Earth Day 2020 Live Online!

April 22, 2020 Schedule of Events

10 a.m. McLean County State of the Environment Panel Discussion Live

50 years ago the modern environmental movement was launched on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.  This single event turned around a dangerous decline in environmental conditions impacting public health and the survival of many endangered species as it inspired the establishment of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and much more.  We’ve come a long way and yet today we are facing unprecedented rollbacks of environmental regulations.  What are the significant areas of progress we have seen in the past five decades and what does the future hold?

A panel of local environmental professionals explore these questions and take your questions live via Zoom chat.  Confirmed panelists include:

  • Shannon Fulton, StraightUp Solar
  • Todd Shumaker, Midwest Fiber
  • Krista Kirkham, The Nature Conservancy
  • Michael Brown, The Ecology Action Center
  • Terra Brockman, Founder of the Land Connection
  • Moderator: Julie Elzanati (first Community Energy Coordinator for the EAC, first Director of the Green Institute at Heartland Community College, instrumental in the creation of the Illinois Green Economy Network)

Attendees will have the option to participate via Zoom Webinar and engage with the panel, asking questions by chat.  Alternately, viewers can watch the live stream of the panel discussion via EAC’s Facebook Live.

Noon:  Launch of Green Reads Book Club Zoom Discussion Group

limited space available-registration required

4 p.m. Importance of Renewable Energy for the Environment and the Economy

Hosted by StraightUp Solar.  Learn how solar plays an intergral role in a sustainable future.  Full details and registration via EventBrite.

5:30 p.m. EARTH DAY LIVE 2020

Join us for a short online family-friendly celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day including a live reading of the Dr. Suess classic The Lorax, music by Bruce Bergethon, and a special compilation of crowd-sourced environmental activities.  You don’t want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime production!

Viewers can watch the live stream of the event via EAC’s YouTube channel or Facebook Live.

7:30 p.m. Local premiere of “The Story of Plastic” – Virtual Showing with limited seating!

4/22/2020 7:20 p.m. update: VIRTUAL SHOWING NOW OPEN!
USE THIS LINK TO WATCH THE STORY OF PLASTIC NOW!

 

We are in a plastic crisis.

Plastic pollution is everywhere we look, smothering our oceans and poisoning communities around the world. Meanwhile, Big Plastic only plans to expand production. We need to chart a different course.

Plastic pollutes at every step.

Long before it reaches the environment, plastic harms people and the planet. From production to disposal, our plastic obsession has serious consequences.

As part of Earth Day 2020 observations, the Ecology Action Center is proud to host the local premiere of the new documentary, The Story of Plastic, as a virtual showing.

The link to the virtual showing will be provided on this page at 7:30 p.m. on Earth Day, April 22, 2020.  We anticipate that our limited number of views will run out–please plan to start watching the film on Earth Day evening to ensure that you don’t miss your opportunity.  Please bookmark this page and mark your calendar to join us for this special Earth Day 2020 virtual showing of The Story of Plastic.

 

 

Green Reads Book Club

EAC is proud to introduce Green Reads, our first community-wide book club.  The purpose of Green Reads is to create opportunities to build knowledge, deepen commitments, and take further action to protect clean water, improve air quality, reduce carbon emissions, improve energy efficiency, and reduce waste, for a more sustainable a healthy local environment for all.

A brand-new release has been selected for the first Green Reads book; the selection is simultaneously relevant to current issues, direct and unfiltered in its honesty, and yet dares to be humorous at times.  The announcement of the title will be made as the group begins but it is sure to provide for some interesting discussion.

There are two ways to participate in Green Reads:

Green Reads Facebook Group:  Our new Facebook Group membership will be not limited in size; anyone can keep pace with the reading assignments there and engage in discussion with other readers.  The link to this new Green Reads Facebook Group will be provided here and through Facebook on or after April 22, 2020 (Earth Day)!

