The Stream
Events, Alerts and News in the W&W Territory

W&W Get Together December 14 Social at the Byron Colby Barn in Grayslake. Read more ...
Come Fly with Us Help W&W build environmental communities. Read more ...
Power Generators How to plan for the next electricity outage. Read more ...
Get Political Redistricting - elect them now, or lobby them later.  Read more ...
Rt. 53 Blue Ribbon Blue Ribbon Committee, that is. Don't settle for less than an EIS.  Read more ...
Greening Your Holidays How I conquered Barbie.  Read more ...
Join the Discussion Read more ...
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© 2008 Robert Heil, courtesy Sierra Club Library
W&W Get Together

Do you enjoy the wild places and open spaces of Lake County? Are you concerned about protecting a healthy environment? Do you want to meet people just like you?

If so, we have just the event for you!

The Woods and Wetlands Group of the Sierra Club is hosting a social! Come meet new friends or renew old acquaintances while enjoying light snacks and a little liquid refreshment.

Find out what Sierra Club is doing and how you can get involved. There’s something for everyone – from enjoying outings with us, to checking on the water quality of lakes and streams, to helping organize lobbying and educational events – and much much more.

Use the W&W Activist Network to say you're coming, and don't forget to bring along your friends!

We will be providing beverages and snacks, and could use help setting up the event. So if you would like to volunteer, please e-mail . In particular if you have experience in publicity your help could make this a success. This event is free, but of course, donations are welcome.

When Wednesday December 14th from 6:30 PM until 9:00
Where Byron Colby Barn in Grayslake Google it
Address 1561 Jones Point Road, Grayslake

© 2008 Michael "Mike" L. Baird (, courtesy Sierra Club Library

Come Fly With Us

What do you see when you look at a river? Some see it as a threat to their homes. Some see it as a place to paddle a canoe. Some see it as the source of their drinking water, and some see it as part of their DNA. Some haven't looked yet.

We're looking for a few people who want to help all of these people have a better relationship with their river - and their land and their air, by having a relationship with each other. That's what the Sierra Club is - people coming together to grow their experiences with our environment, and finding ways to enjoy and nurture it together. It doesn't just happen. It takes effort by a few to learn what's going on, plan events, and organize and invite others to take part.

Please consider expressing your reverence for nature by offering to help guide our Sierra Club Woods & Wetlands Group. The Group includes over 2000 Sierra Club members from Glenview to Antioch and Deer Park to Waukegan. The seven members of our "Executive Committee" meet most months to lay out opportunities for our members to protect our environment. We hold elections every year for two year terms, and this year four (4) seats are open.

We will hold the election in early January, so if you are interested, please let us know before December 31st by e-mailing Doug Ower at

Power Generators

I've been talking to a number of people who are interested in installing or purchasing a generator for their home or office. I wanted to share my thoughts on that decision.

After that windstorm that swept through Lake County this past summer I can certainly understand why. I was without grid power for 5 days in downtown Grayslake. I wound up using the generator on my Toyota Prius to keep my fridge running, fans going, lights on, and of course the important stereo going. It worked however it was a pain running cables all over the place and if it had gone on longer or if gasoline wasn't available I would have been out of luck.

Buying a small portable generator would have worked if I had the gasoline and didn't mind the screaming noise. It still would have required running the cables all over and filling the gas tank. If I had wanted to charge my 3 watt phone I still would have to run the generator for an hour or two. This 2 thousand to 5 thousand watt generator would set you back anywhere from $500 to $3,000. As for your Return on Investment (ROI), your real hope is that you will never use it. You should still periodically run it, change the oil, buy fresh gasoline, all with the hope you never need it. That's not a very good investment.

Another option would be to purchase and install a small natural gas power plant next to your home. These sell anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000. They should be installed by a licensed electrician, and involve installing a separate electrical panel next to your main one. One big advantage is that these can be set up to turn on some or all of your circuits within say 30 seconds of the power going off. They tend to be quieter than portable generators but still generate noise in addition to electricity. They too need regular maintenance and should be run periodically. Installation costs can very widely, but I would expect to pay anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000. So $5,000 to $15,000 bottom line costs should be expected. As far as ROI goes you once again hope you never have to use the unit during its expected lifespan. Not a very good ROI.

