Register for the Tour and Join Us For a Party!

Green Community Connections' 2013 Green Living and Learning Tour is just a week away, on Septmber 28th.  With all the information about the Oak Park/River Forest event available in our posts about all the great tour sites, the schedule, the map, the one-hour guided tour descriptions and the drop-in opportunities descriptions, you are now well armed with everything you need to plan your day and to REGISTER for your selected tour stops! Eventbrite - 2013 Green Living & Learning Tour, presented by Green Community Connections


We invite all participants and their families to join us at Oak Park's Field Park (northwest corner @ Berkshire St. & Woodbine Ave.) at 5 p.m., immediately following the final green tours.  We will eat, play, and enjoy our sustainable community connections.


Sugar Beet Co-op members are providing a Harvest Picnic free for all Green Living & Learning Tour participants. Picture a huge green salad, homemade bread and spreads, Italian panzanella salad, quinoa, kale, and other scrumptious freshly made - and in many cases, locally grown - food waiting for you after you finish up an afternoon of great tours.

We'll reflect on the tours we experienced during the day, recognize hosts, sponsors and volunteers, and we'll even give away some green door prizes!  Please join us.


Photos from the 2012 Closing Celebration


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Three Special Green Living Tour Sites to Visit on Sept. 28


Green Community Connections' upcoming Green Living & Learning Tour 2013 on September 28th offers participants the opportunity to visit an array of homes and gardens that employ a variety of sustainable living practices.  Here are three unique tour stops that we wanted to highlight for you. 4 - Permeable-pavers-at-Sue-and-Bills-house-300x226Ecological Design

807 Forest Ave, River Forest, Tour at 2:30 pm (#4 on 2013 Tour Map)

Ecological principles were designed and built into this sustainably built home - the first of its kind in the Oak Park/River Forest area.  The home includes renewable energy, energy efficiency, water and resource conservation, and toxic free materials.  It's water conservation features include rainwater catchment for irrigation, native landscaping, permeable driveway and water-saving faucets and showerheads.  The homeowners have welcomed many visitors into their home since 2008 when it was built and look forward to this year's tour.



Save $$$, Increase Comfort, Decrease Carbon Footprint

616 Wenonah, Oak Park, Tour at 4:00pm (#9 on 2013 Tour Map)

The Environmentalist’s Dilemma:  Is it possible to keep your home warm in winter and cool in summer without doing a whole lot of damage to the environment?  It is, and what's best, it's possible to do it on a reasonable budget.  After sealing and insulating their house, the homeowners had the warmest winter in their home in 15 years and their energy bills were lower than they had ever been.  Learn about air sealing and insulating and the fantastic rebates available to help make a more comfortable, environmentally friendly, (and valuable) home a reality. The Bonus: See a blower door test in action: a diagnostic tool designed to measure the air-tightness of buildings. and to help locate air leakage sites.


C - Bicycle SafetyBiking Safely in an Urban Area & Biking Supports

Greenline Wheels, 105 S. Marion, Oak Park Drop-in:  1:00-3:00pm (#C on 2013 Tour Map)

Get tips on how to stay safe while biking in an urban area. Greenline Wheels’ safety experts are teaching safety and adventure as part of the Green Living & Learning Tour.  Instruction focuses on basics such as checking and fitting gears, signaling, braking, and more. Greenline Wheels representatives will also familiarize participants with other biking supports that they offer.


Harvest Picnic with Green Community Connections and Sugar-Beet Co-op

For the end of the day, all are invited for a Harvest Picnic gathering at Field Park, hosted by Sugar Beet Co-Op.  All are welcome to join us at 5:00 p.m. in the northwest corner of the park (Berkshire & Woodbine) for fresh food, fun, prizes and community!

For more information about the event, including registration information for all 18 sites, visit the tour page at Green Community Connections.

