Green Living: Deepening our Resolve in 2014


Going green, developing a sustainable lifestyle and a resilient community is a journey. Following are green New Year’s resolutions from a few Green Community Connections members. Let’s help each other and hold each other accountable! Pam:  Welcoming life back to this little outpost on the earth we share with all beings by planting more natives, eliminating lawn, and educating myself on how the choices I make impact the health of the soil, water, and ecosystem.

Laurie:  To get out more in the evenings with my family. I hope we will attend a few school concerts or plays, explore the library or simply enjoy a walk under the stars.

Dick: Take out our lawn and put in a native garden...why grow a lawn when one could have native habitat with deep roots protecting our soil and water. I would also like to get to zero carbon - I need to drastically reduce with my energy use - by putting solar on my roof, my congregation's roof, and push Oak Park solar.

Continue reading this article to see more resolutions - and to add your own!

93555902_6740a0c56e_zSally:  I'd like to spend more time in nature – to care for myself and learn from and about natural systems. I also want to reduce my use of fossil fuel-based energy: increase our home energy efficiency, seriously consider solar, bicycle more, and drive less. (Become fossil-fuel free in 10 years!) Additionally, I want to develop my political voice (and not just through signing online petitions) – get out, demonstrate, lobby, get arrested?!

Katie:  I'm trying to live by example at work. Our office recently switched from brewed coffee to Keurig, wasting hundreds of pieces of plastic, probably every day.  They also insist on plastic cutlery, and styrofoam in the kitchen. I've brought my own french press, as well as utensils and dishes to use during the day. It may seem like a small move, but someone asks me about it in the kitchen, and have the opportunity to explain why I made the choice. I've also made an intention to put my health first.  Might not seem related to environmentalism, but the way I see it, the only way I'll be able to make changes, and be a voice for change, is to be my best, healthiest self.

Ana:  Get outside! Everyday if possible, get out to walk to dog, breath the air, clear my mind, observe wildlife, bring my kids -- even if for just a few minutes a day. To get me "unstuck," or to get me inspired. What a difference it can make!  Also, to get further down my list of urban homesteading skill-building: get better at canning & preserving, build a solar oven, try more permaculture projects like planting a fruit tree guild & learning more about how to build food forests.

Add Your Resolutions

Whether you’re a believer in small steps or one who likes to dream big, we invite you to share your green New Year’s resolution(s). We can root for one another and perhaps make some connections to provide practical support for one another!  Add a comment to this post and/or on our Facebook page to let us know your plans for the new year - and the new you.

Consider attending the Active Hope workshop we are holding beginning Monday, January 13! it is a chance to gain strength from others with similar commitments.

One Earth Film Festival brings messages of hope for the planet


With two successful festivals to their credit, organizers of the One Earth Film Festival have higher expectations coming into the third year. They’re intent on bringing the most compelling environmental films to more viewers in more locations throughout Chicagoland in 2014. As in past years, festival films must fit five main areas (energy, food, water, transportation and waste/recycling) and more than a dozen topic categories, such as architecture/sustainable building, environmental advocacy, climate change, and social justice. The film review team pays special attention to selections deemed appropriate for children. Every chosen film is intended to “educate, raise awareness and inspire the adoption of solution-oriented sustainable actions."

Read more about the selection process and meet some of the film review team.

20131208_195810-1 copyThe film selection process

For the 15 members of the film team, the process started this past fall as they began compiling a masterlist of nearly 200, aiming to get that list down to about 30 feature and short-length films for the festival in March 2014. Each team member then created a “watchlist” of up to eight films that they would view all the way through and complete a Film Report Card on each. The watchlist list was further reduced to a “go-list” of the reviewers’ top films.

All films on the go-list required a second - and sometimes third - reviewer to vet them. A final film selection meeting identified about 45 films.  The final festival line-up will be officially announced in late December/early January.

The results are worth the work

In the end, after all the films have been screened at the festival and their messages absorbed, members of the selection team are hoping something meaningful happens.

