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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.

OPRF Environmental Club is Multitasking!

The OPRF Environmental Club has been more than busy this year. The precedent was set last year, when we organized a march on October 24, 2009 to coincide with thousands of others across the globe. The whole thing was the brainchild of 350.org. Last fall, 350.org followed up its marches by organizing thousands of global “work parties” for the climate. We held our own work party, where we transplanted plants to clear ground for our urban garden.

The garden is by far our biggest project this year. It started as a far-off dream and now is in full swing. First, we measured the space and had a professional architect, the dad of Co-President Isabelle Neylan, design plans for the garden. We collectively decided that raised beds with stone walls would be the most appealing and long-lasting. Of course, our garden was organic from the get-go.

The amount of bricks our garden will require is hefty, but we received a generous grant of 3-4 pallets of bricks out of the 10 that we need. Also, the seeds were paid for by the OPRF Food Service. We will be partnering with them to further healthy and environmental initiatives in the cafeteria.

The Environmental Club is also responsible for the vast majority of paper recycling in the school. Each Wednesday we walk around the school with bins and collect paper to be recycled. We dump in it a bin that gives the school a small amount of money for each ton of paper.

Other activities of the club include an annual lightbulb exchange, where we give out free CFLs for incandescent bulbs that people bring in.   Also, we are hosting the game “coin wars,” as a way to collect money to build a well in Africa. The game is designed as a war between high school classes, where coins add points to your class and dollars subtract points from the other classes.

The Environmental Club engages in activities of which the fruition is later. For example, last year, we testified at an EPA public comment hearing. Two of our club members gave short speeches while others held up signs behind them, encouraging the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, which would give the organization greater power than it has ever had. This year, the EPA announced that it will regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, which is something that we as a club can point to say, “We helped that.”

For groups or individuals seeking to contact us, our club sponsor’s email is cmcguckin@oprfhs.org.  She will relay any emails to the student club leadership. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for any reason. We are looking forward to making more community connections in the coming years. Submitted by Owen Brady

Food: Six Things to Feel Good About

Excerpts from Mark Bittman’s NY Times Opinionator blog on “food and all things related”, March 22, 2011

The great American writer, thinker and farmer Wendell Berry recently said, “You can’t be a critic by simply being a griper . . . One has also to . . . search out the examples of good work.”

I’ve griped for weeks, and no doubt I’ll get back to it, but there are bright spots on our food landscape, hopeful trends, even movements, of which we can be proud. Here are six examples.

Not just awareness, but power | Everyone talks about food policy, but as advocates of change become more politically potent we’re finally seeing more done about it. . .

Moving beyond greenwashing | Michelle Obama’s recent alliance with Wal-Mart made even more headlines than the retailer’s plan to re-regionalize its food distribution network, which is if anything more significant. The world’s biggest retailer pledged to “double sales of locally sourced produce,” reduce in-store food waste, work with farmers on crop selection and sustainable practices, and encourage — or is that “force”? — suppliers to reconfigure processed foods into “healthier” forms. . .

Real food is spreading | There are now more than 6,000 farmers markets nationwide — about a 250 percent increase since 1994 (significant: there are half as many as there are domestic McDonald’s), and 900 of them are open during the winter. . . .

We’re not just buying, we’re growing | Urban agriculture is on the rise. If you’re smirking, let me remind you that in 1943, 20 million households (three-fifths of the population at that point) grew more than 40 percent of all the vegetables we ate. City governments are catching on, changing zoning codes and policies to make them more ag-friendly, . . .

Farming is becoming hip | The number of farms is at last increasing, although it’s no secret that farmers are an endangered species:  . . . But efforts by nonprofits like the eagerly awaited FoodCorps and The Greenhorns, both of which aim to introduce farming to a new generation of young people, are giving farming a new cachet of cool. . . .

The edible school lunch | The school lunch may have more potential positive influences than anything else, and we’re beginning to see it realized. . . . There are scores of other examples, and we’re finally seeing schools rethinking the model of how their food is sourced, cooked and served, while getting kids to eat vegetables. That’s good work. . . .

For the complete article click here.

Oak Park’s First Electric Car Parking Permit

In February, Glenn Hunter of Oak Park was issued the first free EV Parking permit for his all-electric vehicle (EV). Branded as the E-Car, it is marketed in the US by Electric Car Company LLC, Bonne Terre, Missouri. Under the current village program all-electric vehicles can park free of charge in Oak Park through 2012.

The 5-door, 4-passenger E-Car is intended for urban driving only and is limited to roads with a 35 mph or less speed limit. Mr. Hunter says his car has an operating range of at least 40 miles, costs him about $1.20 to “fill up”, and can be recharged to 50% capacity in 2 hours using 120 v. household current, the only suitable power source.

For $17,010, after 10% federal tax credit, you can start right now saving money, energy and reducing CO2 emissions. Not only does Glenn Hunter drive an E-Car, he also sells them.