Frank Lloyd Wright + Geothermal in Oak Park


A very special East Avenue house on the Green Living and Learning Tour 2013 on September 28th was designed in early 1896 as one of about 30 production houses to be built in a full-block subdivision by Frank Lloyd Wright's friend Charles E. Roberts.  The area is now bounded by four streets in Oak Park: Chicago, Scoville, Superior and Elmwood.  The envisioned subdivision was not executed and “so far as anyone knows, our house is the only design (of at least five separate ones) actually built,” says Mark Donovan, the current homeowner.  The house was built later that same year by a one-time millionaire inventor, Harry Goodrich, and his wife, Louisa.  The Donovan/Ludgin family is the sixth to own the house. 534-N-East-Ave"When we purchased the house in 1999, Mary and I didn't originally set out to make the house so efficient and relatively green," said Mark, adding, "We've slowly learned, and sought out, ways to restore the house which respect its history and significance but also incorporate 21st century efficiency technology."

In 2005, the couple was exploring upgrading the heating system both to replace the inefficient old boiler as well as to remove the first floor radiators which compromised historic restoration of the home.  "One thing led to another once I began to educate myself about optimizing the efficiency of hot water heat, " reported Mark.  The couple decided on underfloor radiant heat on the first floor, which led them to lower the basement floor 13" in order to radiantly heat the basement floor.  This step indirectly led to looking into ground source - "geothermal" - heat pumps.  These changes required the services of a local mechanical engineer who happened to be experienced in and a fan of various approaches to energy efficiency including ground source, and, Mark says, "Then we really started to get into it."  All their efficiency upgrades have grown out of this initial experience, via reading and other routes of research.

The owners report the house's mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems are now essentially completely new, nearly invisible, and highly efficient.  The house is also nearly fully insulated and air-sealed to the extent feasible without compromising the house's historical character.  The amount of rainwater directed into the Village's sewers is reduced by nearly 50%, and the homeowners use CFLs and LEDs wherever they do not detract from the appearance of antique light fixtures.

The home’s reduced energy consumption over the period 2006-2013, even with significantly enlarged square footage of space now within the conditioned thermal envelope is evident in this graph, created by the homeowner .

Annual Energy Expense per S.F.

You can visit this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home during the Green Living & Learning Tour in Oak Park and River Forest on Sept. 28th.  For more information about the event, including registration information for all 18 sites, visit the tour page at Green Community Connections.

Tour Native Gardens at Cheney Mansion and More with Wild Ones


as told to GCC by West Cook Chapter co-founder Ginger Vanderveer Let’s go a little wild on September 28th and visit the native side of Oak Park during the Green Living and Learning Tour 2013. This stop on the all-day tour serves as the West Cook Chapter Wild Ones September meeting; all are welcome to attend the event and/or to join the local chapter. Wild Ones promotes the use of native plants in landscaping in order to save eco-systems that nurture bees and butterflies – and vice versa.

PotagerCloseUPOn September 28th, starting at noon, visit Cheney Mansion in Oak Park and explore the potager (kitchen garden) there. Our host, Charlie Ruedebusch, will lead a guided tour of the Cheney garden from 1 to 2 p.m, describing how the garden has evolved over the past ten years and sharing the joys and benefits (and pop a few myths) of choosing native plantings in the home landscape. Native plants attract beneficial insects to help pollinate the vegetable garden. Bring a few small paper bags and a pen – you’ll get to collect seeds of the native plants you most desire in your garden.

GoldFinchAfter Charlie’s tour, at 2:30 p.m. there will be an opportunity to join a group bicycle ride across Oak Park searching out food sources for bees, butterflies, and birds. We will visit gardens with native plantings that serve these creatures well.  Bees and butterflies sniff out the fragrance from the nectar of native plants because it’s a fragrance they’ve smelled for thousands of years. Birds chomp greedily on the seeds of these same plants. On the bike trip we’ll admire the diversity of these hardy natives and how well they manage in our soil. Parks, schools and churches offer great opportunities to use green space to feed the creatures that work so hard pollinating the food humans eat. The bicycle tour will make stops at Scoville Park, Jackson Boulevard parkway, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Elmwood Street, Beye School and more.