The final option I would offer would be to install a Grid Tied Solar Array with battery backup. As this is the Sierra Club issues list the most obvious advantage is that it produces no CO2 during electricity production and consumes no fossil fuels. Another vast difference compared with fossil fuel generators is that you will generating electricity the very day you install it and everyday after that for the panel's 30 year life expectancy. The power you generate will be used either inside your house, charge your battery backup, or be sold back to the Power Company. Installing a solar array on your roof 30 years ago would have been very expensive and the electronic components in the inverters, etc would be inefficient, expensive and prone to failure. Thirty years of high tech innovation have changed that. Prices have dropped, efficiency is up, and the inverters come with long warranties.

In the event of power failure, you would use your battery backup for power when the sun isn't shining and the panels when it is. You would use your largest electric loads say washing machine, etc during the day so you would have adequate power at night. Your power would be silent and wouldn't require trying to get fossil fuels while the power is out( it's a lot of work to siphon gas out of a 5,000 gallon underground tank).

In the last 2 months I have seen top of the line American made Solar Panels drop to 78 cents per watt and solar laminates to 49 cents per watt ( Five years ago you would have paid $5.00 to $6.00 per watt. What this means is that you could purchase 2 thousand watts of solar panels for say $1500.00 instead of $10,000 5 years ago. You could install a micro system with a 100 watt panel or fill your roof up with them. You do need to purchase the electronics that go with the panels and that will set you back a couple of thousand more. You will need to have someone experienced with solar installs do the work and that could cost another two thousand.

Five dollars per watt installed has been a pretty common quote for the last few years for solar. With the large drop in panel prices and the poor state of the economy I expect that to have dropped quite a bit. That cost is the pre-rebate cost. The Federal Government has a 30% tax credit and Illinois has a generous rebate that unfortunately is currently unfunded.

Unlike a generator you actually could calculate a Return on Investment for a solar array because you reduce your electric bill whenever the sun is shining.

I wanted to share my thoughts with people who are considering means of producing power when the grid fails. I think Solar makes a lot of sense. Please share your thoughts and comments on this issues forum and I will be at our upcoming Social at Byron Colby Barn in Grayslake Wednesday December 14 if you want to talk to me in person. See our Woods and Wetlands Website for further details.

Get Political

One of the best ways to help the environment is to get political!

Woods and Wetlands has ways for you to get involved. You can join the Political Committee and be part of the endorsement process or you can join the Lobby Committee and lobby your elected officials on environmental issues.

A great way to get involved right now is to find out which districts you live in now. Due to the latest census, redistricting has occurred. You can find out which country, state, and federal districts you live in now by going to if you live in Lake County or to if you live in Cook County. The primary races are heating up so find out which districts you are in and find out who is running!

Rt. 53 Blue Ribbon

The Illinois Tollway invites you to attend the IL Route 53/120 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council Meeting. The Council will meet in December to discuss various aspects of a potential new roadway in the Central Lake County Corridor. The public is welcome to attend.

IL Route 53/120 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council Meeting #3
Monday, December 12,   2:00 – 4:00 pm
Lake County Central Permit Facility 2nd Floor Conference Room
500 W. Winchester, Libertyville

Unfortunately, these meetings might be as close as we get to a public Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the impacts of whatever proposal this commission creates. I hope some Sierra Club members will attend and help protect our environment. Will the commission even consider a right of way (ROW) that does not plow up the FAP342 open space corridor?

Without new pressure from us the proposed 53 extension ROW will remain through dozens of wetlands, several Forest Preserves, and within pollution range of a couple schools. IDOT says it will do an EIS from scratch before building, but the last draft EIS was very flawed. The unsaid purpose of these "Blue Ribbon" commission meetings is to hijack the public debate and generate false consensus BEFORE a legal EIS is created that accurately informs the public about the air and water pollution it will create. The BUILD crowd has been busy spreading myths to make this happen:

  • Myth: High speed traffic on a new highway will pollute less than congestion on our existing roads. FALSE. We'll end up with pollution from BOTH.
  • Myth: A bike path or even a new transit line with a new 53 extension in the same old FAP 342 corridor through our wetlands and Forest Preserves, next to our schools, will solve the environmental impacts. FALSE. Locating transit and a highway in this wetland-rich area will encourage even more development in these sensitive wetland-rich areas. Transit belongs near existing development, not in our open space. And we'd still suffer from increased road pollution from a new 53 extension. Besides, we have a perfectly good rail corridor in the vicinity begging for passenger service already. The CN tracks, known as the EJ&E (Elgin, Joliet & Eastern), go from Barrington to Waukegan.

We're still suffering from the suburban sprawl housing bubble, and we're just lucky it doesn't include the expensive Rt. 53 extension. We need your voices to help bring cleaner, more competitive transportation to Lake County - and the region. Let's get moving!

