Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Monday, June 24

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Feeding the Fish

Algae and a couple hundred thousand catfish are helping clean the Chicago River.

Holiday Walk on the 606

This Sunday, Dec. 20, The 606, aka the Bloomingdale Trail, hosts A Walk with Light. Bring a string of lights, glow sticks, LED candles or other non-flame lights, and walk the trail to Walsh Park for fire pits, warm drinks, s'mores, music and fire dancing.

Otters Among Us

Somewhere in Cook County, there is now a river otter living in an isolated pond.

Diet Agent Orange?

A Tribune investigation finds that the EPA ignored serious health concerns when approving the WWII-era pesticide 2,4-D for use by Dow Chemicals on GMO crops. Here's a Dow-backed fact site telling you how great the stuff is, and here's a toxicology profile outlining its dangers.

Historic Snow

While we didn't get as much snow in the city as in the northern suburbs, but 11.2 inches at O'Hare was the largest November snowfall in 120 years.

Dump the Bag

Tired of ripping open trash bags to sort recyclables, Streets & San is putting its foot down: Come Jan. 1, recyclables must be loose, and any bags found in recycling bins will be processed as trash, no matter what's inside.

Skating in Skinny Jeans

There will be a ice skating rink in Wicker Park this winter. It'll be installed Dec. 5, and skating will be free whenever it's cold enough for the ice to properly freeze.

Living with the Heat

WBEZ today launched Heat of the Moment, a new site about how we are living with the effects of climate change, in partnership with The Takeaway. The first story ties together Chicago and New Orleans.

Every Morning

Mike Davis recorded a timelapse video of each sunrise from Oct. 1 to Oct. 30, from 4:30am to 8:30am. [via]

Your Local Mushroom

Researchers at the Chicago Botanic Garden discovered a local species of chantarelle, Cantharellus chicagoensis last year.

Sleep Under the Stars to Fight Homelessness

On Nov. 20, people will get in their tents and sleeping bags on Cricket Hill in Lincoln Park for Sleep Out Chicago, a charity event to raise awareness and funds for local shelters and homeless services.

The 606 is Not the High Line

People have been comparing the park formerly known as the Bloomingdale Trail to New York's High Line since the beginning. Now that it's been open awhile, it's clear to John Greenfield that in some ways, the 606 isn't as good -- but in other ways it's even better.

Bugs Thin Humboldt Park

Humboldt Park looks "feels like a golf course now," say residents, after one in six trees were cut down in an effort to combat the emerald ash borer. The city has been fighting the invasive species since 2006.

Where not to Picnic

ToxicSites, a new resource for finding Superfund hazardous materials cleanup sites near you, lists the Lake Calumet Cluster on the South Side. Unfortunately, there are a few more still to be added. [via]

Surf's Up to No Good

The blustery weather created high waves on Lake Michigan -- perfect for urban surfing, but it's only legal at certain beaches.

Urbs in Solis

This Saturday, the Illinois Solar Tour lets you into homes and buildings running on solar and other alternative energy sources. Here's a list of Chicago spots to visit.

Freaky but Helpful

Former Chicagoist food editor Melissa McEwen reveals a startling fact: She loves house centipedes. (I do too, but my cats hunt them for sport.)

Total Eclipse of the Supermoon

A full lunar eclipse will be visible in Chicago Saturday night -- and Skilling says we'll have clear skies for viewing. (Hope that doesn't jinx it.)

Sun and Loop Align

Tomorrow at dawn and sunset, Chicagohenge will once again be upon us. Just don't get hit by a car while taking pictures in the middle of Loop streets.


Corgi Beach Day took over Montrose Beach this weekend even though organizers were forced to close the event's Facebook page after thousands of people RSVPed. (Previously.)

Baby Watch: Penguin Edition

The Shedd's newest rockhopper penguin chick is a boy, although it doesn't have a name yet. Any suggestions?

Image: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

The Mucusy Masses

It's not just you - high mold counts in the air are wreaking havoc on people's allergies in the Chicago area.

Northerly Island Park Grand Re-Opening

Bike and pedestrian trails, man-made hills and great blue herons will be on display at the re-opening of the new Northerly Island Park today, 12 years after Mayor Daley's midnight raid on Meigs Field.

Stink or Swim

Despite recent efforts to clean up Chicago's rivers, heavy rains still cause sewage to be dumped into waterways, so you should probably check if it's happening before going for a swim.

Land of Sweet-water

Calling Oak Street Beach the "best urban beach in the world," Rich Cohen waxes poetic about life on the shores of Lake Michigan in the New York Times.

Get Your Disgusting Smells Elsewhere

The Chicago Botanic Garden announced earlier tonight that Spike, the Corpse Flower whose rare, gross-smelling bloom has been hotly anticipated over the last week, is too weak to open.

Big City Bees

Bees actually fare pretty well in Chicago -- and you can help them keep buzzing (and plants growing) by growing native flowers on your roofs, windowsills or yards.

Just don't do what Oprah did...

Son of the Niño

Predictions for the strongest El Niño on record say it could also cause a mild winter weather in Chicago.

Eight-Legged Aliens

Octopuses are basically aliens, according to U of C scientists who sequenced their genome, because they're drastically different than any other species on Earth.

Fliers in the Sky

Remember: we're not being invaded by people from the suburbs; it's just the Chicago Air & Water Show.

Bike the Dunes

South Shore trains will allow bikes on board starting next April, making it easy for cyclists to spin through the Indiana Dunes and South Bend.

Stinky Beauty

After 12 years of waiting, a corpse flower will bloom for one day only at the Chicago Botanic Garden, reaching heights of six to eight feet and giving off its signature rotting smell.

No You're Not Crazy

Those statues really are speaking to you, with celebrities including Steve Carell and John C. Reilly lending their voices to Abraham Lincoln, the Picasso downtown, and more for Statue Stories.

All Abuzz

Dragonfly populations in Chicago are booming as they feast on the large amounts of mosquitos in the area.

Waste Nothing

Biosolids from processed human poo are used as fertilizer on parks across the city.

Worth Looking Up

Curious City looked for the best stargazing spots near the city, and experts recommended heading out to Northerly Island or grabbing a ferry across Lake Michigan.

A Pole New World

It turns out you can catch quite a few fish in the Chicagoland area - if you know where to hook.

Disinfecting the River

Wastewater from the city will now be disinfected before it's dumped into local waterways, after Chicago became the last major city to institute the practice.

Back from the Brink

Once extinct in Illinois, peregrine falcons are now flourishing, thanks in part to a local program that bred them in captivity and then reintroduced them into the wild.

Piles in Perspective

See how big petcoke piles on the South Side really are with side-by-side comparisons showing they're as big as McCormick place and other Chicago landmarks.

Price of Animal Control

Almost 300 dogs were put down at the City's animal shelters in June.

The New Cuteness

Between Pluto and the red panda cubs at Lincoln Park Zoo, it's a good day to be on the Internet.

RIP Stingrays

Every stingray in the Brookfield Zoo's Stingray Bay habitat died after a malfunction caused the oxygen level to drop.

Paper or Paper?

Chicago's plastic bag ban takes effect August 1st.

Greening the Skyline

Farms are sprouting from rooftops across the city, including what will be the world's largest atop the Method factory in Pullman.

Trail Tips

As people flock to the Bloomingdale Trail this weekend, everyone can get along with some etiquette tips provided by DNAinfo.

Beyond the Blue Bin

Follow the journey of Chicago's recycling from the blue bins in alleys to markets around the world.

New Cuteness

What else is the Internet good for, besides cute pictures of animals like the two red panda cubs born recently at the Lincoln Park Zoo?

ABC's of Urban Angling

An experienced urban fisherman shares some advice for catching a big one -- or at least having fun -- in Chicago.

When Nature Calls on the Nature Trail

People are flooding into businesses along the Bloomingdale Trail to use their bathrooms.

Hopping Cuteness

A newly-hatched rockhopper penguin is the latest addition to the Shedd Aquarium.

Flooding the Riverwalk

Remember how the Riverwalk was designed to flood? Mas Context has photographs of that first eventuality.

Slippery Mysteries

Experts still aren't sure why worms crawl their way on to sidewalks when it rains.

Smoke on the Water

Forest fires in Canada caused hazy skies in Chicago as clouds of smoke are blown our way.

Unclear Path Forward

Concerns over security and gentrification surround the newly-opened Bloomingdale Trail.

Little Flipper

A boy dolphin calf was born at the Shedd Aquarium.

Less At the Fests

Blackhawks games and rainy weather caused low turnout at summer festivals so far.

Here's Hoping It Works Out!

The tight-lipped private group transforming Jackson Park has confirmed its plan to build Yoko Ono's "Sky Landing" in the park -- without disclosing the design.

Bloomingdale Trail Opens with Three Mile Long Festival

It took Chicago a few years to build it, but this weekend you can celebrate The Bloomingdale Trail and the associated 606 park system. Details for the festival abound at the 606 website. There will be food, art installations, a ribbon cutting and dance lessons just to kick things off.


What's wrong with a little roman candle warfare between friends?

The "Bloomingdale Trail"

With the Bloomingdale Trail and the entire 606 park system opening this weekend, DNAinfo wanted to know what people will call it. The poll may be a thoroughly unscientific, but it's telling that, at time of writing, twice as many people plan to call the whole park system the grassroots christened "Bloomingdale Trail," instead of the city branding consultant's "The 606."

Beach Bummer

Only puddles remain at Humboldt Park's popular swimming area, and residents are calling on the city to keep the beach open.

Man vs. Nature Trail

Strangers standing on the well-lit 606 can probably peek into houses nearby it, but it's unclear whether the nature trail will prevent or encourage crime.

The Acreage Up There

Building owners can turn their rooftops into money-making gardens by leasing them out to an urban farming company.

Green Acres

Chicagoist shares some of their favorite places for urban farming in Chicago.

Fun in the Sun

You can get out by the water this weekend now Chicago's beaches are officially open, or just take a stroll by the new stretch of the riverwalk downtown.

Three 360° Videos from The Grid

Today GB's documentary video series, The Grid, features three 360° videos shot with a special six-camera rig. The videos, which let you point the "camera" in any direction, are about the April 28th demonstration at the CPD headquarters, droning in the Chicago Park District and the Art Institute's recent MFA show.

A New Elevated Park?

Residents want to turn a defunct Union Pacific rail line on the Northwest Side into an elevated path like the 606.

Space Walk

Walk a scale model of our solar system at the Adler's Planets on the Path near the lakefront.

Buzz Off

Chicago was again ranked the second-worst city for mosquitos in the country, according to a study by Orkin on the number of treatments done by the pest-control company.

We're Number 14!

Illinois ranked 14th in a League of American Bicyclists list of bike-friendly states. See our report card, and where we can improve.

Bee a Friend

Jana Kinsman from Bike a Bee had a setback this week when 3 of her beehives were stolen from the McKinley Park Community Garden. Help her raise a small amount of cash for a new secure location and support a local community farmer with a Go Fund Me campaign.

Hold Your Breath

Chicago's official tree pollen count reached the highest in the history of the Gottlieb Allergy Count, the scale used to rate the severity of allergens in the Midwest.

Digging Up Our Roots

The stinky, onionlike plants Chicago is probably named for are increasingly rare as foragers hungry for local foods pull them from woods in the area.

Homeward Bound

Lilly the Shih Tzu is heading back to its owner, who lives in Denver, after running away four years ago and somehow making the 900-mile journey to Chicago.

A Fish Story

Alewives entered Lake Michigan in 1949. To reduce their numbers after a mass die-off in 1967, chinook salmon were introduced to the Great Lakes. Now alewife populations are at an all-time low, and chinook populations -- on which the sport fishing industry trades -- are in danger of being wiped out, too.

Digital Mouse Trap

The City is using data to fight the rat population by analyzing complaints of overflowing trash cans and other contributing factors together with rodent sightings.

Still not Lead-Free

There still thousands of kids in Chicago suffering from environmental lead poisoning, but cleanup funds have been cut from the city budget. See if your neighborhood is at risk.

Get with the Seeding, Already

Alderman Maldonado, whose ward includes Humboldt Park, isn't too keen on Riot Fest's park cleanup from last year's expanded festival. He's being pretty vocal that the organizers need to fix some sub-par grass seeding before it gets too late in the spring.

The City is Aglow

And Curious City explains what causes the orange aura of Chicago's night sky -- and why it's been changing color recently.

Money Doesn't Grow on Trees

The City is giving away mulch for free - just BYO shovel.

You Can Recycle That

DNAInfo Chicago has a helpful piece on ways you can recycle oft-trashed items like K-cups, cigarette butts, tennis balls and even old bras! Read before you toss 'em.

United States of X: Twister Edition

Cook County's worst month for tornadoes is June, according to a map by

Clean up Bubbly Creek

The Army Corps of Engineers has released a feasibility study for restoring Bubbly Creek, the south fork of the south branch of the Chicago River. [via]

The Bloomingdale Trail has an Opening Date

The Bloomingdale Trail will officially open on June 6 with an opening ceremony featuring music, dancing, and a series of processions on the trail.

Cleaning up the Preserves

The Cook County Forest Preserve has been thinning its forests to allow new, healthier growth.

Get Outdoors

Registration is now open for summer programs at Chicago parks. [via]

Gotta Tag Em All

Chicago Wildlife Watch captured over 1 million photos of wild animals in the Chicagoland area -- but they're crowdsourcing the effort to identify them.

Growing the Garden

Grist chronicles the movement to create more parks in Chicago.

When Weather Attacks

Yesterday's severe storms spawned tornadoes west of Chicago, tearing up Trib's liveblog. Residents of Washington, hit by a tornado in 2013, set up a fundraiser for residents affected by the twisters.

I'm Betting It's Not "Rust"

Riverfront buildings have an unpleasant bird's eye view of some mysterious brown ooze leaking into the Chicago river this morning.

Hadiya Pendleton Park Approved

A year after it was proposed, the Chicago Park District approved the renaming of Buckthorn Park, 4345 S. Calumet Ave., will be after Hadiya Pendleton, the young woman killed two years ago while walking through a park with her friends in a case of mistaken identity.

When Nature Calls

There will be no bathrooms on the Bloomingdale Trail, which is a little disconcerting after seeing what happened with limited bathroom access at Wrigley Field.

United States of X: Climate Change Edition

Believing in man-made climate change (and agreeing with 97% of scientists) is more popular in the Chicagoland area than in downstate Illinois.

But Do They Chip in for Rent?

One lucky Lakeview resident has some new neighbors living on his balcony: a nesting pair of peregrine falcons. Check out his Instagram for video and pics. You can also watch falcon cams around the city and suburbs.

Falcon Cam Time

It's spring, which means the city's perigrine falcons are breeding. Watch them on live cams at UIC, South Loop, Evanston and Waukegan -- there's also one near Millennium Park is either badly placed or the falcons aren't there. Follow the Chicago Perigrine Program on Facebook for details. Also, actor Dacey Arashiba has started posting photos on Instagram of the falcons that live on his balcony.

A photo posted by @officebuddha on

Bunny Trouble

Just like baby chicks, live bunnies aren't a great idea for an impulsive Easter present. Still, plenty of people still make a go of it, without really thinking about what they're getting into. If you're a rabbit lover, and would like to get involved with some bunny saving, maybe try volunteering for the Bunderground Railroad.

Adult Frog Finder

The sound of frogs looking for love will soon return to Chicago's ponds and wetlands.