MilkweedBee029 - Copy (5)The 2013 Tour Map is available so that visitors who wish to see these gardens on their own may stop by these locations as well. From big to small, parkway to front yard, all native to mixed plantings - you’ll see a variety that will inspire you to add some natives to your garden. We also hope to have some sightings of butterflies, birds, and bees. Visiting these treasures at a leisurely pace will be our goal for the afternoon. Join us and feel the simple pleasure of going native.


For more information about the event, including registration information for all 18 sites, visit the tour page at Green Community Connections.

Eco-conscious Home was Effort of Local Experts


When Craig and Megan Chesney first decided to deconstruct their old home in Oak Park and build a new, larger one, they began to research options for eco-conscious building.  They talked to a lot of people and went on tours similar to the Green Living & Learning Tour to learn more.  According to Megan, the building of their home was intentionally “very much a local effort from an amazing team of experts.” 6-634Clinton

Megan says Oak Park architect, Drew Nelson of WDN Architecture, LLC, “Did a wonderful job of making a new home blend into an old neighborhood.”  She continued, “Our builder, Dave Himelick (Himelick Contracting) is an Oak Parker who was open to all of our crazy ideas including a 2,000 gallon tank in our basement.  Our neighbor Jim Gill helped us understand photovoltaic science and navigate the government rebate system.  Yet another neighbor helped with design. Finally, many visits were made to Green Home Experts to get advice from Maria [Onesto Moran].”

According to the architect, 80% of the old home was recycled, and the new home is 60% more efficient than current codes require (see more details from the architect in this Wednesday Journal article). The indoor rainwater collection system (including the 2,000 gallon tank!) was adapted from one the Chesneys saw in a home in River Forest “whose owners [Bill Gee and Sue Crothers Gee] so graciously shared their knowledge with us,” said Megan.  She says that in 2008, when they began their project, “green building” was just taking off.  “Geothermal was something done more in Europe than the U.S., and when we inquired about a grey water system, we were told it couldn’t be done in Illinois.”  The new home is heated and cooled by a geothermal system.

At the time, many people told the Chesneys that solar energy was not viable in Illinois or the Midwest, and they found that the Village of Oak Park was just beginning to understand how to process solar permits.  The home now has solar panels to supplement electricity, and to date, according to Megan, the SunPower monitoring system reports that the home “has produced 12,286 kWh, reducing emissions equivalent to not driving 20,191 miles in a standard car or the same as planting 226 seedlings grown for 10 years.”

Megan and Craig are pleased to know that many of the features and materials they have in their home “are now common practice” and those who are conducting even “the smallest of home projects have many great [green] options.”


You can visit the Chesney’s Oak Park home during the Green Living & Learning Tour in Oak Park and River Forest on Sept. 28th.  For more information about the event, including registration information for all 18 sites, visit the tour page at Green Community Connections.

Going Green in a Condo


Ever since she was a child, Lisa Kozinski, owner of an Oak Park condo you can visit on the 2013 Green Living & Learning Tour on September 28, has entertained thoughts some of us might be afraid to face, such as, “What if the water stopped running through the pipes? How would we get water then?” As she got older, that line of thinking “intensified” when she fed the thoughts with research, films, and books such as Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. From Kingsolver’s book (summarized at bottom), Lisa was led to read others in which authors shared their similar beliefs, that “we are heading for a time when going to a fully-stocked grocery store in any season will become a thing of the past,” she said, adding, “We need to equip ourselves with the skills it will take to survive when such a time occurs.” Lisa has found this kind of thinking “oddly comforting” – primarily because it confirmed her earlier thoughts and gave them framework and purpose.  She says she felt a sense of urgency to make the changes in her life that would address these ideas.

