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31. July 2015 · Comments Off on Celebrating DuPage Farmers! · Categories: Videos


Celebrating DuPage Farmers:

Ted Lowe of Wheaton, Illinois Brings down the House!

Did you think we at Sustain DuPage were all work and no play?

We are in the business of celebrating DuPage Farmers, too! By celebrating DuPage farmers in this mini-series, we hope to not only draw attention to the amazing things that CAN be accomplished in DuPage, but also to encourage those people who work so hard to reclaim their right to garden on their own property (a constitutional right).

Time and time again, it seems that everyone we talk to is discouraged. At some point or another we all feel like we’re the only person fighting for environmental justice, right?. Well, TAKE HEART! You are not alone. You are a valuable part of a growing and strengthening movement in DuPage County that is demanding from it’s political representatives better policy that promotes economic, social, and environmental sustainability. It is so important not to lose sight of our goal, and to never compromise in our vision.

Please, make sure that you are taking time to celebrate your sustainability accomplishments and not getting bogged down by the challenges ahead. 

Thanks for watching!


Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!


29. July 2015 · Comments Off on Write for Sustain DuPage · Categories: Articles

Hey there new friend.

Girl points up into the boughs of a giant oak tree.

You’ve decided to write for Sustain DuPage, eh?

Here’s a few things you should know.

1. Sustain DuPage believes in preserving your writing voice throughout the editing process and will never publish without your final approval.

2. Sustain DuPage strives for grammatical integrity.
3. The depth of your article depends upon your dedication to research, but we do ask you present a whole story and provide a satisfying conclusion for your piece.
4. The goal of your article should be:

a. to draw attention to a problem and to provide a commonsense solution through means of social, environmental, or economic sustainability (SEES).

b. to commend a person/organization/business who is solving a problem with SEES already.

c. to inspire appreciation for our rich DuPage County culture and/or history.

5. We ask that you commit to writing this article by emailing us here. In your email please include a subject line describing your article and your name (ie. “Parking Lots Suck”- Cindy Mindy).

6.Our dream timeline after sending the commitment email would be:

a. End of week one————————- strong outline of article sent in.

b. End of week two————————- first draft submitted.

c. End of week three———————– hashing out of edits.

d. End of month—————————– article posted.

7) Lastly, THANK YOU FOR CONTRIBUTING! We are so excited to have you on our content creation team. By submitting to Sustain DuPage, YOU are helping to create a world that shines all the brighter! Please feel free to keep open communication with us at ALL times.


22. July 2015 · Comments Off on ‘Time for a Flower Change’ says Cook County Activist · Categories: Articles

By Andrew Van Gorp on 25 July, 2015

Today we are joined by Robb Telfer, who grew up in Joliet and Elwood- Cook County, Illinois next to the Midewin Tallgrass Prairie. Robb is both an award-winning performance poet and an environmental organizer with the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Robb is currently campaigning to make the Kankakee Mallow the State Flower of Illinois. Robb, thank you so much for coming today.


Robb, I’m so curious about your most recent project. You want to replace the Violet with the Kankakee Mallow as the State Flower of Illinois, and we will get to that more a bit later. But I want to start with what I think is the most poignant thread of this story, which is the history of State Flowers to begin with. 

Now, many people don’t realize this, but the tradition of State Flowers was started right here in Chicago at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, or World’s Fair as many people know it today. Did you know this?

I did not!

Yeah! I did a little research and found that a group of radically visionary women called The World’s Congress of Representative Women organized about 500 women speakers from 27 different countries to voice concerns on women’s rights. (There was just one Women’s Congress to the 100 Men’s Congresses present, and yet the Women’s Congress was the most highly attended). At this exhibition women organized to decorate their state exhibits with a flower with which the state could be identified, calling it the, “National Garland of Flowers.” This movement inspired other nature-lovers throughout the country to establish State Birds, Animals, Plants etc., essentially setting off a firestorm fervor for conservation education.

It seems fitting to me that in the birthplace of this movement, Illinoisans are considering changing the state flower to evolve with the changing needs of Illinois. More specifically in your campaign, raising awareness for a species that can only be found in one location of Illinois, on an island, is that correct?