We asked our film reviewers to share some thoughts on the 2014 festival and film selection process. Here’s what several said:

Q: How would you describe your experience selecting films for One Earth Film Fest 2014?

Jo Ellen Siddens, Restoration Ecologist/Marine Diver, resident of Downers Grove: "As a second year member of the Film Selection Team, I have been willingly drawn from outside the immediate Green Community Connections community into the Film Fest's exciting early years of development.  The intense passion and great camaraderie shared among team members at this "grass roots" level is inspiring. I am convinced that the One Earth Film Festival is on the path to becoming the Chicago area nexus for screening critical environmental messages."

Gloria Araya, Associate Director The Foundation for Human Potential, resident of Chicago: "Watching films I consider to have negative messages makes me turn around and to focus more and more on what’s positive out there, and how to find ways to bring it out into light. There is so much focus on what’s wrong around us, and yet, there is so much to be thankful and grateful for. It is in the presence of beauty, and how this beauty makes people feel that they/we “fall in love”. It is my humble opinion that if the focus of the festival is more and more on what is good out there, and how to do more of that, instead of focusing on what’s so wrong, One Earth Film Festival may become then a path to take where everyone who attends the festival may start to fall in love with this beautiful place call Earth, and then true change will start to take place in the hearts, and minds of people."

OEFF-film team-2

Q: What compelling messages are you seeing in One Earth film possibilities that you are reviewing currently?

Cassandra West, founder of Media Access, resident of Oak Park: “One of the messages coming through in film after film is that the Earth's destiny is in our hands. We all have some measure of power to combat climate change, improve the air, water and soil. Everything we need to do hinges on changing our desires and scaling back our wants. The Earth, as she always has, will supply all of our needs. Many of the films we’re selecting inform us of the destruction we’ve wrought and the ways to bring us back into harmony and balance with the planet.”

Ginger Vanderveer, owner of Northside Valley Eco-Vacation Villas, resident of Oak Park: “I am looking for films that uplift the human spirit. I want attendees to get excited about our community of 'greenies' that build 'One Earth'. I imagine our filmgoers running out the door (after a screening) to work on the topic that most touched their hearts. As I screen the films I send notes back and forth to various other screeners based on what I know of their passion. In turn, I get notes from my fellow screeners when they see something that they believe I would love to view. This type of camaraderie uplifts my human spirit. I am excited to work within my community and to run out and try some of the solutions portrayed on the films.”


Q: What film are you "rooting for" to make it to the final program? Why?

Sally Stovall, co-founder of Green Community Connections, resident of Oak Park: “I'm rooting for ‘Harmony’ for lots of reasons, but primarily, this is a very strong film that gets at the root of the transformation that will be needed to find our way through this crisis, i.e., changing our way of thinking to live more in harmony with the natural systems.”

Cheryl Munoz, co-founder of Sugar Beet Co-Op, resident of Oak Park: “My favorite film selection is “OMG GMO” for the simple reason that it made me happy. A documentary about GMOs is not supposed to be endearing and funny and lovable! The storyteller, in this case is fun-loving dad Jeremy Seiffert, and he pulled me in right away with his charm and earnest hopes for his two young boys. As a mother of two young kids, I connected right away with him and trusted that he was going to tell me a good story... and he did. Jeremy and his young family set out on a road trip to learn more about Genetically Modified Foods. Along the way he meets with farmers, scientists and others who are impacted by industrial agriculture. Sure, I felt outraged by the lack of information regarding GMOs and looming safety concerns and how corporate greed trumps the common good, but I was ultimately cheered on by Jeremy, his family and the people he met along his journey that are working to label and restrict the use of GM foods. The message is hopeful.”

Declaration of Interdependence

Friday, Mar 1, 7P/Pleasant Home, Oak Park - Tickets
Sunday, Mar 3, 6:00P/Unity Temple, Oak Park - Tickets

4 min

Themed for Green Community Connections.  Connect with us!