condoFirst and foremost, Lisa (pictured at left in her garden with her family) decided to use the “tiny bit of useless backyard behind [her] six-flat” to grow some of her own food. It took some planning, as it was nothing more than a muddy patch of land where, she reports, “nothing would grow and was used mostly as a dog run”. When the dog (and the neighbor) moved out, Lisa seized her chance, digging drainage ditches and spreading mulch over the top with other neighbors in the building. "We then built four raised beds and filled them with soil," she said. "At the same time, I had to figure out what I could even grow in my backyard, since my readings suggested that any garden with less than six hours of direct sunlight would not produce anything. As I observed the sunlight patterns, we were lucky if we got three-to-four hours of direct light a day. I was undaunted, however, and decided to try a variety of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and even some berries. As with any experiment, not all of the plants have thrived, but many have done so well, that I now pronounce my garden a success.”  

At last year’s Green Living and Learning Tour, Lisa took a pledge to start canning. While she knew “nothing” about how to do it, she says she “could hardly wait for the spring and summer to arrive.” She is pleased to be canning her own jams, tomatoes and pickles, knowing that she would be able to use them all year long without fear of BPA and knowing that what she preserves comes from local farmers in season. “I still have a lot to learn, and each year I will take something new away, trying new recipes and methods and tweaking them to my taste buds. It has been an adventure that I look forward to continuing each and every summer!”

Visit Lisa, her family and the garden in back of their condo during the Green Living & Learning Tour in Oak Park and River Forest on Sept. 28th.  After checking out the raised bed gardens, composting and rain barrel in the tiny back yard, visitors can head upstairs where Lisa will be discussing various methods of home food preservation, including canning and fermentation.  Under the umbrella of canning, we will talk about making fruit jams and pickling vegetables.  As for the far more ancient method of lacto-fermentation, we will discuss how to make milk kefir, yogurt, and fermented vegetables, such as pickles and sauerkraut.  There are many nutritional as well as environmental benefits to both of these methods of home food preservation.

For more information about the event, including registration information for all 18 sites, visit the tour page at Green Community Connections.



Since its release in May 2007, Animal Vegetable, Miracle has helped launch a modern transition in America’s attitudes toward food. In this lively account of a family’s locavore year on their farm in Southern Appalachia, Barbara Kingsolver and her coauthors unearth the secret lives of vegetables and the unexpected satisfactions of knowing their food producers — and sometimes their dinner — on a first-name basis. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet. - from the book’s website

First Ever GreenBuilt Home Tour Features Local OPRF Residents


The two homes we featured in this previoiusly published post will be on the Sept. 28th Green Living and Learning Tour.  We are happy to bring another opportunity to the public to tour these "green-built" homes.  Read more about them and plan to visit them on the Tour! The first ever GreenBuilt Home Tour will take place on Saturday, July 20 and Sunday, July 21 and homes will be open from 10 am – 6 pm on both days.  The tour’s theme, Living Healthy and Saving Green, features 16 exceptional, award-winning, nationally-recognized Chicago area homes, including two stops in Oak Park and River Forest. GreenBuilt_Logo_Tag3

By attending the tour, you will learn about the latest advances in healthy living, energy and resource efficiency, and cost-effective green design. Home owners, as well as the builders, architects and area leaders building sustainable homes will be onsite to answer questions and share their experience with the sustainable building process. For more information on the tour and to purchase tickets, or to volunteer, check out the website at Enter the coupon code "green" for $5.00 off your ticket price!


Featured Oak Park Home


The Doyle residence, underwent a deconstruction and gut rehab in 2012.  The project won a 2012 Green Award from the Village of Oak Park and incorporated green innovations for energy and resource conservation, while preserving the character of the original Prairie-style, American Four Square home. The home utilizes a geothermal energy system for HVAC and domestic hot water. It includes one of the first residential greywater systems in IL, anticipated to save 20-30% on indoor water use by recycling water from tubs/showers into toilets.