Yes, the sole wild population of the Kankakee Mallow is on Langham Island in the Kankakee River, and it is unfortunately near extinction. This matters because of the genetic diversity a wild population represents.  

Do you have any idea how many Kankakee Mallow there are left in the total population?

No, since work has been happening this year with Trevor Edmonson and the Friends of Langham Island to clear the invasive brush that’s subdued wild mallows, we can’t say for certain how many plants are asleep in the seed bank there.  We hope lots.  A wet spring has prevented us from safely making it to the island to see how the plants are doing where we did restoration work.  Doesn’t mother nature know we’re trying to help!?

So, do you believe that we in this region will be able to save the Kankakee Mallow?

I think we’ve saved it this time, and it’s up to us to tell this story about how we almost lost it- to prevent it from happening again.  Last year a trip of plant nerds discovered that the invasive brush had prevented any living mallows from coming up – and they all knew how threatened this population was.  More work has to be done to create feasible long term stewardship.  Programs like the Chicago Botanic Gardens’ Plants of Concern are a great way to ensure we keep track of these threatened plants and protect them from impending doom.

You’ve spent a lot of time and energy promoting this idea of changing our State Flower. What makes it worth it to you? Do you feel a certain attachment to this specific flower, or are you just passionate about saving any species on principle?

I am attached through virtue of familiarity – which is funny since I’ve never even seen it alive in the wild.  I started this campaign as a way to publicly talk about the need for human intervention and protection to keep the wild spaces of Illinois not just wild, but biodiverse and healthy.  When the concept of forest preserves were invented over 100 years ago, we thought it was enough to just protect the land from destruction.  It turns out, the land has to be restored periodically too so we can keep the invasives out.  So I want the mallow to be our State Flower because I want all plants in our state to share the kind of protection they need to survive in the wild.

I saw that a few local nurseries are selling this rare flower. Is there any kind of oversight to determine from where nurseries are sourcing their seed?

I don’t know the exact story, but when the mallow was first discovered, samples were taken a few times, and planted in various places.  The seeds and plants you can get commercially have too much human cultivation to be considered wild (I’m not a scientist, but this is how I understand it). When you obtain a plant to make a version of it for sale, you are basically isolating one gene pool and breaking it off from what evolved naturally.  (This is a problem when we see things like commercial cavendish bananas all cloned from the same banana that are now all susceptible to the same killer fungus). So it’s not so much a problem that people grow ANY native plants in their gardens, including the mallow, it’s only a problem if those cultivated seeds or plants are then “reintroduced” into the wild.  When we collect and redistribute seeds or plants in restored sites, their genetic sourcing has to be directly from the ecosystem we’re planting them in.  I have lots of endangered plant species in my home garden that I bought from a nursery – including Iliamna Remota (Kankakee Mallow) – and I’m sure the pollinators are happy about that, but I better not throw the seeds into wild places after they set.  That would be disruptive in the long-run. 

It sounds like you are succeeding on multiple fronts. Not only are you raising awareness for the Kankakee Mallow’s threatened status in Kankakee County, but you are also raising awareness in the general public that there are species in our Counties that we have the power to save from extinction, right now.

That’s the idea.  In many ways, unless we create habitat corridors that connect every preserve and park in the state, biologically each place IS an island like Langham.

What can the everyday citizen do to help your cause?

Seek out volunteer restoration efforts in your local wild places.  If you are extra mobile, seek out the restoration efforts happening all over the state right now with groups like Habitat 2030 and Sustain DuPage.  People can always support through donations to various programs and spread the word to other folks who are uninformed or uninitiated.  There’s a lot of biological treasure to be discovered in this state and if we act now, we can save it.  Oh, and should we ever get to make it a vote with the state, don’t be shallow, vote for mallow!

Thank you so much for your time Robb Telfer.

My pleasure.



Don't be shallow vote for mallow kankakee mallow for state flower



Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!


