Community Solar is now available – get clean renewable energy without an installation!

Do you want to power your home with clean, renewable solar energy but can’t or don’t want to bother with a rooftop installation?  Community Solar may be for you!
Companies managing community solar arrays approved by the Illinois Power Agency in early 2019 are now actively seeking customers for community solar subscriptions.  Here are few things to keep in mind if you are interested in pursuing community solar.

What is community solar?

A large solar array in your utility territory (in central Illinois that means Ameren) that feeds the electricity it produces directly to the power grid. Customers sign up for their own shares of the array, the size of the share is based on your home electricity usage. Subscribers receive credits on their utility bill for the energy generated by their share, and they purchase those credits at a discounted rate from the company managing the community solar array.
As an example: you use 600kWh of electricity in a month, and your community solar subscription generated 500kWh worth of electricity. Your Ameren bill will show the 600kWh usage, with a 500kWh credit. You will pay your Ameren supply rate for the remaining 100kWh. You will pay your delivery fees and taxes to Ameren for the full 600kWh. You will receive a subsequent bill from your community solar provider for the 500kWh – but the rate you are charge for that energy is 20% lower than the Ameren supply rate charge.

Who is eligible?

Anyone who receives electricity services from Ameren Illinois can be a community solar subscriber (Corn Belt customers do not have community solar options available to them). Community solar is a great option for homeowners who have heavy shade making on-site solar nonviable.  Renters can also participate in community solar so long as they are responsible for their own utility bill (and electricity is not included in their rent). Community solar is also a great option for people who might not be able to afford the upfront investment required for a home solar installation. However, the Illinois Solar for All program provides rooftop solar options with no upfront costs and community solar options with increased savings for income-eligible residents. Check with the EAC for details about these options! Community solar subscriptions for income-eligible residents offer the energy supply at 50% lower than the Ameren supply rate.

Interested in signing up?

The Ecology Action Center recently signed up for a community solar subscription through Nexamp for our building. The subscription offers a 20% savings on energy supply (the fee they charge per kWh of energy produced by your portion of the solar array would be 20% less than Ameren’s supply charge), has no sign-up fee, and no cancellation fee (important to remember, you can take your community solar subscription with you if you move to another home that is still in Ameren territory).
Residents in Ameren territory interested in signing up witht NexAmp can do so hereThis referral code at this link will give both you and the EAC and extra bonus when you sign up.  NexAmp will ask you for 12 months of your energy usage to determine what size portion of the community solar array will cover your energy needs. The community solar array won’t likely start producing energy until next year. Before your community solar service begins, residents participating in Bloomington and Normal’s municipal aggregation will need to opt-out of service. If you are unsure whether or not you are getting your energy supply from an alternate energy retail supplier, look at the energy supply section of your Ameren bill. If you are enrolled in municipal aggregation, Homefield Energy will be listed as your supplier (see picture below). To opt-out of aggregation just call their number at 866-694-1262 and cancel.
Please contact Larissa Armstrong at [email protected] or 309-454-3169 x15 with questions or for more information.

Protect our local water supplies with proper leaf management

For many Bloomington-Normal residents, leaf-raking efforts are already underway. While raking leaves isn’t rocket science, some leaf-raking practices can be harmful. Raking leaves into the street clogs storm drains, causing street flooding; if they don’t clog but rather wash down into the storm drains they become a storm water pollutant. The additional nutrients from the massive amounts of leaves decomposing in creeks, streams, or lakes removes oxygen from the water, suffocating plants and wildlife, and causing algae blooms that can result in bad odors and unpleasant tastes in drinking water.

The Ecology Action Center urges residents to help keep our local waters clean by using by using the following leaf management practices:

  • Let leaves lie! Leaving your leaves where they fall is beneficial for your lawn; many residents choose to use a mower to break them into smaller pieces. Leaves are decomposed by earthworms and other microorganisms and turned into plant-usable organic matter. Leaves also make great mulch to protect flower beds from harsh winter weather.
  • Compost your leaves! Leaves are a great source of nitrogen and an important dry component to a healthy compost pile. Start a compost pile and reduce your waste, keep waterways clean, and generate free fertilizer for your lawn and garden. Find helpful instructions to start your compost pile at CompostBN.org.
  • Don’t break the cycle! The above two options keep your organic material on-site, rejuvenating your soil with valuable nutrients just like the nutrient cycle occurring in nature. Removing your leaves each year can gradually deplete your soil, leaving your lawn, your trees, and your garden hungry for nutrients. As well, keep these materials on-site helps reduce demand for collection by Public Works crews, conserving financial resources for other municipal services.
  • Curb your leaves! If you do choose to rake your leaves for curbside pick up, the municipalities require that you rake them to the curb, but NOT into the street.

