Make your life more sustainable

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

Learn how you can make your life more sustainable and enjoy doing it at this year’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 23-24, at Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Ill. (more details at It doesn’t mean freezing in the dark or eating food that tastes like straw. Renewable energy sources such as solar PV and wind can make all the energy you need. Geothermal can keep you warm in winter and cool in summer.

Of course, sustainability goes far beyond simply using newer, better energy sources. It includes raising and preparing food and making other necessities. Back by popular demand will be an updated “Chickens, chickens, chickens (and other fowl)” by Lin Vogl along with “Urban Homesteading.” People can find out if raising small livestock or produce is for them. Small is fine. A few hens and a garden can keep a family supplied with plenty. Learn the joys and pitfalls of backyard agriculture. Some leave the sessions with a determination to try it themselves, others realize it’s not for them. All-day workshops will provide an opportunity to meet alpacas and chickens and learn about these fascinating animals.

Jack and Judy Spear will explain how gardens provide more than a harvest. They also sustain our local web of life and utilize natural resources more efficiently. They will also describe “how our landscapes can be multi-functional by growing native plant communities.” Caron Wenzel will discuss how natural plant communities can help to maintain ecological balance in our homes and towns.

If food preservation and preparation is more down your line, attend Lin’s special foods sessions. Jacqueline Vassan’s workshop on preparing gluten-free meals that are truly tasty will shed light on a misunderstood subject. Sylvia Woo will present an update on her popular fermented foods session, complete with tastings available.

If meat is what you’re interested in, Roland Wolff’s session on butchering small and large game might be the right fit. An entertaining delivery makes the potentially unpleasant concept acceptable.

Combining plant and animal raising with almost no environmental impacts can be the next step. Aquaculture, in which fish and vegetables live in a symbiotic relationship, can be done on a small scale. Tim Bratina’s Rockford Auburn High School sociology class will demonstrate a procedure they feel may produce enough food for a hungry planet.

Beyond personal involvement are community efforts. Dan Kenney will update last year’s creating a sustainable local food security system by describing a program designed to produce and distribute food on a county-wide basis.

Simple, inexpensive crafts that fill leisure hours with pleasure and a sense of accomplishment include Scherenschnitt, or paper-cutting, to produce beautiful scenes and intricate designs, by Birgit Wolff. It will introduce visitors to a new potential hobby.

Presentations go beyond local to international. Lesley Shive of Northern Illinois University’s International Program will discuss their efforts with junior college-aged students from the Philippines who spend four weeks in the U.S. focusing on “responsible citizenship, community service leadership and action plan development” and are asked to design small projects they can implement on their return home.

In conclusion, the Spears believe that “we are in the midst of the Great Turning, transforming the Industrial Growth Society to a more Life-Sustaining Society. It’s hard work, and we need support from each other.” 

Major sponsors of the fair are the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Rock River Times and the Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department.

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 16-22, 2014, issue

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