15. July 2015 · Comments Off on Villa Park Activist Fights Injustice · Categories: Articles

Benjamin Calvert III with gardening gloves.

By Andrew Van Gorp on 1 June, 2015

We’re joined today by Villa Park activist Benjamin F. Calvert III, who grew up in Naperville near the Greene Valley Overlook. Benjamin, now a resident of Villa Park, has been a long time member in many regional community organizations including the Men’s Garden Club of Villa Park, the Naperville Community Gardeners, the Morton Arboretum, and the Elmhurst Artists’ Guild. Benjamin, welcome.

Hi Andrew, good to see you again.  Another growing season has passed since we first met at your talk for Earth Day 2014 at the Villa Park Library. Seems like yesterday on some accounts.

Benjamin, you’re quite the busy man, earning recognition as a successful naturalist and promulgator of Sustainable Community Development by many community organizations. Can you tell us a little bit about why you participate in some of these groups?

Well, my father was a founding member of the organization that is now the Naperville Community Gardeners. I found it appropriate to become an active member in the group to keep his name on the membership list. My grandmother, my mother, and I have all been members of the Morton Arboretum, too.  My grandmother sold her prints in the Ginko Shop. Since I became a member of the Naperville Community Gardeners, I felt obliged to join the Men’s Garden Club of Villa Park. I have been a resident for over a decade. They welcomed me into the club, and the next year put my yard on their annual garden walk!  It was a great experience in being able to show what a working person can accomplish within a suburban setting.  Of course friends and family have aided in getting my backyard to how it looks today.

Now, for the readers who aren’t aware, Benjamin’s been fighting a citation from Villa Park, (ironically known as “The Garden Village”) for transitioning his yard from lawn into a native garden. Benjamin, can you give us a brief overview or timeline of your efforts to improve the property you own in Villa Park?

Brief? So much to say.  I have been gardening in my yard for fifteen years. The back yard was fence-to-fence lawn when I moved in, and it now has flowers blooming throughout the growing season. I decided to transition my front lawn to a native garden. I thought it important to act now for many reasons.

Reading my Village’s code before beginning, I was concerned about how the Village would react to my native plantings. Specifically, the code singles out Milkweed as a nuisance plant. This sends the homeowner a very conflicted message, since the state of Illinois is actively encouraging Villagers to plant more milkweed to provide food for the threatened Monarch Butterfly, our state insect.

It was important to me that I not use chemicals to kill the lawn and to instead use local resources to accomplish the transition. I used cardboard for the base layer and I contacted a local tree trimming service to deliver a load of wood chips to my home. I started this step in July 2014, and I was excited to show everyone pictures of the first leg of my transformation. My excitement took a step backwards when I received a citation from the Village a month later. I assumed something like this might happen long in the future after “uncommon” plants started growing in my yard, but not so near the beginning of the project.

The citation had two parts: that covering the entire lawn with mulch was prohibited and that mulch was going to cause erosion. Reading the part on erosion, I thought there must be a mistake. It caused me a lot of stress. The remedy demanded by the Village was to remove the mulch, reseed or install sod- at my own expense.  My deadline to comply before fees was September 21st, 2014. 

I wrote a one page letter to the Village the very next day.  My goal was to educate them about what I was doing with my property, show the error of their statement on the citation, and get the violation repealed.  The village code does limit the scope of mulch applications, but excludes single family dwellings such as mine. Little did I know, this would begin a long back and forth between the Village and myself to amend the code. I’ve attended 18+ hours of board meetings, not including the time I’ve dedicated to preparation and research.

To be frank, I was given the run-around. The Village staff contended I had misinterpreted the code. However, I had a lawyer review the code, and they confirmed that the Village Inspector had made a mistake. I had been patient up until that point. In the late fall of 2015, I began to assist the Village in amending the code involving native plantings.

Wow. Do you find it troubling that Villa Park seems to show so little knowledge about sustainable landscaping? Do they understand what will be accomplished on your land once the project is completed?