What's Left Behind

It turns out things don't magically disappear after they're buried in snow.

Sick as a Dog

An outbreak of dog flu is spreading through the city's dog parks and kennels.

Did You Feel Something?

A mild earthquake -- magnitude 2.9 -- shook the Chicago area last night at 6:08pm. Geologists pinpointed the epicenter in northwest suburban Lake in the Hills.

Snow Mold?

Yep, snow mold. And it's all over people's lawns.

504 on the 606

The next phase of development of the 606 is being affected by the state spending freeze enacted by Gov. Rauner. Fear not, though, the park will still open in June.

Galena Oil Train Explosion Triggers Concerns

A train of carrying 103 tanks of crude oil derailed while on route to the Chicago area, prompting everyone from Senator Durbin, the state's Emergency Management Agency director and environmental activists to warn about such an event happening in Chicago. You can check how close you live to "oil train" routes via the environmental group Forest Ethics.

The People vs. Petcoke

Southeast Side residents are winning their battle to get piles of petcoke moved out of their community, but where it will end up remains unclear.

This City Goes Up to 11

All the honking and sirens and people sounds in the city makes it hard to commune with nature- although it is possible to get away, if you know where to look.

It's Gonna Be a Cold One

Not only might today break a record for cold, but February as a whole is on track to be the coldest since 1875.

Putting Rats on Birth Control

Not the pill. The City is testing a "milky egg cream" that inhibits sperm production and causes egg loss in rats, with the aim of slowing the rodents' rapid reproduction rate.

Stay Warm Out There

It's gonna be really cold today, like no school cold. (All area YMCA locations will be open today should you need a place to take the kids.)

The Barren Wasteland

Chicago will be very, very cold this weekend, but if you're brave enough you can go see the "ice volcanoes" along the beach.

Declaring Peace on Our Environment

Last weekend's NYTimes Magazine included yet another examination of the reversal of the Chicago River and the question of its re-reversal, and puts the question into the larger context of fixing past ecological mistakes.

Ghosts of Parkland's Past

While parkland protectors successfully challenged development in the past, history suggests the Lucas museum and Obama library could overcome any resistance, writes Whet Moser.

Don't Mess With Chicago

A very serious study by the Risky Business Project says Chicago would be as hot as Texas in the year 2100 if current climate change trends continue.

Orkin Man on Speed Dial

Orkin ranked Chicago as the number one city for bedbugs once again, after the company performed more bed bug treatments here in 2014 than in any other city.

Lazy, Cold River

Graphic design studio Juniper Mei recorded time-lapse video of ice floes drifting down the Chicago River last week. [via]

Yet Another Proposal for Jackson Park

The University of Chicago isn't the only institution that wants to build in Jackson Park. Yoko Ono is working with a group called "Project 120 Chicago" on a redesign and reconstruction of the park to, among other things, "introduce the sky to introducing a medicinal food..." Whether or not residents will take their medicine remains to be seen.

Lint Michigan

Washing fleeces and some other fabrics can cause tiny petroleum-based microfibers to flow into the Great Lakes, polluting the ecosystems there.

All the Snows

December was nearly snowless, so January is making up for it as quickly as possible, and then freezing it solid.

Cards Against Hawaii 2

As part of its Holiday Bullshit thing this year, the Cards Against Humanity guys purchased a small private island in Maine, which they've renamed Hawaii 2, and sent out deeds for one square foot of land to each of the 250,000 subscribers.

15 Reasons to Be SAD

We have had almost no recorded sunshine in Chicago since Dec. 12, which puts us on track for the greyest, gloomiest December in history.

Super Fun Site

A former Superfund site in Little Village is now a community park with a playground, soccer fields, and a skate park.

It's OK to Complain

Chicago's weather over the past year was the coldest its been in 110 years, and it was one of only four places on Earth with colder than average temperatures in 2014.

The Wild Things are Here

Coyotes living in the city roam Chicago at night, building homes anywhere they can, including in the concrete near a Solider Field parking lot.

It's Not That Cold

Despite the record-setting cold in Chicago earlier this week, globally we're closer to setting a record for warmth in 2014.

Up Close City Creatures

Frequent Rearview contributor Bill Guerriero authored a piece for Center for Humans and Nature drawing from his striking "City Creatures" photographic series.

Nearing the Trail's End

The Cal-Sag Trail, a 26-mile multi-use path along the banks of the Calumet River (which GB's Sheila Burt reported on in 2010), is finally nearing completion.

The South Side is Wet

Midway Airport recorded its wettest year on record this year, with nearly two months to go.

Unidentified Marketing Object

A mysterious fireball spotted in the night was actually skydivers who jumped at night with flares attached to them for a Red Bull marketing stunt.

Torn Up Lakefront

Friday's rough weather and high waves on the lake left sections of the Lakefront Path a mess, with huge chunks of asphalt moved and piled up. Repairs are expected to begin today.

Urban Farmers

Researchers at the University of Illinois looked at where people are growing their own food in the city, finding the most green thumbs are in Chinatown and Bridgeport.

Take Me to the River

Landscape architect Gina Ford shares how the Chicago Riverwalk will turn a shipping canal into the city's next great public space.


The Orkin pest control company ranked Chicago as the "rattiest" city in the country, based on the number of treatments the company did here in the past year.


You heard correctly: Chicago saw its third earliest measurable snowfall Saturday. The only earlier snows were Sept. 25, 1928 and Sept. 25, 1944.

Taking Jackson Park Back to Nature

The Army Corps of Engineers awarded a contract for the restoration of natural habitats in Jackson Park. Work is expected to be completed by spring.

$182,000 to Fix Humboldt Park

The Park District estimates that Riot Fest will have to pay $182,000 to repair Humboldt Park, after rains the first night of the festival left the fields a muddy mess. Repairs will begin this week and are expected to take about a month.

Quietly Collecting Trash

Chicago has the only all-electric garbage truck in North America, and it's silently patrolling the alleys of the South and West sides.

Hunters without Guns

The Adler Planetarium and Lincoln Park Zoo have launched Chicago Wildlife Watch, a project to crowdsource identifying animals in photos shot by motion-sensitive cameras. [via]

Leviathan of the Lake

Going to go out on a limb and say, no, there's no hippo in the Chicago River.

Judge for yourself:

Seeds & Weeds on the 606

Martha Bayne writes about the Bloomingdale Trail and the battle between planned and unplanned nature.

Open Hen House

Check out the chicks and chickens in backyards across the city during the 5th Annual Windy City Coop Tour. [via]

Yet the Parakeets Stay

Ducks and other bird species may stop migrating to Chicago -- or go extinct altogether -- if global warming continues at its current pace, according to the National Audubon Society.

No Cigarettes in Horto

The Park District has banned smoking in public parks, beaches and harbors. The ban goes into effect immediately and includes e-cigs, but won't be strictly enforced right away -- so Riot Fest attendees needn't worry too much.

Protecting the Pollinators

The short documentary The Pollinators covers the role of native plants in keeping pollinating insects alive.

WWW Ewwww

With all this rain and flooding, you can check if raw sewage is, in fact, currently being spilled into the Chicago River with just a click. Check for all the icky, clickable reality, based on data from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

Old Man Winter

The Old Farmer's Almanac is predicting a colder than normal winter.

Black & Green Death

Designer Milton Glazer collaborated with the School of Visual Arts and Busy Beaver Button Co. to produce It's Not Warming, It's Dying, a set of buttons intended to raise awareness of climate change.

The Big Apples

Chicago Rarities Orchard Project (CROP) is planning to transform a vacant property in Logan Square into an apple orchard, the city's first.

Canadian Haze

The haze hanging over the city is caused in part by smoke and debris from wildfires in Canada blowing into the area and partially blocking out the sun.


Thanks to the rain Sunday, Grant Park is in worse shape after this year's Lollapalooza than in 2011.

Gone with the Water

Rising waters in Lake Michigan are making some beaches almost disappear.

War on Weeds

A gardener growing native plants and wildflowers is filing a lawsuit against the city after she received a citation for violating Chicago's weed control ordinance.

Gone Batty

Curious City put together a scrollable storybook all about Chicago's bats (there are more than you might think).

So Many Fish Burgers

Fishermen caught more than 2.5 million pounds of Asian carp over the past four years, trying to keep the invasive species from taking over nearby waterways.

Bailing Out the City

Climate change brings more heavy rainstorms to the city, and more sewage will find its way into waterways unless the city can dig enough tunnels and reservoirs to hold billions of gallons of water.

Sweatin' to the Present

Today may be the hottest of the summer. So stay hydrated and don't judge people for sweating.

Take Small Breaths

The National Weather Service issued an air quality alert for today.

Bad Beaches

Curbed analyzed NRDC data and Yelp reviews to determine the most polluted beaches in the city. Meanwhile, dog poop may be contributing to the problem.

Green with Anticipation

Maggie Daley Park, The 606, and the Chicago Riverwalk expansion are among the most-hyped parks being built right now.

It's Smellier by the Lake

The Park District issued a swim ban at all Lake Michigan beaches after flood prevention systems released sewage into the lake Monday night.

Triple Strike!

Frequent Rearview contributor Craig Shimala captured lightning simultaneously striking the Sears, Trump and Hancock towers during last night's storm.

triple-strike lightning chicago

Back in 2010, Shimala caught a triple strike on video.

Chicago Weather Lexicon: Derecho

The National Weather Service warns a storm with winds of up to 70 mph could hit Chicago tonight.

Life Among the Clouds

Fog blanketing the city is partly due to colder waters in Lake Michigan, which is still chilled from the polar vortex.

Find Your Beach

Whether you want to watch birds flying by or people stumbling around, it's important to choose the right beach before setting your towel down.

Flatter Than a Pancake

Illinois is the second flattest state in the nation, according to researchers.


Public pools open for the season this weekend.

It's Noodlin' Time

The DNR and its allies plan to release 30,000 catfish into the Chicago River and the Little Calumet River because the waterways are now clean enough to support more fish.

No More Microbeads

Illinois became the first state to ban skin care products containing microbeads, after researchers showed the tiny bits of plastic were showing up in fish in the Great Lakes.

Guerrilla Greenery

A mysterious group is anonymously installing flower-filled planters along Morgan St. in Bridgeport.

Making Daley Progress

Construction on Maggie Daley Park is moving along, despite still looking like a pile of styrofoam and dirt.

Hope You Brought a Coat

Heads up: a "pneumonia front" is on its way through, dropping temperatures near the lake by as much as 20 degrees.

Plants on Plants on Plants

In the massive grow rooms at Green Sense Farms, LEDs deliver the exact amount of light needed by each plant in the vertical farm, allowing for more harvests than a traditional farm and creating less waste.

When the River's More than Muddy

A new site from Open City provides up-to-date info on whether and where sewage is being pumped into the Chicago River. Co-creator Derek Eder talked about it on "The Afternoon Shift" Tuesday.

From Blue to Green

Food Not Bombs is growing a community garden on the lot of an abandoned police station in Pilsen.

Another Vortex for You

Humidity and back-and-forth temperature shifts are unleashing a "pollen vortex" of allergens into the air.

Taste That Fresh Air

Chicagoland has the 20th most polluted air in the country by ozone, and has the 14th worst short-term and 20th worst year-round particle pollution according to the American Lung Association. (Thanks, Dee!)

Bad Air

The American Lung Association gives Cook County and the Chicago area failing grades for air quality in its 2014 State of the Air report. [via]

Beetle Mania

The spread of the emerald ash borer in Chicago may force the City to cut down around 10,000 ash trees found on public property.

The Falcon Cam Strikes Back

Time to check in on area Peregrine falcon cams! The nests at UIC, South Loop, Evanston and up in Waukegan are all active.


Happy Earth Day!

There are plenty of events happening today and all week to celebrate it. You can also defer till Saturday and help clean up local parks and forest preserves.

Foam Base

No, those blocks of white dotting Maggie Daley Park are not made of invulnerable snow, they're Geofoam blocks that will be covered up to make hills in the park.


The tulips along Michigan Avenue downtown are peeking out from beneath the dirt.

See Spot Sunbathe

Dogs across the city may have lost their beach bodies during the extreme cold, but pet owners in Uptown are nevertheless concerned beaches there are unsafe for pets and people alike.

Use It or Lose It

An ordinance regulating petcoke in Chicago doesn't ban the dusty petroleum byproduct from the city so much as limit its storage to companies who use it for manufacturing.

On the Record Books

The period between December 2013 and March 2014 was the coldest four-month span on record in Chicago, according to the National Weather Service.

Plastic Bags on Notice

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced his support for a city-wide San Francisco-style environmental crackdown that would ban Chicago retailers from providing plastic bags for customers to carry merchandise in.

Oil & Water Don't Mix

The BP refinery in Whiting accidentally let a little tar sand oil out into Lake Michigan, but don't worry, the EPA says the water's fine.

Salty from Our Tears

So, how much road salt ends up in Lake Michigan? Curious City tries to figure it out.

Rats Begone

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) wants to sterilize female rats to reduce Chicago's rodent population. The plan is based on a reportedly successful rat sterilization pilot program New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority launched last year.


Don't forget, Friday is Pi Day. Celebrate by eating some.

6½ Feet

This latest snow made it official: This has been the third snowiest winter on record. The tally at O'Hare now stands at 79.1 inches; we'll need another 3.2 inches to tie the winter of '77-'78 at 82.3.

Dangerous Dust

Vice covered the fight against petcoke storage (previously) in a new documentary.


Careful with that Carp

WBEZ's Curious City looks into which Lake Michigan fish are safe to eat, and in what quantity.

Spring on Ice

With more ice on the Great Lakes than there has been for decades, the coming spring will be chilled down as all that cold water makes its way into the atmosphere.

A Big Year for Weather Words

Here's another new term for your weather lexicon: a "powerhouse storm," which is heading for Chicago, bringing thunderstorms, freezing rain, and heavy snow with it.

Thundersnow Ushers in 5th Place

Yesterday's storm put us at fifth snowiest winter in recorded history in Chicago -- by 6pm. We'll need just another inch and a half to move up to fourth.

Breaking Through

The Coast Guard is bringing an ice cutter in to break up the ice on Lake Michigan shipping lanes in and out of Chicago.

Petcoke's Problems

New rules may force the companies bringing petcoke into Chicago to find a different place to store the petroleum byproduct.

Chicago Offers Cold Weather Advice to the South

A vicious winter blast is scheduled to hit many states in the Southeast today, so Chicago is offering some advice to those in the south less familiar with the full spectrum of winter weather.

Unwelcome Houseguests

Finding they can't burrow into the frozen ground, rats are seeking nicer climates inside people's homes, causing a spike in calls to pest removal services across the city.

Watch the Ice Flow

You can see the ice on Lake Michigan make its way east in these time-lapse gifs from the National Weather Service. [via]

Staying Cold, so Stay Home

With below-zero wind chills expected to continue through at least Tuesday night, CPS will keep schools closed tomorrow as well.

Endless Cold

According to a meteorologist, "there is no foreseeable end to the deep cold here." The National Weather Service issued another wind chill warning for Thursday night, as temperatures may get to 30 below zero.

Cycling Through Chiberia

While everyone else was at home throwing boiling water into the air, filmmaker Ronit Bezalel biked through the Polar Vortex to capture unique views of a frozen Chicago. [via]

Cooler Northern Phenomenon

A recent strong solar flare may make the Aurora Borealis visible in Chicago, with the best visibility tonight if skies are clear. Current forecasts say it will be overcast.

