75 Years

This Saturday, come hear Joe Peden speak. Check out this video of Joe Peden; chances are you have been on the farm he and his wife run in Monroe County.

He and the rest of Monroe County celebrate the 75th Annual Meeting of the Soil and Water Conservation District. Among other things they help make cover crops affordable for area farmers and keep septic systems running.

The event is Saturday, February 24 from 9am to 12:30 at St Paul United Methodist Church on West 3rd St. Tickets are only $10 and can be found on Eventbrite.

At this event you can also learn about hoop houses, small plot invasive species, stormwater systems, and pasture management.


What is Gnarley Tree?

I didn’t know either until last night’s Monroe County Environmental Commission meeting, and it further came into focus with the front page article in today’s Herald Times.

Gnarley Tree is a new company in Bloomington which has already racked up an impressive list of clients including the World Bank.

They just picked up a new client: the City of Bloomington. You can hear more about what Gnarley Tree and COB are planning Wednesday February 01 from 4-6pm in City Hall Council Chambers in the Showers Building. I hope you can make it!

EPA’s Gina McCarthy Offers 3 Reasons to be Optimistic

EPA Admin  Gina McCarthy at Indiana University

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy came to Bloomington last night. Read her (bio), and follow her on Twitter (@ginaepa).

She offered three reasons to be optimistic despite a Trump Administration’s proposed 31% cut to the EPA budget.

  1. We are living in the midst of a Clean Energy Revolution that doesn’t depend on Washington budgets, but is driven by the markets. This is clearly evident in Monroe County by the growth of solar installations on County and residential structures. She mentioned that this revolution could move faster with government investment, which we are seeing in Monroe County!
  2. A Transportation Revolution is on the horizon. Driverless vehicles and electric cars are rapidly developing. Numerous countries are also looking to ban the internal combustion engine. McCarthy also warned that China will soon lead the way in green technology and US companies will be looking East to catch up. Fortunately here in Monroe County there are already electric car charging stations, as I wrote about in October 2017.
  3. McCarthy urged unity and continued effort which is something Monroe County is very good at doing! To this end two groups brought Administrator McCarthy to Bloomington. Indiana University’s Environmental Resiliency Institute and the newly formed Concerned Scientists at IU.

The EPAs Janet McCabe was also in the audience. The Monroe County Environmental Commission brought her to Bloomington in 2016 for a talk on the Clean Power Plan.


    2 Big Events to Not Miss this Sunday!

    This Sunday, January 14 there are not 1 but 2 events you can not miss in Monroe County!

    1. Bicentennial Celebration Join county officials and hundreds of everyday citizens at the County Courthouse from 1-4pm. There will be historic conversations starting at 1:30pm. There will also be activities for kids, live music, and lots of history! Need more information? Visit www.visitbloomington.com/bicentennial-2018.

    2. Wild and Scenic Film Festival This film festival is making its debut appearance in Monroe County and it all runs from 5-8pm at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Tickets are only $25 and proceeds support the Indiana Forest Alliance. Food trucks and live music round out this must see event!


    Restoring Vegetation is Key

    The effects of global warming are being felt all over the globe. From rising sea levels to increased extreme weather, these effects seem scary and can leave us feeling helpless.

    However in a recent paper published in Nature, researchers analyzed stored carbon in the world’s vegetation. While they document that some human activity prevents this carbon capture from occurring, an alternative can have positive impact as quoted in the Washington Post:

    …restoring vegetation around the world could in principle achieve that,” Duffy continued, noting that if all the potential vegetation were restored it would offset some 50 years of global carbon emissions. While “the full theoretical potential will never be realized in practice … this paper indicates that restoring vegetation could make an extremely important contribution to controlling global climate change.

    Fortunately, Monroe County Indiana is actively preserving vegetation in it various parks, natural areas, and partnerships with organizations such as the Sycamore Land Trust. It’s just one more example of how local government and research are teaming up to provide community-wide and sustainable good.


    Water Quality: An Ongoing Concern Locally

    5099477424_7c2cbd3d4e_b“Too many pipes in Indiana are at or near the end of their useful life”. That was a conclusion by the Indiana Finance Authority in their November 2016 report.
    Water quality is on the minds of Hoosiers in Monroe County. The water that streams into every one of our residential or public buildings has a direct correlation to our health, and the water in our county is valuable for recreation. When I go out, a question I now ask is “What local environmental issues concerns you the most?” Time and time again I hear that water quality is a top concern.
    Local water quality issues gives credence to this anecdotal evidence. Beginning in January 2016, increased testing began for Disinfectant Biproducts (DBPs). I’ll let you investigate the level of depth you want to learn about DPBs, but for those that want to track this issue the Herald Times’ GovTracker blog reports on water quality trends, and the City of Bloomington regularly publishes DPB and other water quality data at data.bloomington.in.gov/group/utilities. The bottom line is that water quality was enough of a concern that local leaders took action.
    Additionally, the Indiana Finance Authority published a report detailing the problem of aging water pipes. The report was based on a survey conducted with every water utility across the state. Cost and infrastructure problems were reported regionally (see p. 21 of the report) and statewide as the report concluded that, “Too many pipes in Indiana are nearing or at the end of their useful life.”
    It is important to protect our water quality, and Monroe County Government plays a large role in this protection. Monroe County Stormwater Quality staff work to control stormwater which can otherwise threaten public health and aquatic life, negatively affect recreational activities, increase costs of water treatment, contribute to flooding events and cause erosion of valuable land. The Monroe County Soil and Water staff work to provide leadership and education in the conservation of Monroe County’s natural resources: soil, water, air, wildlife, forests and lakes. The Monroe County Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission advises the County Commissioners and educates the public on local environmental issues.
    The above report and recent water quality issues highlights the necessary work of local and state government and its leaders to invest in infrastructure. It also suggests the need for greater regional collaboration to preserve shared resources for all residents.

    Ahead of the Food Curve

    local-farms-local-foodIn an ongoing look at sustainability assets in Monroe County, there is one business that has helped shape the way we grow, eat, and learn about food: Bloomingfoods.

    Food policy so often focuses on access. In fact, you need only to look at the recent focus on food deserts. There is even a map dedicated to showing how far away a certain residence is to a source of food, and this is important.

    But in Monroe County residents have been spoiled by access to good food provided by  Bloomingfoods. Started in 1979, they were incubated by residents who sought food they couldn’t obtain elsewhere. Over the years they have grown throughout Monroe County and have offered local food producers access to a growing market, and in return residents found an increasingly local array of produce. Bloomingfoods also promotes local sustainability through print and online publications and support of local non-profits.

    Bloomingfood’s most recent contribution has been to help our region prepare for a seachange in the way we think about groceries in Monroe County. As Bloominfoods expanded throughout the county, new businesses have come to Bloomington to reach households increasingly interested in sustainable agriculture and knowing more about the food they are feeding their families. This has in turn put positive pressure on growers and the evidence can be seen in the produce section of Bloomingfoods, Lucky’s, Kroger, and soon others. The crowds at the Bloomington Farmer’s Market also show this positive pressure. The end result is that interest and consequently knowledge of sustainability is growing in Monroe County.

    Members of the Monroe County Environmental Commission composed this post. Their charge includes “educating the community and engaging residents and businesses in supporting initiatives which will help ensure a healthier and more economically viable future for the County.” The public is welcome to attend these meetings the second Wednesday of every month at 5:30pm.