Friday, April 21, 2017

How I Know What I Know {Earth Month Series}

This is post 3 of 5 in my Earth Month Series. You can find post #1 here, post #2 here, and post #3 here

People ask me all the time, "How do you know all of this stuff about the environment?" The truth is I'm self taught. But you, too, can know what I know by checking out the following links:

Social Media/Websites:
I've linked the websites below, and you can find social media links to follow on your preferred platform on each individual page.
The Story of Stuff

1 Million Women

Be Just Be Green

Climate Progress

Faith in Place

Interfaith Power & Light


Yes! Magazine

Environmental Voter Project

Moms Clean Air Force

Climate Reality Project

Books (that I've actually read):
 Climate Justice: A Call to Hope and Action

How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature

The 6th Extinction

A Hopeful Earth: Faith, Science, and the Message of Jesus

What should be added to this list? What sites and books teach you?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Top 5 Reasons I Love my Plug In Hybrid {Earth Month Series}

This is post 2 of 5 in my Earth Month Series. You can find post #1 here and post #2 here

Last August my husband and I purchased a 2013 Ford C-Max Energi. We had strict criteria in finding a plug-in hybrid and this ticked off all the boxes for us, from price to cargo to seating capacity to fuel economy. It has been one of our wisest purchases, and also one of our most researched.

So here's a quick roundup of the top 5 reasons we love our plug-in hybrid, aside from the obvious carbon-saving reasons:

1. We save a lot of money on gas.
The money we've saved on gas would cover 2.5 car payments, and we haven't even had the car for a year. Some days we're able to use only the battery without switching over to the gas engine. But even when we're on longer trips we get nearly 40 miles per gallon.

2. It's fun to drive.
The car is small and nimble but still feels solid and safe. It's quick off the line. It's easy to maneuver into parking spaces. In short: it's everything my minivan is not.

3. It fits the whole family.
This is the main reason we chose the C-Max over a Chevrolet Volt--seating for 5. And I can even fit a week's worth of groceries in the trunk. The are places to put all the odds and ends that a young family accumulates--snacks, drinks, books, etc. It's not the car we'll take on long road trips, but it's just perfect to drive into town for dinner or to run errands.

4. Tech features.
We're enjoying the Ford Sync system. Todd and I both have taken lots of calls in the car and it's very convenient and safe to do so while driving. And our inner data nerds love that we can control and follow the car's stats through an app on our phone. It's as close to The Jetsons as we can get in 2017 within our budget.

5. Less maintenance.
We've only needed one oil change since we've bought the car. And aside from a recall repair we were made aware of a few months after getting the car it's only been in the shop once for a minor issue.

We're glad to be early adopters of this plug-in technology, signaling to the auto industry that people really do want these kinds of cars. It's evident that the market is changing with the Tesla 3 and Chevy Bolt coming out soon with vehicles that get over 200 miles range on a battery charge. And with the advent of increased wind and solar technology, it will become cleaner than ever to power this car with every passing year.

What's are your hesitations with plug-in or hybrid cars? Or why do you love yours? Post your comments below!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Why the Future Energy Jobs Bill Should Matter to People of Faith {Earth Month Series}

This is post 2 of 5 in my Earth Month Series. You can find last week's post here.  

In November 2016, after more than two years of intensive negotiations, Illinois’ General Assembly passed the most significant piece of climate and clean energy policy in the state’s history. The Future Energy Jobs Act (SB2814; Public Act 99-0906) moves our electric sector toward a more modern, low carbon economy. This bill is a victory for people in every community across Illinois who deserve more jobs, lower electric bills, and healthier air to breathe. It’s also a victory for businesses in Illinois in the clean energy sector and across the economy, and a signal to companies across the nation that Illinois is fertile ground for growth in this field--a field growing 12 times as fast as the US economy. 

The narrative on the bill has incorrectly focused on aid given to a pair of nuclear plants*, but this bill is all about the future with major emphasis on energy conservation and clean renewable energy. Approximately 70% of the funds from the overall legislation will focus on kick starting clean energy, which dwarfs the dollars going to aid the two nuclear plants, and will help chart the path toward a clean, modern energy economy for decades to come—bringing tens of thousands of new jobs, billions in private investments, cleaner air and needed savings on monthly electricity bills, statewide. 

What's especially exciting is that this bill will open up opportunities to people in low-income communities who too often have been shut out of participating in the clean energy economy. This bill invests more than $750 million in low-income programs, including the Illinois Solar for All Program to prioritize new solar development and job training in economically disadvantaged communities. Specific programs will deliver job training and creation for returning citizens (ex-offenders) and foster care alumni.

So why should this matter to people of faith? Because this bill stands up for environmental and economic justice for our neighbors and is a way to work toward healthier communities for all. Illinois leads the US in the number of fossil fuel burning plants located in communities of color. And low income residents use a higher percentage of their total expenses on energy than higher income families do. This legislation helps level the playing field, rids our air of pollution, and brings jobs to communities often left behind.

But this legislation needs your help. Though the Future Energy Jobs Act takes effect on June 1, 2017, it's in danger of losing its funding. The funds, called the Renewable Energy Resources Fund (RERF), are in danger of being swept into other programs because of the budget crisis. Sweeping these funds sweeps away the hope of lower utility bills, workforce development and job training, and cleaner air. I encourage you to call your state representatives about HR234/SB234 and ask them to protect the RERF funds.

While we wait for more solar and wind energy, you can still become a smart energy consumer. Learn how to use your smart meter or enroll in a Peak Time Rewards program or Power Smart Pricing program through Ameren. Or email me about bringing a Smart Energy Workshop to your house of worship.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Top 5 Meatless Monday Meals {Earth Month Series}

  Let's kick off my Earth Month series with a post about food. Because I'm never not thinking about food.
         Going meatless for one meal a week is perhaps the most important way my family cares for creation. It takes a lot of resources to raise animals--and the corn/soybeans to feed those animals. Intentionally going meatless for one meal a week (or 15% of your weekly food consumption) minimizes water usage, reduces greenhouse gases, and reduces our fuel dependence. Meatless meals also reduce heart disease and stroke risks, limit cancer risks, fight diabetes, curb obesity, decrease overall healthcare spending, improve the nutritional quality of your diet, and even cut your weekly grocery budget. This is one way I live out the Faith in Place mission to educate, connect, and advocate for healthier communities.
Here is a round-up of my family's favorite meatless meals. I hope you find quick and easy meatless inspiration here. And please share your family's favorite meatless meals in the comments below!
1. Grilled Cheese and Soup or Salad: Our favorite"fancy" grilled cheese recipes are Sweet and Spicy Carmelized Onion BBQ Grilled Cheese, Tomato, Mozzarella, and Pesto Grilled Cheese, and Cucumber and Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese.
2. Mac & Cheese: We have two favorites, Gnocchi Mac & Cheese and Crock Pot Mac & Cheese.
3. Pad Thai: Easy to throw together and always a hit with the kids: Easy Pad Thai
4. Pasta: We especially like to make these cheese ravioli dishes: Ravioli with Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Sauce and  Easy Ravioli Bake (I add a layer of frozen spinach to mine).
5. Meatless "Mexican" meals: Lots of variation here, but our favorites are Cheesy Enchilada Rice Skillet, Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas, and  Roasted Veggie and Black Bean Burritos.