Separating the Waterways?

The Army Corps of Engineers released a report detailing options for keeping Asian carp and other invasive species from moving between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basin. Among the solutions is physically separating the waterways from each other, reversing the work done when the Sanitary and Ship Canal and Cal-Sag Channel were dug over a hundred years ago.

Photos of #ChiBeria

While Chicago reached record low temperatures, some passionate photographers braced the cold to capture these shots of the Polar Vortex over the city. Here are some phenomenal pictures and videos documenting the unbelievable cold from the Trib, Jessica Koscielniak, Shawn Reynolds, @GoogleEarthPics, RedEye, Huffington Post and, of course, our own flickr pool. We recommend you enjoy these from inside a heated space.

As if the Freezing Cold Weren't Bad Enough

Photographer Nick Ulivieri spotted a waterspout steam devil on Lake Michigan last night.

A steam devil is a "small, weak whirlwind over water (or sometimes wet land) that has drawn fog into the vortex, thus rendering it visible."

winter waterspout - photo by Nick Ulivieri
© Nick Ulivieri

Divvy Temporarily Closes Due to the Weather

You're out of luck if you wanted to use a Divvy bike today. As of noon, the bike sharing program is closed until further notice.

The Competition is No Picnic

Cook County parks officials say anyone who wants to reserve a prime spot for a picnic or event in one of the County's forest preserves this summer should do so this week because they fill up fast.

Fish Fences Don't Work

A new study by the Army Corps of Engineers due out Jan. 7 finds that the electric fence on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal supposedly keeping Asian carp and other invasive species from moving between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin isn't working -- but stops short of making recommendations. The news renews calls to permanently close the canal.

Petcoke Progress

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is unveiling new regulations today that will require large storage terminals in the city to store petroleum coke, coal and other bulk materials indoors to prevent pollution.

Studying the Dark Taxa

Researchers from Argonne National Lab are working to find out what's in the Chicago River.

Chicago Safari

Camera traps hidden throughout the city are capturing snapshots of the other animals living in the concrete jungle, from raccoons and opposums, to deer, red foxes, and coyotes.

Ominous Owls

While snow owls don't typically venture too far away from their Arctic territory, an unusually large number are being spotted around Chicago and other areas of North America.

Ready Your Layers

A winter storm pushing through the Midwest is heading our way -- and could mean single-digit temperatures this week. It's official, folks: winter is here.

Flurries of Speculation

Next week could be the first time flurries fall on Chicago -- and our renewed obsession over snow means that winter must really be on its way.

Deer Next to Zebra Lounge

A pair of deer were spotted in a Gold Coast courtyard next to Zebra Lounge yesterday, while trick-or-treaters passed by.

Oh Hail Snow

Though it's not as cool-sounding as "thundersnow," another precipitation hybrid, graupel, may hit Chicago next week.

Beware, Users of the Bloomingdale Trail

Now that the Bloomingdale Trail's construction is well underway, the police warn they will actually arrest people who head up on the tracks.

Importing Pollution

Koch Carbon is stockpiling petroleum coke, a byproduct of tar sands oil refining, along the Calumet River, alarming environmentalists. The carbon-rich material was blamed for respiratory problems in Detroit, until it disappeared last month. Guess we know where they ended up.

Pourin' Again

A replica of the "Fountain Girl" statue returned to Lincoln Park almost 60 years after the World's Columbian Exposition-era original was stolen.

Prickly Prairie

Chicago's last remaining wild cacti are growing in secret on the far Southeast Side of the city.

Stop Washing Your Face

Stop using cleansers containing "microbeads," anyway. The tiny beads are made of polyethylene plastic, and they're ending up in Lake Michigan, adding to the pollution and possibly entering the food chain. Thankfully, some companies are phasing microbeads out.

How You Like Them Apples?

Gene Yale of Skokie grows 178 varieties of apples in his yard (they're mostly dwarf trees) -- but he doesn't eat apples.

Get the Lead Out

While upgrading the city's water system is necessary (we're still using hollow logs as pipes in some places), construction may cause a spike in the amount of lead in nearby homes' drinking water, according to EPA research.

Drugs in the Water

A recent environmental study found that Lake Michigan water is contaminated with pharmaceuticals and other personal care products flushed into Chicago sewers. Diabetes treatments, caffeine and antibiotics were among the most commonly found chemicals.

Watch Out for Waves

The national weather service is warning people to stay out of the water at Chicago beaches today, saying waves and rip currents will be dangerously strong. [via]

Fire on the Mountain

Firefighters are battling a brush fire in Mount Hope Cemetery in Morgan Park this morning. Chicagoland has gotten only half its usual amount of rain since July 1, leading to very dry conditions.

Meet the Olinguito

The first discovery of a new carnivorous mammal in 35 years was spurred by a visit to the Field Museum's archives by a Smithsonian curator. The olinguito had been confused with the olingo, an unrelated but somewhat similar animal from South America, for nearly 100 years.

Sussing the 606

Tracy Swartz takes a look at the current status of the Bloomingdale Trail (aka the 606) and talks to several people with a stake in the project -- including GB's own David Schalliol.

Catch a Shooting Star or Hundred

The annual Perseid meteor shower is this weekend, and the parks at Montrose Beach and Northerly Island will stay open till midnight so you can watch it with less light pollution. Evanston's Lighthouse Beach will be open later, too.

All the Parks are a Stage

Chicago Shakespeare in the Park is bringing free performances of the Bard's A Comedy of Errors to green spaces around the city all summer.

Save West Ridge's Zoo

The bear is long gone: Indian Boundary Park's little zoo has dwindled to just a couple goats and some chickens, and the Park District wants to shut it down entirely and turn it into prairie landscaping. Fans of the park are protesting the move with a petition and a march this weekend.

Attack of the Mayflies

Mayflies are swarming in Chicagoland, and it's messing with radar.

Divvy-ided Market

Do you like the idea of renting a bike on occasion, but dislike the idea of being relegated to where Divvy has stations? Then you may be interested in SpinLister where you can rent bikes owned by locals for a day (or more). And these aren't your average heavy, beat-up, partially rusted bikes for rent. Oh, no, there are some pettable bikes here. For example, this bike may be what you need if you have a dog (the moustache and dog are not included in rental.)

Careful on the Lakefront

The National Weather Service is warning of high waves and even possible "rogue" waves on Lake Michigan today into tomorrow.

Hot WiFi in the Summertime

The Park District has installed free wifi at North Avenue, Osterman/Hollywood, Montrose, Foster and Rainbow beaches. Don't get sand between your laptop keys.

Chicago Ups Wind Energy

Mayor Emanuel's office announced a deal with Chicago's energy suppliers that will double the city's wind energy. Integrys Energy Services was chosen to supply 5 percent of consumer electricity, via ComEd, to save money and ease pollution.

Low-Hanging Fruit

Are you a huge fan of Juneberries or mulberries and upset that you can rarely find them at a farmer's market, and never at a grocery store? There is a great database called Falling Fruit with a Google map showing where every public or semi-public fruit tree is. Type in an address, or share your location, and then search to see where gingko nuts or even an apricot tree can be found. Feel free to add to it. The Oak Park Forestry Division seems to have pretty good coverage of what can be found on the far West Side.

More People Parking Coming Soon

With the success of parklets in Andersonville and elsewhere, more plans are in the works to turn parking spaces into parks. But, of course, not everyone is happy about it.

Poopies in the Park

Fulton River Park has become a "landmine field" of dog poop due to the increasing number of residential towers surrounding it -- so much so that Blommer Chocolate is no longer sponsoring Movies in the Park because it doesn't want to be associated with the pet waste.

Lincoln Park Zoo Adding a Hot Tub

Not for you -- for snow monkeys. The zoo's new Japanese Macaque exhibit will replace the penguin house, and should be complete by fall of next year.

Meet "The 606"

Branding consultants have decided that we should all call The Bloomingdale Trail "The 606." The name is a reference to the shared parts of our zip codes, and not, presumably, intended to reference Chicago's original "606," the legendary speakeasy turned "gentlemen's club."

Bridgeport's Slithering Residents

Bridgeport is teeming with snakes, apparently -- which may be more of a rodent issue, since that's their main meal. (Don't worry, it's mostly harmless garter snakes, of which Chicago has its own subspecies.)

The Gateway on the Median

The Chicago Loop Alliance debuted a new temporary park on the State Street median between Lake Street and Wacker Drive. Called The Gateway, it's a new spot for eating lunch al fresco and otherwise hanging out.

The Gateway to the Loop
Photo by Jasmine Davila

The Gateway to the Loop - seating
Photo by Nancy Bishop

The Gateway to the Loop - tables
Photo by Jasmine Davila

The Gateway to the Loop
Photo by Jasmine Davila

Urbs in Horto Amplius

ParkScore measures not just green space but also where parks ought to be. Here's Chicago, which rates 16th out of 50.

Milking the Weed Ordinance

A gardener who's won two awards from the city for her native plant garden received a $600 ticket for letting milkweed (which isn't actually a weed) grow; she's now fighting the weed-control ordinance [PDF] for being overly broad.

We're Due for a Twister

Chicagoland gets its fair share of tornadoes, and its early warning system could use some improvement. (Related.)

Screw Cardinals

Not the baseball team, the state bird. Slate's Nicholus Lund suggests Illinois ditch the overdone redbird in favor of the greater prairie chicken in his re-imagining of the 50 state birds.

Pollen Tsunami is my New Band Name

This year's allergy season is predicted to be worse than last year's, thanks to conditions that have made pollen and mold counts spike.

The Curl from Above

Thanks to Google Earth Historical Imagery, I was able to make this gif of North Avenue Beach over the decades.


The Parks at Night

This year's Movies in the Park schedule is out. There are also quite a few other "Night Out in the Parks" events this year, from theater to live music.

Save Green on the Green Fest

The Green Festival sprouts on Navy Pier this weekend -- and the first 250 people who use the code GAPERSBLOCK when they register online get in free.

A River of Song

The CSO is celebrating the Chicago River (and others) with music festival. Saturday is also Chicago River Day -- volunteer to help clean up the waterway.

Meet Nick Cage's Lizard

Nicholas Cage's pet water monitor now lives at the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest.

Don't Breathe In

The American Lung Association gives Cook County's air quality an F in its annual State of the Air assessment. Lake County also failed, but DuPage, Kane, McHenry and Will got Bs; Lake County in Indiana rated a C. But don't hold your breath for too long! Their data are from before the Crawford and Fisk coal-fired power plants were closed, which likely considerably improved the air quality. [via]

The River's Going the Other Way

City engineers opened the locks on the Chicago River today -- in other words "re-reversing" its flow -- to help alleviate flooding in Albany Park and other neighborhoods along the river.

Places to Hang Out Outside

Chicagoist shares some of their favorite places to enjoy the outdoors in the city. This'll be more useful when it's possible to enjoy the outdoors in the city.

Behold, Chicagohenge!

Tomorrow is the (alleged) first day of spring and the day to see Chicagohenge, when the sun rises (around 6:53am) and sets (around 7:03pm) directly between the city's East-West streets. If you snap a photo of this biannual beauty, be sure to post it to our Flickr pool.

The Monks at 40

It's been at least 40 years since Monk parakeets began nesting in Hyde Park.

The Bloomingdale Trail is on its Way

After years of organizing, the Bloomingdale Trail and Park network is scheduled to break ground this summer [pdf].

Bloomingdale Park and Trail on Track for Summer Groundbreaking by Gapers Block

Ice in Motion

Carbonmade creative director Dave Gorum has been photographing and animated giffing the ice on Lake Michigan.

A Downtown Raptor

GB flickr pool contributor Chicago Man snapped some prime photographs of a peregrine falcon at Clark & Jackson.

Bike Spring!

If you're not a Bike Winter person and are preparing for spring riding, you may find these three upcoming bicycle events interesting.

The Onion Fields

What would Chicagoland look like if Chicago wasn't here? Curious City attempts to show you.

Going Up to Go In

Studio Gang is tweeting project updates for the new Clark Street Boathouse. Here's the latest.

The Shipwreck on Morgan Shoal

In 1914, the Silver Spray wrecked on Morgan Shoal, a rocky reef near the 49th Street Beach. The remains are one of the easiest of Lake Michigan's shipwrecks to explore, but now the wreck and Morgan Shoal are in danger of being covered over by a shoreline restoration project.

The Future of the River

Onearth magazine tours the Chicago River and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, asking: "Can Chicagoans save the waterway that made their city great?"

Skate Grant Park!

The park district is creating a new, permanent skate park in Grant Park at 11th and Michigan. Preliminary plans will be released during Wednesday's Grant Park Conservancy/Advisory Council meeting.

Finally Some Good Waterway News

Rare freshwater shrimp were discovered in the Des Plaines River this summer, which bodes well for its cleanliness, experts say.

Our Weird Weather

This unusually mild winter will have far-reaching effects on the lake and the city's infrastructure.

A River of Pollution

The Grand Calumet River has been washing lead and other toxins from factories along the waterway. WBEZ describes efforts to clean it up.

The Lake's Chilling Effects

Tuesday's frigid temperatures are shockingly clear in this satellite photo of the Great Lakes, shared by WGN's Tom Skilling on Facebook. [via]

great lakes cold lake effect

Climate Central offers a detailed explanation of the current cold snap, which apparently has a tropical connection.

Blotting Out the Sun

One hundred years ago, Chicago was smoggier than Beijing today.

Get Rid of the Pigeons

We're now forcibly exporting pigeons to Indiana, apparently. (Thanks, Dee!)

Cataloging Chicago's Food Gardens

Two U of I researchers conducted an aerial photography assessment of food gardens in Chicago and determined there may be as many as 4,500 of them. While those familiar with food gardening in Chicago can probably already see that the methodology is overly conservative, it's an interesting view of urban agriculture.

Breaking Another Weather Record

If all goes according to forecast, we're set to break another weather record tomorrow. This time, it's the longest period without having an inch of snowfall in a day: 319 days, set in 1940.

Don't Trash the Tree

Starting tomorrow and running through the 18th, you can recycle your Christmas tree at any of 23 locations around the city. If you live on the North Side, you could go the lazy route and call recycling nonprofit Do the Right Thing for a pickup.

The River in Reverse

There's been talk of re-reversing the Chicago River in recent years, but humans may soon not have a say in the matter. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, if drought continues to lower Lake Michigan's water levels, the river may begin to flow back into the lake on its own. [via]

Party Animals

As Chicago's coyote population grows (previously), the dogs are getting bolder -- and possibly becoming sports fans.

Ecofriendly Harbor Wins Award

The new 31st Street Harbor won the International Superyacht Society's won the Fabian Cousteau Blue Award for "stewardship of marine ecosystems."

Sowing the Seeds of Lunch

Chicago Public Schools just received a $100,000 grant that will help connect its cafeterias with locally grown produce -- in some cases, it'll even be grown on school grounds.

Farming the Urban Green

The future of the South Side could be acres of urban farms.

Plants & Animals & Birds, Oh My!

Where in Chicago is the greatest biodiversity? Curious City finds out.

Ready, Set, Crawl!

Connecting families across the city, the first annual "Strollers in the Front" 5K Walk & Run on Sunday, Oct. 28 welcomes walkers, runners and strollers alike. With a Kids Dash and a Halloween Finish Line Family festival, this family oriented race is the first of its kind to make its way to the city, so register your strollers now and be a part of crawling to the finish line!