Programming note:  will be seen at Opening and Closing Events

Solar Array on Avenue Garage Produces Clean, Renewable Energy!!

Based on information in the video submitted by K.C. Poulos, Oak Park Sustainability Manager The village of Oak Park recently installed an array of solar panels on the roof of the Avenue Garage. This video tells the story of the solar array and the benefits to the environment.

One of the biggest challenges of installing the solar array was the crane work. Huge cranes were required to lift the equipment for the array up to the roof of the garage. In order to safely operate the cranes a day with very little wind was required. Fortunately we found a Sunday in March with winds less than 10 miles per hour. The crew was able to get the work done in 8-10 hours.

75% of the cost of the project was funded by a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity as a result of funding from the American Recovery and Renewal Act. Oak Park was recognized as a community that has the will power to invest in what we believe in.

The array will provide 20-30% of the electricity needed to light the garage, plus 130 Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC's) annually that can be sold on the open market.

The solar array will eliminate the release of 76 tons of CO2 per year, which is roughly equivalent in carbon sequestration to planting 38 acres of trees every year!

More information can be found in the June issue of the OP/FYI or email

The Sugar Beet -- a New Kind of Local Food Co-op Coming to Oak Park

by the Sugar Beet Cooperative Team

The Sugar Beet Cooperative is a new kind of local food co-op that is coming to Northeast Oak Park. Cheryl Munoz and Jenny Jocks Stelzer are two Oak Parkers who, with the support and hard work of their friends, neighbors, and (as of right now) 338 Facebook supporters, are spearheading the effort to make local, sustainable food more accessible to the Oak Park and Austin communities year-round.

Combining Sale of Locally Grown Food with Educational Programming

The Sugar Beet is in its early development phase, and its founders are currently hard at work establishing their vision and aligning it with the hopes and expectations of the community. They have prioritized providing access to local sustainable food by connecting farmers to eaters AND developing a community organization that works to provide a space for education, discussion, and action on topics like gardening, cooking, preserving, and eating together. The Sugar Beet will be a new kind of food cooperative in that it will be both a corner store that sells food and products from local farmers and producers AND a community center with educational programming and outreach activities for the underserved regional food shed in the Oak Park and Austin communities.

Stunned by Extent of Community Support

Munoz and Jocks Stelzer have been stunned by the show of support they have received from the community and the extent to which neighbors and supporters are eager to help make The Sugar Beet happen. They are reading and responding to ideas and discussions through social media, meeting with those who have reached out as specific resources, such as Seven Generations Ahead, the Dill Pickle Food Co-op, and Oak Park-River Forest, and building working groups so that all who are interested in volunteering with the effort to build the co-op can get involved.

Opportunities to Meet Members of the Sugar Beet Team and Learn More

The Sugar Beet will be at the Local Food Forum follow-up meeting on May 16th from 7 – 8:30 p.m. At the Oak Park Conservatory; everyone who wants to get involved, or to learn about the co-op are invited.  The Sugar Beet will be at the Go Green Days at the OP Farmers' Market on May 19th  and 26th  from 9 am and 12 noon (The Market, of course, is 7 – 1)  and at Oak Park’s A Day In Our Village on June 3 (Scoville Park). They will also be talking with the community about memberships in the co-op during the Oak Park Farmers’ Market season and conducting a big fundraising event in July at Fitzgerald’s.  Details are forthcoming.  Drop by to meet the team, buy a beautiful and sustainable The Sugar Beet t-shirt, and to join in the efforts to bring a new kind of local, sustainable food cooperative to the community!

The Sugar Beet’s Mission:

The Sugar Beet Cooperative will provide high quality, locally sourced food produced in ecologically sounds ways. Not only will we offer good food at fair value to member-owners and the community, The Sugar Beet Co-op will also serve as a neighborhood gathering place for sharing and learning, which in turn will support our regional food shed.

The vision of The Sugar Beet Co-op is to nurture our diverse community through the practice of cooperative economics and through educational programming honoring a more sustainable relationship between the foods we eat and the world we live in.

