Flooding Reduced with the Help of Playgrounds

Day 334 – It brings joy to my heart when I read about innovative ideas that are being implemented in Chicago. More times than not, when it comes to the environment, Chicago is behind in making efforts to be more sustainable and eco-friendly. There are organizations and companies doing their part, but as a whole, Chicago is trailing behind other big cities.

So, I was happy to read about new playgrounds being built at five Chicago elementary schools this fall. The schools are O’Keeffe School of Excellence in South Shore, Arnold Mireles Academy and Horace Mann Elementary in South Chicago, Daniel Wentworth Elementary in West Englewood and John Whistler Elementary in West Pullman.

The playgrounds were built with the help of the Space to Grow program. The program is a joint effort between Healthy Schools Campaign, Openlands, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Department of Water Management, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Loyola University, Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California, and United States Geological Survey. Together they have transformed a total of 30 playgrounds (including these last five).

“Space to Grow transforms Chicago schoolyards into beautiful and functional spaces to play, learn, garden and be outside. The schoolyards also use special design elements to help reduce neighborhood flooding. Schoolyard transformations prioritize physical activity, outdoor learning and community engagement. The green schoolyards incorporate landscape features that capture a significant amount of rainfall, helping keep the city’s water resources clean and resulting in less neighborhood flooding.” – Space to Grow

Providing children a space to learn and play, while helping the environment is truly a win for everyone.

Tomorrow, some sustainable holiday gift ideas.

FREE Trees!

Day 123 – When I was younger, the word “free” elicited a feeling of excitement and curiosity. To get something for nothing was a thrill and made me feel like I was winning at the game of life. Sadly, that feeling has changed as I have gotten older. Now, when I hear the word “free”, I am suspicious. I want to know what the catch is and how much it’s going to cost me in the end.

Thankfully, there is nothing sneaky going on here. There are free saplings available and all you have to do is pick them up, plant them, and give them a shot at growing up to be big, strong trees. Restore the Canopy is a program sponsored by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. The program offers FREE Black, Pin, Red and White Oak saplings.

“As a form of green infrastructure, a medium-sized oak tree can help prevent flooding and improve water quality by absorbing 2,800 gallons of rainfall per year.” – MWRD

You can pick up your free sapling every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to Noon (April – October).

Locations include:

Calumet Water Reclamation Plant, 400 E. 130th St., Chicago
O’Brien Water Reclamation Plant, 3500 Howard Street, Skokie
Stickney Water Reclamation Plant, 6001 W. Pershing Rd., Cicero
Egan Water Reclamation Plant, 550 South Meacham Rd, Schaumburg
Hanover Park Water Reclamation Plant, 1220 Sycamore Ave., Hanover Park
Kirie Water Reclamation Plant, 701 West Oakton St., Des Plaines

The emerald ash borer beetle and extreme weather has decimated our tree canopy. Our neighborhoods are in need of more trees. So, if you have the space to share with a tree, consider picking up your free sapling.

Tomorrow, eco-friendly deodorants.

Rain Barrels: Collecting water to conserve water

Day 111 – A few years ago, I received a free rain barrel from the city. Yes, FREE! I used it for a few months and decided I didn’t like how it looked it my backyard. It wasn’t aesthetically pleasing. So, I gave it away. I know, completely idiotic! Now, I wish I had that rain barrel back.

During the summer months a rain barrel can save a homeowner around 1,300 gallons of water. That number will fluctuate depending on the amount of rain your area receives and the size of your rain barrel. However it’s very clear that rain barrels are very beneficial. Here are a few other reasons:

  1. By collecting rain in a rain barrel, you are conserving water. Water conservation is a very important factor when considering the changes needed to help the environment.
  2. By collecting all that rain water, you can save a significant amount of money on your water bill. You will no longer have to spend money watering your outside or inside plants. The water in the rain barrel will take care of that. You might even be able to wash your car with what is left. You have the potential of saving hundreds of dollars each year on your water bill.
  3. A rain barrel can collect a lot a rain and help prevent flooding in your backyard or seepage into your basement.
  4. Rain barrels help reduce rainwater runoff. Not only do they help minimize the amount of fertilizers, pesticides and other contaminants from entering waterways, but they also help reduce the amount of water entering our overloaded storm sewers. 
  5. Rain barrels help reduce soil erosion, by slowing down the flow of gutter runoff. Erosion can damage your foundation, as well as remove the nutrient-rich topsoil from your garden.
  6. Rainwater is the best for plants, both potted and the garden varieties. With minimal contaminants and no chemicals, rainwater is the healthiest choice for your potted plants and gardens.
  7. Collected rainwater will come in handy during periods of no rain and extreme dryness.

If you have been using the same excuse I used, rain barrels are just not “pretty” enough, I encourage you to take a look at all the aesthetically pleasing rain barrels on the market. They come in every size, shape and color. Wayfair alone has over 100 different rain barrels to choose from.

Cook County residents can also purchase a rain barrel from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago for the low, low price of $45.78 (including tax). It includes a flexible connecting elbow to attach your barrel to your downspout, a linking hose to connect it to a second barrel, detailed instructions, and free delivery to your home. 

I ordered my 55 gallon, 36″ tall rain barrel, which was manufactured from recycled plastics, on Monday (from MWR). This one isn’t going anywhere!

Tomorrow, ideas to celebrate Earth Day.