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.

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.

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.

World Food Safety Day

Day 158 – The first World Food Day was celebrated on October 16, 1981. After acknowledging the global burden of food-borne diseases on individuals of all ages, the United Nations General Assembly then proclaimed in 2018 that every year, June 7th would be celebrated as World Food Safety Day.

“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), worldwide, unsafe food causes approximately 600 million cases of food-borne diseases and 420,000 deaths annually. Unsafe food is a serious threat to human health and economies. It is mostly the marginalized and vulnerable people, especially women and young children, migrants, and populations affected by conflict, who bear the brunt of it all. Food is the focal point for our health, energy, and our well-being. We often take for granted that all the food we eat is safe. But, in a progressively interconnected world where food value chains are constantly growing longer, there is a need for robust food-related standards and regulations to keep us safe.” FirstCryParenting.com

Food safety is a shared responsibility between governments, producers and consumers.  Everyone has a role to play from farm to table to ensure the food we consume is safe and healthy. Through the World Food Safety Day, WHO works to mainstream food safety in the public agenda and reduce the burden of food-borne diseases globally. Food safety is everyone’s business.

Calls to action

1 – Ensure it’s safe – Government must ensure safe and nutritious food for all.

2 – Grow it safe – Agriculture and food producers need to adopt good practices.

3 – Keep it safe – Business operators must make sure food is safe.

4 – Know what’s safe – Consumers need to learn about safe and healthy food.

5 – Team up for food safety – Work together for safe food and good health.

Be thankful for access to safe food and fight for those that do not. Everyone should be able to eat without fear of getting sick.

Tomorrow, preserving and protecting our oceans.

#GenerationRestoration

Day 156 – REIMAGINE. RECREATE. RESTORE.

“This is our moment. We cannot turn back time. But we can grow trees, green our cities, rewild our gardens, change our diets and clean up rivers and coasts. We are the generation that can make peace with nature. Let’s get active, not anxious. Let’s be bold, not timid. Join #GenerationRestorationWorld Environment Day

The theme of this year’s World Environment Day is Ecosystem Restoration. Pakistan will act as global host of the day. World Environment Day 2021 will see the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

“Ecosystem restoration means assisting in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed, as well as conserving the ecosystems that are still intact. Restoration can happen in many ways – for example through actively planting or by removing pressures so that nature can recover on its own. It is not always possible – or desirable – to return an ecosystem to its original state. We still need farmland and infrastructure on land that was once forest, for instance, and ecosystems, like societies, need to adapt to a changing climate. Between now and 2030, the restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems could generate US$9 trillion in ecosystem services. Restoration could also remove 13 to 26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.”UN Decades on Ecosystem Restoration

Scientists say these next ten years will count most in the fight to avert climate change and the loss of millions of species. Here are ten actions in the strategy of the UN Decade that can build a #GenerationRestoration.

  1. Empower a global movement – Groups and individuals can get informed about restoration opportunities in their area. They can join an initiative already underway or start their own.
  2. Finance restoration on the ground – Governments, international lenders, development agencies and private business will all have to ramp up their support. Individuals can consider giving a donation, their time or their expertise to a worthy initiative.
  3. Set the right incentives – In the long-term, healthier ecosystems can produce bigger harvests, more secure incomes and a healthier environment for people. Being a leader on restoration needs to be rewarded and not punished.
  4. Celebrate leadership -The UN Decade will celebrate leadership and encourage others to step up. Just like Indigenous peoples have acted as defenders of their ecosystems for generations., we too, need to protect our lands.
  5. Shift behaviors – Deforestation, the depletion of fish stocks and the degradation of agricultural soils are all caused by global consumption patterns. The UN Decade will work with all partners to identify and encourage restoration-friendly consumption.
  6. Invest in research – Scientific understanding of how to restore and adapt ecosystems is still developing. Considerable investments are needed to identify the best practices to restore our planet – one plot at a time.
  7. Build up capacity – As a priority, the UN Decade’s strategy seeks to build the capacity of marginalized groups that stand to lose most from the continued destruction of ecosystems – such as indigenous peoples, women and youth to take an active role in restoration.
  8. Celebrate a culture of restoration – Shifting from plundering the planet to healing it is a cultural challenge. The UN Decade’s strategy therefore calls on artists, storytellers, producers, musicians and connectors to join the #GenerationRestoration.
  9. Build up the next generation – Education for restoration will turn today’s children into ecosystem ambassadors, provide skills for sustainable jobs and ensure that the UN Decade’s achievements far outlive its timeframe.
  10. Listen and learn – The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration wants to hear from you. Connect with them on social media and be sure to use #GENERATIONRESTORATION

There is a lot of work to be done and no one person or organization can do it alone. We all have to join forces and work together to protect the planet, our home.

Tomorrow, options to donate and recycle your eyewear.

I want to ride my bicycle…

Day 154“I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike, I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like.”

Bicycle Race, was just one of the many songs I enjoyed listening to, off my Queen’s Greatest Hits album, when I was a kid. Couldn’t help think of that song while getting ready to write today’s post.

It’s World Bicycle Day! It’s the day where we celebrate all the wonderful benefits of riding a bicycle.

GearHungry.com came up with a list of 23 benefits of bicycle riding. I thought I would share five of them.

  1. Cycling Helps You Get in Shape – Perhaps the most compelling reason to ride a bicycle from a personal perspective is the fact that doing so can help you lose excess weight and improve your cardiovascular health. 
  2. Riding Your Bicycle Improves Mental Acuity – When you exercise your heart muscle by riding your bicycle all that blood surging through your veins is carrying oxygen it’s picking up in the lungs, which are also getting a good workout. That oxygen rich blood is then distributed to your brain where it helps you become more alert and mentally sharp.
  3. Cycling Can Save the Planet – Leaving the car home and taking the bicycle to work is one important step we can each take to putting the human race on a path toward sustainability and making sure we leave our grandkids a world every bit as beautiful as the one we grew up in.
  4. Riding Your Bike Saves Money – No tank to fill, no parking to pay for, no meter maids to deal with and no duals to the death with other drivers whose nerves have been frayed to the breaking point. 
  5.  Riding Your Bike will Help You Sleep Better – Getting out on the bike on a regular basis helps work off the stress and tire you out so you can get a proper night’s sleep.

And you’re going to want to start getting out on your bike, so you can prepare yourself for the ride of a lifetime. The Great American Rail Trail will span across 12 different states from coast to coast, enabling cyclists to travel safely and efficiently, avoiding any and all car and pedestrian traffic. The path will span 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles), starting in Washington State, heading west through Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and finally, Maryland, where it will end in Washington D.C. The trail will hopefully be opening in the next year or two. Check out the route HERE.

So, get out there and ride your bike. Ride it where you like.

Tomorrow, ideas on where to donate a bicycle.