Climate change and the increasingly critical status of the environment seems to be on a lot of people’s minds lately with the President backing out of the Paris Climate Agreement. This decision to withdraw has left many locals wondering: what can I do to help? I found some answers while perusing the Urbana Market at the Square this past weekend. Whether you’re curious about renewable energy, increasing the pollinator population, or voicing opinions to policy-makers, there are resources available in C-U for anyone to become more active.
A shocking 40% of the earth’s energy goes into the maintenance of buildings. Thanks to innovations such as solar panels, there is hope for combating this staggering reality. I chatted with Julie, co-founder of New Prairie Construction, a local contracting service who has partnered with Solar Urbana-Champaign 2.0 to install all of the solar panels purchased. Started in 1988, New Prairie Construction has always been hyper-focused on sustainability, recycling, and environmentally friendly materials. This focus along with having a North American Board of Energy Practitioners certified carpenter on staff made them the perfect official contractor for the program this year. Led by the City of Urbana and Midwest Renewable Energy Association, this group aims to make solar panels on homes and small businesses accessible and affordable. They do so by bulk purchasing as well as utilizing 30% federal tax cuts and solar credit revenue. Throughout the month of June there will be free one-hour seminars hosted for interested locals to get more information.
Hosted by the University of Illinois Extension, these groups offer various programs for locals to become more involved in the local environment. Regardless of your gardening background, the highly knowledgeable and engaging university faculty are passionate about making local environmental stewardship easy and accessible all year round. Beginning late summer and ongoing through December, the Master Naturalist program trains adults who are concerned with the local environment to provide education and service to the local community. The program includes 60 hours of training in the form of lectures, discussions, hands-on activities, and field trips. This year, they are focusing on promoting pollinators. The Master Naturalists can provide guidance to anyone who wishes to help the bees and butterflies by planting the right sources of pollinator plants.
Those with or without green thumbs are encouraged to check out the spring course to become a Master Gardener. Master Gardeners are trained with 66 hours of instruction to become masters at both indoor and outdoor gardening. Upon completion of the training, Master Gardeners volunteer to maintain local gardens in areas of need such as the Crisis Nursery or the juvenile detention center. To see examples of the beautiful gardens that can arise from such training and experience, all are welcome to attend the 2017 Garden Walk, celebrating the beautiful gardens around C-U and the 25th anniversary of the program. The Garden Walk will take place on June 17th from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and a special ticket discount is available to market-goers.
Concerned activists with an interest in swaying policy-makers to an environmentally friendly agenda can get the resources needed thanks to a local activist group known as CU Indivisible. CU Indivisible meets monthly and is committed to providing easy-to-follow instructions as well as scripts for calling local politicians and demanding action on climate change as well as other policies. The Indivisible movement is a national effort, organized by former congressional staffers, that resists the Trump agenda utilizing tactics previously used by the Tea Party.
Bumblebee photo, Master Gardener logo, and CU Indivisible photo taken from Facebook.