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Who We Are

Green Community Connections provides a place to tap into conversations about sustainability issues and to identify concrete steps you can take. We believe change is both necessary and possible and the best way to get there is together. Learn more About Us.

10 Steps to Going Solar

The Crystal and Alan Prechel Family have 29 solar panels on their roof, 4 chickens in their yard, and 2 electric cars in their garage.

The Crystal and Alan Prechel Family have 29 solar panels, 4 chickens, and 2 electric cars, in addition to 3 adorable children.

Editor’s note:  The Prechel home was one of six on view in Oak Park for the Illinois Solar Tour on Oct. 1.  Alan Prechel’s installation was unique on the tour because his was primarily a “do it yourself” project.  If you are considering solar for your home or business, whether you plan to hire a contractor or not, you will be better prepared for the task after reading Alan’s account, his steps and decisions, his hints and cautions, and his successes and failures.

Author’s note:  Please remember that I researched, designed, purchased, and self-installed my system in order to keep the total costs feasible. I hired professional help when needed and went through the required channels with the utility and municipality to ensure this system is safe and well built. You should do your own research as I did, even if you are leaning towards hiring a solar contractor to do the labor. Best of luck, I hope you have many sunny days ahead!

There are many reasons Solar energy is ‘disruptive’. The term carries with it massive environmental, economic, social, and political weight. Energy produced by Solar PV systems is clean; no carbon emissions or pollution is generated for the 20+ years a typical system will operate. Additionally, the generated power earns the owner SRECS (renewable energy credits) used by businesses to offset their dirty pollution footprint. Most PV systems can be designed to reach ROI (return on investment) well within the lifetime of the equipment, and thus they create monetary profits thereafter. System owners are insulated from utility rate hikes and inflation and are less dependent on external energy sources.

I believe if Solar PV were the norm in US residential applications there would be no energy crisis, our grid and infrastructure could be modernized to promote sharing instead of commercial interests, and our political foreign-oil policies would be flipped on their heads, but that is a conversation for another time. If you are interested in going Solar, I have laid out a few steps to guide you on that path.

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Case Study in Home Energy Efficiency



It’s early October, and the annual holiday marketing onslaught is not too far away. “The more you spend, the more you save,” is one of my favorite crazy slogans. Does that really work on people? If you’ve spent $500 on new sweaters to save $100, you’ve just, um, spent $400.

Unless… you put on one of those sweaters, and then crank down your thermostat to save money on your heating bill. Love it!

Actually, there are a number of ways to invest in your home to reduce carbon emissions, save the planet and save money to boot. My family made some modest investments in fall 2015, and we are slowly recouping our money through lower bills. In fact, this year we used 9% less natural gas and 17% less electricity than during the previous 12 months.

Here’s how we did it. I live in a detached single-family home, but apartment and condo dwellers can apply some of these ideas.

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Tour Parkway Trees at Your Next Block Party

Gordon Waldron of the Learning Gardens shares his affection for trees at local block parties.

Gordon Waldron of the Learning Gardens shares his respect and affection for trees at local block parties.

Oak Park is known for its human diversity, but its arboreal diversity is equally noteworthy.

This was not always the case. During the first half of the 20th century, a uniform canopy of elm trees dominated Oak Park’s urban parkway landscape. Over the past 50 years, most of these elms have fallen ill due to Dutch Elm Disease, a fungus spread via the elm bark beetle or through intertwined underground root systems. The Village of Oak Park vigilantly and methodically removes these sickly trees.

Lesson learned. There is strength in diversity in more ways than one. Now the village makes a point and a policy of planting a variety of species to prevent a similar fate from recurring.

Case in point. At a recent block party on the 800 block of South Kenilworth, Gordon Waldron of The Learning Gardens gave adult residents a tour of their 39 parkway trees. There were 24 varieties including 3 maples (Silver, Norway, and Freeman), 4 oaks (English, Swamp White, and Chinquapin), and 4 elms (American, Hybrid, Morton Glossy, and Homestead).

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Boost the Ecological Power of Your Yard with Native Trees & Shrubs

Photo courtesy of Rodney Campbell/flickr.

Last 2 Days to Order native trees a shrubs!  Browse the Wild Ones Shopify site to find trees, shrubs and flowers that create beauty for you and much needed habitat for wildlife. 


Fall is an ideal time to plant because our long Midwest winter gives plants lots of time to build roots before bursting into bloom in the spring. Plus, it’s more pleasant to dig in cool weather, right?


Pre-ordering ends Sept 18 at 6pm.  Your order will be available for pick up on Sept 24 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 405 S. Euclid in Oak Park.  

Just added:  Good Earth Greenhouse and Wild Ones will be at the pick-up site on September 24th with a variety of native grasses and flowers for sale.

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Monarch Migration Events



In the fall, Monarch butterflies migrate much like birds, flying 1,000 to 3,000 miles from states such as Illinois to the Oyamel Fir Forests of Central Mexico. Their spring and fall migration is considered a phenomenon of nature because they travel farther than all tropical butterflies.

Three upcoming local events will teach more about these regal insects and offer us ways to help them.

Migrating Monarchs Celebration: noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Trailside Museum, 738 Thatcher Ave., in River Forest. This is a family event with activities, crafts, and displays to trace the Monarch migration route. West Cook Wild Ones will be there to teach families how to help these pollinators thrive. This is a free, drop-in event.

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Thank you to our Presenting Sponsors from the One Earth Film Festival.


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