Who Doesn’t Love Food and Farms

Do you support small farmers and sustainable agriculture? If you answered yes, then the Food and Farms Coalition is for you!

This coalition between Mother Hubbard’s Food Pantry and Hoosier Action is working to influence the federal 2018 Farm Bill. This bill effects a wide swath of Hoosiers including farmers, SNAP benefit recipients, and those of us that like buying food from farmers at the Bloomington Farmers Market.

The next meeting of this group can be found on Facebook. They meet Tuesday, February 27 at 6:30pm at the Monroe County Public Library.


How You Can Lobby for Science

Does the current administration have you scratching your head, wondering why the sudden disbelief in science and facts? Well you aren’t alone!

Dori Chandler is with the Union of Concerned Scientists and will give a workshop called “Effective Communication with Legislators: How to be a Lobbyist for Science.” The talk is Thursday, February 22, 12:30 – 2:00 PM in Room S201 (Patten Room) of the Indiana University Geology Building (1001 E. 10th St.). Free lunch provided! This event is free and open to the public.

This workshop will be followed with an opportunity later in the month to go talk to state legislators.

This workshop is brought to you by the newly formed and very active Concerned Scientists at Indiana University.

Light Rail in Indiana

A bright light of mass transit in Indiana arrived as January came to a close. The Indiana House lifted the ban on light rail in the counties in and around Indianapolis. The IBJ article covering this is here.

We’ll see what the Senate and eventually the Governor will do…

It is worth noting that China is heavily investing in light rail as a solution to growing cities. They are also using exciting technology. See an intersting article here. The reason this is worth noting is that the House is reacting to a major employer considering Indiana. If we don’t start improving our mass transit systems to catch up to Chinese and other country’s investments, we will find it very difficult to attract an increasingly urban workforce.

It would also benefit our great state and our ability to attract and retain an educated workforce by investing in regional mass transit.

Affordable Solar is Here

solar_panels_on_house_roof_winter_viewInterest in Solar power is growing even stronger in Monroe County! Solarize Bloomington is the latest effort to help residents afford solar panels on their homes.

The good news is that there are upcoming information sessions for interested home owners who wish to begin saving money or want to expand their current array. The next sessions will be:

  • February 16 (noon at the Monroe County Public Library),
  • February 18 (10:30am at Monroe County Public Library) and
  • February 25 (10:30am at City Hall).

While an RSVP here would be nice, interested parties can also simply show up.

Monroe County is already home to one of the highest concentrations of residential solar panels. A searchable map of existing panels is maintained by SIREN, and while it is already an impressive array, efforts by Solarize Bloomington will only increase the points on the map.

With the improved technology of household batteries, the rational for installing solar panels is on the upswing. Tesla recently announced their Powerwall 2 battery, and the German firm Sonnen recently entered the US market. This competition will help drive innovation and further reduce costs.

Members of the Monroe County Environmental Commission compiled 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.

New Year of Environmentalism in Monroe County

urban_forestry_center_arboretum_portsmouth_nh_-_img_8236Happy New Year!

I can’t believe it’s been a month; time really flies around the holidays. I hope yours went as well as my family’s!

It’s 2017 and the Monroe County environmental blog is back with exciting changes to the way this county is working to protect the environment and to educate the public about ways we are moving forward.

Of course, how can you ignore the national news as the President-elect works to put together his team ahead of his inauguration? But we’ll leave those developments for a future post. Now, the local stuff…

First, to kick off the new year a new slate of County officials were sworn into office, including our new commissioner Amanda Barge. The Herald Times had good coverage of the event.

Second, the wheels are churning on the Monroe County Urbanizing Plan which will modernize zoning in the county while setting out clear environmental protections for Karst features and best practices for approaches to stormwater and urban runoff. There are also provisions to continue the County’s development of greenways.

Third, the name of this body has changed to better reflect the work we do. Instead of the Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission, we are now simply the Environmental Commission.