Information on protecting our local watersheds is available at mCLEANwater.org, a clearinghouse of local resources about our water and efforts to protect it.

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.

Fall 2020 Household Hazardous Waste Update

Explosive. Corrosive. Flammable. Toxic.

A comprehensive description of 2020? No. Well, maybe. But these terms do capture another topic of imminent concern: Household Hazardous Waste. Household hazardous wastes are substances that can harm human health or the environment.

This year McLean County residents have been carving out space for home offices and homeschooling. As residents have been cleaning out garages, sheds and basements, the Ecology Action Center has received a great many inquiries about proper HHW disposal practices, drop-off sites, and collection events. We know that getting hazardous household waste items out of your way has been a priority, and we’re glad to hear from so many members of our community acting on that personal responsibility to protect the environment by disposing of items with warning labels. What can you do to safely and lawfully dispose of cleaners, batteries, fluorescent bulbs, oil-based paints, antifreeze, pesticides, and similar hazardous household products? Here are your options:

Community Reuse

The fastest, easiest, and most environmentally sound way to get these items out of your way is to donate them to someone who will use them. Online platforms like FreecycleFacebook Marketplace, and Nextdoor.com offer convenient, safe venues where community members can offer or seek items for reuse. If you’ve hesitated or shied away from these online platforms because you’re not sure how to use them, we’ve created a step-by-step guide to help you get started: https://ecologyactioncenter.org/guide-to-community-reuse/

Recycling

Some hazardous items can be recycled, or materials reclaimed. Automotive fluids such as oil, antifreeze, diesel and gasoline can be reclaimed through local drop-offs. Automotive batteries and used tires can also be reclaimed, and are accepted by some local retailers. Visit RecycleBN.org or download the Recycle Coach app for up-to-date listings, hours and contact information.

HHW Collection Events and Collection Sites

These events/locations do not accept:

  • Latex paint – because it’s not hazardous. If unable to find someone who can use it, dry it out completely and discard with trash.
  • Smoke detectors – due to radioactive content, these should be routed back to the manufacturer.
  • Needles or controlled substances – use proper sharps containers/services to dispose of needles. There are several pharmaceutical drop-off locations in the area – see RecycleBN.org for more information. Call ahead to verify hours and procedures, and please note that these sites generally do not take liquids, lotions, ointments, or inhalers.
  • Automotive batteries – see Recycle Coach for local reclamation options.
  • Propane tanks, fire extinguishers, or explosives – check with manufacturers for disposal options
  • Non-residential items such as agricultural chemicals and business wastes – contact a commercial disposal service such as Safety-Kleen

Locally Funded Collection Events

At the last McLean County HHW Collection in the fall of 2019, our new drive-through appointment system worked wonders to increase efficiency. The average time on site for a drop-off was under 20 minutes, and some residents were in and out in as little as 7 minutes! Fundraising is now underway for the fall 2021 McLean County HHW collection event. We need your help to make this happen! Please donate today at HHWmclean.org.

State-Funded Collection Events

The Illinois EPA is increasing the number of one-day HHW collection events and hopefully will soon fund another McLean County event.  Meanwhile, there are other events within a reasonable drive; as these are state-funded, they are open to any Illinois resident bringing residentially-generated hazardous waste items.

October 10, 2020
Iroquois County Administration Building
1001 E. Grant St.
Watseka, IL 60970

November 7, 2020 **
Illinois State Fair Grounds (specific location TBD)
801 E. Sangamon Ave
Springfield, IL 62702
** This event requires registration in advance.  Register at www.springfield.il.us/hhw

HHW Permanent Collection Sites

The State of Illinois provides four household hazardous waste drop-off facilities. Though they are not conveniently located for central Illinois residents, they do provide an outlet when other options simply won’t work for you. Just like the HHW collection events, these facilities accept residential waste only. In some cases storage capacity may be limited, so please phone ahead before dropping off items.

City of Chicago – Goose Island
(312) 744-7672
1150 N. North Branch / Chicago, IL
Tue 7:00 am – 12:00 pm
Thu 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm
1st Saturday of every month 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

Naperville
(630) 420-6095
156 Fort Hill Drive / Naperville, IL
Sun 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
Sat 9:00 am – 2:00 pm

Rock River Reclamation District
(815) 987-5570
3333 Kishwaukee Street / Rockford, IL
By appointment only

Solid Waste Agency of Lake County
(847) 336-9340
1311 N. Estes St, Gurnee, IL 60031
By appointment only

The Ecology Action Center is always available to answer questions, provide community education, offer alternative options when possible, in order to help ensure these substances are handled properly so they don’t end up in our regional landfills or waterways. We continue to monitor policy and new developments surrounding safe disposal of HHW. We are working very hard to meet the needs of McLean County residents, and are optimistic about our prospects for more convenient options in the near future.  Your help and financial support can help make that happen.

