Energy & Environment: A busy week of Expos

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

It was a busy week for us. On Thursday we attended the Northern Illinois Renewable Energy Summit & Expo at Rock Valley College. It was good to return and remember that we initiated it two years ago when it was held at the Klehm Arboretum. It was also good to meet old friends and colleagues again. We were given one of the ”Leadership by Example” awards.

On Saturday we attended the McHenry County environmental program, as we have since the 1990s when it was held in spring as Earth Day; now it is in November as the Green Living Expo. After some confusion (we registered, but were left off the list and map, and had no table) we were escorted to a table which had been assigned to another group that cancelled.

We were placed across from an organic farm with a CSA. Next to them were Loyola University students displaying urban agriculture, banning hunger and organic mushroom growing. One of the coordinators of the sustainable mushroom project was excited by the potential of growing mushrooms on a 300 feet by 75 feet wide gulley we have been filling with wood chips and enriching with alpaca wastes. We exchanged emails and look forward to his making a presentation on urban agriculture and mushroom growing at the 2016 Renewable Energy and Sustainability Fair.

Almost immediately, several people stopped to chat and pick up the IREA Fair information page. Almost everyone who passed stopped to inspect our display. Maybe now that events have expanded to include sustainable lifestyles, interest has returned. We thanked them for their interest. A visitor to our Fairs encouraged us to keep it up.

Bob immediately went off to visit displays while Sonia stayed at the table and enlisted the people at the next exhibit to come to our Fair. They sell vertical gardens, a good idea for those with little space or who wish to continue their gardening into winter. They are eager to exhibit at the IREA Fair.

The new Rock Valley College ecology instructor whom we met at the Northern Illinois Expo stopped and confirmed that he would be at our Fair as a speaker.

To our right was a table loaded with items made from recycled materials, including old sweaters become mittens or toys, a pot scrubber decorative sheep and fanciful bird with crest made of nails. The vendor didn’t expect to sell much that day, and suggested that the event have a special section of items for sale so that people would come with the expectation of buying. We told him that we do just that. He might be an exhibitor at our Fair.

Long time friends and colleagues Steve and Carol Wenzel whom we met at our home during a Solar Tour, owners of the Blazing Star native plant nursery, told us of an innovative, low labor and low impact German organic gardening, Hugelkultur. Trees and/or branches are placed in a pile, dirt is heaped upon them, and the garden is planted. As the wood decomposes, it forms a natural fertilizer which aids in sequestering carbon. Having excess wood not suitable for heating fires, we might try the technique; if we do, we will report on it. Steve was also eager to try his new lithium-ion battery powered snow blower. It is so lightweight that he can pick it up in one hand.

We look forward to such events where we can reconnect and reinvigorate. In that way, they are like the IREA Fair.

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