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.

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.