See more at http://missionmainstreet.tumblr.com/search/electric+car and http://www.electric-carcompany.com/index.html.

How much money is your business wasting?!

Find Energy Cost Saving Opportunities FREE of Charge!

On average, 30% of energy used by facilities is either used inefficiently or wasted. Imagine what your current systems could be costing you!

The Delta Institute is offering free energy efficiency assistance that will help 150 eligible commercial buildings and industrial facilities in Cook County find and act on real opportunities to save on operations and maintenance.

Eligible facilities could receive:

  • An “energy audit” – a comprehensive assessment of a facility’s energy use that identifies the most cost-effective opportunities for energy savings.
  • Engagement with Delta’s expert staff to review the audit’s findings and find resources to implement identified strategies.
  • Retro-commissioning and direct installation services.
  • Access to funding for energy efficiency projects through Delta’s revolving loan program.
  • Assistance applying for government and utility energy efficiency incentive programs.

To be eligible, the building or facility must be located in one of the designated 110 Cook County municipalities. A full list of eligible communities, as well as the two-page application, is available online at www.delta-institute.org/cookefficiency. Or, for more information, contact Program Director Wyllys Mann at (312) 554-0900 x 27 or wmann@delta-institute.org.

About the Delta Institute. Since 1998, the Delta Institute has successfully demonstrated that a healthy economy and a healthy environment can go hand in hand. Delta fills funding gaps and implements innovative programs that promote a healthy environment, a strong economy and thriving, vibrant communities – blazing a trail for the green economy so others can successfully follow. For more information, visit www.delta-institute.org or call (312) 554-0900.

Global Warming Bursts Into World Affairs

We’re all aware of the turmoil in the Middle East.  Many of us know that staple food prices have been going up.  But not as many people understand that we are seeing global climate change push its way into world politics in an unprecedented way.

Right now food prices worldwide are at an all-time high

Global food prices increased for the eighth consecutive month in February, with prices of all commodity groups monitored rising again, except for sugar, [UN Food and Agriculture Organization] said today.  (Climateprogress.org, March 3, 2011)

For most Americans, who buy a two-dollar loaf of bread that has a nickel or a dime’s worth of wheat in it, this is a nuisance but not a severe threat.  But to people who live much closer to the edge, this means hunger.  This has been a major trigger of the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and nearly every other country in the Middle East.  Countries like Morocco that have not yet had major unrest are increasing food subsidies for this exact reason.  Of course there are plenty of other reasons to rebel– oppression, corruption, stagnation, etc. – but food prices helped to trigger this upsurge now.  (The next-highest prices for food were in 2008, and there were food riots then.)

If you follow the media carefully, you can find that food prices are an issue in all this unrest.  But what you probably won’t see or hear is that climate change is a major factor in the high prices.  Wheat is scarce because Russia had an extreme heat wave accompanied by massive forest fires, and as a result cut off all wheat exports. Australia – the world’s second-biggest wheat exporter – had a miserable harvest after years of drought and huge forest fires as well.  And Pakistan suffered floods that made twenty million people homeless, greatly affecting food production there too.

All of this unstable weather fits completely with the projections of what climate change has in store for us.  It is happening now.  It is causing hunger now.  It is causing political turmoil (and high gas prices) now.

Highly respected leader of the Worldwatch Institute Lester Brown believes “We’re in a dangerous situation and we really don’t realize how dangerous it is.” Brown senses the time might be right for the world to consider an “International Food Reserve” to act as a control on the interacting supply and demand factors…“We’re going to be living with tight food supplies and higher prices and all the instability that brings — through this harvest and likely the next harvest.”  (Climateprogress.org, March 9, 2011.  Brown cites climate change and other factors, including rising population and falling water tables, as reasons for food shortages.)

What’s coming next?  With something as complicated as climate change we can’t predict exactly what will break down, when, and how.  We are not far from a crisis that could cause major food shortages.  For now, it looks as if we may be dodging a bullet in China, which is getting rains that may end what looked like the worse drought in a long time.  China is normally self-sufficient in food, but obviously, if they had a bad harvest, they have enough money to buy food and drive up world food prices.

Can you imagine what will happen when there are bad harvests here in the Midwest, the world capital of food exports?  It’s too early to say, but there is a threat that the heavy snowpack in the upper Midwest will cause major flooding this year, with a big effect on harvests.  And heavier overall precipitation (rain or snow) is another predicted result of climate change – even while some places suffer drought.

In the long run, we will have much more unstable climate, and regions that now grow much of the world’s food will be unsuitable.  In the long-run, a good deal of low-lying land will either be under water, or ruined by salt seeping in from the ocean.  In the long run, the glaciers that provide water for a billion people will be depleted or gone.  All this has been known for a while.  But we need to see that this is not just a future issue to worry about.  It has begun.

We may never be able to pin any one climate disaster on global warming.  But we can say for sure that the way we are headed, there are going to be a lot more of them.  And we can surely attribute that overall pattern to global warming.

Submitted by:  Doug Burke

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