WBEZ | volunteer http://www.wbez.org/tags/volunteer Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago Conservation Corps cultivates environmental leaders http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/chicago-conservation-corps-cultivates-environmental-leaders-107064 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/emiliano-zapata-students.jpg" style="float: left; height: 229px; width: 305px;" title="Students from Little Village's Emiliano Zapata Academy with power strips they distributed to classrooms to reduce their energy waste." /></p><p>The White House Council on Environmental Quality <a href="http://www2.epa.gov/education/presidential-innovation-award-environmental-educators">honored 12 teachers with a Presidential Award for environmental education Tuesday</a>, but in Chicago a band of green-minded volunteers added more than 700 new students and teachers to&nbsp;an environmental organization present in every one of the city&#39;s 50 wards.</p><p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://chicagoconservationcorps.org/blog/">Chicago Conservation Corps</a>&#39;&nbsp;student program has graduated roughly 6,500 students and teachers who have devoted some 150,000 hours of service since the program begin in 2006. <a href="http://chicagoconservationcorps.org/blog/about-this-weblog/c3-partner-organizations/">Partner organizations</a> can team up with the group for environmental service projects, drawing on volunteers from the general public as well as adults who have undergone environmental leadership training.</p><p>The program comes with some ready-made projects, like making household cleaning products from non-toxic ingredients and distributing home weatherization kits to promote energy efficiency. New clubs start by auditing their trash, food waste and leaky faucets &mdash; their leak-finding program reportedly saved 1.5 million gallons last year.</p><p>But many schools develop their own curricula. Students at North Lawndale College Prep, for example, filmed a video about the dangers of radon poisoning.</p><p>&ldquo;These are the movers and shakers of your age group,&rdquo; the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum&rsquo;s Kristen Pratt, who coordinates the Conservation Corps program, told the graduating students assembled Tuesday, &ldquo;who are really making a difference.&rdquo;</p><p>John Hancock High School, located in the southwest side West Elsdon neighborhood, has been running Conservation Corps programs since 2006. Erin Niedt, who teaches at Hancock, says her students get a sense of pride from seeing the impact of their actions. This year her class handed out dozens of weatherization kits and spent Saturday mornings cleaning up Ottawa Trail Woods.</p><p>&ldquo;They made a visual difference,&rdquo; Niedt says. &ldquo;They could see what a difference they made.&rdquo;<br /><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_5186-2-300x200.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 305px; float: right;" title="North Lawndale College Prep students conduct a waste audit." />There are no shortage of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-04/unpacking-barriers-going-green-98425">ways to pursue a &ldquo;green&rdquo; lifestyle</a>, and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/today%E2%80%99s-mighty-acorns-tomorrow%E2%80%99s-environmentalists-105347">environmental education initiatives, like Chicago&#39;s Mighty Acorns program,</a> are going strong in Chicago even after the city dissolved its <a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20111013/NEWS02/111019914/chicago-shutting-environment-department-adding-eco-friendly-measures-to-new-budget">environment department into other city agencies</a>. But <a href="http://www.theatlanticcities.com/politics/2013/05/why-your-green-lifestyle-choices-dont-really-matter/5501/">many have criticized the comparatively small-bore progress of personal action</a> in light of the daunting task of transitioning to a sustainable industrial society before the impacts of climate change become too great. True, shorter showers and recycled goods won&rsquo;t supplant our fossil fuel dependency, but education builds momentum for grassroots actions that can have far-reaching effects.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re building a culture,&rdquo; Pratt says. &ldquo;What&rsquo;s most exciting isn&rsquo;t even the collective impact of the individual projects, although we do tally them up and it makes a difference. The most exciting part is building awareness.&rdquo;</p><p>Pratt, who grew up in the West Lawn neighborhood, says she&rsquo;s living proof of the lifelong impact of an early introduction to environmentalism. A graduate of the Career Ladder for Youth program run by the Chicago Zoological Society and the Brookfield Zoo, she went on to earn a degree in zoology from Michigan State University. Though the science itself was interesting, she says her favorite part was sharing what she learned.