Environmental Book Study: Small is Beautiful


Small is Beautiful - Economics as if People Mattered By E.F. Schumacher (1973) A classic in its time and eerily accurate in the description of where society was headed if it continued to be guided by the science of economics (as currently practiced), the culture of materialism, and the “efficiency of the market”.

Date: Monday, August 19, 2013, 7:00pm - 9:00pm

Place: 927 S. Kenilworth Oak Park, IL

To RSVP or to get more information email Jim Babcock jlbabck@sbcglobal.net, or call 630-740-0638.

delightfulSchumacher presents an alternative people-centered, values-centered, and reality-based foundation for social production that stays within the bounds of natural laws while it provides for our material and spiritual needs.

Read more of insightful quotes from this Summer's discussion book, Small is Beautiful

“In the excitement over the unfolding of his scientific and technical powers, modern man has built a system of production that ravishes nature and a type of society that mutilates man.” --from the Epilogue, Small is Beautiful

Forty years on, how many of these statements are still being used in contemporary critiques?

Oak Park EEC now accepting 2013 Green Award nominations!

The Oak Park Environment & Energy Commission is presenting Green Awards in recognition and appreciation of specific deeds or actions that embody and advance the mission of the Village of Oak Park to work toward a sustainable and secure future.  By celebrating these achievements, the EEC hopes to inspire more such ventures. Nominations for 2013 must be received by September 20, 2013.  NOTE NEW DEADLINE - NOW EXTENDED! Get the nomination form here: 2013 Green Awards Form


Nominations may be submitted by anyone on behalf of any person, organization, group, or business. For questions contact Karen Rozmus at 708.358.5707 or e-mail rozmus@oak-park.us. Nominations for 2013 must be received by September 20, 2013.


2012 Green Awards Winners

1.  Robert Morris University in recognition of its sensitivity to Oak Park’s sustainability goals in the development of Eyrie Restaurant.

2.  Beye Elementary  School in recognition of excellence in Zero Waste practices and 4th and 5th grade Green Ambassadors.

3.  Sam and Phyllis Bowen in recognition of their creative use of space by building a vegetable and flower garden on the roof of their new garage.

4.  Debbie Becker for leading the way to change the village ordinance to legalize beekeeping.

5.  Jim Doyle & Ana Garcia Doyle in recognition of their commitment and tenacity in obtaining the first permit in Oak Park to install a greywater system.

6.  Park District of Oak Park in recognition of excellence in the renovation of Taylor Park.

7.  Cary-Laszewski Residence in recognition of being the first house built in Oak Park to obtain LEED Platinum status.

Read more about the work of the 2012 winners

The Sugar Beet Edible Garden Tour


Sugar Beet Edible Garden Tour: Saturday, July 27th at 10am

Spend the day learning about back yard agriculture! At the peak of growing season you will get an insider's peek into the edible gardens of our neighbors in Oak Park. You are invited into beautiful private gardens to learn more about urban agriculture and get inspired to grow your own food!

Buy your tickets online or tickets will also be available the day of the event at all three of our sponsors (GHE, Greenline Wheels, and Buzz Café).  Participants can pick up their maps beginning at 9:30am at all three of those locations.

mark garden1Co-op Members $10 General $12 Kids 12 and under are FREE

Master gardeners will be on-hand to answer questions and teach visitors about organic gardening, raised beds, successive planting and more. Cycling from garden to garden is encouraged. Refreshments will be available at each stop to help make this a day of learning, fun and enjoyment!

Please start the tour by checking in and getting your map at the following locations: Green Home Experts — 811 S Blvd, Oak Park, IL GreenLine Wheels — 105 S Marion St, Oak Park, IL Buzz Cafe — 905 S Lombard Ave, Oak Park, IL

Chicago Area Volunteers Lobby Congress for a Tax on Carbon

On June 25, as President Obama unveiled his plans to address climate change, Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL) volunteers, including seven from Oak Park and the Chicago metro, were among 370 citizen-lobbyists who swarmed over Capitol Hill to make the case for a revenue-neutral carbon tax.  Teams of CCL volunteers met with 423 Senators and US Representatives, or their energy and environment aides.

Chicago area volunteers met with a dozen Congressional offices that day, including both of our Illinois Senators and Chicago-area US Representatives, but also members of Congress from very conservative parts of the country where CCL is under-represented. The vibes we got, even from the GOP aides, were much more positive than last year. In contrast to attitudes on the Hill a year ago, this year GOP staff were interested in delving into the details of our proposal, and Democrats were clear in their advice to 'organize the people' to support a carbon tax as the most effective countermeasure to surging greenhouse gas levels.

