What We Can Do In The Summer to Be Green

Now that it’s summertime, or at least close to summertime (and hopefully feeling like summer soon — by me it feels more like March), there are many things we can do every day to be green.

  1. Pedal Power! If you need to run some errands within a reasonable amount of distance why not get your workout in and your errands completed at the same time and walk or ride your bike to the store or wherever you need to go?
  2. This ties into #1 — when you run your errands use your own bags — don’t use those plastic bags! Even though you can recycle them, it takes energy to recycle those plastic bags.
  3. Another way to be good to the Earth during these warm months is to open the windows — cut down on your air conditioning usage to reduce your carbon footprint.
  4. Eat local. I don’t know about you, but I live where there are four seasons so I love it when the summer farmer’s markets come to town. Support your local farmers and buy locally grown food, which not only reduces your carbon footprint, these foods are usually not treated with any pesticides.
  5. Cheap entertainment — many communities offer free activities, such as concerts during the summer. So, get out and enjoy some free music and entertainment, talk to your neighbors and turn those lights out and get out!
  6. We need to free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, so look into an electric or push lawn mower.
  7. Compost
  8. Don’t water your lawn — I know we all want our lawns to look perfect and green, but what a waste of water and energy! Let Mother Nature do the watering for you.
  9. Don’t use any chemicals on your lawn — so what if you have weeds on your front lawn? Think of the chemical runoff and pollution — also many animals eat grass, so you may be harming an animal feeding on your grass.
  10. Spread the word — continue to spread the word about being green.

Chicago Area Libraries Combine Green with Knowledge

Did Benjamin Franklin think when he developed the idea for the public library that the library would become a second home for many of us? In my opinion libraries have a cozy feel to them — they’re almost like a second home. All of those books and music in one place, not to mention the computers and other services a library has to offer. Who needs to go home? Over the past 25 years libraries have become more than a place to visit when you need to write that dreaded book report or state report; libraries have become the hub of information for a community. This can clearly be seen currently duing the United States’ recession. Libraries have stepped up and have assisted their patrons in developing job hunting strategies by offering seminars and databases chock full of information.

Libraries’ main focus has always been to provide information and offer knowledge to their patrons. Recently, libraries have taken that knowledge one step further and have used it gor the greater good — to go green. Of course, the most famous library that has gone green is Chicago’s Harold Washington Library Center, which boasts a secret garden of its own on top of its roof, but several suburban libraries have gone one step further in the green movement.

One of the most recently added green libraries to the Chicago area is the Addison Public Library, located in Addison, Ill., which incorporates such green features as green roofs, low-emissivity (Low-E) insulated glass, flooring made out of bamboo and cork, and extensive use of natural sunlight.

Addison Public Library

Addison Public Library

Already known for its historic Frank Lloyd Wright homes, the Oak Park Public Library in Oak Park, Ill. is in the process of implementing a green roof.

Located in northwest suburban Illinois and one of the largest cities in the state, the Rakow Branch of Elgin’s Gail Borden Library will contain many eco-friendly features including a geothermal well system and natural light design. According to a recent issue of the library’s newsletter, “Library officials anticipate that the Rakow Branch will receive silver or gold LEED certification.”

I Love The Earth…and My Cat

So, what do us treehuggers do with our pets? We want to treat both the Earth with respect and our pets too. I have two cats whom I love dearly and treat like saints, but I also want to treat the Earth well too. I hated using that stinky scent-filled cat litter — I sneezed everytime I changed the litter box and cats really hate scented cat litter. So, a few years ago I thought “What can I do to help my ‘girls’ out?” I try to do my part. I changed to Swheat Scoop cat litter, which is made out of wheat is totally biodegradable and clumps like regular litter. It seems like my cats actually prefer this litter to little like Tidy Cats. It’s unscented and not as dusty.

I have also reused and recycled materials that I may otherwise have thrown out. My one cat Mandy, likes to scratch horizontally as opposed to vertically, so I got carpet remnants from a local carpet store and this is what she uses to scratch on, as opposed to scratching up my rugs and carpeting. Another example of reusing materials is my cats play box. My mom took an old box and painted it and cut several holes in the box so the cats can peek in and out — this is the cats little play house, and they love it! I also placed one of the leftover carpet remnants in the box. And, with catnip toys, just place them in the refrigerator once in a while to freshen up the catnip and it’s like the toys are brand new!

Also, there are many organic and natural cat foods out there so your cat will eat a better diet — and don’t forget to give your kitties vitamins!  There are also many eco-friendly pet products that you can find in your local pet store or online.

Chicago Area Hospitals Go Green

Being green means being healthy when it comes to creating environmental-friendly and sustainable hospitals. And, more and more hospitals are viewing being green not only as a plus for the environment, but for their hospital and their patients and employees.

Advocate Lutheran General Hospitals New Patient Tower

Lutheran General Children’s Hospital stated, “Achieving gold certification will demonstrate that our new tower provides high performance surroundings for patients that are environmentally responsive, resource efficient and community sensitive.”

Some of the features Lutheran General boasts are low volatile organic compound paints, sealants, adhesives, and plastics used throughout the building; native drought-resistant plantings outside the hospital will be irrigated with recovered storm water; and recycled, locally-produced materials were used throughout the building.

Located in Arlington Heights, Ill. Northwest Community Hospital is undergoing its most extensive redevelopment in its 50-year history. Called the Renaissance Project, this endeavor includes a new 700 car parking garage and eight-story Patient Care Addition that will feature 200 private patient rooms by early 2010. According to Northwest Community Hospital some of the environmentally sustainable features of the parking garage include:

  • Construction pollution activity prevention – Erosion control measures were followed during construction to prevent topsoil sediment from entering storm sewers, and to minimize airborne dust.
  • Alternative transportation – Bicycle parking is included in the new parking deck to encourage alternatives to automobile use.
  • Stormwater design and management – Rain gardens and bioswales are part of the landscape design to slow the rate that stormwater enters the sewer system, and to recharge the natural groundwater (see more on rain gardens and bioswales below).
  • Heat island minimization – Structures and automobiles absorb and retain heat, reaching temperatures that are greater than the air temperature. This heat is radiated back into the surrounding environment, increasing cooling loads in buildings and creating a detrimental environment for plants, animals and people. The majority of parking in the new Visitor Garage is shaded from the sun, and the paved surface at the top of the deck is light in color to reduce the heat island effect.

These are only two examples of how Chicago area hospitals are striving to make their buildings healthy from the inside out.