Green Reads Zoom Group:  Green Reads Zoom participants will participate in real-time book club meet-ups using Zoom remote meeting platform on Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. starting April 22, 202o through May 20, 2020.  Participation in the Green Reads Zoom Group is limited to twelve participants in order to allow for a small enough group to allow for easy discussion and participation by all of those attending.  Please only register for this if you are available at this weekly meeting time.  Participation in this limited group is first-come, first serve.  The Green Reads Zoom Group registration is open until full using the ONLINE REGISTRATION FORM. Once the group has reached capacity, this link will be deactivated.

NOTE: Participation in either the Green Reads Facebook Group or Green Reads Zoom Group is limited to individuals 18 years old or above.  This is an adult level discussion group and the Ecology Action Center has no responsibility for the opinions or comments presented by any participants.  At the same time, participation is contingent upon respectful conduct.  The Ecology Action Center reserves the right to mute, remove, or block any individual at any time.

 

City and Town Select New Electricity Supplier for Ameren Customers

The Town of Normal and the City of Bloomington participate in municipal aggregation, which allows them to select and alternate energy supplier for Ameren residents. Both municipalities currently use MidAmerican as the current supplier, in a contract that expires at the end of June 2020.  Both have selected Homefield Energy for a new 24-month contract beginning in July 2020.

Bloomington customers’ two-year rate secured through Homefield Energy is $0.04333 per kilowatt hour – this is a “green” energy option. Through green plans, the energy supplier pledges to buy renewable energy credits or RECs from a company that produces power from renewable sources, such as wind. That renewable energy producer agrees to produce and deliver an amount of renewable energy to the grid that is equal to the amount of energy you consumed. The new Homefield rate is lower than the current MidAmerican supply rate of $0.0507 per kilowatt hour and the current Ameren supply rate of $0.04707 per kilowatt hour.

Normal customers do not have “green” energy offered as the default. Instead, the two-year rate secured through Homefield Energy is $0.0424 per kilowatt hour. Normal customers interested in the “green” option can talk to Homefield and switch.  The “green” rate is $0.0433 per kilowatt hour. These new rates are lower than Normal’s current rates through MidAmerican aggregation of $0.0498 and $0.0507 per kilowatt hour for green energy, and Ameren’s rate of $0.04707.

Participation in municipal aggregation is not required. Customers will have the opportunity to “opt out” of the program by May 1, 2020 to avoid having their supply switched, or at any time after service starts, without penalty. Homefield Energy will contact eligible customers by mail with details and to provide opt-out information. Customers who opt out of the program will remain on their current electric supply choice, whether that is Ameren Illinois Basic Generation Service (BSG), Power Smart Pricing, or another retail energy supplier. Be on the lookout for opt-out letters.

Customers that do not opt out, and start getting their electricity supplied by Homefield in July will not receive an additional bill. You will still receive your Ameren bill (in the mail or electronically if you do e-billing) and under supply, Homefield Energy will be listed as your electricity supplier.

There are many options for energy supply and energy production, and right now in Illinois the renewable energy market is growing due to the Future Energy Jobs Act. The Ecology Action Center is here to help you make sense of all the options available to you, so please reach out if you have questions about electrical aggregation, alternate energy suppliers, community solar, or rooftop solar. Contact Larissa Armstrong at 309-454-3169 x15 or [email protected].

Please share your photos and videos of environmental activities past and present

In order to compile a multimedia showcase of how our community celebrates Earth Day and our commitment to improve our local environment, the Ecology Action Center seeks your contributions of photos and videos of activities past and present that demonstrate efforts for a better environment.

We are interested in documentation of environmental activities from years past; as well, we are also interested in examples of beneficial environmental activities from the present day – the Coronavirus Era.  How are you and your household continuing to work towards a better environment while at the same time maintaining necessary social distancing practices and while protecting yourselves and others?  Examples might include time outside in nature, recycling, conserving energy, activities that protect clean air or clean water, or other creative ideas!

Please help us inspire others to continue environmental efforts in celebration of 50 years of Earth Day by sharing photos and videos from recent activities or years past.  Deadline for submission is midnight on Sunday, April 19.  Accepted submissions will be compiled into an online story to be released on Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22.

Please note that all individuals visible in submissions must agree to the usage of their likeness; all minors must have the approval of their parents or legal guardians.