Keynote conference speakers included Dr. James Hansen, the outspoken scientist who warned of climate change some 20 years ago and who recently retired from NASA in order to take a stronger advocacy role in the climate movement.  The conference was also addressed by Dr. Shi-Ling Hsu, the author of The Case for a Carbon Tax. Dr. Hsu stayed for the entire conference and added his deep knowledge of science and economics to the conversations on Capitol Hill.

Much to our advantage, just as the CCL volunteers appeared for afternoon appointments in Congressional offices, TVs were tuned to the President's speech at Georgetown University unveiling his climate action plan. The President announced pollution standards for both new and existing power plants, among other regulatory measures that he can take without new legislative authority. Interestingly, the point was not lost on congressional staff that conservatives who dislike regulations on principle should be supporting a carbon tax bill. Carbon-based fuels enjoy an advantage over clean technologies because their costs to society--in health, public safety, national security, jobs, and environmental destruction--are not reflected in their price. Correcting this distortion would reduce the demand for fossil fuels.

Mark Reynolds, Executive Director of Citizens Climate Lobby, said, “We’re here to tell Congress there’s still time for them to act, particularly if they want to avoid the use of increased regulations to reduce heat-trapping gases. The clock has started on the process that will eventually result in the use of EPA regulations to reduce carbon pollution in the energy sector,” said Reynolds. “Is this what Republicans want? Or would they prefer using a market-based solution that speeds the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy? We believe this solution – a tax on carbon that gives all the revenue back to the public – could be embraced by conservatives.... That’s the message our volunteers are taking to Republican offices today,” said Reynolds.  “The President’s speech couldn’t be better timed,” said Reynolds. “It gives Republicans a good reason to take a serious look at a revenue-neutral carbon tax. Like objects in a passenger-side mirror, the tipping point for a carbon tax might be closer than it appears.”

Related Resources:

      • NPR’s Report on a Climate Tax:  “Economists have a One-Page Solution to Climate Change” – aired on Morning Edition on June 28, 2013 (5 min).
      • A brief, engaging video from the Citizens Climate Lobby conference which features Sylvia Garcia Sadowski, leader of the Chicago North Side Chapter--the newest group in the rapidly expanding Chicagoland Citizens' Climate Lobby network (10 min):   http://vimeo.com/69589362

      • President Obama’s Speech on Climate Change Plans at Georgetown University, June 25, 2013 (50 min):  http://www.georgetown.edu/news/obama-old-north-2013.html
      • Citizens' Climate Lobby, is a grassroots volunteer effort with a very small staff supporting over 100 chapters across the U.S. and Canada, including a large Chicago contingent. For more information on the Chicago-West Side and west suburban group contact Ken O'Hare at 773-485-7716 or kohare@consultmillennia.com.


Join us for a Garden Party for Sugar Beet Co-op!


Please join friends and neighbors at one of  3 garden parties to learn more about The Sugar Beet Co-op! The Sugar Beet Co-op will be a full-service, member-owned grocery store in Oak Park that celebrates local, sustainably grown foods. They are deep into their membership drive and are eager to share their story with like-minded neighbors to gain support and gather opinions from the community. Co-founder Cheryl Muñoz will tell the inspiring story of this project and all of the ways in which a food co-op can benefit the health and well being of our community and beyond. Learn more at the Sugar Beet Co-op website at www.sugarbeetcoop.com 

Please join friends and neighbors at one of  3 garden parties on the dates listed below to learn more about The Sugar Beet Co-op. Sugar_Beet_at_Farmers_MktWhere: Home of Estelle Carol, 323 S. East Ave, Oak ParkDates and times: • Saturday, June 22, 1:30 to 3:30 pm • Sunday, July 7, 2:30 to 4:30 pm • Saturday, July 27, 3 to 5 pmFood: We will provide snacks and drinks. You are welcome to bring additional food or drink to share.

To RSVP call Estelle Carol at 707-386-7197 or email ecarol@webtraxstudio.com

food...and win a basket of fresh organic veggies. Join us for an afternoon of grass-roots inspiration, refreshments and friendship. Guests also have a chance to win a basket of vegetables harvested fresh from our garden later this summer. The garden is a collaborative effort by three Green Community Connections volunteers – Estelle Carol, Cassandra West and Marni Curtis. It has 9 raised beds of vegetables intermingled between decorative plants. It has 3 large compost bins and 4 rain barrels. See garden photos below.

Sugar Beet Co-op’s values Economy – Create a vibrant not-for-profit business whose success stimulates cooperative activity. Wellness – Provide our community with direct access to solutions that contribute to health and wellness. Localism – Ensure that our community has access to a marketplace with healthy, safe and local goods that have a positive environmental and social impact.

Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good


Throughout the summer, Spontaneous Interventions will serve as a platform to discuss city-making and a broad range of innovative tactics now being implemented -- from the bottom up and top down to make cities more livable, sustainable, accessible and just. Panel discussions, workshops, tours and other events will be held weekly in the Chicago Cultural Center, our pop-up pavilion in Millennium Park, and at offsite locations in partnership with various organizations around the city.  For complete schedule and updates, see spontaneousinterventions.org.

Opening May 24 and running through September 1 Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good features 84 urban interventions initiated by architects, designers, planners, artists and everyday citizens that bring positive change to neighborhoods and cities in addition to a pop-up installation in Millennium Park.


Highlights for June, July & August include dozens of events led by featured Spontaneous Interventions artists and local leading urban actors, such as Bicycle tours of Chicago's People Spots; DIY bird habitat workshop with Crookedworks; phytoremediation climic with Kaja Kuhl; Rethinking Soup in partnership with Hull House; soil testing by Future farmers; Achitecture for Humanity's Activate! site bike tour; Version Festival 2013 in Bridgeport, and more.

Chicago is the first destination of the installation, which served as the U.S. representation at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale (2012). The Chicago installation will recreate the lively exhibition design of pull-down banners, created by Brooklyn design studio Freecell and Berkeley-based communication design firm M-A-D. The contents of the exhibition have been updated to include more recent and more local projects. Among the 84 projects that will be presented, more than a dozen are from Chicago, including several that also appeared in Venice.

All summer long, programs will take place at the Cultural Center, in the pop-up pavilion in Millennium Park and at various offsite locations. Many of the programs are organized in partnership with Chicago-based designers, nonprofits, community organizations, and city agencies.


Friday, May 24 - Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hours: Chicago Cultural Center Monday–Thursday, 9 am–7 pm Friday, 9 am–6 pm Saturday, 9 am–6 pm Sunday, 10 am–6 pm

Millennium Park Open Daily, 6 am - 11 pm

Location: Chicago Cultural Center, Michigan Avenue Galleries 78 E. Washington St. Chicago, IL 60602

Millennium Park 201 E. Randolph St., between Michigan Ave. & Columbus Ave. Chicago, IL 60602



Sustainability on a Personal Scale


by Marilyn Moore The question of scale and human action was on my mind during the 2013 One Earth Film Festival. I attended the gala and several film screenings and participated in several discussion groups, where water, energy, waste, food, and sustainable living were discussed. Throughout, there was a lot of discussion about the planet.

IMG_1916-1024x768The concept of “the planet” overwhelms me, and I am reluctant to take measures that affect the planet. It is not that I don’t care. It is rather that problem-solving on a planetary scale has to take into account a mind-boggling number of variables: In addition to the more than 7,000,000,000 people living on earth, there are more than 5,700 species of mammals, nearly 10,000 species of reptiles, 7000 species of amphibians, 10,000 species of birds, 230,000 species of fish, and 900,000 different kinds of insects—that we know about. The best estimate for plants is between 20,000 and 100,000 different species. They don’t make organizational tools large enough and complex enough to consider the planet as a whole.


I came away from the One Earth Film Festival with two important questions: What can I do personally? And, Why should I do it? Reflecting on those questions I concluded that I don’t know what I can do, but whatever I do will be motivated by the desire to make my life better. I began to consider sustainability in terms of a good life.


ПечатьMy friend and neighbor, Christiane Broihier, was one of the organizers of the One Earth Film Festival, so I went to her for advice. Together we came up with a project to begin experimenting with sustainability on a personal scale, in our homes and gardens, in an effort to learn what sustainable living contributes to the quality of our lives. Our website, Visibly Green Living, is a record of our findings. We have several experiments ongoing at the moment. Because waste concerns both of us, Christiane and I are paying attention to what acquire in an effort to make the best use of it, and we are experimenting with composting, recycling, and water conservation to reduce waste. Because we are concerned about our health and wellbeing and that of our families, we are experimenting with cuisine (both of us) and organic food gardening (Christiane). Concerned about our growth and development, we are looking for peaceful ways to promote and sustain ourselves intellectually, creatively, and economically. While we share a number of problems, our solutions are not the same. We are learning a lot from each other, and we are enjoying the comments and conversation with readers on the website and on our Facebook page.


For my part, I am looking to create and sustain a life that is more enjoyable because it is more interesting, more prudent, less conventional, less judgmental, more manageable, and more independent. I want to trust my instincts and my reason. By creating opportunities for me to connect more assuredly and more favorably with my friends and family, with my work, and with my surroundings, Visibly Green Living is teaching me how to cultivate and sustain a life worth living. But just as important, Visibly Green Living is creating for us the possibility of community. We are trying to connect with people who are exploring sustainability in their own lives–those who share our ideas, those who challenge them, and those who offer alternatives. We take sustainability seriously, and we are trying to understand and support each individual's reasons for pursuing a sustainable life.