Coyote Country?

Chicagoland's coyote problem is continuing to grow, with a current population of around 2,000. They are able to sustain themselves mainly on rodents, but coyotes will also also eat cats or small dogs if the opportunity presents itself.

Asian Carp DNA in the Chicago River

Asian carp DNA showed up in samples taken from the North Shore Channel and the Chicago River this summer. Scientists don't know if the DNA indicates the presence of carp or not, but the findings will trigger a more extensive search of the North Shore Channel and a six mile stretch of the Chicago River later this month.

Walking Along the River

The City unveiled concepts for an extensive Riverwalk revitalization, featuring such things as "the Jetty," "the Cove" and "River Theater."

Where the Wild Things Are

Curbed created a map of the best places in Chicago to come face to face with mother nature.

NATO Fixes the Parks

There was apparently a little money left over from hosting the NATO Summit, so the City is giving it to the Park District to improve neighborhood parks.

Engaging the Invasion

In the face of the still lingering Asian carp threat, the EPA is launching a $8 million initiative to study, reduce and prevent invasive species in the Great Lakes.

Pot Like Christmas Trees

Dude, sorry to have to tell you, man, but the cops found your forest of marijuana down in Trumbull Park. They spotted it by helicopter, man.

No Minis, No Golfs; Yes Mini Golf

Today is Park(ing) Day! Keep an eye out for parking spaces turned mini parks -- and consider shooting a few holes of mini-golf on Milwaukee Avenue in Avondale.


Turning a Daley Park into a Daley Park

The two and a half year reconstruction of North Grant Park is now underway, during which Daley Bicentennial Plaza will be transformed into Maggie Daley Park. Three renderings of the park are available on the construction website (Tip: Open each rendering in another window to see the full resolution version).

The Noble Electrical Fire

There may be fewer horse-drawn carriages plodding through the city following a fire at an Old Town stable. No mammals of any kind were injured.

Making a People Place

Voting is now open for Placemaking Chicago's "Space in Between" competition.

Mapping Park(ing) Day 2012

Park(ing) Day is only a couple of weeks away, but the official map only has the city's People Spaces listed. Why not add yours today?

Breathe a Little Deeper

In case you missed it, the Crawford and Fisk coal-fired power plants are now officially offline. Visit the city's Fisk and Crawford Reuse Task Force website for updates about redevelopment possibilities and to offer your own suggestions.

The Greening of Wilson

Preliminary redesigns for the CTA's station at Wilson in the Uptown neighborhood contain ideas for utilizing solar energy and radiant heating, among other green initiatives, to help not only the station's energy needs, but those of the neighborhood as well.

Feel the Heat

This has been Chicago's third-hottest summer ever, and we're not quite done yet.

Coming Soon: Maggie Daley Park

The northeast corner of Grant Park, including Daley Bicentennial Plaza, will be renamed Maggie Daley Memorial Park and receive a $55 million renovation.

Major Lakefront Reserve Announced

Additional details of the Millennium Reserve are emerging with the recent announcement of several new initiatives. Among them is the Burnham Wildlife Corridor [top story], a 3.5 mile, 60 acre lakefront restoration project on the South Side. More than 400 native trees and shrubs have already been planted, but 100,000 plants will be seeded beginning in fall 2013.

Work to Begin on Bloomingdale Trail

ABC 7 reports work will begin on the Bloomingdale Trail later this month. When it finishes in 2014, it will the world's largest elevated park. Your move, New York.

The Magic of a Morning Rain Shower

GB flickr pool contributor Chicago Joe photographed a remarkable view of one of yesterday's isolated showers.


Northerly Island to Get Wilder

The City, Army Corps of Engineers and architect Jeanne Gang announced plans yesterday to redevelop Northerly Island into a diverse marshland habitat with a pond and areas for camping. "To me it's like a picture of what the city was like before the city was built," said Gang ...except on a man-made peninsula that was built in 1925.

Castles Made of Sand

How are you at building sand castles? Test your mettle against other granular architects at Edgewater's second annual Chicago SandCastle Open this Saturday. [via]

Celebrate Shark Week

So it's Shark Week, but before you turn on the TV, think a little about helping to conserve this awesome species. Head to The Grafton tonight for a special "fin-raiser" benefit for Shark Angels who work to keep sharks in the ocean and out of soup. You can also go see real live sharks in action at The Shedd, where there are also discounts available on general admission all week long.

Watch the Skies

The annual Perseid meteor shower is this weekend, and the Illinois Science Council wants to prep you. Join them in Evanston for a talk tomorrow night, then head up to the beach up there or at Montrose or 12th Avenue in the city on Saturday or Sunday night for a viewing party.

A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall

Lollapalooza's scheduled performances today have been suspended due to impending severe thunderstorms. Attendees have been evacuated to "pre-established underground evacuation and shelter sites along Michigan Avenue." Good planning, Perry! UPDATE (5:45pm): the concert will re-open shortly.

Harvesting These Green Streets

The Chicago Department of Transportation recently contributed an unlikely product to the Lincoln Park Zoo: food, in the form of bamboo from a Chinatown roadside. [Thanks, Chris!]

Not So Cool in the Lake

If you've taken a dip in Lake Michigan, you may have noticed that it's a bit warmer these days -- and not just because of this heat wave.

A Hazy Shot of the Storm

The Adler Planetarium has a webcam trained on the skyline as part of the Midwest Haze Cam project. Reader Bob Soron happened to be watching it as last night's storm rolled in.

adler 2012-07-19 10.30 pm.jpeg

House Centipedes Everywhere!

The RedEye notes that there's a rise in the number of scutigera coleoptrata scaring the bejeezus out of Chicagoans this summer. Don't worry, they're almost entirely harmless to humans.

Video via Boing Boing.

Bummer Crop

Yes, the heat is unbearable. But for Midwestern farmers, it's especially brutal.

Well, it has been Hot Outside

GB flickr pool contributor Anne Fisher witnessed step three to bringing the temperature down.

If you can't bring the kids to the pool...

Two Surprises at Fermilab

Apparently, Fermilab has had a bison farm since 1969. The team that oversees them got a surprise when the cows started birthing on May 30.

How Hot is It?

It's so hot, we haven't seen heat like this at this time of year since 1977.

10 Years of Green Tech

The Center for Green Technology is celebrating its 10th anniversary this Saturday.

A Little Black Spot on the Sun Today

If you can get a good vantage point at around 5pm, you should have a pretty good view of the Transit of Venus, when the planet passes between us and the sun. The Adler Planetarium is hosting a viewing party.

These Boots Were Made For Driving

Clear your schedules Friday, when the Bootmobile rolls into Chicago.

A Pool for Pooches

If the dog beach isn't your thing, how about a pool party for your large or small dog?

Chicago Shrinks

The city may get slightly smaller soon, if 86 acres of reclaimed industrial land on the southeast side is unincorporated so it can become a landfill. The city is seeking new means to prevent the succession following a judgement approving the action. The city was unable to prove it had plans for the property and would be "unduly harmed" by the lost tax revenue.

The Case of the Hitchhiking Limpets

Dr. Janet Voight of the Field Museum discovered that Alvin, the famous deep sea submersible, had accidentally transported limpets from one spot 3,000 feet under the ocean to another 375 miles away. Oops.

Hit the Beach, Carefully

The beaches officially open today, if you're brave enough to get in the water. For one thing, it's still cold, but for another, the Park District won't stop you due to e.coli blooms anymore (they'll still close the beaches for sewage overflow).

Take Part in a Tomato Bomb

Gardening blogger MrBrownThumb (aka Ramon Gonzalez, who wrote about the City's water reclamation efforts in Mechanics) is collecting tomato seeds to send to a disabled gardener in Louisiana.

Keeping Carp Out of Lake Michigan ...Eventually

Today you learned that there is an Asian Carp Director, and that he and the Army Corps of Engineers are speeding up the process on their report to Congress about how to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. The report will now be delivered in 2013, instead of 2015.

Coal Fired Power Plants Closing Early

As of September, Chicago won't be the only major U.S. city with coal fired power plants, because Midwest Generation is closing Fisk and Crawford ahead of schedule.

"As 'Local' As Possible"

City Farm gets shouted out in a National Geographic feature on urban farming.

'Colorful' Chicago weather Creates Colorful Sky

We're used to unpredictable, fleeting weather changes in Chicago but this year, marked by the bizarrely mild winter, is throwing even the most composed among us for a loop. On Friday, the WGN weather center received several photos of a circmhorizontal arc in the sky, which can only occur when "the sun is high in the sky at 58º or higher above the horizon which at Chicago's latitude can only occur from about mid April to late August." It's a striking phenomenon, if a little alien in its spontaneous and shimmering glow. With so many weather records being set or broken lately, a little beauty is a welcome element.

7,000 Miles from Home

A South American white-crested elaenia was spotted in North Lawndale this weekend.

Keeping Horto in Urbs

Earth Day is Sunday, but Friends of the Parks are doing their annual cleanup on Saturday. Frances Archer shares some of the North Side's history of gardening.

Six Simultaneous Strikes

Reddit user larsonwhipsnade captured an incredible moment on Lake Michigan during a storm last year.

Lightning on Lake Michigan

Reducing the City's Glow

The Illinois Coalition for Responsible Outdoor Lighting is trying to reduce the amount of light pollution produced in Chicagoland and other parts of the state. Dim Your Lights offers some easy ways to make nighttime a little darker.

Down Ramps

The ramp, the wild onion that may have given Chicago its name, is being wiped out by demand from foodies.

Horto in Urbs in Frame

Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee explores Chicago's nature for 100 Eyes.

Made of Lake Michigan

Past GB Book Club author Patrick Somerville writes about his relationship with Lake Michigan (and water in general) in Good.

Go Green Cheaply

Do you look at your yard and think about putting in trees or plants and then get overwhelmed by the price? Do you like the idea of having a compost bin or rain barrel, but not the idea of buying what you need? Let the city of Chicago reimburse you for half of your cost.

Time for Falcon Cam Again!

Area falcon cams are back online: Check out the raptors at UIC, Evanston Public Library (one egg already!) and Midwest Generation up in Waukegan. Learn more on the Field Museum's website.

UIC Peregrine Falcon Cam

5 Down, 2 to Go

We're on our way to a week's worth of weather records if this hot streak holds up through Tuesday.

Explaining the Weather

EarthSky explains why we've been so warm, and why Europe's been so cold.

Camp Out in Cook County?

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County currently allows camping by youth groups, but it's considering letting others camp out, too. Weigh in by taking the survey.

Pneumonia Front, Indeed

The temperature display from the U of C's weather station provides a dramatic visualization of the "pneumonia front" this evening. The day's gradual curves fell off a cliff around 6:30pm, collapsing from approximately 80 degrees fahrenheit to approximately 47 degrees in less than an hour. A screenshot of the change is after the jump.

Chicago,IL Weather

A Quieter Far South Side

Yesterday the CPD announced it cancelled plans for its controversial South Side shooting range following "input from community organizations." The bald eagles might have something to do with it too.

Designing the Bloomingdale Trail

Blair Kamin reviews the Bloomingdale Trail and Park plans from a recent framework plan presentation.

The City's Newest Public Pool

Everyone's favorite Chinatown park, Ping Tom Memorial Park, will be getting a new fieldhouse and pool as part of its massive expansion on the north side of 18th Street.

Chicago's Coal Burners to Close

The city's two coal-fired power plants will shut down sooner than expected in a deal being announced today. Midwest Generation's Fisk plant in Pilsen will close this year, and the Crawford plant in Little Village will close by 2014. Hopefully this means the end of toxic tours soon.

SCOTUS Stays Out of Carp Fight

The US Supreme Court opted not to get involved in the multi-state fight to force Illinois and the Army Corps of Engineers to take stronger measures to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan.

Shovels at the Ready

A Winter Storm Watch has been issued for the city this evening with accumulation predictions ranging from 4-to-7 inches in 36 hours; totals which WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling says could "rank among the city's heaviest."

Even More Historical Now

The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which enabled the city to reverse the Chicago River, has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Grid: The Mediated Plant

The newest installment of our documentary series The Grid examines how The Plant -- Chicago's vertical farm and food business incubator -- has been represented in the media.

No Shooting Near the Eagles

Nesting bald eagles in Hegewisch Marsh may throw off plans for a CPD shooting range.

Trading Housing for Parkland on the South Side

The latest building in To be Demolished, 5744 S. Lafayette Ave., is being demolished by Openlands. The organization is working with the city to level a cluster of residential buildings to create a new South Side park.

Interpretation and Reinterpretation at the Lincoln Park Zoo

Today's Rearview photo is part of GB flickr pool contributor John Crouch's series of exploratory photographs of the nature boardwalk pavilion at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Each final image in the series is generated from the same initial 60 photographs.

"Punxsatawny Phil is a Punk"

So says WGN Meteorologist Tim McGill in regards to Groundhog Day. The rodent's accuracy record is a measley 39 percent. Punxsatawny Phil predicted six more weeks of winter today; Woodstock Willie, on the other hand, didn't see his shadow, which jibes a bit better with our recent weather.

Another Urban Coyote Takes to the Ice

GB flickr pool contributor Andrew Smith got close a coyote in the Montrose marina.

Chicago Coyote at Montrose marina

Your Daily Dose of D'awww

An orphaned baby sea otter named Cayucos, currently adjusting to life at the Shedd, made an adorable appearance on the "Today Show" this morning.

The Daley Bicentennial Funpark

The City unveiled renderings yesterday for the proposed Daley Bicentennial Plaza to be built on the northernmost portion of Grant Park (between Lake Shore Drive and Millennium Park). The new park will include what looks to be a chaotic combination of a climbing wall, scooter parking, a ice skating "ribbon" and who knows what else. The renderings are on view in Block 37 through next Tuesday.

A Garden Grows in Pilsen

The Field Museum helped community groups in Pilsen design and build a neighborhood park and monarch butterfly sanctuary as part of its Chicago Community Climate Action Toolkit.

Pilsen Documentary from The Field Museum on Vimeo.

Snagging a Fish

The latest installment of The Grid short film series introduces you to "snaggers," the people who fish along the city's coastline.


Don't just leave it in an alleyway! You can recycle your Christmas tree starting this Saturday (through January 20) at these locations.

Basil, Cilantro or Chamomile

Vote for your favorite in this year's One Seed Chicago.

Energy of the Future

If's math is right, solar power will cost the same as grid electricity in Illinois in about 2023.

Need a New Hobby? Go Birding

We mentioned there's an unusual number of snowy owls in Chicago this year. Birdseye is an iPhone app that'll help track your sightings of it and other unusual bird species, and the Chicago Ornithological Society is a good place to learn about the best places to look. [via]

Wet & Wild 2011

This morning's rain made this year the second wettest on record, thanks mostly to the blizzard and an unusually stormy July. If we can muster another 1.75 inches, 2011 will be tops.

Making Electronics Recycling a Little Likelier

Speaking of new laws, you must recycle electronics as of January 1. The Sun-Times tells you where to take them for recycling.

Suburban Lawns on Ice

Two young hockey enthusiasts in Tinley Park got in some hot water for using a fire hydrant to fill their backyard ice rink.

Invasion of the Snowy Owls

Snowy owls are on the hunt in Chicago in record numbers, drawn by the city's plentiful rats and seagulls.

Bees Seeing You

The Chicago Honey Co-Op has to move, and it needs your help to do so.