First, I would like to say, Villa Park has bike trails, close proximity to many amenities, and is a quiet neighborhood. I love living here. My grandparents lived here before me. However, it’s embarrassing that the Village has little knowledge of such an important issue. Everyone who listens to my story is amazed and says that more education is needed. There are many reasons I am transitioning my yard into a native planting.

  1. The natives I will have in my garden will be accustomed to our local environment- needing less chemicals. 
  2. Their tolerance of our weather, means I will have to use less water this summer.
  3. Native plants provide food for pollinators.
  4. Converting my lawn will benefit my neighbors by reducing noise and air pollution from mowers.
  5. My native plants will have deeper roots- helping to reduce stress on Villa Park’s sewer systems during storm events by allowing water to permeate deep into the soil.
  6. Hopefully, with proper planning, my yard will have something beautiful blooming most of the growing season.

To answer your question, I am troubled by Villa Park’s mistreatment of its Villagers. Villa Park should be leading the way in encouraging its Villagers to plant native plants to alleviate the ever-present environmental crises that face us.

Villa Park should be following the county’s lead. Currently, the DuPage County Stormwater Management office is offering to plant natives on residential parkways in Villa Park- at no cost- to alleviate flooding. In my eyes, the world is marching onward and Villa Park didn’t get the memo.

Is it true that the Village proposed a mandatory registration for any family who would like a native garden in their yard, a registry that would be made public online- similar to the Sex Offender Registry?

This is one of the hurdles that the Village staff proposed. However, the Village Board very quickly walked back that suggestion in an effort to protect Villager privacy.

Do you feel that these Village ordinances need to be reformed for the sake of homeowners who wish to make environmentally-friendly decisions with their property based upon their moral or religious convictions?

Yes there definitely needs to be reform, and I have had a couple interchanges with the Village about that.  As I researched, I found that each municipality has various restrictions on gardening freedoms. The Villa Park code implies that you’re allowed to plant anything, until you get to the nuisance clause which states, “all noxious weeds, and any other weeds, grass or plants, other than ornamental shrubbery, growing to a height exceeding six inches, which are found growing on any lot or tract of land in the village are hereby declared a nuisance.” Is that nebulous, or what!? We need clearer laws in order to protect Villagers from unwarranted citations.

Has Villa Park withdrawn the citation? Are you planning to organize around this issue? What are the next steps for this project?

To my knowledge, the citation has not as of now been withdrawn by the Village. I hope someone picks up where I’ve left of with the Village on changing the code. As for me, I’ve decided to leave the Village boardroom to tend to my garden. I would like to see Villa Park adopt a code like Warrenville’s code. Warenville very recently refined their nuisance clause to distinctly clarify between weeds and native plants (as put forward by Gerould Wilhelm & Floyd Swink’s Plants of the Chicago Region, a book widely recognized and respected as an authority on native plant taxa throughout the Midwest). Furthermore, I would like to see the Village take a more active role in educating and promoting native planting within Villa Park. The parkway project with the county is a great first step. I’d like to see that expanded upon.

What would your advice be to other home owners that may not share your bravery in making the decision to transition to Sustainable Landscaping despite perceived or substantiated suppression from their local government?

I would say, start now.  It does not have to be a transformation of your lawn.  Plant a native plant within your garden. Then add more. You will appreciate each one, and hopefully local pollinators, birds, and your neighbors will appreciate your efforts, too.

Also, go to your Village Board meetings.  Even if the subject isn’t about sustainability, you will gain a comfort for the atmosphere. Then when you do have something to voice, you will not be jumping into the arena blind.  Educate yourself. You will find that the knowledge you gain will be the foundation upon which you can grow- right alongside your garden!

It’s a strange world when planting a flower is an act of civil disobedience. Benjamin, thank you so much for being here today, and we will post all your updates on our facebook page.

Thanks Andrew.  I will send you pictures as the project progresses.

Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!


08. July 2015 · Comments Off on Your County is Receiving a Failing Grade. · Categories: Articles

DuPage County map of environmental commissions

By Andrew Van Gorp on 8 July, 2015

Why do I write to you today? It is because I can relate to the laureled DuPage poet Frank Earl Herrick in his description of our County:

A precious plot of Earth

by Nature set apart;

the cradle of my birth,

the homestead of my heart! 