Greening Your Holidays

In a constant quest to be ever-greener, (sorry I couldn't resist the pun), I was wondering whether it was better to get an artificial Christmas tree or a real one. Unabashed tree hugger that I am, I have never been able to bring myself to cut down a real tree to decorate my home for a few weeks despite the fresh pine aroma and beautiful appearance. However, I have recently questioned the wisdom of importing an artificial tree from China. I was doing a mental life cycle analysis when I came across this article entitled, "Which is Greener a Real or Fake Christmas Tree" by Brian Howard from the Good Housekeeping "Consumer's Guide to Green" which answered the question to my satisfaction:

They also had a nice set of articles they call, "Everything You Need for Happy Green Holidays

One of my personal favorite sites, "Practically Green" also has blog posts on "Gift Guide for a Practically Green Holiday", "Guide to Gift Wrap that's Eco-Friendly and Free", "Holiday Cards: Eco & Easy, Entertaining or Elegant - and Energy Saving", "12 Reasons to Shop Local - on Small Biz Saturday and Every Day!" & "Corporate Holiday Gifts."

They also have a fantastic quiz you can take rating how green and sustainable you are living your life which ranks you on a scale from "barely green", "lightly green" through "impressively green", "wickedly green" to the ultimate "superbly green". The questions are pretty hard core including whether or not you reuse your graywater. No matter what level you score, they offer you suggestions as to the next steps you could take to live even more sustainably.

On Earth 911's web page entitled, "Green-Your-Holidays" you will find articles on "7 resolutions with a Green Twist", "2009 Holiday Gift Guide" which includes gifts made from recycled materials to fair trade practices and "Cleaning up Your Cooking" with eco-friendly and sustainable tips on buying, cooking and cleaning your food for the holidays and always.

Our very own Sierra Club also has a great page they aptly call, "Green Holiday Tips" which includes a link to the "Sponsor a Wild Place" page where you can not only find a cool and unique gift giving option, but have the satisfaction of knowing that your gift will help preserve America's wilds legacy (and who can resist the Arctic Wildlife Refuge adorable stuffed polar bear?)

Lastly, consider giving the gift of an experience, volunteering or reusing a gift. Consider giving a friend or loved one the gift of your time, some help or perhaps that knick knack they have long admired which has outlived it's usefulness for you.

I'll share a reuse experience/experiment I did 2 years ago. My, then 6 year-old, daughter was mad about Barbies. I, like most parents, wanted to indulge her yearning but was also confronting my own rampant consumerism. In the spirit of reuse, I decided to purchase 1 new Barbie so that she'd have something new, and contracted to purchase several used Barbies from a few of my students. The students were glad to resell the Barbies they had outgrown and get a little extra money for their own gift giving. By Christmas Day, I had about 14 Barbies total, 11 of which had all of their limbs all for about $10. The students were so excited about the deal that they threw in various extra items of clothing, a few cars and a small Barbie house. I put the Barbies with the missing parts in a bag and set them aside and gave her the remaining collection.

She was beside herself with excitement when she saw them and showed absolutely no preference for the new Barbie over the used ones. Several days later she found the bag with what we now refer to as the "physically challenged" Barbies and was a little miffed that I had been holding out on her. She taught me a valuable lesson that Christmas. Instead of the usual m.o. of overindulging our children in consumerism, maybe we can have Christmas be a teachable moment?"

Join the Discussion

We Finally Got a Twitter Account!!

W&W was the first group in Illinois to have a web site, so cut us a little slack for taking until now to have a Twitter account. Follow us at

Sierraclubnoil         (short for Sierra Club Northeast Illinois)

The Activist Network

Every Sierra Club member is invited to find local friends in the Club's on-line network. Then use it to find out about conservation teams and projects already in swing, and to collaborate with other members to address local environmental issues with the Club. Get started by finding or creating your profile at . Then join our W&W Team at

The W&W ISSUES Discussion List

Trade e-mail with other local members by subscribing to our ISSUES list. You can control, suspend or discontinue your subscription anytime.

To sign up, address an e-mail message to LISTSERV@LISTS.SIERRACLUB.ORG and then include the following command in the body of the message :
SUBSCRIBE IL-WWG-ISSUES firstname lastname
(substituting your name) and send the message.

You can also visit the on-line archives of this list, which allows you to join, at ISSUES . If asked for a password, make one up (the same one is good for all Club lists) and follow the links.

Then watch for a confirmation e-mail and reply according to the instructions. Once you've subscribed, send your concerns to the list at

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