Let It Snow, Leopards

Snow Leopards Sabu and Sarani follow in suit with the season as Brookfield Zoo's latest additions.

Santas On Two Wheels

When Santa's not in a sleigh, he's totally a bike winter fan. Don your fuzziest of red hats or your elfiest of shoes and head out to the Santa Rampage bike ride on 12/17 starting at the Twisted Spoke downtown. Only fully-dressed Santas, elves, or dreidels are allowed (homemade costumes are completely fine). Details in Slowdown.

Flying Fish in Our Future?

Chicago magazine revisits the Asian carp threat in the latest issue.

Mixing Jet Fuel and Gardens

Air travel may not be particularly environmentally friendly, but the Chicago Department of Aviation is greening its airports with everything from aeroponic gardens to solar panels.

Tickets for Not Shoveling Actually Being Written

With the advent of several infrastructure tech upgrades ("mobile electronic ticketing"), it's no longer a hassle for your alderman to write you up for the small stuff. Which, at $50 to $100 per offense, quickly becomes not so small. (See also: remove all your old city stickers.)

Occupy Chicago in the Fall: Sure. But in the Winter?

Time Out Chicago speculates on whether the protests can survive a less pleasant set of conditions. Also provided is a short list of tips on how to participate without being arrested.

Know What Bit You

Inspired by FoGB John Tolva's natural Halloween decoration, here's a guide to Illinois spiders.

Brief Delusional Joy

Seems like we're in one of those all-too-brief periods of perfect bike commuting, as illustrated by Lunchbreath.

Bike Commuting Cycle Of Pathos

Plant Your Own Conservatory

The greenhouses the Garfield Park Conservatory uses to store plants in the winter are still damaged from this summer's hailstorm, so it's holding a one-day plant sale this Saturday. Stop by and give some plants a home!

Vote for the Official Chicago Christmas Tree

The three finalists for the Official Christmas Tree of the City of Chicago have been chosen. and now it's up to you to vote for your favorite. The tree will of course sit in front of Daley Plaza this holiday season so make your vote count.

Bloomingdale Trail Gets Public Feedback

Planners of the Bloomingdale Trail held public charrettes last week; Grid Chicago has a great rundown of what was discussed.

Debbie Downer Writes the Farmers Almanac

Even though I think, pray and hope that it's bullroar, the forecast for this upcoming winter is rumored to be absolutely terrible. Celebrate this news by going outside because it's nearly 80 degrees today. Get off my lawn, Old Man Winter!

Take Your Best Shot, of Nature

The Chicago Park District is holding "Nature in Chicago," a digital photography contest between Oct. 1 and Oct. 18. Show the city's natural beauty and win a prize!

Batten Down Your Helmet

Big waves this morning over Lake Shore Drive -- enough to knock a cyclist down.

We're Getting a New Moon Rock

The moon rock embedded in the Tribune Tower has been removed so that NASA can replace it with a new one sometime soon.

21 Acres of Rosehill Cemetery to Become Park

Or in Rahm's words, a "mini-Morton Arboretum." There's also a whole bunch of financial hand-wringing involved, but the deal eliminates any possibility of the land being otherwise developed.

The Pink Dress Run

The Chicago Thirstday Hash House Harriers' Pink Dress Run to raise money for Imerman Angels will be held this Thursday.

Our Precious Fluids

The Metropolitan Planning Council wants you to know how much your water is worth.

Swirling Wind + Water = Awesome

GB flickr pool contributor SightSpecific photographed a waterspout over Lake Michigan this morning. Check it out below.

funnel cloud

Christmas Tree Removal

The City is once again looking for a really big tree to remove from someone's yard and move downtown.

Feed the Park Meter

Today is PARK(ing) Day, and once again Moss Design leads the Chicago contingent.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

The haze and odd smell in the air yesterday and today is thanks to smoke from wildfires all the way up in Minnesota. Paired with mold, it's not a great day to be outdoors for allergy sufferers and people with respiratory problems.

Vote for Chicago to Become "America's Most Natural City"

Safeway's sponsoring a contest and awarding the winning city $20,000 for its parks and recreation dept. Vote on Facebook through Sep 16.

Carousels, Little Dippers and Lava Run Cars: What Ever Happened to the Kiddieland Rides?

WGN managed to track them down at their new homes.

O'Hare Gets Sweeter

Nope, not in the concessions department (sadly). But 23 bee hives have been installed along the east side of the airport, managed by Sweet Beginnings, to make use of unused open space. Sweet! (Pun!) [via]

A Park in Danger

The City has started proceedings to rezone Greenbaum Park in Humboldt Park RT-4 residential. Ald. Reboyras says it's so that it can become an "on-campus park" for Grand High School next door, but neighbors are skeptical.

Grant Park Still a Mess From Lollapalooza

And with festival damage the worst it's ever been, it might not get better for another month.

Permeable Concrete

Filtercrete, part of concrete maker Ozinga Brothers' Green Building line, lets water flow through it at an amazing rate.

Environmental Justice for the Underclass

On Tuesday Gov. Quinn signed a law creating the Commission on Environmental Justice, intended to prevent poor communities from bearing the brunt of industrial pollution and other environmental risks.

Bringing Recreation and Order to the South Loop

The construction of the new Jones College Prep building opens up possibilities for the old building site, including installing a park and straightening out the awkward Harrison/State intersection.

And the Storm Rolls In

Flickr user cshimala set up his camera to video record three phases of the August 13 storm.

Cleaning Up After the Circus Leaves Town

Thanks in part to the rain, Lollapalooza left Grant Park a wreck. The cost of last year's cleanup topped $200,000, and this year is expected to cost even more.

Green Roof Repair

The Children's Museum may not be moving in, but the Daley Bicentennial Plaza in Grant Park is still getting ripped up.

From Transportation to Relaxation

The Bloomingdale Trail was mentioned in a roundup of train track rehab projects around the country. There's a walking tour of the trail tonight at 6:30pm tonight if you're interested.

Growing Trend: Guerrilla Gardening

The housing boom led to a bunch of knockdowns -- and the crash left many of those lots empty. Robyn Nisi explores what happens when community gardens spring up on what is technically private property.

Both Flooding and Flood Controls Create River Traffic Problems

Recent storms have caused havoc for the Chicago River tour and water taxi services. Many were unable to operate this morning because of high water, but others were unable to work yesterday because of low water caused by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers measures.

Tiny Greenhouses

A new way to help raise money to repair Garfield Park Conservatory's hail-damaged greenhouses is to purchase one or both of these new original paintings by Chicago artist Diana Sudyka.

How Hot was It Yesterday?

Not quite hot enough.

Not Quite Hot Enough...
Photo © Renee Rendler-Kaplan, via the Gapers Block flickr pool.

Turtle Time

Look who's been kicking it on the North Branch of the Chicago River! (via Friends of the Chicago River)


The North Branch Monster

Friends of the Chicago River conducted a survey of wildlife on the north branch of their friend, and came across a massive snapping turtle.


Chicago Microclimates in Action

It's currently a foggy 75 degrees in Hyde Park that "feels like 73" but a sunny 86 degrees in Logan Square that "feels like 97." Dueling advisories for dense fog and extreme heat help tell the tale.

Blue Bin Competition

The City turned its curbside recycling program into a three-way competition, with two private firms going up against Streets & San trucks. The plan is to expand recycling to more neighborhoods in six months.

Motoring Down the Canal with Asian Carp

A photographer from the Detroit Free Press hopped aboard a tugboat and cruised along the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Organized for Beach Dogs

The Montrose Dog Beach is probably the best organized in the city -- it even has its own social network.

Take Back Chicago

Organizations with the words "take back" in their names aren't usually so happy and positive.

Bees Happy

The Sun-Times checks in on the bee farmers who have set up shop on 2,400 square feet of vacant, undeveloped land at O'Hare International Airport. (Previously: WLS-7 couldn't resist a "beehive of activity" pun.)

Floating Down the Old Calumet

Tickets for Forgotten Chicago's Industrial Calumet Boat Tour are now on sale.

Storm Portal

Doesn't The Bean look like a vaguely ominous gateway to a parallel dimension? [via]

Hail Everywhere!

Here and here and here and here and here and here and here and surely here soon...

Thanks, Collies!

An NRDC report that ranks Illinois beach water quality also determined that hiring dogs to harass seagulls really does help prevent elevated bacteria levels.

Pop-Up Park

Last week Joe Baldwin helped turn a Logan Square street into a temporary grassy park for a day.

Good, Messy Summer Fun

School's out -- what's next? Chicago Parent has some fun ways for your kid to spend the summer that let them get hands-deep in grubs, paint, plants and more.

Credit Where Credit's Due

Most Chicagoans may not think about fishing or the far Southeast side very much, but the connection of these two men to the area and our waterways, as chronicled by the Chicago News Coop, will compel you to do both.

Beer for Better Water

Efforts to clean up the Chicago River have an unexpected ally: Leinenkugel's.

Walk for the Animals

The Red Door Animal Shelter sponsors its annual Gimme Shelter! benefit walk for homeless animals this Sunday from 10am-noon at at Indian Boundary Park, 2500 W. Lunt. Food, entertainment, and a pet psychic are part of the fun.

Bloomingdale Trail Takes a Step Forward

Finally some movement on the Bloomingdale Trail project; the City announced Wednesday that preliminary design work is now under way, and Albany Whipple Park, which would become the start of the Trail, opened last week.

Green Scrappers

Want to compost but have a place to keep the bin? Or just grossed out by worms? Contact Compost Office, who will pick up your scraps and add them to the pile.

Urban Fox at Rest

GB flickr pool contributor Will Rice spied a fox relaxing under greenery in Bucktown.

Quite the Pile of Bricks

Lightning struck in Rogers Park this morning and took out some poor defenseless chimney bricks near Pratt and Greenview at the Lake Shore School. Luckily, no one appears to have been injured. Transmission contributor Dan Snedigar took some pictures of the debris.

Greenpeace Occupying Fisk Generating Station

Eight Greenpeace activists climbed up and encamped themselves on the controversial coal-fired Fisk Generating Station in Pilsen, demanding that Fisk and the nearby Crawford Generating Station be closed. [Thanks, Michael!]

Taking the Long View

From permeable alleys to warm weather plants, Chicago is leading the way in municipal preparations for climate change.

Strip Malls & Archeological Sites

Out in the middle of Schaumburg's suburban sprawl, an Indian mound has somehow avoided destruction.

Urban Orchards

Help a Chicago neighborhood win fruit trees, courtesy of Edy's Fruit Bars.

Our Poor River

The Chicago River makes National Geographic's list of the America's top 10 most endangered rivers.

EPA: Make the Chicago River Swimmable

The EPA has ordered the state to get the Chicago River, the Little Calumet River and the Cal-Sag and North Shore channels cleaned up enough to be safe for swimming. Dunno about you, but I'm still not swimming in Bubbly Creek.

Flat Rainbow! Up in the Sky!

A rare phenomenon was spotted over Tinley Park last week, leading to some pretty awesome photos.

In the Air, Over the Hill

Photographer and designer Paul Octavious returned to his favorite hill (previously) to film the Kids & Kites Festival last weekend. (Thanks, Christopher!)

So Long, State Line

Dominion Resources recently announced it will be shutting down the much-photographed (and polluting) State Line Generating Plant.

And the Flowers and the Trees

Brian Houck, Director of Horticulture at Lincoln Park Zoo, just joined Twitter

No Power Plant

WBEZ's Justin Kaufmann blew the lid off a hoax protest over a fictional coal-fired power plant in the South Loop.

EPA Fines Pilsen Foundry

The EPA fined H. Kramer & Co. for Clean Air Act violations after its Pilsen area facility was found to be emitting high levels of lead particles.

Happy Earth Day!

Celebrate with the Chicago Climate Action Plan in Daley Plaza from 11am to 2pm today.

Gulls in the Outfield

The Cardinals are not the only birds the Cubs will be fending off this season.

Live on Falcon Cam

All eyes may be on the Eagle Cam, but there are plenty of falcon cams to be had here in Chicagoland. Watch peregrine falcons in Waukegan, Evanston, 1130 S. Michigan and UIC -- and A.V. Club Chicago recently pointed to a Chicago-native falcon nesting in Jackson County, Michigan. The Chicago Perigrine Falcon Blog is always a good resource for local raptor news.

Lake Undertones With a Windy Finish

Help the planet and it inhabitants while enjoying wine at the Peggy Notebaert Museum's Earth, Wine and Fire Earth Day Benefit next week.

But will the Gardens Grow Wheat?

In a move that clearly establishes that community garden initiatives have gone mainstream, Triscuit will be sponsoring new gardens in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Preparing for the Big One

No, not in California -- here. Later this month in Illinois and seven other Midwest states, The Great Central U.S. Shakeout aims to prepare us for the possibility of a major earthquake. [via]

$13 a Month

A new net zero energy home on the North Side is making headlines.

Willis Tower to Catch More Rays

North America's tallest building is about to get a little greener with the addition of energy-generating windows. To start, the unique solar panels will be installed on the south side of the 56th floor, but if all goes well, the project could expand to make the iconic structure a towering urban solar farm.

All that Greenery

A recent urban planning competition centered around Chicago's "Emerald Necklace," its boulevard system. The winner instead imagined an emerald constellation. [via]

Nuclear Decision-Making

While the front page was running stories about the Japanese nuclear plant failure, the Trib sports section yesterday ran a story about how the fishing is good at the lake next to the Braidwood Generating Station in suburban Godley. (Thanks, Tim!)

How's That for Good Timing?

Just as the world is getting pretty nervous about nuclear energy, the World Nuclear Fuel Cycle annual meeting will be held in Chicago at the beginning of April.

Fewer Dead Trees

The Chicago Climate Action Plan aims to help do away with unwanted phone books: Sign up to keep them from landing on your doorstep.

Your Water Supply

Have some time today? Explore WaterLife, an interactive documentary about the Great Lakes,"the last great supply of fresh drinking water on earth." [via]

Record-Breaking Snow Still Possible

Last night's snow didn't quite break the 1896 record for most snowfall in February, but we still have a chance, with more snow expected over the next couple days.

Out in the Cold

The blizzard and subsequent cold have been frustrating for everyone, but Chicago's wildlife, it can be a matter of life and death.

The Blizzard in Amateur Video

Pat Vaughn shows how the blizzard looked in Beverly, while Steve Stearns provides a North Side view. Meanwhile, Matt Downe did a series of reports from around town. Far more on YouTube, of course.


Jake Zalutsky gave the blizzard a bear hug with his board last night. Insane? Awesome? Or both? [via spigumus]

Thundersnow Strikes!

Speaking of thundersnow, GB flickr pool contributors Therese Flanagan and Clint McMahon were both treated to the phenomenon while filming the blizzard. In Therese's video, the lightening strikes when there's about 36 seconds remaining in the video, while Clint's happens with about 8 seconds remaining.

Snow, Surreal and Serene

A local artist captures the otherworldly drifts off Loyola Beach.

Batten Down the Hatches, Frozen Novelties Ahead

A new take on the upcoming snowstorm. (Thanks, AnswerDave!)

Regenerating the City

Have ideas about how to make Chicago most sustainable? ChicagoREgen is a place to share them.

Sliding Glass

Don't worry, nobody dumped broken windows into Lake Michigan. It's just winter.

Take My Compost, Please!

Erlene Howard's burgeoning green business helps those who can't compost for themselves. For under $11 a week, she'll take northsiders' compostables and put them to good use (not a landfill).