You can help!

  •  Reduce – purchase only as much hazardous substance as you need
  • Route usable materials for community reuse
  • Recycle when possible
  • Take unusable portions of non-recyclable hazardous products to a collection event or site
  • Donate today at HHWmclean.org to support our next local HHW collection event, anticipated for fall 2021 OR to help support a future local permanent HHW collection facility.

Four local nonprofit organizations benefit from Illinois Solar For All

The Ecology Action Center announced Monday that four Bloomington-Normal nonprofit agencies are among the first in McLean County selected for solar projects through the Illinois Solar for All program.  The solar projects were selected on Wednesday, September 9, and are subject to the approval of the Illinois Commerce Commission in the coming weeks. If approved, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, the Wayman AME Church, the Normal Township Activity and Recreation Center, and the Christ Church PCA will all receive solar installations that will significantly reduce their overall energy costs for years to come. Local solar installer StraightUp Solar is working with all four organizations on their solar installations.  The Ecology Action Center is a grassroots educator for Illinois Solar for All and works to promote and educate the local community on the program.

Illinois Solar for All (ILSFA) is a key outcome of the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act and is designed to increase access to solar energy for low-income and environmental justice communities. ILSFA works by increasing incentives (solar renewable energy credits or SRECs) for income-qualifying projects. The solar developers and contractors (called Approved Vendors) who complete projects in ILSFA receive these increased incentives and are then able to offer installations with no upfront costs for income-qualifying residents and low or no upfront costs for qualifying nonprofits and public facilities. Approved Vendors are not allowed to charge participants more than 50% of the value of the energy produced by the solar systems. This enables ILSFA participants to reap the energy-saving benefits of solar without having to overcome the obstacle of financing a solar installation all at once.

The Ecology Action Center (EAC) just started its second year serving as a grassroots educator for ILSFA. EAC worked directly with several of the nonprofits selected to receive solar through the program to both educate those organizations about the benefits of ILSFA and to reach residents those organizations serve. ILSFA is a multi-year program, and there are still opportunities for McLean County residents to participate. Larissa Armstrong, EAC Assistant Director said, “We are really excited to see local organizations benefit from the ILSFA program, and are hopeful even more residents and organizations in our community will get to do the same.”

On-site solar installations are available for single-family homes that meet the income eligibility requirement, and for multi-family properties where half the residents meet these income requirements. Community solar is available for any household in Ameren territory that meets the income eligibility requirement. Check the EAC’s energy program site at bnenergybright.org/illinois-solar-for-all for details on income eligibility.

The Ecology Action Center’s role is to educate residents and organizations on how they can benefit from this program, either providing information directly to individuals or offering brief online overview presentations to organizations and community groups. The EAC helps eligible residents and organizations access the ILSFA program and the benefits of solar.  Contact Larissa Armstrong, at [email protected] or 309-454-3169 x.15 to learn more or schedule a group presentation.

McLean County Waste Rates Converging: 2019 recycling rate dips slightly while waste landfilled continues to decrease

PRESS RELEASE: For immediate release July 13, 2020
Contact:
Michael Brown 309-454-3169 x.11

McLean County’s recycling rate stayed relatively steady from 2018 to 2019 with only a 1.4% decline. The Ecology Action Center’s annual calculation of community-wide waste generation and recycling shows that the County reached a recycling rate of 45.74%, dropping from the all-time high of 46.44%. As a result, the County maintained progress towards the new community-wide recycling rate goal of 50% set in 2017 under the new 20-year solid waste management plan.  No single category of recyclable materials saw significant fluctuations from the year prior, while there were minor fluctuations across the board in all material streams.

  2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Total MSW Recycled (tons)  73,833 85,196 81,302 83,335 88,459 94,804 88,330
Total MSW Landfilled (tons) 121,991 141,068 154,662 120,815 124,364 109,467 104,772
Total Municipal Solid Waste Generated (tons) 195,824 226,264 235,964 204,150 211,230 204,271 193,102
Percent Change from Previous Year 6.96% 15.54% 4.29% -13.48% 3.47% -3.29% -5.47%
Recycling Rate 37.70% 37.65% 34.46% 40.82% 41.88% 46.41% 45.74%
Percent Change from Previous Year 3.43% -0.13% -8.49% 18.47% 2.59% 10.82% -1.44%

With the closure of the McLean County Landfill in late 2018, the Ecology Action Center continues to focus on waste management priorities as outlined in the Twenty-Year Materials Recovery and Resource Management Plan for McLean County, Bloomington, and Normal, Illinois. This includes diversion strategies for waste that would otherwise require landfill disposal further away from the source of origin.  The impact of the new multifamily recycling ordinance in Normal was undetermined as of yet with only a partial year of the program activity.