You can check out Visibly Green Living on the website or Facebook page. It was developed by Oak Park neighbors, Christiane Broihier and Marilyn Moore.


Editor’s note: The good news is that even though, by her own account, Marilyn is reluctant to “take measures that affect the planet” her joyful pursuit of sustainability and community in her own life ultimately affects the planet – especially as she and Christiane share their experiences with others!


The Story of Change

Sunday, Mar 3, 12:30P/Ascension Church School (601 Van Buren), Oak Park - Tickets

Annie Leonard/2012/6.5 min

Can shopping save the world? The Story of Change urges viewers to put down their credit cards and start exercising their citizen muscles to build a more sustainable, just and fulfilling world.

Sugar Beet Membership Kick-off Party


The Sugar Beet Co-op Membership Kick-off Party and Winter’s Eve Market A celebration of local food, growing partnerships and a year of good work is being planned by The Sugar Beet Co-op for Saturday, January 12th at Unity Temple.  Memberships to the co-op will be made available for the first time at this community gathering and hundreds of people are expected to turn out to show their support.

Just a year ago, a group of neighbors from northeast Oak Park came together and decided that the Oak Park, Austin, and surroun

ding communities needed something new: a full-service, cooperative grocery store that would provide a neighborhood source for local, sustainable, healthy foods and a way of connecting farmers and producers to their customers.

Throughout 2012, The Sugar Beet team has participated in community events, connected with farmers and supporters of the Oak Park Farmers' Market, forged relationships with local individuals, organizations, and businesses, and organized events and workshops with the goal of bringing our community together around good food.

The Sugar Beet Co-op Membership Kick-off Party will include a Winter’s Eve Market featuring vendors of local foods and goods for purchase as well as The OPRF High School Jazz Quartet.  Wine and craft beers, a crepe station, seasonal foods and Sugar Beet Home Movies will make this a cozy evening of fellowship and inspiration. Tickets are $20 which includes 3 drink tickets and are available at www.sugarbeetcoop.com.


Could You Live in a Passive House?


The River Forest passive house discussed in this post we published early in 2013 is featured on the upcoming Green Living and Learning Tour on Sept. 28th.  Read more about it in this article, and plan to stop there on the Tour! Oak Park architect Tom Bassett-Dilley has designed the first certified passive house to be built in the Chicago area.  The new house, built for the Lema family, uses only a small fraction of the heating and cooling energy of a conventional house.

Based on an interview with Tom Bassett-Dilley conducted by Doug Burke

As the 28th certified passive house in the United States the River Forest home represents a small but growing movement.  Bassett-Dilley, who heads the Passive House Alliance in Chicago, predicts that there will be 200 or more in the country by the end of this year.  There are many more passive houses in Europe.

What is a Passive House?

RF Passive House -300x300

The name “passive” means that these houses use the environment around them as much as possible – for instance, by having lots of south-facing windows to take in the sun's heat in the winter, but with overhangs to shade those same windows in the hot summer.  Smart design reduces the amount of the work the home has to do to maintain comfort.  And a very tight building envelope means it doesn't take nearly as much energy to heat or cool the house.  A house built to the new Illinois code (just revised effective this month) is required to have no more than 5 air changes per hour.  A passive house must have no more than 0.6.  The River Forest house tests out at just 0.38 air exchanges per hour – far tighter than required by either standard.

There still has to be ventilation; a mechanical system draws out moist air from kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry, and feeds in air to the living areas.  Very good efficient heat exchangers retain 85% of the heat.RF Passive House rear-300x241

This produces a very comfortable and simple house, which use about 75% less energy than built-to-code homes to heat and cool.  Over a 30-year mortgage, the heating and cooling savings should at least make up for the slightly higher cost of construction -- about 10% higher, with 18-inch thick walls, thick insulation even under the building, and tight sealing everywhere.  Even with today's exceptionally low natural gas costs, a passive house should still be less expensive to own and operate than a conventional one.  And it is much better for the environment, using only a small amount of electricity in heat pumps for heating and cooling.  There is no need for a gas-burning furnace, nor any air-conditioning system except the heat pumps.

Learn more about this house, including the non-toxic and recycled materials used in building it, how it is laid out, and how it fits into the neighborhood, at Sustainable Chicago.  See also the article titled "The Heat is On - River Forest Home to be area's first certified passive house," in the January 2, 2013, edition of the Wednesday Journal, p. 35.