Oak Park Aims to be Destination for Midwest’s Green Film Festival

Oak Park, Ill. has always been known as a fairly progressive, liberal and creative town. Located next door to Chicago, Oak Park boasts the childhood home of Ernest Hemingway and a plethora of other cultural attractions, Oak Park has added “green community” to their list of community positives.

In 2011 the Oak Park/River Forest (suburb next door to Oak Park) area developed PlanItGreen, “[t]he Environmental filmfest-logo-2014-large-303x360Sustainability Plan for Oak Park and River Forest…[it] is a project designed to develop and implement an environmental sustainability plan” which will be discussed in a future blog.

In addition to setting benchmarks and goals to reduce energy and water consumption and just have greener communities, Oak Park has gone one step further and established the well-known green film festival, One Earth Film Festival, which has grown in just three years.

According to the One Earth Film Festival Web site, “[it] is a Chicago area film festival that creates opportunities for understanding climate change, sustainability and the power of human involvement through sustainability-themed films and facilitated discussions…[to] stimulate, energize and activate communities…maximizing citizen reach and expanding the movement.”

“The festival offers a broad coverage of topics – from films about energy, waste and water, but has evolved to cover more metaphysical and philosophical topics as well and how this affects our environment,” states Ana Garcia Doyle, One Earth Film Festival Founder and Team Lead.

Some films the festival has presented in the past include Musicwood, which chronicles three of the world’s most famous guitar makers as they travel to the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska, where Spruce trees are being logged at an alarmingly high rate. Sitka Spruce trees are used to make acoustic guitar soundboards. Another film, Comfort Zone explores “an in-depth look at what happens when global climate climate issues come to our backyards.”

In addition to screening 30-40 films, Doyle emphasizes involvement through getting speakers to discuss the featured films and panel discussions after the film has been filmed which then turn the question back to the audience “what can you do?”.

The 4th Annual One Earth Film Festival is March 6-8, 2015. Check the festival’s Web site for further information.



Have Fun in the Sun….And Learn Something Too With Sierra Club Group Outings

The summer and fall months are perfect for meeting new people while exploring the great outdoors and learning about the preservation of the environment and the Sierra Club provides all of this.

“Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet” is the Sierra Club’s motto and members and nonmembers can explore the outdoors with the Club’s many outings. There are three parts to the Club’s outings: local, national and international. Another outings offshoot are the Inner City Outings in which the Sierra Club visits urban areas giving these residents the opForested dunes hikeportunity to explore the outdoors – many urban residents never have the chance to visit rural areas. The Sierra Club Northwest Cook County Group, which serves Park Ridge to the Cook County section of Barrington and south to Schaumburg and Elk Grove Village offers a variety of outings for all skill levels – from easy to more strenuous hikes to canoe trips to cross country skiing during the winter.

Rick Szafarz, Outings Chair of the Northwest Chapter explains, “When people participate in these outings they generally have an overall love to get outdoors and explore. The Sierra Club’s outings range from hiking to camping, biking, backpacking and paddling and many other activities. We usually offer between a dozen and two dozen outings per year.”

For more information about outings, including pricing information (most outings are only $3) check out both the Northwest Chapter’s and the Illinois Sierra Club’s pages. You don’t need to be a member of the Sierra Club to attend the outings and, even if you live in the Northwest Cook County region you can still attend outings throughout the state or the country as well.

Some upcoming outings presented by various groups throughout the state include the Wilderness Act Celebration at Lusk Creek (Shawnee National Forest) on Saturday, August 9; Cycling the Oak Savannah and Prairie on Sunday, August 10; Adopt a Trail Work Day – Illinois Prairie Path in Glen Ellyn on Saturday, August 23; Sand State Forest Exploratory Backpack on Sunday, September 7 and South Kettle Moraine Beginner’s Backpack Friday, September 19-Sunday, September 21.

And, if you have more of an interest in the environment and conservation and would like to be surrounded by other like-minded individuals, the Northwest Cook County Group has monthly program meetings the second Thursday of every month at 7:30 pm with a time to socialize beforehand at 7 pm. Light refreshments will be served. Currently the meetings are held at the Spring Valley Nature Center, 111 E. Schaumburg Rd. in Schaumburg. Meetings are free and open to the public. Be sure to check the Group’s Web site for the meeting’s topic.

Say Goodbye to Bug Bites…Naturally

So, here it is July – the middle of the summer, which means for many of us, including myself, bug bites! Bugs, especially mosquitoes, love, love the taste of my blood – I don’t get it – I break out in terrible painful welts, but I hate using harsh chemicals to protect myself from these nasty bites. Thankfully there are some natural alternatives to regular bug sprays, especially any containing N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, or, more commonly known as DEET.

What is DEET?

A common ingredient in many over-the-counter insect repellents, DEET is a colorless yellow oil which works as a true repellent to mosquitoes. Even though DEET is a miracle ingredient for those of us who serve as a buffet to mosquitoes and other biting mosquitoinsects, it has been found that DEET has been found to inhibit the activity of a central nervous system ensyme acetylocholinesterase, which in essence, plays a role in the function of the neurons which control muscles. DEET has also been known to have effects on the environment including. It has been found have a slight toxicity for coldwater fish such as rainbow trout and tilapia and it also has been shown to be toxic for some species of freshwater zooplankton.

What Can I Do?

So, you’re wondering what can I use instead of a chemical-based insect repellent? I don’t want to use chemicals or expose others or the environment to DEET or other chemicals. There has to be an alternative. There are! You can find natural alternatives on the shelves of such stores as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, or even just the common grocery store or big box store. Natural and chemical-free is becoming more the norm nowadays. Personally, I’ve had luck with Burt’s Bee’s All Natural Outdoor Herbal Insect Repellent, which contains such key ingredients as peppermint oil, cedar and lemon eucalyptus. If you want to try your hand and making your own easy, inexpensive bug sprays or creams you can find many recipes online, including this recipe: http://tinyurl.com/mmbuv2c.

The Natural Resources Defense Council also suggests if you want to use a chemical-based repellent containing Picaridin. the NRDC states  “[Picaridin is] structurally based on chemicals in peppers…appears to interfere with the mosquito’s ability to smell it’s prey. …may be less effective than DEET. A 20% Picaridin formulation has been shown to repel mosquitoes for 8-10 hours.”

The NRC continues, saying ” Picaridin is much less irritating to the skin than DEET. It has very low toxicity and does not appear to cause adverse neurological or reproductive effects. Nor does it cause cancer in animals.”

Other Things Of Note

Of course, ridding your area of any standing water helps prevent mosquitoes – standing water is just a breeding ground for these pests. Also, check the mosquito forecast – if it’s high then stay indoors or at least in a screened-in area. And, proper clothing is key – wearing clothing that covers your arms and legs minimizes your chances of being bitten by mosquitoes or other biting insects.