Breathe a Little Easier

The federal government and NIPSCO reached an agreement to clean up our easterly winds. Of course, we have our own coal-fired power plants too...

The City Green

Re-nest, Apartment Therapy's green home blog, put out a green guide to Chicago last week.

Midwest Quake This Morning

If you're particularly sensitive, you may have noticed a slight rumble just before 7am this morning as a 4.2 magnitude earthquake in central Indiana made its presence felt.

Winter Zen

Burbling creeks are soothing even under ice.

Winterization Cash from Our Political Overlords

Your alderman has $40 for you to use for that winterization project you've been putting off.

Northerly Island Details Released

Those intrigued by yesterday's glimpse of the Northerly Island development proposal will love the full framework plan [pdf] and corresponding video.

Get Back To Your Roots

Roots for Christmas provides a refreshing and responsible alternative to cut (or fake) holiday trees. They'll deliver a live tree to your house, pick it up after you're done with it, then plant it in an urban heat island to improve air quality.

Locks to Remain Open for Foreseeable Future

Remember the lawsuits that would force area locks closed to protect against Asian carp infestations of Lake Michigan? A federal judge struck down the last one yesterday.

Clean Running

Some Whitney Young students are making cleaner biofuel at UIC.

Make it Snow

Not satisfied with yesterday's paltry snow accumulation? Give these guys a call. (Thanks, Sarah!)

A "Millennium Park of nature"

Later today the Chicago Park District will unveil a long-term concept for Northerly Island, and it's a looker.

$3 Billion Gas Plant One Step Closer to Realization

The Illinois House passed legislation yesterday that could clear the way for a massive synthetic gas facility to be constructed along the Calumet River. It would burn refinery waste and coal to produce the fuel, which People's Gas argues would lead to considerable cost increases for Chicago users. Next up: the Senate.

Plans for Northerly Island

The Park District will present its plans for Northerly Island this Thursday, but you can get an early look on Facebook.

Dismantling Zion

The long-dormant Zion Nuclear Power Station that served Chicago and the rest of northern Illinois is being decomissioned in an unusual way. Rather than separating the radioactive and recyclable materials, everything but the spent fuel is going to a toxic dump.

Twin Advocates for Eco-conscious Fashion

The Art Institute lions will soon sport their winter wreaths, but their new accessories will be solar-powered.

Playing One Urban Pest Against Another

The City is allowing coyotes roam the Loop in an effort to control rodent populations. The program came to light after someone shot video of a coyote running through the streets last night.

I Skate, You Skate, We All Skate

It's getting colder, but you can actually enjoy the winter weather while gliding around on a smooth sheet of ice (and I don't mean while driving down your street). Up Chicago has a great little roundup of local (mostly free) ice skating rinks, which do exist outside of the Loop, you know. (via)

Chicago: Big Buck Country

Chicago is home to more than a few deer, but you'd be forgiven if you didn't believe these photos were shot within the city.

No More Carbon Trading in the US

The Chicago Climate Exchange, which allows companies to trade credits for greenhouse gases, will be closing at the end of the year. The sister Chicago Climate Futures Exchange will remain open at least through 2012.

Green Comb-Overs

Blair Kamin takes a dim view of the city's green initiatives.

Old Buildings, New Green Tricks

Some ambitious, architecturally and environmentally minded people are delving into vertical farming and industrial reuse, right in the heart of the New City neighborhood.

Name That Park

The day after the CTA announced it'll sell naming rights, the Chicago Park District announced it will offer corporate sponsorships for everything from trash cans to lifeguard chairs in order to bridge its current budget gap. [via]

Less Green This Season

This year's Green Tie Ball, the annual benefit for Gateway Green, has been canceled. Instead, the foundation is holding a "preview party" Nov. 12 for its 25th anniversary ball next year.

The Park and Art District

The Chicago Park District recently unveiled a website cataloging its collection of fountains, monuments, and sculptures. [via]

Warm Day Misdemeanor

As the Chicago Police Department tweeted, "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Addressing 3,000 Acres of Brownfields

Changing Gears takes a look at how cities can address aging industrial structures.

Scarcity in Print

The Endangered Species Print Project is a series of limited edition prints of endangered plants and animals, with the edition size corresponding to the remaining populations. If you expect to get a dwarf trout lily, you'd better hurry.

High-Flying Ice Skating

For those unafraid of heights, here's a reason to look forward to winter: the Hancock building is adding a skating rink on the 94th floor. The rink is scheduled to open on January 1, 2011.

Sadly, No Spelunking

There are 109.4 miles of tunnel deep below Chicagoland thanks to the Deep Tunnel project, BLDG BLOG reminds us.

Carp Czar

The Obama administration has named a head fish wrangler.

What's the Appropriate Use of a Front Yard?

The controversial issue of the day in Northbrook is over a 69-year-old woman's garden in her front yard.

Decommissioning Zion

Speaking of area nuclear reactors, the already-offline Zion Nuclear Power Station will be decommissioned over the next several years and then opened up for "unrestricted commercial uses."

Alligators in the City

Chicago's not the only metropolitan area with a gator problem; a baby alligator crawled out of a sewer in Queens. The two-foot long reptile had its picture taken with an iPhone, was caught by police, and was turned over to New York City's Animal Care and Control shortly thereafter.

Hide Your Children!

Yet another alligator lurks the banks of the Chicago River. This time, there's a (grainy) photo.

Tell the Other CPD What You Think

The Chicago Park District is reevaluating what to do with the area they're now calling "North Grant Park," so they're seeking public input through an online survey.

A Tale of Two Stingers

This summer's weather has been a perfect storm for arthropodic bloodsuckers. The flood mosquito population is up thanks to the heavy rains, and the West-Nile-carrying Culex breed has grown rapidly during the heat spells. Stay protected, especially at night when the Culex mosquitoes feed.

Garage Tries to be "Green"

Greenway Parking Garage, at Clark and Kinzie, is seeking LEED certification. The parking garage features twelve helical wind turbines, but might still have trouble shaking the irony of their slogan "Chicago's first earth friendly parking garage."

Four Stories of Flora and Fauna

The Chicago Reader wants you to know about John Edel and his plans to create a vertical farm in a former meat processing plant.

Water, Water Everywhere

Who owns Chicago's water system, Abigail Singer asks in the latest issue of AREA. Related: Chicago Water Wars.

Catch a Shooting Star or Two

Tom Skilling has some tips on watching the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks tonight and tomorrow.

Another Gator Caught

Another alligator was caught in the Chicago River, this time near Lane Tech. I tell you, every summer...

Asian Carp Inching Closer ... or Maybe Not

An Asian carp found by scientists in Lake Calumet is raising concerns, but experts think it might have been placed in the lake by someone six years ago.

Political Quid Pro Quo

Mayor Daley is taking advantage of the recent Michigan oil spill to get back at the state for its Asian carp challenges.

Just Over the Border

Mosquitoes in Evanston have tested positive for West Nile Virus. Don't fret, there are easy ways to protect yourself.

Got Wood?

All bad jokes aside, there's a big pile of wood for the taking in the alley south of Erie Street between Elizabeth and Ada, courtesy of this summer's bout of thunderstorms.

More Carping in Court

Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania have brought another legal challenge designed to protect the Great Lakes from aquatic invasion.

Roasting the River

Nick Adam penned a roast of the Chicago River as part of Moving Design's Call to Action to "riverse" (sic) the river's flow back into Lake Michigan.

A Greener Neighborhood

Today marks the start of Andersonville's Green Week, with seven days of cool and informative activities for residents and shoppers. Events include t-shirt recycling, shopping discounts, LEED home tours, eco-storybook making, free stuff, and more.

Notes on a Triathalon

"Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me" host, writer, and avid local runner, Peter Sagal reflects on his first time at last year's Chicago Triathalon in the latest issue of Runner's World magazine.

Across the Country on "Goat Gas"

There's a Pontiac GTO headed our way this weekend on Route 66 -- which wouldn't be such a big deal if it weren't powered by compressed natural gas.

What to do with Three Billion Cups

Starting this fall, Starbucks will pilot a program in Chicago to recycle as many of its paper cups as it can get its hand on. The cups will be made into napkins at a Wisconsin paper mill.

Whole Body

The Gold Coast branch of Whole Foods brings back their Yoga on the Rooftop summer series: every Tuesday at 6pm, professional yoga instructors will help you increase strength and flexibility from the rooftop of 1 W. Superior. BYOYM (bring your own yoga mat).

Growing with Greenbacks

Some area residents are putting their money where there mouth is and investing in local organic farms in order to help sustain their own pantries.

Asian Carp in Found Beyond Electric Barriers

A 34" Bighead carp was found yesterday in Lake Calumet, making it the first such fish caught beyond the electric barriers.

Not La Vida Loca, But Close

Tomorrow, join other green Chicagoans for La Vida Verde, a day filled with eco workshops, a beach cleanup, and even a dance party.

Documenting the Urban Forest

The Morton Arboretum's Edith Makra is heading up the first regional tree Census since she last did one in 1993.

Springfield Tire Fire, Here We Come!

Speaking of where Chicago ends, a 12-acre illegal dump site in Markham has yielded more than 25,000 tires. Maybe the state should burn the tires as a green fuel...

It's a Boy (Zebra)!

There's a new Grévy's zebra colt at the Lincoln Park Zoo, the first born since 2001. More really cute pictures and videos here.

Flowers Galore

Who says the El has to be ugly? Albany Park blogger Fruzsina Eordogh found an organic garden of poppies, Orange Day Lillies, and Morning Glories growing between the Francisco and Kedzie stops.

A Home for Every Bird

Tweet Home Chicago, the City's birdhouse design and building competition, took place this past weekend, and you'll be seeing some of the finalists displayed around the city soon. In the meantime, you can read about one Lincoln Square resident and finalist's Prairie-style birdhouse, and check out pics at flickr.

Recycle Your Paper

The City likely doesn't have the budget to expand the blue cart recycling program -- but you can recycle paper at 24 locations around the city for the next two weeks.

Unsanitized for Your Protection

City water officials say cleaning the Chicago River would make it more dangerous, because more people would be tempted to swim, and therefore more would drown.

The EPA Wants You to Swim in the Chicago River

Given that "most of its murky flow still is treated sewage," it may take some time before you can break out the water wings. UPDATE: Mayor Daley's response "Go swim in the Potomac!"

Wheeling Most of the Farm to You

Archeworks' most recent unveiling is the Mobile Food Collective "Urban Farm Tool," a hub for the creation and support of urban community farming.

Falcon Cam II

We posted a couple weeks back about a falcon cam atop a Michigan Avenue highrise. UIC has a resident perigrine falcon, too, and "Rosie" just hatched four a couple chicks. Watch the happy family up close and personal.

Orchards in Logan Square

If Chicago Rarities proposes community orchard for rare fruit varieties, as well as a new public plaza, on underutilized space along Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square.

Happy Suburban Worms

North Fox Point, a subdivision in Barrington, will soon be the state's first official residential food waste composting area.

How the Midwest Can End Global Warming

According to ongoing research from David Changnon, a climate scientist at Northern Illinois University, Midwestern farmers may be responsible for cooler Chicago summers. Basically, improved technology has allowed for denser crops, which in turn leads to dropping temperatures. Global warming? More like Midwestern cooling.

So, the Trees are Bears Fans Too?

Time Out Chicago got to the bottom of the painted orange and blue trees in Grant and Lincoln Parks. Though don't get too attached to them, they're being removed soon.

Putting it in Perspective

The Gulf oil spill compared to Chicagoland. (Compare it to other places here.)

Have Some Land? Start a Farm

Or let someone else do it for you.

Vampire Fish

While everyone's worried about Asian carp, there's already a killer on the loose in Lake Michigan.

Burning Tires is Totally Green

Uh, right. It's close to being so in the eyes of the state of Illinois, anyway. Lawmakers voted today in favor of adding it to the state's definition of renewable energy. [via]

Supreme Court Holds Firm on Asian Carp Issue

The Supreme Court again refused to involve itself in the dispute over how to address the influx of asian carp. Here's how the news was handled elsewhere.

Chicago Water on the Bubble

Chicago needs to remember it's not the only city on the lake, and use its water rights more responsibly. [via]

Dandelion Parking Only

Damon Taylor found a "parking lot that's been reclaimed by the earth" near Kedzie and Devon avenues.

How Does Your Urban Garden Grow?

GreenNet, Chicago's urban gardening network, hosts the Green & Growing Fair at the Garfield Park Conservatory this Saturday. Get pointers on how gardening in the city, purchase seeds and stretch that green thumb.

Want Some Help Looking to the Heavens?

Meet the Chicago Astronomers, who recently gathered at the Adler Planetarium with some fine telescopes.

Live! From 1130 S. Michigan Ave.

It's Falcon Cam!

Garden Growing with the Season

The Chicago Botanic Garden has launched a 10 year, $250 million plan to build new facilities and increase its endowment. Among other improvements, you can look forward to bike path extensions and a children's campus.

A Call to Close the Great Lakes

In Mechanics, author Edward McClelland makes a case for closing the Great Lakes for business.

Park Appreciation

The Infrastructurist gives Millennium Park props as one of the Best New Urban Parks in the U.S. Now get out there and enjoy it! [via]

Fighting Pollution by Twos

Several aldermen are about to float an ordinance that would require Midwest Generation to update or close its Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants. It's not the first time the two plants have been in the spotlight over environmental concerns.

Just Another "Spring"

After reverting back to winter, our weather looks to be skipping ahead to summer... The current forecast of an 82-degree Thursday would break a 64-year-old record. At the very least, we'll probably see our first 70-degree day since September on Wednesday.

Carp Case Closed

The Supreme Court rejected the state of Michigan's final request for an emergency injunction to close Illinois' Lake Michigan locks.

Supreme Court to Revisit Asian Carp Issue

The Supreme Court may be reassessing its position on the closure of the O'Brien Lock and Dam and the Chicago Controlling Works during its private conference on Friday.

Benefits of Closing the Locks?

While many tour and shipping companies are concerned about the proposed closing of Chicago area locks, others see a sliver lining through the potential construction of intermodal terminals and other infrastructure investments.

Demolition and Sludge Combined

Demolition enthusiasts will appreciate Noah Vaughn's latest post about the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District's Sludge Disposal Building removal.

Designers, Have Some Time on Your Hands?

If so, Advocates for Urban Agriculture Chicago launched a design competition for a new logo.

Carping About the Locks

Is Chicago exaggerating the cost of closing the locks to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan?

No More Foam?

Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke drafted a citywide ban of Styrofoam today. If approved by City Council, Chicago Public Schools will have to find another way to serve lunch.

Did You Feel the Earth Move?

Apparently, the far West Suburbs experienced a 4.33.8-magnitude earthquake this morning. That's the second one in about two years. No, we're probably not doomed.

City Hall Stinks

Waterless urinals that were installed as part of a plan to make City Hall more "green" were removed when the stench of urine corroding the copper pipes made the second floor smell less than rosy. When this happened to five O'Hare urinals in 2005 it cost $20,000.

Snowmen are for Amateurs

Want to escape the city this weekend? The US National Snow Sculpting Competition in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin awaits you.

I Heart the Weather

The Trib profiles some Chicago "weather geeks," including the person behind the Midway weather readings.

Burn, Baby, Burn (But In A Good Way)

The Chicago Botanic Garden has an interesting video of how they manage prairies with a controlled burn (as they did in December along the Skokie River Corridor) and give you the how and the why.