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 07 May 2013 16:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/chicago-conservation-corps-cultivates-environmental-leaders-107064 Chicago Earth Day event roundup http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/chicago-earth-day-event-roundup-106696 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mmmmarshall/3455778225/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fotp%20cleanup.jpg" style="height: 429px; width: 610px;" title="Friends of the Park members lead a clean-up of Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary on Earth Day in 2010. (Flickr/Marshall Rosenthal)" /></a></div><p>Since Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson <a href="http://www.epa.gov/earthday/history.htm">proposed the first Earth Day more than 40 years ago</a>, the day of environmental action has morphed into something quite different &mdash; not unlike the environmental movement itself.</p><p><a href="http://inhabitat.com/top-five-dumbest-greenwashed-earth-day-gimmicks/">Greenwashing</a> is ubiquitous year-round, but it&rsquo;s especially in bloom around April 22. Take the particularly brazen example of <a href="http://fs.ogm.utah.gov/PUB/DOGM/Earth_Day/EarthDayPosterContest-OfficialRules2013.pdf">an Earth Day poster contest in Utah</a> that asked schoolchildren to <a href="http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56024796-78/contest-petroleum-poster-oil.html.csp">sing the praises</a> of oil, gas and mining. It&rsquo;s enough to turn some off to the idea entirely, as it has for writer Marc Gunther:</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>So why do I hate <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23EarthDay">#EarthDay</a>? Stupid email pitches, companies patting themselves on the back, sustainability by anecdote.</p>&mdash; Marc Gunther (<a href="http://twitter.com/MarcGunther" target="_blank">@MarcGunther</a>) <a href="https://twitter.com/MarcGunther/status/322014915672043521">April 10, 2013</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>With the <a href="http://grist.org/climate-change/2011-12-05-the-brutal-logic-of-climate-change/">brutal logic of climate change</a> staring down society, we&rsquo;re in bad shape if environmental action remains merely a holiday ritual like pumpkin carving.</p><p>If Earth Day <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-12/news/chi-taking-earth-day-one-step-further-20130412-barr_briefs_1_earth-day-carbon-pollution-planet">compels you to do more</a> than talk, you can <a href="http://earthdaychicago.blogspot.com/">join a political rally</a> against hydraulic fracturing and oil sands pipelines. Or <a href="http://www.epa.gov/gogreen/">follow EPA&#39;s advice</a> on how to reduce your personal impact on the environment.</p><p>But there&rsquo;s still something affirming about a day of service (<a href="http://www.earthday.org/">more info here</a>), or even just a bit of time set aside for personal reflection or a hike.</p><p>Here are a few events around town:</p><p><a href="http://www.earthdaychicago.com/">Clean up with Friends of the Parks</a> in <a href="http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/events/humboldt-park-earth-day-/">Humboldt Park</a>, <a href="http://luc.edu/communityrelations/llnlsc/earthday2013/">Edgewater</a> or elsewhere. <em>April 20, 9 a.m. &ndash; 12 p.m. </em>Check your neighborhood park.</p><p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/481475695238973/">Learn to garden with PERRO</a>, the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization. <em>April 20, 11 a.m. &mdash;&nbsp;2 p.m. </em>1423 W. 17<sup>th</sup> St.</p><p><a href="http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/illinois/picnic-for-earth-chicago.xml">Picnic with The Nature Conservancy</a> in Millennium Park if you&rsquo;re downtown.<em>&nbsp;April 20, 11 a.m. &mdash;&nbsp;3 p.m. </em>Millennium Park, Chase Promenade South Tent.</p><p><a href="http://www.slowfoodchicago.org/index.php/2013/04/07/preserve-garden-workday-2/">Sow seeds with Slow Food Chicago</a> at PreSERVE Garden in North Lawndale. <em>April 20, 10 a.m. &mdash; 12 p.m. </em>12<sup>th</sup> Place and Central Park Avenue.</p><p><a href="http://www.earthday5kchicago.com/">Run a 5K for Earth Day</a>. The fourth annual race partners with GreenChoice Bank, <a href="../../blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/rolling-out-green-carpet-legally-speaking-105010">the state&rsquo;s first benefit corporation</a>, and Gobi Project, a mobile DJ booth powered by solar panels.<em>&nbsp;April 27, 9 a.m., Humboldt Park</em>.</p><p><a href="http://www.nrdconline.org/site/Calendar?id=100581&amp;view=Detail">Raise a glass with the Natural Resources Defense Council</a> at a craft beer tasting to support craft brewers <a href="../../blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/midwest-breweries-lead-environmental-groups-charge-fortify-water-laws">who have pledged to defend water quality legislation</a>.&nbsp;<em>April 22, 6-9 p.m. </em>825 W. Erie St.