Ana Garcia Doyle is active member of Green Community Connections and leader of the One Earth Film Festival.  Ana and Jim Doyle and family hosted a water conservation tour stop for the 2012 Green Living and Learning Tour.  At that time, the house was still under construction.  If you haven’t seen the completed project, the GreenBuilt Home Tour would be an excellent opportunity to do so.


Featured River Forest Home


 Oak Park architect Tom Bassett-Dilley has designed the first certified passive house to be built in the Chicago area and 28th in the nation.  The new house, built for the Lema family, uses only a small fraction of the heating and cooling energy of a conventional house.  What is a Passive House?  Passive House is the most stringent building energy efficiency standard in the world; it requires that the envelope of the home is designed to minimize losses and maximize passive gains, with careful attention to building science and indoor air quality. The result is a super comfortable home with minimal operating costs, great indoor air quality, and far less maintenance requirements than a typical home. With its cost-effective emphasis on the building envelope, Passive design is a good first step toward Net Zero building.

For information and tickets or to volunteer:

Seeking Volunteers for Green Living and Learning Tour

Consider being part of making this year’s Green Living & Learning Tour - on September 28th - a great event by volunteering!  There are many different ways to help. Sign up now, and if you know others who'd be interested in volunteering for this change-making event, please direct them to the sign up page.

Get involved and become a part of this vibrant, enthusiastic group that's working toward a resilient, sustainable community!

Green Living & Learning Tour - Prospective Volunteer Gathering

Consider being part of making this year’s Green Living & Learning Tour a great event by volunteering!  There are many different ways to help.Tour Stop #16:  Grey Matters:  Installing OP's First Grey Water System was a No-Brainer

1. PROSPECTIVE VOLUNTEER GATHERING. Join us for food and conversation and to explore where your interests and talents intersect with tour tasks.  To learn more about being a tour volunteer, please join us!

Date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013, 7:30pm
Place: (NOTE CHANGE) Mills Park Towers Community Room,
1025 Pleasant Place (between Pleasant St and Randolph, turn East off of Marion), Oak Park


2. VOLUNTEER SIGN-UP. Can't join us for the August 20 info session, but still want to help? Sign up now. If you know others who'd be interested in volunteering for this change-making event, please let them know about the information session and direct them to the sign up page. Get involved and become a part of this vibrant, enthusiastic group that's working toward a resilient, sustainable community. See here for more information about the event, including press coverage from last year's Green Living and Learning Tour.

Be Part of the West Cook Wildlife Corridor


Submitted by Pam Todd Our next Wild Ones meeting, Sunday, August 25 at 2:30 PM, at the Good Earth Greenhouse and Café (7900 W Madison, River Forest), will be the kick off for our Wildlife Corridor. We'll be featuring Ginger Vanderveer with a presentation on Monarch Watch and the beautiful, easy-to-grow plants you can add to your garden to provide habitat for this species - Illinois' state insect - which has suffered severe population decline.

To help you get started - or expand your collection - we'll have local ecotype milkweed plugs available at a reduced price. This is an ideal time to add plants to your garden and give them a leg up before next spring.  Cost will be about $2-$3 per plug, depending on variety.

wildonesIt's (Almost) Official  Thanks to you, West Cook now has 18 Wild Ones Members. We're in the process of becoming chartered, choosing a permanent meeting place and time, and arranging some great events and speakers for the year ahead. Stay tuned for more information - and if you haven't already joined, visit today.

Your Talents Are Needed There are so many things we can accomplish together, but we need your help!  Please reply to this email and let us know if you'd be interested in becoming a West Cook WIld Ones board member or occasionally volunteering to help with programs, events, membership, etc.

Coming Soon: A Native Garden Tour Our September meeting will be the native garden event we're putting together for GCC's Green Living and Learning Tour on Saturday, September 28.  Keep up to date on news of this event on the tour page.