Supreme Court to Michigan Regarding Asian Carp:

"The motion of Michigan for preliminary injunction is denied." That's all they said. Others, of course, are saying more.

Ignoring the Asian Carp is Small Plan

Henry Henderson invokes Chicago's "secular patron saint" in condemning Illinois' response to the Supreme Court case trying to prevent Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan.

One City, One Seed

One Seed Chicago takes a page from One Book, One Chicago and puts it in the garden: each year a plant or vegetable is chosen and free seeds are distributed throughout the city for planting by individuals and groups.

Transporting Pollution

Last month, Chicago Reporter published an article estimating that Chicagoans living within half a mile of the Cicero Intermodal Facility and other area railyards have a cancer risk as much as 10 times higher than people living 4 miles away. CSX Corporation, operator of the Cicero railyard, has now responded.

The Future of Water

The Washington Post takes a look at Michigan's legal fight to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan -- perhaps by making some significant changes to Chicago.

What's in Our Water?

According to the Environmental Working Group, Chicago's water supply had a bit more radium in it last year than you'd ideally like. Plenty of other stuff, too. And we have the 34th best "big city" water in the US. [via]

Skate 'Til You're Cubby Blue

The Sun-Times reports that an ice-skating rink adjacent to Wrigley Field is expected to open next week.

Bears (and Other Interesting Animals) with New Habitat

The Brookfield Zoo has unveiled a new $27 million habitat called the Great Bear Wilderness Exhibit.

Killing Fish to Save Fish

The Department of Natural Resourses will be poisoning a six-mile stretch of the Sanitary & Ship Canal this week in hopes of killing off invasive fish species -- and the Asian carp in particular, before it gets a foothold in Lake Michigan.

A Challenging Catch

Dave Lamoureux spends most of the year as a futures and options trader in Chicago, but he sets world records catching bluefin tuna from a kayak on the Atlantic, unassisted.

Plugging Chicago In

Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are beginning to make appearances on city streets, and Carbon Day Automotive launched Chicago's first electric charging station this summer.

Green and Gone

This Saturday (10am-noon), gather up your unwanted paper debris and head down to the parking lot in front of Jewel, Kmart, and Staples near Ashland and Division: WPB is teaming up with Secure EcoShred to tear up your printed materials for free. 3 box/bag limit, $5 box/bag after that.

Kids n' Compost

Elementary school students in Oak Park, Naperville and Villa Park are learning early about making "zero impact" on their environment. They're recycling, composting food scraps after lunch and sending far less trash to area landfills.

Migrating Bird Rescue

It's migration season for thousands of birds, and Chicago is both a major stopping point and a major hazard. The Chicago Bird Collision Monitors offer tips on how to help rescue birds that are stunned or injured after a collision with a building.

61st Street Garden Coverage Expanding

The imminent closure of the 61st Street Community Garden is getting a lot of attention from the media, with the Trib and Sun-Times augmenting weeks of coverage in the Hyde Park Herald and the Invisible Institute's Garden Conversations.

So Much for Blue Bin Recycling

Mayor Daley's environmental chops certainly aren't improving with the budget crisis. Among the many services affected by the shortfall will be the rollout of blue bin recycling and the frequency of recycling pickups for those already enrolled in the now stalled program.

10 Free Days at The Nature Museum

Starting this Friday the 23rd, The Nature Museum is celebrating it's 10th anniversary with 10 free days, filled with tons of family-friendly programs. I am particularly looking forward to Bug-a-Palooza this Saturday.

Another Way to Measure Polluted Waters

The NYTimes recently compiled national data for holders of pollutant discharge permits and mapped them; along the way, it assembled this useful map of Chicago permit holders and violators and some other helpful information. The city fared fairly well with only six violators -- none of which paid fines for their violations -- although the surrounding area didn't do nearly as well.

Poop in a Bucket for the Environment

Nance Klehm of Spontaneous Vegetation gets attention in GOOD magazine for her Humble Pile Chicago project.

Don't Let That Giant Lake to the East Fool You

New estimates indicate that Aurora and Joliet could bump into a water shortage as early as 2015.

Find The Great Pumpkin

Groovy in Chicago points us to the best pumpkin patches in the Chicago area, ready for your autumn and Halloween picking.

Rolling Meadows

Artist Joe Baldwin is trying to implement his idea for a CTA "mobile garden," a subway flatcar covered with native plants that rides the rails. So far the CTA hasn't said no, but he needs help raising funds and such. Get in touch with him at the site or through the Facebook page.

Supporting School Sustainability

Joey Feinstein, founder of Climate Cycle, is a finalist in Nau's $10,000 Grant for Change. The program seeks to support those who "those who instigate lasting, positive change in their communities." Climate Cycle definitely does that.

Help Them Bag an Award

Chicago-based is a finalist for Green Business of the Year in Green America's 2009 People's Choice Awards. Help them win by voting today.

Public Park(ing)

Tomorrow is Park(ing) Day, a multi-city event that turns parking spaces into temporary public parks. This year, Chicago's entry is on Southport near Addison, and is sponsored by architecture firm moss design. Hear architect Matt Nardella explain the event and its new connotations after the parking meter scandal on WBEZ's "Eight Forty-Eight."

Putting the Ship Alongside Sanitary

Speaking of local bodies of water, the Coast Guard has partially reopened the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to recreational boaters four weeks after the increase in voltage in an Asian Carp barrier.

Worms, Worms, Worms

Your office has a communal fridge? Maybe it needs a compost bin. A new law says business composting is a-ok. Local nonprofit Healthy Schools Campaign already has its staffers calling dibs on naming rights to its composting worms.

Coal-Fired Power Plants Challenged

Midwest Generation, LLC, the Edison International subsidiary that runs the Fisk and Crawford coal-burning power plants on the South Side (and four others in Illinois), is being sued by the state and U.S. EPA for allegedly upgrading systems without meeting current Clean Air Act controls.

North Side Gators

An alligator was found lurking in the north branch of the Chicago River, near Damen and Fullerton. Last year, one was spotted in the south branch near Bridgeport.

When Does a Couch Belong in the Backyard?

When it's made out of sod, of course.

It's Not Just the Mercury Now

Researchers have found that eating Great Lakes fish is associated with the development of diabetes because of DDE, the metabolite of DDT.

Insert Horrible Pun About LEEDing the Way

Bill Clinton told a group of college administrators at the Palmer House that they need to go green faster, giving Columbia College and UIC the chance to discuss their newest efforts.

It's a Bird! It's a Plane!

Get ready for some extraterrestial entertainment this evening and tomorrow morning when up to 100 meteors per hour will light the Chicago sky. The Adler Planetarium says the display could be the "most vibrant" in years.

Triple H Weekend

No, not that Triple H. It's going to be especially intense weather-wise this weekend, (hazy, hot and humid), so take care of yourself!

An Urban Clear-Cut

The fate of the buildings on the Michael Reese Hospital campus might still be in the air in advance of the 2016 Olympic bid (emphasis on might), but the landscaping has already been razed.

Dan Kelly, Coyote Hunter

Our own Dan Kelly wrote about urban coyotes for Chicago Journal, and now they've written about him. (Er, the Journal, not the coyotes.)

Newest Environmental Threat: Dry Cleaners

The Trib reports hundreds of dry cleaner sites across the region remain contaminated with perchloroethylene, threatening ground water, soil and even surrounding air. Use their database to see if any sites are near you.

Big Lizard in My Backyard

Uh, I don't want to panic anyone or anything, but... um... there's a big old monitor lizard running around Libertyville right now. No, really. Well, we can't say the Dead Milkmen didn't warn us.

Kayaking for Burnham

Kayaking down the Chicago River always sounds fun, but this sounds amazing.

Cool or Creepy?

Wondering what Twitter says about your personality? TweetPsych is here to tell you, and can give you a laugh when you put in various Chicago personalities. Oh, and in case you're wondering: @gapersblock is evidently obsessed with upward movement.

Get Stoked!

Brush up on your surf speak, Chicago. On Friday, the Parks District announced a highly anticipated move that will legalize surfing, boogie boarding and the like at a number of area beaches.

L.A.T.E. Ride

There are few things as enjoyable as riding a bike through the streets of Chicago during the late nights of summer. The L.A.T.E. Ride organizes a community of cyclists to do just that. It is Chicago's only midnight bike ride, and it takes place this year on Saturday/Sunday, July 11/12. Early bird registration has ended, but you can still save $5 if you register by June 30.

But Will the Meters be Smarter than Us?

Com Ed is hastening the arrival of Skynet with a pilot program to test "smart" electric meters in 141,000 Chicago area locations by the end of the year. The meters will provide real-time information about electricity usage, among other features.

Start Swimming

Today's the official start of the 2009 beach season in Chicago, so take a look at the Chicago Park District's beaches page and start planning that Memorial Day picnic.

From the Rooftop to the Tabletop

The growing season is at hand, so Chicago magazine spends some time with micro gardeners.

Be Vewy Vewy Quiet

In southern Illinois, the hunt is on... for wild asparagus.

Run for the Buck

If you're into philanthropy, running, and winning Lollapalooza tickets I've got just the activity for you. On May 30, participate in the Buckingham Foundation 5K Fun Run and help raise money to restore Buckingham Fountain. All racers have a chance to win two 3-day passes to Lollapalooza.

Catching the Waves at Rainbow Beach

Wax up your board! The Park District is considering opening five beaches for surfing this summer.

Type Nesting

Dubi Kaufmann asks: Do birds have a favorite font? So far, it seems they particularly like Rs and As.

See Any Squirrels Lately ... or Not?

Regardless, Project Squirrel wants to know. Ideally, you'd submit at least one report a quarter, but they'll take what they can get.

N90° 0.0'

After 54 days in conditions that put Chicago winters to shame, John Huston of Glen Ellyn and Tyler Fish of Minnesota completed their landmark journey to the North Pole on Saturday. I'd say they earned that cheeseburger.

South Side (Solar) Power

Provided Exelon gets federal stimulus funding, it is planning on building a 10 megawatt, 39-acre solar energy plant in West Pullman. The redeveloped industrial site would be the largest urban solar project in the U.S.

Cheeseburger at the Top of the World

I imagine if I were hiking to the North Pole, I'd stay motivated by thinking about tasty food I'd have when I got home, too.

Hook, Line and Bulletin Board

Wondering where the fish are biting? The hunters and fishermen on Chi-Town Angler know.

I Love the Smell of Napalm in the Morning

Chicago Wilderness Magazine focuses on the Calumet Riverway.

Urban Apiaries and Former Industry

The saga of the South Works continues, this time with bees for mead.

Oil Slick & Greased Palms

A Marina City resident noticed that a construction barge working on the Riverwalk rehab project was leaking oil, and took the opportunity to do some homework regarding the campaign contributions of the companies involved. Interesting read.

A Truly Integrated Golf Course

The AP throws the South Side a little love with this feature on the 18 hole Jackson Park Golf Course, which was built in 1899 and is the oldest public golf course west of the Alleghenies.

Moving for Milton

The Invisible Institute takes a look at the 61st Street Community Garden and its troubles, now that the University of Chicago and Chicago Theological Seminary are planning on using it as a staging area [PDF] for the construction of CTS's new building. CTS is moving to make room for the Milton Friedman Institute.

Lights Out Saturday Night

Don't forget to turn off your lights from 8:30 to 9:30 tomorrow night as part of Earth Hour. Chicago's a flagship city for the global effort -- sort of a rolling blackout on a planetary scale.

Chicago's Fish are Medicated

... but the prescriptions aren't their own.

IIT's Grid Is Smart

IIT's Galvin Electricity Initiative got a shout out from the Economist as one of the more promising "Smart Energy Grid" projects in the States.

Newly Green + Wired

If you've been holding off on checking out the MSI's Smart Home, now's the time to go. It's recently been remodeled and is open for business.

Lacking "Caviar," Some May Turn to Poison

One Chicago resident who likely didn't weather our harsh winter well — the urban rat.

More Sandbags, Please

Given continued rain forecasts, the Trib provides a Q & A about flooding and how to protect against it.

Finding Your Flowers

Google for Gardeners is a customized search engine created by local blogger Mr. Brownthumb that tracks 500 gardening blogs, with more on the way.

Not Just Any Old Pinups

What happens when you get a dozen fabulous female cyclists together in Chicago, introduce some introspection and give one of them a camera? The Thought You Knew Us Pinup Calendar, of course. Twelve Chicago cyclists, ranging from road warriors to bike messengers to everyday saddle lovers got together to explore public perception of women cyclists and to raise money for the Chicago Women's Health Center which keeps many of them on the road. Learn more, including where you can get your own here.

Passive Homes

Can you imagine not having a furnace this winter? This guy didn't, and he got along just fine.

Tough Times for Wetland Bankers

The economic downturn is creating problems for wetland mitigation developers and leading others to question the practice.

Obama To DC: Grow A Pair

While it may be par for the course in Washington, D.C., a school closing because of "some ice" is a bit of a shock to President Obama who says the city apparently needs some "Chicago toughness."

Birds or Balls?

If the Olympics come to town, the new tennis complex will be sited just north of the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Lincoln Park. Guess who might be concerned about such placement?

Little Village, Little Parks

Little Village may be getting some new "pocket parks" thanks to proposals by alternative design school Archeworks and Neighbor Space.

Documenting the City's Front Yard

In A/C, Carl Giometti talks with documentarian Geoffrey Baer about his latest work, "Chicago's Lakefront," which you can watch on WTTW's website.

Your New NEV

Chicago, meet the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle. You may be driving one soon.

Blizzard Watch/Warning (i.e., It's Gonna Be Cold)

Brace yourselves! We're in for some serious winter weather starting later tonight and extending throughout the day tomorrow. There's a blizzard watch, the more serious blizzard warning, some winter weather advisories, wind chill advisories and all sorts of hoopajoop.

O Recycled Tree

If you had a Christmas tree this holiday season, you can start the year off green by recycling it at one of 23 locations throughout the city today through January 16. The city will chip the trees and turn them into mulch.

Meet the 2008 Illinois Environmental Heroes

The increasingly relevant Lt. Quinn announced the 2008 Environmental Hero Awards featuring more than a handful of Chicagoans.

Weather Report: Are Locusts Next?

First snow hit the city, then ice, then fog...and now, today's temperatures will be in the mid-60s, along with flooding dangers due to rain and melting remnants of the past two weeks, which has already closed part of the Dan Ryan and streets near the Des Plaines and Du Page rivers. Check traffic before you get on the roads.

If They Don't Have to Go, You Don't Have to Go

Take a look at the Emergency Closing Center and see if your school or business had the right mind to cancel opening because of the weather passing over the city right now.

Green Cheat Sheet

Score yourself on the $800 Challenge, a quick guide to saving money by saving energy, part of the Chicago Climate Action Plan. Helpfully, it points out that you save $0 by planting a tree.

Breaking News: Ice Makes People Fall

Donna Bavido "was by no means the only one who fell Monday."

How Wet is It?

Two inches from the wettest year in Chicago history.

CTA Rolls Out Hybrid Buses

The CTA unveiled new hybrid buses today that plug into an electrical outlet at night and run on battery power for most of the day. The move is estimated to save the CTA almost $7 million annually in maintenance, labor and fuel costs by retiring aging buses.

The Chinook Salmon of East Chicago

That's right, there are salmon in East Chicago. What's even better: they spawn in the wastewater plant.