McLean County waste rates are converging

The Ecology Action Center annually collects waste and recycling data to calculate the amount of municipal solid waste generated and recycled for all of McLean County as a lagging indicator of the impact of local recycling and outreach programs.  Among other services, the EAC acts as the solid waste agency for Bloomington, Normal, and McLean County and provides technical assistance, recycling promotion, household hazardous waste coordination, education and outreach.

Information on residential recycling, recycling of nontraditional materials, and information on disposal of household hazardous wastes is available by calling (309) 454-3169 or visiting ecologyactioncenter.org.  Find comprehensive online listings for recycling and waste disposal at RecycleBN.org.

 

EAC Statement on Racial Injustice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 11, 2020

CONTACT: Michael Brown, 309-454-3169 ext.11                                   

The Ecology Action Center condemns the inordinate use of force against people of color across the country.  The EAC recognizes the disproportionate impact of pollution and other environmental problems on communities of color due to systemic racism.  The Ecology Action Center staff and board believe that black lives matter and pledge to actively partner with our local communities of color to address environmental issues.

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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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

The EAC launched Green Reads, our first community-wide book club, in April 2020 in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, and as a way to build community during the pandemic.

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.

There are two ways to participate in Green Reads:

Green Reads Facebook Group:  The 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.  Please join us on Facebook! 

Green Reads Zoom Group:  Green Reads Zoom participants will participate in real-time book club meet-ups using Zoom remote meeting platform every other Friday from noon to 1 p.m. starting September 11, 2020 through December 18, 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.

Upcoming Books:

Starting Friday, September 11, and meeting every other week through December 18 we will focus on the topic of Climate Change, and methods for rebuilding a a sustainable green economy.

Our first book will be The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where We Go From Here by Hope Jahren.  Meeting dates for this book are the following Fridays from noon-1:00pm:  9/11/20, 9/25/20, 10/9/20, and 10/23/20.  

“Hope Jahren is an award-winning scientist, a brilliant writer, a passionate teacher, and one of the seven billion people with whom we share this earth. In The Story of More, she illuminates the link between human habits and our imperiled planet. In concise, highly readable chapters, she takes us through the science behind the key inventions–from electric power to large-scale farming to automobiles–that, even as they help us, release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere like never before. She explains the current and projected consequences of global warming–from superstorms to rising sea levels–and the actions that we all can take to fight back. At once an explainer on the mechanisms of global change and a lively, personal narrative given to us in Jahren’s inimitable voice, The Story of More is the essential pocket primer on climate change that will leave an indelible impact on everyone who reads it.”

On November 6 we will begin discussing A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Carbon Emissions by Mohammed Yunus.  Meeting dates for this book are on the following Fridays from noon-1:00pm:  11/6/20, 11/20/20, 12/4/20, and 12/18/20.

“Muhammad Yunus, who created microcredit, invented social business, and earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in alleviating poverty, is one of today’s most trenchant social critics. Now he declares it’s time to admit that the capitalist engine is broken–that in its current form it inevitably leads to rampant inequality, massive unemployment, and environmental destruction. We need a new economic system that unleashes altruism as a creative force just as powerful as self-interest. Is this a pipe dream? Not at all. In the last decade, thousands of people and organizations have already embraced Yunus’s vision of a new form of capitalism, launching innovative social businesses designed to serve human needs rather than accumulate wealth. They are bringing solar energy to millions of homes in Bangladesh; turning thousands of unemployed young people into entrepreneurs through equity investments; financing female-owned businesses in cities across the United States; bringing mobility, shelter, and other services to the rural poor in France; and creating a global support network to help young entrepreneurs launch their start-ups. In A World of Three Zeros, Yunus describes the new civilization emerging from the economic experiments his work has helped to inspire. He explains how global companies like McCain, Renault, Essilor, and Danone got involved with this new economic model through their own social action groups, describes the ingenious new financial tools now funding social businesses, and sketches the legal and regulatory changes needed to jumpstart the next wave of socially driven innovations. And he invites young people, business and political leaders, and ordinary citizens to join the movement and help create the better world we all dream of.”

 

*The links provided for the books link to Bookshop.org. Purchasing books online through Bookshop.org supports independent booksellers across the country, including our own local independent bookstore – Bobzbay*

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.