Renewable Energy: Earth Day 37 years later

We covered four Earth Day events this year. It was a bit hectic, but we’re pleased that there is so much interest after 37 years. People who were accustomed to seeing us as a couple were disappointed to talk with only one of us as we covered events in Rockford and Crystal Lake Saturday, April 21, while Lin Vogl was in Chicago covering the Green Festival. After our Saturday events, Frank Schier and we joined Lin.

As always, the Rockford community Earth Day celebration was well organized, thanks to the efforts of Jamie Johannsen and everyone involved in planning. A record 3,500 attended. Visitors were given passports to have stamped by booth personnel in 10 categories of Tips To Protect the Earth. After having the passport completed, they were eligible to receive prizes. Passports provided exhibitors opportunities to engage visitors in conversations about environment and energy. The Cool Cities presentation on Rockford’s role in solving global warming was an important addition to the event.

Having educational presentations, movies, multimedia show, plays, children’s activities and the tree giveaway all in the student center encouraged participation.

Johannsen felt that attendance was up as a result of heightened awareness of environmental issues in the general public and the desire to be part of the solution. The event may be expanded to a multi-day Green Festival.

Sonia represented IREA at the McHenry County Defenders’ celebration for perhaps the 15th time. This year, it moved from McHenry County College to the Prairieview Nature Center, situated on a ridge in Crystal Lake overlooking a spectacular valley and miles of open countryside. The breathtaking vista reminded us what Earth Day is all about. Long-standing friends Alice and Bill Howenstine, who were featured in Chicago Wilderness magazine, are still active in energy, environment and recycling. Rich Whitney, the Green Party candidate for governor, made the keynote presentation. He infused statements about problem areas including global warming and peak oil with an air of optimism and hope.

Lin began the weekend by being our representative at the Chicago Green Festival, which was immense and overwhelming. The McCormick Place exhibition hall was stuffed with booths and vendors and the aisles packed with visitors. According to one report, 35,000 visitors were there Saturday. Sunday, Bob and Sonia joined her. We shared a table with our sister organization, the Illinois Solar Energy Association. Major presentations were greeted with enthusiastic roars and applause from the crowd as though they were major sporting events.

The many booths and vendors offering green products from around the world were joined by local and regional organizations, including Chicago Green, the Shedd Aquarium, regional educational organizations and local installers. The overwhelming number of items for sale made us more aware that simply “buying green” does not equate with living green.

Lin also represented us at a post-Earth Day event in Galena. While small, over 200 school children were reached by special fliers prepared for them—directions for a solar hot dog cooker for middle school students, and a large black and white IREA logo for primary school children to color—both with information about the August fair.

One of the exhibitors we met at RVC last year, LouAnn Johnson, teacher and adviser of Keith School’s EnergyNet team, discussed their project and how we might become involved. This winter, we attended the ribbon-cutting celebration for their PV system. Who knows what might happen as a result of this year’s festivities?

Earth Day celebrations provide opportunities for people to get together, share ideas and encourage each other. The entire extended weekend reminded us of what’s really important.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are also active in preserving natural areas. They are retired professors from Northern Illinois University.

from the May 2-8, 2007, issue

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