Thank you!

Full time opening – Program Coordinator

Ecology Action Center
Program Coordinator Job Description

The Program Coordinator is a full-time salaried position with health insurance and paid time off including annual vacation time, sick time, and holidays.  The position is contingent upon funding.  Specific responsibilities may vary and are subject to change dependent upon funding opportunities.

This position will focus on the coordination and implementation of energy efficiency, recycling and waste reduction, or clean water protection outreach programs.  Specific roles depend on pending funding opportunities.  Candidates should possess a strong environmental health, energy efficiency, or environmental studies background.   Excellent written and verbal communication skills are required, and familiarity with relevant technology and software.

Major responsibilities include some combination, but not all of the following:

  • Promotion, coordination, and implementation of educational outreach programs such as fourth and third grade classroom programs in recycling/waste reduction and watersheds/stormwater runoff pollution.
  • Coordination of volunteer outreach projects including storm drain stenciling, creek clean ups, and/or natural areas stewardship workdays.
  • Educate residents at community events through information booths
  • Presentations to community groups.
  • Coordination of special events as assigned.
  • Research and project development to address program needs.
  • Coordinate programs to combine duties whenever necessary to save time and costs.
  • Assessment of homes and small businesses for energy use and adequate weatherization and provide detailed written reports of findings and recommendations.
  • Promotion of clean renewable energy such as solar PV through coordination of solar group purchasing programs, educational sessions, and other outreach.
  • Creation of educational content and messaging to promote program objectives (waste, clean water, or energy efficiency).
  • Update program-specific websites with new and updated content.

Additional duties may include assisting or leading educational programs, scheduling of programs, promoting programs and events of the EAC, working with interns and volunteers to facilitate programs of the EAC, staffing the center including answering phone calls, greeting the public, distributing informational materials, and assisting with the regular running of the center.  Weekend and evening hours are required occasionally.

Qualifications

  • Minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree.  Preferred course of study in Energy, Environmental Health, Environmental Studies or other environmental sciences major.  Preferred Masters of Science in relevant study area.
  • 3 years of experience in nontraditional education and/or community outreach with varied age groups and other demographics
  • Strong communication skills required, both written and verbal
  • Experience and high degree of comfort with web and computer technologies: spreadsheets, social media, WordPress, databases,  NeonCRM, etc.
  • Ability to work occasional long hours and irregular schedules to accommodate programmatic needs
  • Ability to stand for 4 or more hours at a time
  • Ability to lift up to 25 pounds
  • Must provide own transportation, automobile insurance, and have a satisfactory driving record.

How to Apply

To apply, candidates should complete an EAC Employment Application and submit it with a resume and cover letter to Executive Director Michael Brown at [email protected]  The position is open until filled but applicants should submit their application materials by January 7, 2020 for initial consideration.

Equal Opportunity

The EAC is an equal opportunity employer for all qualified employees and applicants. All decisions regarding employment are made without regard for race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, or physical and/or mental disability unrelated to ability.

Ecology Action Center

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist our community in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment.  The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in McLean County.

Ecology Action Center announces recipients of 2019 McLean County Green Awards

The Ecology Action Center annually presents the annual McLean County Green Awards in order to recognize significant local efforts to improve our environment.  The 2019 award recipients were named at the EAC’s annual fall event, the Sustainable Gourmet on November 14.

The McLean County Recycling and Waste Reduction Award identifies businesses, schools or organizations with outstanding recycling programs or waste reduction efforts or individuals who have played a role in a successful program or effort.   The 2019 award was presented to a group of volunteers who coordinate local collections of “Terracycle”, a nontraditional recycling program that recycles a wide range of diverse items including snack chip bags, drink pouches, water filters, and beauty product packaging.  Amie Keeton, Janet Guaderrama, Macia Nagy, Melanie Ziomek, organize Terracyle collections through a 24 hour drop-off site in partnership with St. Luke Union Church in Bloomington.  Over the past several years they have helped divert over 100,000 items from the landfill through their efforts.  More information on Terracycle programs in Bloomington-Normal is available on the EAC website at https://ecologyactioncenter.org/terracycle/.

