This would be a great week to have solar panels.
A brief but violent storm blew through Monday morning, knocking out power to a reportedly record 868,000 Chicago-area ComEd customers. That included the residents of our block, where a tree branch fell on electrical lines. The 75-mph winds also blew the hinge off one of our casement windows and popped three porch screens out of their brackets. Having an all-electric house, we bid an abrupt adios to cooking, clothes drying and hot water as well as lights, computers and refrigeration.
As I hauled ice from the Jewel, scrambled to locate flashlights, and pedaled around town searching for a place to charge my cell phone (thank you, Oak Park Public Library), I dreamed of being liberated from the electrical grid. Ah, yes. With solar power, my husband could have avoided a long commute to the office to get his work done, we could have cooked dinner at home instead of going out, and our ceiling fans would have cooled the house, making sleep easier. That’s not to mention the environmental benefits. Hmmmm.
I know, I know. It’s been way too long since my last post. Along with a series of medical issues and a ramped-up summer schedule with the kids, we took a vacation to the East Coast where we witnessed both environmental heroism and depressing instances of thoughtlessness. On the positive front, we visited ground-breaking Clover Food Lab, a Cambridge, Mass., restaurant where EVERYTHING is composted. In fact, they don’t even have a trash bin. Rockin! In Washington, D.C., we stopped by the home of our eco-conscious friends Liz and Rob Albro, who own a waste-saving SodaStream machine. Very cool!
Then there were those moments that make you want to scream. Like those “free” hotel breakfast bars where everything gets pitched in the garbage: styrofoam bowls and plates, plastic utensils, mininiature boxes of cereal that fill up a third of the average child’s stomach. At the end of a meal, our family’s table looks like a small dump.
Our environmental low point had to be the U.S. Capitol, where the kids watched in amazement as angry visitors were forced to throw EMPTY reusable bottles, large bags, snacks, sunblock and other serviceable items into a giant trash bin before entering the building. If these things really present a security risk, it seems the Capitol could avoid horrendous waste along with the resentment of constituents by setting up a station for visitors to check personal belongings. The kicker: our son noticed there were water bottles on sale inside the Capitol gift shop. That’s right: Visitors are required to throw away their reusable water bottles before entering the building, but they can buy another one once they get inside. Wah?
One person who might just have a field day salvaging items from the Capitol trash bin is Jennifer Tiner, who runs the Bright Olive Gallery in the Oak Park Arts District. Jennifer strives to display the work of artists who use at least 50% recycled materials, which means she has a lot of cool bottlecap jewelry, paintings in refurbished frames, bowls and spoon rests fashioned from glass bottles and other intriguing knick nacks. The items are reasonably priced, and it’s fun to browse.
I’m getting to know Jennifer this week because our 6-year-old is enrolled in her week-long Eco Art Camp. Our daughter has created such things as a collage of plastic bottle caps, colorful wish boxes made from Altoid containers, and a journal decorated with magazine images. Can’t wait to see what comes home next!