The Sugar Beet’s Values:

Economy: Create a vibrant not-for-profit business whose success stimulates cooperative activity. Localism: Ensure our community has access to a marketplace with healthy, safe, and local goods that have a positive environmental and social impact. Wellness: Provide our community with direct access to solutions that contribute to heath and wellness. Education: Create opportunities for our diverse community to learn about cooperative economics and the interconnectivity between healthful foods, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility. Community: Nurture ecologically regenerative and socially just community development efforts that reach beyond our community and our generation. Model Workplace: Develop a model workplace that demonstrates a professional culture of mutual support and open communication, based on the balance of personal and organizational needs.

First Ever, One Earth Film Festival -- Educational, Inspiring, Transformative

by Cassandra West

The first-ever One Earth Film Festival was by all accounts educational, inspiring—and transformative. Featuring more than two dozen environmental films, the festival drew 500 people to screenings at 15 locations around Oak Park and River Forest.

The three-day festival kicked off on a Friday evening with a Green Carpet Gala and two film screenings at the Oak Park Conservatory. Oak Park Village President David Pope and sustainability manager K.C. Poulos were among those attending the gala. Saturday’s schedule began with the showing of “Waste Land,” an Academy Award nominated Best Feature Documentary, at the Lake Theater.

In one of the more intimate settings, a small living room above Buzz Café, about 20 people gathered around a TV set to watch “Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us,” while a small hive of bees sat on a table nearby. “People could see a queen (bee) surrounded by workers doing their thing,” David Gilley, venue coordinator, said. “It was the ultimate warm and fuzzy image to take away.”Sunday’s schedule featured a morning of films for children at Beye Elementary School and afternoon screenings at the River Forest Park District, Oak Park Library and Green Home Experts. Discussions that allowed viewers to offer their reflections followed every screening.

The festival weekend ended Sunday evening with 60 people turning out for a showing of “Dirt!” at Pleasant Home. Following the film, small groups talked about the impact of the weekend and discussed ideas for action. “People were clearly inspired, and I was surprised at the number of people who declared the actions they are going to be taking,” venue facilitator Seamus Ford said.

Lighted Crosswalks Debut on Roosevelt Road


Making our Community Safer for Walking and Biking

Crossing Roosevelt Road at Lombard Avenue, Gunderson Avenue and Home Avenue should be a little safer now that lighted crosswalks have been installed. In-roadway warning lights, as they are officially known, were installed as part of the Roosevelt Road streetscape improvement project.  In-Roadway Warning Lights (IRWL) were developed to reduce crosswalk accidents, improve pedestrian safety, and decrease the number of pedestrian injuries and deaths caused by driver inattention or limited visibility conditions. 

In addition to the fl ashing beacons and enhanced signage erected for most mid-block pedestrian crossings, the new In-Roadway Warning Light crosswalks include solar-powered LED lights placed within the roadway pavement along the marked crosswalk. They are activated by pedestrian push-buttons located on each side of the crosswalk.The fl ashing lights warn motorists in advance of the crosswalk to brake to a full stop for crossing pedestrians.

Even though state law requires motorists to stop for pedestrians in marked crosswalks, officials say pedestrians can have difficulty getting the right of way without traffic signs or signals, a situation the warning lights may help to remedy. Pressing a button activates a signpost beacon and flashing, in-pavement lights, giving the pedestrian about 30 seconds to cross before the system automatically turns off. The energy-efficient LED lights are solar powered.

