Celebrating Earth Day in 2005

Many Earth Day celebrations were held this past week. The Illinois Renewable Energy Association sent representatives to Galena, Urbana, Carbondale, Armington, Bloomington and Will County. We had the opportunity to participate in two in Rockford and one in Chicago.

On Wednesday, Rock Valley College student clubs hosted a variety of organizations at their student center. Food, music and movies added to the day’s interest. We enjoyed talking with students and faculty who visited the booths and with other exhibitors. We renewed old acquaintances and discovered new connections between organizations.

We spent Friday and Saturday at McCormick Place. This year, the Chicago Home Show added two new groups to their exhibits: the Green Pavilion and the Artists’ Pavilion. While visitor numbers were low, the show provided us with the opportunity to interact with renewable energy vendors and installers who participate in the Renewable Energy Fair. When the Fair is in full swing Aug. 13-14, it will be difficult to find time to interact.

Discussions with representatives of Solargenix, the largest solar thermal energy company in the U.S. with a new production facility in Chicago, proved extremely interesting and informative. We learned that not only will Solargenix install its first solar panels on municipal buildings in Chicago, it will also install some on a new building for the Oregon/Mt. Morris School District. Using solar energy to heat water greatly reduces the use of often inefficient natural gas boilers.

We also had the opportunity to meet interesting, creative people there. The Enterprising Kitchen provides jobs for low-income women who want to begin a career. We came home with a pack of beautiful, sweet-scented handmade soaps. A cuddly, fat stuffed Earth doll with a smiling sun for a face, dolphins for arms and trees for legs teaches children from 6 months to 6 years to care for the Earth. Of course, one of the dolls also came home with us.

On Sunday, we were back in Rockford at Rock Valley College for the Rockford Park District’s, the Four Rivers Environmental Coalition’s and the College’s Earth Day celebration. The Physical Education Center was filled with exhibits from many environmental and conservation groups. Visitors viewed the birds of prey program and came home with new trees to plant. Children enjoyed music, theater and readings. The large number of people who attended showed interest and shared information. Through visitors, we learned of a new non-tree paper product: Kenaf. The day provided a rewarding experience.

As a follow-up to Earth Day, we hosted representatives of the Park District and the County Forest Preserve District on a tour of our showpiece forest restoration.

As another followup, the IREA will again provide a solar electric class for beginners on Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Participants will learn what pv is, how it works, its advantages, the components of a standard pv system, what it costs and how to get started. They will view our 1.6 kW amorphous and 1.6 kW polycrystalline grid connected pv installations with solar boosts, inverter and battery backup and separate 60 watt cabin type system.

They will also have the opportunity to enjoy our ecological restorations.

A $30 donation for materials and IREA membership is requested. For more information, potential participants may phone 815-732-7332 or e-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the May 4-10, 2005 issue

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