</p><p><a href="http://earthdatacelebration.eventbrite.com/">Crunch numbers at &quot;Earth Data: A Sustainable Chicago 2015 Celebration,&quot;</a> wherein the city&rsquo;s data folk team up with Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and the World Wide Fund for Nature to discuss Big Data and climate change in preparation for a hackathon on April 26. <em>April 22, 6-9 p.m. 78 E. Washington Ave.</em></p><p>Here&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.chicagoparent.com/picks/earth-day-celebrations">a list of family-friendly Earth Day events from <em>Chicago Parent</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Thu, 18 Apr 2013 05:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/chicago-earth-day-event-roundup-106696 Scouring a Scarred Watershed http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/scouring-scarred-watershed-104916 <p><p><object height="465" width="620"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632517519364%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632517519364%2F&amp;set_id=72157632517519364&amp;jump_to=" /><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124956" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632517519364%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632517519364%2F&amp;set_id=72157632517519364&amp;jump_to=" height="465" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124956" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="620"></embed></object></p><p>Before development clogged up natural plumbing with impervious surfaces, every drop of rain that fell within the Chicago River watershed would seep slowly through the soil into the river. Now as much as <a href="http://www.examiner.com/article/cook-county-flooding-is-a-product-of-poor-planning">42 percent of Cook County</a> is covered with surfaces that do not absorb water, and instead channel it more directly into the river.</p><p>That runoff scores the landscape as it speeds through the watershed, carving out gashes in the soil over time. These gashes, called gullies, are like small ditches that let runoff water scrape away soil as they funnel it into the river.</p><p>John Quail, director of watershed planning for <a href="http://www.chicagoriver.org">Friends of the Chicago River</a>, explained Saturday to a group of volunteers how gullies encourage a vicious cycle of erosion. &ldquo;Topsoil is the currency of the forest,&rdquo; Quail said to the group he was training. Since fall, Friends of the Chicago River has recruited volunteers to become &ldquo;Gully Walkers.&rdquo;</p><p>In their effort to catalogue these scars and repair the ecosystem, Friends of the Chicago River has turned to crowd-sourcing. Gullies are a problem all over the Chicago River watershed, which comprises hundreds of square miles. The goal is to gather GPS data along at least 50 miles of the river. Once they know the size and locations of the gullies, they will dispatch volunteers to repair small ditches and call in contractors for the heavy lifting.</p><p>&ldquo;We talk about restoration, but we don&rsquo;t really mean it too literally,&rdquo; Quail said, leading the group through Edgebrook Woods on the city&rsquo;s far northwest side. &ldquo;That would mean turning the North Shore into a muddy swamp.&rdquo; Instead the term takes on a more general meaning: restoring nature to the urban environment. Before Chicago developed, the river meandered through a series of wetlands and marshes. Now it flows between concrete walls.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="(WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/gully-measuring-620px.jpg" title="" /></div><p>Volunteers measured the width and depth of several gullies Saturday, recording GPS data along the way. As they tracked the river downstream through the forest, they came to a hill topped with a parking lot. Standing water at the foot of the hill bled into a mat of shallow ditches &mdash; it was the source of the gullies. In the summer, Quail said, the runoff&#39;s path downhill would be more clear, appearing as chutes between the vegetation.&nbsp;</p><p>Whether volunteer efforts can keep pace with the growth of increased precipitation due to climate change or urban sprawl remains to be seen. The effects of negligent stormwater dumping are no drop in the bucket. In west suburban Theodore Stone Forest Preserve, stormwater dumped by a neighboring mall carved out a ditch so massive that volunteers have dubbed it &ldquo;Apathy Canyon.&rdquo;</p><p>A few years ago, Edgebrook Woods volunteers built a rain garden of native plants where a curb cut in the Forest Preserve&rsquo;s access road released stormwater into a field. After two 100-year storms hit in as many years, though, water began to pool up beyond the rain garden. So volunteers built another one. And another. Several years and four 100-year storms later, three rain gardens helped stabilize the flow of water off North Central Avenue.</p></p> Tue, 15 Jan 2013 06:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/scouring-scarred-watershed-104916