The Anne McGowan Making a World of Difference Award recognizes outstanding projects, activities, or individuals in McLean County who promote environmental awareness or natural resource conservation. The EAC dedicated the World of Difference Award in memory of McGowan, an early director of the EAC, due to her ability to inspire and motivate others to take action. Henry Brockman is a local organic produce farmer in the Congerville area who provides vegetables to hundreds of Central Illinois residents each year through CSA (community supported agriculture ) subscriptions.  He is a leader local food in central Illinois as he adopts new strategies on an ongoing basis to better protect our local environment, saying “the goal of everything I do in my fields is to give life to the soil and the entire ecosystem”.  He plants over 650 varieties of vegetables each year, experimenting with new types and improving his practices to adapt to a changing climate.  Learn more about the Brockman family farm or sign up for a 2020 CSA subscription at https://brockmanfamilyfarming.com/henrys-farm/. 

Past recipients of the McLean County Green Awards are listed on the Ecology Action Center website at https://ecologyactioncenter.org/green-awards-2/.

The mission of the Ecology Action Center is to inspire and assist our community in creating, strengthening, and preserving a healthy environment.  The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in McLean County.

 

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Ecology Action Center cautions residents in selection of alternative energy suppliers

For immediate release
November 3, 2019
Contact: Larissa Armstrong
Phone: (309) 454-3169 x.15

The Ecology Action Center has received numerous inquiries lately regarding letters or postcards people got from Arcadia Power offering energy savings through community solar, or other renewable energy sources.  One of our roles as an energy educator in the community is to ensure residents are able to make informed choices about their energy consumption, and understand different ways to reduce energy costs through efficiency upgrades and renewable energy investment.

The Illinois Attorney General’s office has noted that the majority of residents that switch to alternative energy suppliers end up paying more for their energy.  There are a few key elements to understand and consider before signing up with an alternate energy supplier or third party energy broker.

What is an alternate energy supplier?

Illinois has a deregulated energy market, which allows alternative energy suppliers to sell energy to customers. Alternative energy suppliers are for-profit companies that sell electricity and natural gas to consumers. They offer the exact same energy that your traditional public utility provides, but they can charge higher prices because their prices are not regulated by the state. If consumers choose to receive energy from an alternate supplier, they still receive a monthly bill from Ameren and their alternate supplier is listed on the bill next to the supply rate.
Arcadia Power is not an alternate energy supplier, but instead a third party energy broker. They do not sell energy users power directly – they contract through other alternate suppliers the same way consumers or municipalities can directly.

What is municipal aggregation?

Municipal aggregation is an option for a municipality to choose an alternate energy supplier for their community. Bloomington and Normal both have municipal aggregation agreements for Ameren residents through June 2020. Through those agreements, residents receive their energy supply from MidAmerican Energy.

Renewable Energy Credits

Some alternate energy suppliers offer “green” energy through Renewable Energy Credits or RECs. MidAmerican offers a green energy option through Bloomington and Normal’s municipal aggregation program. In Bloomington, the green energy option at 5.07 cents per kWh is the default. In Normal, residents could choose from a base rate of 4.98 cents per kWh or select the green energy option at 5.07 cents per kWh.
Through green plans, the energy supplier pledges to buy RECs from a company that produces power from renewable sources, such as wind. That renewable energy producer agrees to produce and deliver an amount of renewable energy to the grid that is equal to the amount of energy you consumed. In this case, MidAmerican purchased RECs from a wind producer that generated wind electricity in Texas.

Participating in a green energy program where the supplier uses the REC system does not mean your home is being powered by renewable energy. Instead, it is an investment in renewable energy; but not necessarily an investment in renewable energy here in Illinois.

Arcadia Power is offering renewable energy through this same REC process. Any offers for community solar would also use RECs because Arcadia Power is not one of the developers that was awarded a community solar array project here in Illinois through the Illinois Power Agency’s lottery. Again, they are not a direct energy supplier, so any energy they sell you, whether renewable or not, is through another energy supplier and they are just the third party broker.

