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.

Where Local Politicians Stand on Environmental Issues

Early Voting Begins In Iowa For Presidential ElectionWith 2016 elections less than a week away, this is your look at how local races treat environmental issues. Below you’ll find candidates in categories by the seat they seek. While we understand that early voting has been strong in Monroe County, we want to ensure that local candidates stances on environmental issues are well known.

There is a Referendum Question on hunting and we recommend you listen to the October 21st taping of Noon Edition before you step into the voting booth.

Happy voting!

Will the Heat Stay in a Warmer County?

us-climate-zonesInsulation has been a focus of the Monroe County Energy Challenge and for good reason. Proper r-values in your home or office can reduce the amount of energy you consume, increase comfort, and best-of-all save you money. But what will the impact of climate change be on insulation recommendations?

The r-value is a way to measure insulation; defines it as the “insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-Value the better the thermal performance of the insulation”. You can find your recommended r-value by the region of the country you live in; Monroe County is in zone 4 which suggests attics be insulated from r-38 to r-60.

If you are a gardener as I am, you’ll notice that the r-value map looks very familiar to the USDA’s hardiness zone map which helps gardeners and farmers know when to plant/transplant certain seeds.

This hardiness map has not been static. As climate change has impacted our world, the zones have moved. Some areas becoming warmer, some cooler and some there has been no change. But Monroe County became warmer and our hardiness zone changed. The Arbor Day Foundation has a really cool timelapse of this climate change trend that dramatically illustrates this point.

So, as hardiness zones migrate will r-values migrate as well? If Monroe County continues to experience climate change will our current r-values decrease? If we continue to warm will they increase to keep the cool air in? These are intriguing questions that time will tell. As more changes occur due to climate change, it helps to put the changes in focus when it so directly impacts home/office renovation and new construction.

As you ponder those questions, take some time to review these Energy Saving Tips.

Top 5 Green Events for November

As Monroe County, Indiana breezes toward November and Thanksgiving, there are plenty of fall opportunities to learn about and enjoy local nature. Here are our picks for the Top 5 Green Events in November. For even more, make sure to visit the regularly updated Green Events Calendar.

duckdonutDucks and Donuts One of the best named November events, and it got our attention! The Sassafras Audubon Society will host their 7th annual event at the Stillwater Marsh Overlook, off State Road 46, east of Bloomington. They will serve coffee and donuts and hopefully there will be plenty of waterfowl and other birds to look at.  It starts at 8am and finishes at 11am on November 12th.

pieWhite Violet’s Cooking Series This is your way to brush up on cooking skills ahead of the Thanksgiving feast, which you thought would be a good idea to host this year… There are events on cooking basics, cooking with vegetables, and cooking with meat. All these will occur on different nights and is reasonably priced, especially since participants get to eat what they cook!

saunterSlow Saunter and Campfire Join the Indiana Forest Alliance on November 05th for an educational 3 mile hike, campfire meal, and discussion led by University of Indianapolis English professor Kevin McKelvey connecting the ideas of nature and home. This hike is part of the Indiana Forest Alliance’s Slow Saunter hiking series, which aims to inspire protection advocacy for Indiana’s forests, and Indiana Humanities’ Next Indiana Campfires, which connects nature, literature, and the Hoosier bicentennial.

orchardclassFall Planting of Pome Fruit Trees This is your opportunity to grow better. Learn how to plant apple, pear, and other pome fruit trees in fall in order to get a head start on the growing season. In this hands-on class, students learn to select a site, prepare the soil, plant, and stake fruit trees in fall. The class will plant a tree during the class, so please dress appropriately for the weather and for the work. The proper planting of fruit trees is the first step to success and an investment in a future that can span many decades with bountiful harvests. This is a free event and you can find it all on November 05th.

walk2Fossil Bed Hike Celebrate the diversity of Monroe Lake on November 10. The limestone shoreline around the point at Allen’s Creek is so dense with fossils that it’s hard to find “plain” rock! The fossil beds are filled with crinoids and corals, interspersed with geodes – remnants of the shallow sea that once covered Indiana. On a hike to and from the fossil beds, we’ll explore the broader geological story told by the rock layers exposed in the Monroe Lake area. Round-trip hike distance is about 4 miles over moderate terrain and takes roughly 3 hours.


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.

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.

Solar Panels are About to Become Even Cheaper…

pvpanelsSolar is expanding in Monroe County and the City of Bloomington is making it cheaper for you to install panels on your home or business!

In an effort to put new PV panels up at City Hall and at Police headquarters, the city plans to put out a request for proposals. The vendor will include a per watt price as well as installation costs for area residents. The bundling of the two large City projects will help reduce the per watt price for area residents. While the city will not be a party to private agreements between the home owner and the solar installer, they are helping residents reduce the cost of installing panels on their homes.

If you have questions about this great opportunity, please contact the City of Bloomington’s Department of Economic and Sustainable Development.

Another similar program is being advocated by residents of Elm Heights and Bryan Park in Bloomington who will band together to make a larger purchase of solar panels which will reduce costs for everyone participating. More information can be found at

The good news is that local solar installations are increasing and cost continues to decrease. Moreover, you and your neighbors can band together and reduce costs based on the Elm Heights model!

If you would like to know more about solar in Monroe County or find an installer, Siren Solar is an organization that “has been a leading educator and promoter of renewable energy and energy conservation in the state of Indiana”. Contact them and discover how fast solar has grown in Monroe County at

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.

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.