With the New Year you can expect to see the commission encouraging the County toward urban forestry, increasing energy efficiency in County buildings, and publishing an annual report detailing energy savings.

Members of the Monroe County Environmental Commission wrote 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.


Environmental Solutions in the form of Faith Groups

Faith groups offer environmental solutions in Monroe County. Not surprisingly, houses of worship are leading the way to reduce their carbon footprint and educate local Hoosiers about ways they can make a difference. This message is being spread to thousands of people weekly in committee meetings, sermons, and small groups.

These efforts also are coordinated through interfaith efforts. Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light (HIPL), which aims to “bring Hoosiers of faith together as stewards of creation in order to promote renewable energy, energy conversation and efficiency, as a faith response to climate change”, boasts two Monroe County individuals on their board, and Monroe County-based Earth Care is one of only eight regional affiliates of HIPL in Indiana and has 28 local faith communities who work together.

Here we highlight four of these faith communities: Beth Shalom, the Friends Meeting House, St. Thomas Lutheran, and the Unitarian Universalist church.

bethshalomBeth Shalom represents Bloomington’s Jewish community. They proudly state, “With our solar panels we choose life for future generations”. And it backs this quote up with the solar panels that provide energy for the children that attend preschool there every day. In fact, Beth Shalom was an early adopter and has been a national leader in greening. They were a 2012 co-winner of the OED’s Community Conservation Challenge Grant for Indiana, and with a $25,000 grant from OED they leveraged funding to install a 23.32 KW photovoltaic array, which has been in operation since the end of April 2013. Whether it is the teaching or the actions, Beth Shalom continues to lead the way to a better life for future generations.

friendsBloomington Friends Meeting House. In 2009 this church was one of the first houses of worship to install solar panels. When they did so it was said, “Quakers are committed to the transformational power of love embodied in the Testimonies of Peace, Equality, Community, Simplicity, and Integrity. When we live in the Life which is attuned to nature and which finds joy and satisfaction in human relationships and personal growth, we will be less dependent on material possessions and more protective of our environment.” With their tradition of silence, I will let those words speak for itself.

stlc-solar-arraySt. Thomas Lutheran has been taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint and have been raising awareness throughout Monroe County. Yes they have solar panels, and if you ask the staff their thermostat is just on this side of being uncomfortable. Their building is designed to highlight natural light, and they have a community garden. But the church’s most recent action is that they are actively engaging their congregation by adapting their services. Throughout September, St. Thomas has focused on different themes in their liturgy, based on a model that comes from churches in Australia:

  • Ocean Sunday: We join the Psalmists and call the sea to roar with songs of praise, and with our Creator, we rejoice with whales, dolphins and other sea creatures.
  • Animal Sunday: We worship with the entire living family on Earth. We celebrate birds, animals, reptiles, and all living creatures.
  • Storm Sunday: We worship with the storm. We sing with the winds, the clouds, and the thunder. We wonder at the power of storms and the fierce expressions of the elements.
  • Universe Sunday: We worship with the entire universe, conscious that the universe is a vast sacred space. The special focus for this service is the spiritual impulse or presence that permeates the universe that scripture calls Wisdom!

These examples come from the church’s September newsletter which you can find on their website. More importantly, the church is helping to educate its diverse congregation on ways they can help solve environmental problems.

uuThe Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington is setting ambitious environmental standards in Monroe County. Their sanctuary is certified as a Green Sanctuary through a program of the greater UU church. It’s associated task force has a goal is to help members create sustainable lifestyles and reduce carbon footprints. As a church they have installed solar panels and have generated enough energy to cover 57% of their usage! This has garnered the church accolades nationally: EPA Energy Star certification and one of the first twenty Interfaith Power and Light congregations. As UU of Bloomington moves forward they will continue to show other organizations what can be done!

Members of the Monroe County Environmental Commission compiled this list. 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.