It is because I recognize that the United States of America has long led the world in innovation through times of trouble, and I believe that it should continue to do so.

DuPage County has a rich history, spanning back generations. We have fought to end slavery, to liberate the oppressed in Europe, and we now have a moral obligation to transition our communities away from fossil fuels at all costs before we and our children are doomed to climate disaster. It is an effort worthy of us, a cause that must be taken up by every citizen of this beautiful county.

Sustain DuPage is not interested in the business of patting backs. August 2nd, 2015 looms the two-year-anniversary for the inception of the DuPage County Green Government Council. What has the Council accomplished in its tenure? They’ve signed on to the Sierra Club’s Cool Counties initiative, which is applaudable. However, much remains to be seen for the group’s ability to change the policies which promulgate the unsustainable development we see in our county today. It is unreasonable and unfair to expect such a small board to accomplish the great amount of sweeping change needed on the local level in DuPage County.

Sixty one percent of DuPage County’s municipal governments are operating around the clock without an environmentally-focused advisory commission to guide or inform their decisions. For the municipalities that do have a commission, the model has been proven successful time and again, providing board members a wealthy resource of consultation from a group of experienced sustainability professionals.

At this point in history, there is near to no hope for sound, environmentally-responsible decision making at the municipal level without such a commission in place. Nationally, our system of government is set up to pursue and bolster short-term profit at any cost- often at the sacrifice of our future. (Please do not misunderstand- economic vibrancy and sustainable resiliency are not mutually exclusive). 

However, due to the aforementioned trend, any and all policy that is passed without the input of sustainable development professionals is very nearly sure to be detrimental to the health and wellness of DuPage Citizens and our habitat. Currently, only fifteen out of thirty-eight municipalities have such commissions set up, 39%. This is a failing grade.

We can do better.

Sustain DuPage calls upon the Green Government Council to encourage and facilitate the establishment of Environmental Commissions throughout every DuPage municipality by August 2nd, 2016. 

Sustain DuPage also calls upon YOU to demand the installment of such commissions in your municipality to represent your interests, if one does not already exist. A coalition of dedicated civil servants is needed to meet the needs of such a large county. We cannot be complacent in our desires for a sustainable DuPage. We cannot expect someone up the food chain to solve these problems for us. We must rise up ourselves to create the political structure that will bring about our vision for a safer future.

We are putting out the call for your help.

Will you answer?

Contact Information for Counties Without an Environmental Commission:

Addison: Rich Veenstra, 630.693.7510-

Bartlett: Kevin Wallace, 630.837.0800-

Bloomingdale: Franco Coladipietro, 630.671.5600-

Bolingbrook: Roger C. Claar, 630.212.2200-

Burr Ridge: Mickey Straub, 630.488.5890-

Carol Stream: Frank Saverino, 630.871.6250- (no email address provided)

Clarendon Hills: Len Austin, 630.286.5420-

Darien: Kathleen Moesle Weaver, 630.271.1619-

Elk Grove Village: Craig B. Johnson, (no phone number or email address provided)

Elmhurst: Steven M. Morely, 630.530.3010- (no email address provided)

Glendale Heights: Linda Jackson, 630.909.5302-

Itasca: Jeff Pruyn, 630.773.0835-

Lisle: Joseph Broda, (no phone number or email address provided)

Naperville: Steve Chirico, (no phone number or email address provided)

Oakbrook: Gopal G. Lalmalani, (no phone number or email address provided)

Oakbrook Terrace: Tony Ragucci, (no phone number or email address provided)

Roselle: Gayle A. Smolinski, 630.980.2000-

St. Charles: Raymond Rogina, 630.377.4445-

Wayne: Eileen Phipps, (no phone number or email address provided)

Willowbrook: Frank A. Trilla, 630.920.2234-

Winfield: Erik Spande, (no phone number provided)-

Wood Dale: Nunzio Pulice, 630.595.8545-

Woodridge: Gina Cunningham-Picek, 630.719.4706-

Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!