Weather impacts and relief through sustainable lifestyles


Last year’s chicken workshop at the Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. (Photo provided)

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association

A neighbor looked at our riverside pasture and may cut it for hay, as he needs feed for his cattle. A friend told us the relatives he visited in Nebraska and their neighbors are selling cattle, as the cost of feed has soared and their crops are failing.

The food vs. fuel debate regarding ethanol and biodiesel is sure to be a prominent issue this year. The diversion of crops such as corn into fuel production along with the drought and increased global demand for food will put pressure on food prices that is sure to elicit reactions from consumers.

Many scientists are reminding us that our current industrial society is no longer sustainable. Those who continue living as if nothing adverse is happening should be asking themselves how much evidence is necessary to embrace the lifestyle changes and technologies essential in moving society toward sustainability.

The Aug. 11-12 Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair at Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Ill., offers an opportunity to meet people who are exploring sustainable options or who have already adopted some of them. There are equipment displays, installers and workshops about how to get involved.

How many of us are growing some of our own food or support local food growers through our purchases? How many of us have rain barrels to slow down the runoff from our roofs when it does rain and use it later during a dry spell to water our gardens? How many of us still know how to preserve food we have grown for use throughout the year? How many of us have solar panels on our roofs as a backup source of electricity production when grid service is disrupted from increasing intensity and frequency of storms, or the need to curtail consumption as demand soars during very hot weather or the cold of winter?

The fair is an enjoyable event with workshops that will address many of these topics.

Rain barrels will once again be available for purchase; how to make the necessary adaptations for use will be demonstrated. A water pump driven by solar energy that can make inaccessible water available will be displayed.

Gardening and food preservation techniques will be presented as well, including small farming, “weekend homesteading” and growing, processing and preparing vegetables. Meat processing will be taught for the first time. The nutritional value of fermented foods has again been recognized. A workshop will address the history and “how to” techniques of this fascinating topic. Using wild weeds for food and herbs for remedies can help those who want to lessen their footprint on the planet.

A couple’s story of how they assembled a geodesic greenhouse with cold frames and compost, what they learned and their successful outcome with veggies this spring will help those who want to extend their home-grown season.

While it remains important for individuals to adopt sustainable lifestyles, it should be increasingly apparent that such actions are necessary on a community level.

Major sponsors of the fair are the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Rock River Times, Clean Line Energy Partners, the Kickapoo Nature Conservancy and Ogle County.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail

From the July 25-31, 2012, issue

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