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.

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Top 5 Green Events for February

As Monroe County, Indiana heads toward World Water Day and Valentine’s Day, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about and enjoy local nature. Here are our picks for the Top 5 Green Events in February. For even more, make sure to visit the regularly updated Green Events Calendar.

2905337_653c8afbLearn how to Keep Animals Are you interested in keeping chickens or alpacas, but don’t know where to start? There are three events this month to help you get started with your own backyard menagerie! Find Chickens 101 on February 04. Alpaca 101 on February 11. Getting Started with Backyard Chickens on February 18

ifalogotextur-e1453754207896Indiana Forest Alliance Rally at the Statehouse At this rally, the Indiana Forest Alliance will ask our new governor and our legislators to protect our state forests from the 400% increase in logging. We’ll be asking to lower logging in our state forests, and to set aside “Wild Areas,” which comprise 23% of our state forests that would NOT be logged, and would be allowed to return to old growth, for the people that use it and the animals that need it.

bgm_herb_gardenPlanning Your 2017 Garden The first step to take in any garden venture is planning. Participants in this class learn what plants will succeed in this part of Indiana, and the organic method for giving plants what they need to thrive. Discover how to start plants indoors for different types of gardens, plan a layout of your garden area, and learn what materials and tools will be useful as you get going.

indiana-prophetstown-state-park-barn-on-farmlandAg-vocate Training The Indiana Agvocate Program is to help those interested in promoting agriculture to the general public more effectively discuss industry topics, break through industry jargon and learn how to tell their agriculture story using social media, presentations, events and more. Consumers and farmers have choices regarding how food is grown/produced. A goal is this program is to provide information regarding how to share this information without speaking negatively about others in agriculture who may not share those views. This event is sponsored by the Indiana Dairy Producers and takes place in French Lick.

lake_monroe_from_clear_creek_townshipFriends of Lake Monroe is a group of people interested in supporting Lake Monroe and its watershed. We like to swim, paddle, sail, boat, hike and enjoy the lake and its watershed. We support clean water and sustainable recreation. Find out more on their Facebook page. They meet the third Thursday of the month at the Monroe County Public Library.

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.

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.

 

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.

Federal Climate Change Denial and What to do About It

myron-ebell-1024x607President-elect Trump is putting his team together, and his choice to lead the transition for the Environmental Protection Agency is one more step toward an official Federal policy of climate change denial. Trump repeatedly called global warming a hoax . The man Trump has called on to shape the EPA in his administration is a well-known climate skeptic and a critic of efforts by the Obama administration to address climate change.

The man’s name is Myron Ebell, and here is what you should know.

First, Ebell is against the the popular Paris Climate Deal. In May, he hoped “whoever was elected president would ‘undo the E.P.A. power plant regs and some of the other regs that are very harmful to our economy.’” This puts his views, against international agreements to help curb environmental changes, in the scientific minority. It also raises the specter that the U.S. could pull out of the agreement. NPR’s Susan Phillips wrote a great article summarizing this issue; she hopefully noted that countries gathered at the Marrakesh Conference exhibited “a defiant optimism”.

Second, Ebell is “a well-known and polarizing figure in the energy and environment realm” according to Scientific American. He is the director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute. This institute questions climate change, supports increased fossil fuel use, and opposes initiatives such as the Kyoto Protocol, cap-and-trade, and EPA regulation of greenhouse gasses. In a world imagined by this Institute, our air and water would be less clean, and our efforts to stop the effects of a warming world would be more isolated and less effective. The director of these ideas is now heading the transition to the EPA.

Third, Ebell is not a scientist nor does he have degrees or qualifications in climate science, according to Business Insider. Despite this he works to undermine the work of climate scientists. In interviews conducted by Business Insider, a climate scientist from NASA showed disdain for Ebell and the magazine called Ebell a gadfly whose views scientists had to stoop to acknowledge and whose views had little scientific content.

This is alarming even for us here in Monroe County because the decisions made by this administration will affect our lives and the ways we interact with our surroundings. This sends signals to the way states run their environmental protection activities that business interests trumps beneficial regulations and there is no middle ground or compromise. It also gives credence to conspiracy theories against the reliance on scientific inquiry and data.

This can be discouraging, but stay informed and get active! Read reliable, independent reporting on the environment and contact your elected officials to voice your opinions on environmental issues. You can also stay in touch with this blog which sends out a monthly alert of local green events and issues. Lastly, as the Federal Government goes down the climate denial rabbit hole, the role of state and local governments will increase. This means that local reporting and activism will be increasingly important.

Top 5 Green Events for December

As Monroe County, Indiana heads toward colder temperatures and the new year, there are plenty of winter opportunities to learn about and enjoy local nature. Here are our picks for the Top 5 Green Events in December. For even more, make sure to visit the regularly updated Green Events Calendar.

2013-07-10_lake-monroe_allens-creek_049Lunch with Nature Spend your lunch hour on December 19th on Monroe Lake at their lunch and learn series as they discuss clouds. This is a great excuse to visit one of Monroe County’s greatest resources and beef up your knowledge.

 

8420580460_b12c94fc7d_o-940x626Winter Farmers Market Just because the ground is frozen doesn’t mean there isn’t local food and other goods offered by area farmers. This is a great time to visit Harmony school for meat, greens, and all sorts of other goods. Visit them online at http://www.bloomingtonwinterfarmersmarket.com/ for weekly events at the market.

2208727_10a1826cWinter Solstice Celebration The folks at the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice are holding a celebration of the winter solstice. This free event will feature a celebration with the word, symbol and sharing. Refreshments are even served. It all starts at 6:30pm.

 

cem46902202_117781896774Cemetery History Series December is a great month to learn about local history and the people who helped make our community what it is today. There are two tours on separate Thursdays featuring the cemeteries near Friendship and Chandler. Find more information by clicking on the links above.

rock-river-landing-eagleGoose Pond and Monroe Lake are great places locally to find overwintering birds of all types. In particular, you will enjoy looking for Lake Monroe’s Bald Eagles. Find out more about the Sassafras Audubon Society’s trips at http://www.sassafrasaudubon.org/node/269.

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.

Recommended Update on Environmental Policy

1107_paris-agreement-1000x663There is something big happening tonight and while I should have been posting yesterday, I was phone banking…

Diane Rehm, the award winning radio journalist and author, did a great show earlier this month on the environment. The show can listened to or the transcript can be found online. She and her guests provided an in-depth analysis of recent environmental policy. Update your base of knowledge on issues such as coral bleaching, western Antarctic ice sheet retreat, Miami’s concern about rising sea levels, the Montreal Protocol and the seeming end of CFCs, and the upcoming Paris Agreement talks in Morocco.

The panel of experts is worth following. If you are like me and can’t ever seem to keep up with reliable environmental news, they can help:

  • Amy Harder (@AmyAHarder) is a reporter covering energy and climate policy at The Wall Street Journal
  • Chris Mooney (@chriscmooney) energy and environment reporter, Washington Post
  • Cary Funk (@surveyfunk) associate director of research on science and society, Pew Research Center

Of course, you should add this blog to your rss reader, as we update this page with local information weekly.