerous factors. Not only has habitat destruction, pesticide use, and climate change cause numbers to decline, but light pollution has played a major role in disrupting the firefly populations.

“Human light pollution is believed to interrupt firefly flash patterns. Scientists have observed that synchronous fireflies get out of synch for a few minutes after a car’s headlights pass. Light from homes, cars, stores, and streetlights may all make it difficult for fireflies to signal each other during mating—meaning fewer firefly larvae are born next season.” firefly.org

Why do we need to protect fireflies?

  1. They are important pollinators.
  2. The larvae of some species are specialized predators. They feed on slugs and mites that can harm garden plants.
  3. They are extremely sensitive to environmental conditions, which make them good indicators for scientists to access healthy ecosystems.
  4. Luciferin, the chemical that gives fireflies their glow, has major applications in medical research, particularly for diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis and various heart diseases.

However, the main reason we should all care about the well being of the firefly is because they represent the amazing nature that surrounds us everyday.

“They spark wonder in people. When you are in your back yard or park you notice them and are amazed. They are one of the few things that universally give people a feeling of falling in love in nature.” – Sara Lewis (biology professor at Tufts University

Decreasing our carbon footprint and pesticide use will be helpful to the survival of the fireflies. However, one of the easiest things we could do is to just turn off the lights.

Tomorrow, spreading random acts of green.

The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods

Day 159 – Oceans Day was first declared on June 8, 1992 in Rio de Janeiro at the Global Forum, a parallel event at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) which provided an opportunity for non-government organizations and civil society to express their views on environmental issues. In 2008, led by Canada, the General Assembly resolved that June 8 would be designated by the United Nations as “World Oceans Day”. The theme of the inaugural observance of World Oceans Day was ‘Our Oceans, Our Responsibility’.

This year’s theme is ‘The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods‘. The day will shed light on the wonder of the ocean and how it is our lifesource, supporting humanity and every other organism on earth.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) gives many reasons as to why we should care about the ocean.

  1. The ocean produces over half of the world’s oxygen and stores more than 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere.
  2. Covering 70% of the Earth’s surface, the ocean transports heat from the equator to the poles, regulating our climate and weather patterns.
  3. 76% of U.S. trade involves some form marine transportation.
  4. The ocean economy produces $282 billion in goods and services per year. Ocean dependent businesses employ almost 3 million people.
  5. The ocean provides so much more than just seafood. Ingredients from the sea are found in things like peanut butter and soy milk.
  6. Many medicinal products come from the ocean. Medicines that fight cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and heart disease can be traced back to the ocean.

So, what can we do to help the oceans?

NOAA gives us 10 ways we can help.

  1. Conserve Water – Use less water so excess runoff and wastewater will not flow into the ocean.
  2. Reduce Pollutants – Choose nontoxic chemicals and dispose of herbicides, pesticides, and cleaning products properly.
  3. Reduce Waste – Cut down on what you throw away.
  4. Shop Wisely – Choose sustainable seafood. Buy less plastic and bring a reusable bag.
  5. Reduce Vehicle Pollution – Use fuel efficient vehicles, carpool or ride a bike.
  6. Use Less Energy – Choose energy efficient light bulbs and don’t overset your thermostat.
  7. Fish Responsibly – Follow “catch and release” practices and keep more fish alive.
  8. Practice Safe Boating – Anchor in sandy areas far from coral and sea grasses. Adhere to “no wake” zones.
  9. Respect Habitat – Healthy habitat and survival go hand in hand. Treat with care.
  10. Volunteer – Volunteer for cleanups at the beach and in your community. You can get involved in protecting your watershed too!

Even if you don’t live near the ocean, your actions can have an impact. Make sure your impact is a positive one.

Tomorrow, saving the fireflies.