There will be options to invest in community solar in Illinois in the near future when some of the arrays that were selected through the lottery process are completed and developers begin selling subscriptions.

Community Solar

Community solar is an option for Illinois Ameren and CommEd residents to purchase subscriptions to large solar arrays operating in their utility territory. Purchasing a subscription to a community solar array will give consumers credit on their energy bill for energy produced by their portion of the solar array.

If the subscription fee consumers pay for their community solar is at a rate lower than their current electricity supply rate, investing in community solar will help them invest in renewable energy in Illinois, and reduce their energy costs at the same time.

Energy Supply Rates

Choosing alternate energy suppliers or third party brokers comes down to understanding the current price you pay for your electricity and the price the other vendors are offering.

Ameren is the default public electricity utility for Bloomington and Normal (for residents and businesses that are not in Corn Belt territory). The current Ameren rate is 4.715 cents per kWh for October through May 2020 (historically it was 4.658 from June – October 2018, 5.038 from October – May 2019, and was 4.561 from June – September 2019). As mentioned in the municipal aggregation section above, Ameren territory residents that did not opt-out of the aggregation program have paid a flat rate of 5.07 cents per kWh in Bloomington and either 4.98 cents per kWh or 5.07 in Normal depending on whether or not residents chose the green option. These rates began July 1, 2018 and end June 30, 2020.

The Illinois Attorney General’s office reported that between June of 2014 and May of 2018, customers in Illinois overpaid for alternative electricity by over $600 million.
Regardless of what salespeople for alternative energy suppliers tell you, you are not required to enroll with an alternative supplier. Taking no action will leave you with the supplier chosen by your municipality – which has contracted a flat rate for two year, or with your public utility (Ameren in our area) as a default – and their rates are regulated by a state agency.

The Ecology Action Center wants to help consumers understand all these elements, so if they choose to utilize offers from alternate suppliers or third party brokers, they can make the choice from an informed position, and avoid paying more for the energy supply in the long run.

 

EAC seeks nominations for 2019 McLean County Green Awards

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release
September 30, 2019

Contact:   Michael Brown
Phone:     (309) 454-3169 x.11

The Ecology Action Center presents the annual McLean County Green Awards to recognize local efforts to improve our environment.  Nominations are now being accepted for the 2019 awards, with recipients being named in November at the EAC’s annual fall event, the Sustainable Gourmet.

The McLean County Recycling and Waste Reduction Award identifies businesses, schools or organizations with outstanding recycling programs or waste reduction efforts or individuals who have played a role in a successful program or effort. While nominations will be accepted for any recycling or waste reduction project, areas of growing interest include source reduction efforts, especially alternatives to single use items (plastic or paper grocery bags,

The Anne McGowan Making a World of Difference Award recognizes outstanding projects, activities, or individuals in McLean County who promote environmental awareness or natural resource conservation. The EAC dedicated the World of Difference Award in memory of McGowan, an early director of the EAC, due to her ability to inspire and motivate others to take action.  Former EAC Executive Director Michelle Covi described Anne as a catalyst for action.

She was energetic and never hesitated to get her hands dirty. Her natural curiosity and love of the natural world fueled her passion for wildlife exploration and preservation. She shared her love with children and adults alike when she conducted nature walks, wildflower walks, and nature programs. She inspired and nurtured life-long dedication to environmental awareness and conservation in children, college students, and adults whose lives she touched.

In the spirit of Anne, the EAC seeks nominations of worthy projects, organizations, or individuals in nomination for the Anne McGowan Making World of Difference Award or the McLean County Recycling and Waste Reduction Award. Current EAC Executive Director Michael Brown suggested, “if more of us followed the outstanding example set by Anne McGowan, the world would be a much better place.”

Nominations may be made online at ecologyactioncenter.org/green-awards/ or by stopping by the Ecology Action Center at 202 W College Avenue in Normal; all submissions are due by Thursday, October 17, 2019 at 5 p.m. The recipients of the 2019 awards will be named at the EAC’s annual Sustainable Gourmet event on Thursday, November 14, 2019. 

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist residents of McLean County in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment.  The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in McLean County.