Officials caution pedestrians to be sure vehicles are stopped before proceeding into the crosswalk. The crosswalks selected for the lighted crossings had the most pedestrians and pedestrian incidents, officials say. For more information regarding these and other enhancements as part of the Roosevelt Road streetscape project, visit

Power Shift 2011 - 10,000 Gather in DC for Youth Conference on Clean Energy & Climate Change

Post Submitted by Dan Nicklebein, OPRF HS Class of 2010

As I get off the bus at the corner of 7th and M Street, I feel the excitement beginning to build in the air around me. I see dozens of other young people hurrying in and out of the crowded building, all wearing green lanyards. The rest of my fellow Macalester students pick up their belongings, and the 31 of us quickly get in line inside the Washington D.C. Convention Center. The mood inside the Convention Center is electric, as thousands of other passionate young people prepare to listen to Al Gore, Van Jones, and other dynamic environmental leaders. As I wait in line to register, I can’t help but feel energized as I see countless other students ready to learn, listen, and engage in ways to help fight climate change. This is Power Shift, the world’s largest youth conference on clean energy and climate change, where I am just one of 10,000 other young people interested in helping shape our future. We are the generation that will be most affected by climate change, and I am thrilled to see some many people my age interested in the development of clean energy.

As excited as I was for Power Shift to begin, I couldn’t help but feel relief as well. At Macalester, I was one of the campus coordinators that helped organize for and promote Power Shift on our campus. Getting 31 students to drop everything and take a 22 hour bus ride to Washington DC was somewhat of a difficult sell, but our campus is generally active in dealing with climate and energy issues. My fellow campus coordinators and I ended up raising $6,000 to cover the bus and food costs for us while we would be in DC. We heavy publicized Power Shift across campus and tried to convince as many students as possible to attend. We also found housing for all students so that no one would have to pay for housing while in DC. Macalester students stayed with a mix of friends, family, and Macalester alumni that generously opened up their homes to us for the weekend. After helping to organize all this, I was ready for the conference to begin!

After hearing Al Gore and Van Jones speak on Friday night, I returned to Power Shift on Saturday ready to get to work. Conference attendees were broken up by states in rooms throughout the conference center. The first part of the day, we were broken up into small groups of four or five and placed with a group facilitator. This session focused on telling stories, not just any story, but the story of who we are, why we were here, and what this conference meant to us. We learned new techniques to more effectively convey our desired message and how to best share our stories. After quickly grabbing some lunch, the Macalester delegation returned to the Conference Center to attend informative panels dealing with a variety of subjects. We had the option of choosing from nearly 40 panels, in subjects that included fracking, environmental economics, politics (one panel was appropriately titled “What to Do When the President is Just Not That Into You), and environmental racism. My favorite panel discussed transportation and talked about how to make environmentally friendly means of transport (like high speed rail) a reality.

The entertainment for the evening was none other than Lisa Jackson, the EPA Administrator. Administrator Jackson has been a champion for the environment, and has been willing to take on big polluters in order to do what is right for the environment and the American people. It was truly an honor that she spoke to us at Power Shift, and I consider it a testament to the strength the youth climate movement that she came to the conference. Another highlight of the evening was Tim DeChristopher, a young environmentalist who in March was convicted of disrupting a federal auction of lands in Utah in order to prevent oil and gas companies from taking control of the lands.

Sunday brought another round of training workshops and small group strategy sessions. One of the highlights of the day was the “statewide breakout” time, when state delegations met in rooms across the Convention Center to discuss ways to create a network of climate activists in their states. The Minnesota breakout was one full of energy and enthusiasm, and we set a number of tasks to accomplish over the next year.

Monday was our final day at Power Shift, and it was also the day of the non-violent direct action set to happen across the street from the White House in Lafayette Square Park. Over 3,000 students came to confront dirty energy promoters like the US Chamber of Commerce and BP and to show them that they do not speak for everyday Americans. As the protest was happening, hundreds of other Power Shift attendees descended on Capitol Hill, where they met with senators and representatives and delivered our message of clean energy and lowered emissions.

After three days of non-stop action, I just about collapsed as soon as I got on the bus headed back to Minnesota. Power Shift was an incredible experience, one that I will remember for the rest of my life. Being surrounded by 10,000 other passionate young people made me even more ready to continue the fight to reduce emissions and increase clean energy, and the tools and knowledge I gained at Power Shift will be helpful for many years to come.

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.