Make a Wish, Grant a Wish

The Parkways Foundation wants to know if you'll grant Buckingham Fountain a wish.

More Park Planning Delays

Friends of the Park is still getting resistance from those who don't want the lakefront park network expanded. Here are the current plans.

Green Banking

Harris opened its first environmentally-friendly bank in Chicago, apparently in penance for opening branches in every available retail site in the city.

Who Knew Messing with Nature Could be Bad?

The Alliance for the Great Lakes has released a report that suggests the only way to halt the invasion of Asian carp (and the destruction of the Great Lakes ecosystem) is to create ecological isolation for the Great Lakes and the Mississippi basin.

Affordable Undersea Adventures

If you love pregnant seahorses, endearingly floppy manatees and cephalopods like I do, you'll be excited to learn that every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday during the month of November (except Wednesday, 11/26), the Shedd Aquarium will offer free general admission and discounts on inclusive packages.

Historic Warmth

Today's mid-70s temperature may set a record, and makes me think of "Indian Summer." Read more about that term in Ask the Librarian, and a very heated discussion in the Fuel archives.

It Doesn't Always Rain on Halloween

Weather guru Tom Skilling reminds us that it doesn't always rain on Halloween in Chicago. It has only rained on 27 out of the past 50 Halloweens (and, knock on wood, soon to be 27 out of the last 51).

Sun, Sand and Spare Change

Bring some quarters along with that sunscreen when you go to the beach next year. The Chicago Park District will charge for all 4,000 parking spots along Lake Michigan, specifically $1 an hour. In addition, they won't open beaches until 11 a.m. to cut down on lifeguard expenses.

We Had to Destroy the Pond in Order to Save It

It seems antithetical to a zoo's mission to preserve and protect wildlife, but the Lincoln Park Zoo is only saving some of the inhabitants of the South Pond; non-native species like Koi and goldfish will be destroyed as the zoo restores the pond to an Illinois freshwater habitat.

Credit Where Credit Isn't Due

The Wall Street Journal details how exchanges like the Chicago Climate Exchange don't always work how they should.


What stinks in Naperville?

Bartman Bounty Grows

First, a sports collectible convention offered him $25,000 to make an appearance. Now a fantasy sports website has upped the ante to $100,000 for Steve Bartman to show up at a Cubs game. Hold out for a cool million, Steve-o, then buy the entire leftfield box seat section for yourself.

We're Number One...

In air pollution, that is. Also, guess where one of the worst polluters is? Lincoln Park. If you want to see the worst polluters near you, just check out this web application.

Bad Pun Alert: Emerald

A new, green Jewel that took five years to build is open.

Breaking Environmental Bad Habits

The Trib has a pretty interesting list of environment facts with a Chicago focus.

3,800 Pounds of Carbon Dioxide a Year

Meet Ken Dunn, Chicago's greenest person.

Chicago Gets a (Green) Thumbs-Up

We may be the most stressed-out city in the U.S., but at least the air we're breathing through our flared nostrils is fresher than most other places. A study has found Chicago to be the fourth most-sustainable city in the country.

Don't Forget to Feed the Meter

Today is National Park(ing) Day, and the Trust for Public Land has taken over some spots on the 1800 block of Milwaukee Avenue to raise awareness for the proposed Bloomingdale Trail.

Clearing The Air

Mayor Daley unveils a plan to drastically cut the city's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The plan includes expanding the number of green rooftops, increased recycling and car-pooling and promotion alternative fuels.

Wisconsin Waste Water

I'm sure none of us are excited about waste water running into the lake, but people in Wisconsin seem to like our waste water even less than we do.

How Green Was My Notepad

If you're so green, you don't even use paper made from trees, than you're either carving grocery lists on stones, or you're using Ultra Green Film made right here in Chicago.

Be the Change

Today and tomorrow, the Sustainable Living Roadshow is at UIC with a wide-ranging program of exhibits and workshops on how to live more green. It's free, from 10am to 7pm both days.

Apparently We're Pretty OK for Allergies

Chicago is the 86th worst city for allergies ... not that people with allergies will feel any better knowing that.

Stop and Smell the Flowers

Des Plaines residents don't care much for silk flowers. The only thing that's made them more upset? Casinos.

Know Your Local Frogs

Chicago Wilderness shows you how.

Urban Explorers Beware

East Chicago's former U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery is the newest entry on the Superfund National Priorities List.

See You Next Summer

The Chicago Outdoor Film Festival concludes its run tonight with a showing of the blockbuster 1978 Travolta/Newton-John musical Grease, which wll start at 8:03 p.m. in Grant Park (Monroe and Lake Shore Drive).

Wild Pot Plants Abound at Indiana Dunes

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "high tide," doesn't it?

Designing in Green

Thinking about sprucing up your home? You might consider going more eco-conscious with your choices. Greenmaker Supply Company is a great resource for low-VOC paint, recycled building products and more. Or, if you've got the budget, you might get in touch with Green Home Chicago for the full design treatment. The Center for Green Technology is another good resource.

You Gonna Swim in That?

Lake Michigan's deep blue waters also contain our favorite bacteria: E. coli! Check the swim report and learn more before you head to the beach. And then maybe pitch in at the World's Largest Shoreline Cleanup on Saturday, September 20. Details in the Adopt-a-Beach section of

Watering the City

Chicago Public Radio's Chicago Matters series takes a look at our water system, and how it gets from Lake Michigan to our faucet.

A Green Home Grows in Oak Park

Jason and Jennifer La Fleur bought a turn-of-the-century bungalow in Oak Park and began renovating with all green building materials, including soy foam insulation and toxin-free paint. Their DIY spirit and commitment to green have already earned them spots on the Today Show and This Old House -- follow along (and steal their ideas) at their blog, Humphrey House.

Lassoing the Great Lakes

The Weiszes just got back from a 17 day loop of the Great Lakes, which they conscientiously documented with restaurant reviews, photographs and tales from the road. If you'd like more reading about looping the Great Lakes, you may want to check out Ted McClelland's The Third Coast, which was excerpted in Detour.

In Case You Didn't Notice...

it rained last night. Here's a taste of the downpour.

Wet Turtle

Grab a plastic tarp and head to the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park for lunch today, and you'll be treated to a free concert by Tortoise. Details in Slowdown.

Snacking on Shrubbery

Nance Klehm teaches people about the edible plants growing throughout the city.

Don't Go In the Water

Some of our beaches are among the worst in the country.

Sum of a Beach

The Sun-Times gives a summary of the best beaches in the city. Funny, none of their capsule assessments mention anything about actually getting into the water.

Driving Across the US with Vegetable Oil

The Radical Futures Road Tour left Chicago, made the truck conversion and is now burning vegetable oil. Follow the tour on their site, or if you're not into checking websites regularly (GB, excluded, of course), you can also subscribe to email updates.

Path of Destruction

Prompted by a Red Eye story on the lakefront bike path congestion, architecture critic Blair Kamin resurrects a 1998 column of his which shows that nothing much has changed. On your left...

Chicago's 'Hidden' Lakefront

The Washington Post gushes about our miles of beaches and advises tourists to start taking more advantage of them. Gee, thanks Washington Post.

Seed Bombing Primer

Turn small patches of your 'hood into havens for herbs and wildflowers with this how-to guide on seed bombing in Chicago.

Canoe For Science

Participate in a study about the effects of outdoor exercise on your health -- by joining a canoe trip led by Friends of the Chicago River. No excuses. It's for science.

Airplane Fuel Finds New Home ... in the Lake

On Monday, an Air Nippon jet dropped about 1,450 gallons of its fuel into Lake Michigan. The Trib asks about the event and what's happening to the fuel.

Jail Birds

There's a family of peregrine falcons living on the Metropolitan Correctional Center. (Thanks, Dubi!)

Are There AARP Cards For Apes?

Keo the ape turns 50 today and the Lincoln Park Zoo is throwing a party for its elder statesman, one of the two oldest male zoo chimps in North America. If you have time, go over to the Regenstein Center for African Apes and show him some monkey love... um, or something like that.

Get Outta Town

Time Out has a few beach-bound road trip suggestions for you this weekend. On the other hand, you might prefer camping along the area's rail trails.

Summer Roadtrip on One Tank

Shore Magazine gives a helpful rundown of "one-tank" trips to the coast of Michigan. If you're driving a Hummer, of course, adjust accordingly.

Another Wildlife Alert

Um, but this time it's blackbirds?

Another Green Schools Initiative

Well, for Chicago it's a green school initiative, but some media companies are teaming up to fund some green modifications for schools in Chicago, Miami and San Francisco.

Emerald City

The emerald ash borer has entered the city. Hide your trees.

Urban(ish) Wildlife

If you're interested in seeing more wildlife than the cougars in a Lincoln Park bar, Time Out has a mini-guide to unusual animals in the Chicago region and offers some tips for seeing them.

Our Other Waterfront Parks

Looking for a more secluded spot to picnic near the water? Check out some of the city's riverfront parks.


Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture is shopping around a bold proposal for the lakefront.

Alternative Fuel in Practice

The Sun-Times profiles Elmhurst resident Maureen Sullivan, who runs her car off of vegetable oil.

Eating from the Urban Earth

In a less popularized form of urban foraging, Nance Klehm seeks food and medicine from plants along railroad tracks and other urban oases.

Seiche Alert

It may not be a tornado, but there's an alert today for my favorite area weather emergency: a seiche.

City of Big Thinkers

Business Week's Mike Nussbaum calls Chicago "the most innovative big city in America".

Find Any Crystal Skulls Yet?

Undergrads from the University of Chicago have launched the first archeological dig of the site of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, aka the "White City." The students are following in the footsteps of another famous U of C archeologist who's been in the news a lot lately.

Not Quite the Polar Bear Club

It's time to dust off the sun block, towels and, um, wet suits, because Chicago beaches officially open tomorrow. Enjoy that 58 degree water!


Flickr user BlueFairlane demonstrates why it's important to wear a helmet when cycling ... and why cars drivers need to watch what they're doing.

$600,000. Garbage. Boat. With. Arms.

That's right, the Scavenger 2000 has arrived.

Don't Flush 'em!

It's tempting to throw your old scripts into the bin or the toilet. But in response to recent RX-laden water test results, the City of Chicago wants you to dump your Demerol or toss your Tri-Cyclen into secured receptacles at five area police stations, as well as at neighborhood pick-ups. The City's plan is awaiting federal approval, so don't take your drugs in just yet. [Via]

Hyde Park Goes Wild

As if wild parakeets weren't enough, Hyde Park now is home to a band of feral cats who have set up shop in an alley near East 62nd Street. No reports of cougars in the HP, though... yet.

No Comprehensive Rule

Yesterday, aldermen stopped far short of requiring all Chicago retailers to accept plastic bags for recycling. The compromise required retailers who derive 25% of their gross sales from food or pharmaceuticals to offer plastic-bag recycling. Check out the Sun-Times coverage of this story for the dismayed perspective of the Chicago Recycling Commission's Mike Nowak.

Blue Bags Go Out With the Trash

After thirteen years and heaps of criticism, Chicago will can the blue bag recycling program this summer, with plans to expand the blue cart program city-wide by 2011.

Avoiding the "gloomy underground sarcophagus"

Obviously displeased with the Chicago Children's Museum's proposed new home in Grant Park, the Trib released its fifth alternative location for the museum.

This Mother’s Day, Make Mom Proud …

And, more importantly, show up your siblings, by eschewing the half-wilted, unsustainably harvested bunch of red carnations you always get her, in favor of a beautiful card showcasing Chicago’s community gardens. Your $25 donation to NeighborSpace, a nonprofit urban land trust that protects many of Chicago’s urban oases, gets Mom the card and an invitation to a fall tour of city gardens. Slackers, take note: card orders must be received by Tuesday, May 6, at 10 a.m.

Chicago Stolen Bike Registry

If you haven't been to the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry in a while, it's worth visiting even if you haven't lost a bike. While you're there, check out the stolen bike statistics and theft map to help you know what to look out for and where to be particularly careful. Given 99.34% of the listed thefts were unrecovered, being careful is probably the way to go.

Let's Hang in Our Earth-Friendly Alleyway Tonight

The New York Times gave props to Chicago in its Green Issue for its Green Alleys ongoing program to resurface the city’s alleyways with environmentally friendly materials such as permeable asphalt and light-reflecting concrete.

Another Bicyclist Death

In another tragic car-bicycle accident, 22 year-old Tyler Fabeck was struck and killed early Sunday morning.

Biking the City

It's nice out; how 'bout a bike tour?

Rainforests, LUMA and The Cosmic Serpent

Anthropologist Jeremy Narby, author of The Cosmic Serpent, will speak at LUMA today as part of their spring exhibition, Manifest Destiny/Manifest Responsibility. BYOAyahuasca.

Nail That Cougar

Everyone's all kerfuffle about the recent cougar sightings (no, not that kind) in North Chicago. Yesterday, Wilmette residents spotted the big cat near the Metra station.

Step Away From The Bird Feeder!

A suburban couple ran "a-fowl" of the law when they tried to provided sustenance for their fine feathered friends. One of the offenders compared the situation unfavorably to Communist Russia.

How Green Was My Parking Lot

The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, owners of U.S. Cellular Field, recently unveiled their new eco-friendly parking lot, located at the ballpark. The bricks used allow for fast absorption of water back into the earth. Now if we could just wrap our heads around the concept of thousands of gas-guzzling cars being driven to an environmentally-friendly parking lot.

Used Electronics Recycling Made Easy

Chicago is set to be a pilot city in a new USPS electronics recycling program.

Stick It Where the Sun Don't Shine

The CTA purchased a Big Belly solar-powered compacting trash can as part of its green initiatives -- and then installed it in the Red Line station at State and Lake, 30 feet underground. (Thanks, Tamara!)

I Fish, You Fish?

If the latest news that the Lake Michigan perch population may be on the rebound has got you considering casting a line, you should take a walk thru a few great online resources first. Try iFishIllinois for official information on seasons and permits and don't forget the power of the local fishing community at

Recycle for Sure

Don't trust the City's blue bag program? Recycle confidently with Resource Center Chicago, which has three drop-off spots on the North Side. (Via Mike in Fuel.)

Love Your Beach

You've lounged in the sun, you've lunged for that volleyball -- now show local beaches how much you truly appreciate them. The Alliance for the Great Lakes offers training in how you can join their Adopt-a-Beach volunteer program, starting April 19th.

Bud Burstin'

Want to help track the possible effects of climate change on area plants? You can sign up to be a part of Project Bud Burst. Chicago Public Radio has the story.

A Darkened City

If you missed the view of downtown during Earth Hour, you can check it out in the GB flickr pool. The Trib also has photos and a video feature condensing the hour into a minute.

Lights Out Tomorrow Night

Don't forget to turn off unnecessary lights between 8 and 9pm tomorrow night, March 29. It's part of Earth Hour, and Chicago is one of the partner cities. Do what you can to make the skyline go dim.

Green Meets Blue

Just in time for Earth Day and Arbor Day, local sustainability company Live It Green, LLC has gotten Gerber Bars to offer the Treetini -- a martini for the environmentally conscious -- during the month of April at Whiskey Blue, Whiskey Sky bars and Mexx Kitchen at the Whiskey. Every Treetini sold results in a tree planted in India.

This Ball Is a Seed Bomb

Despite the recent snizzle storms, spring is here, and it's time to plant stuff. Even if you lack a lawn, you can still get into the gardening spirit by "seed bombing" your nearest vacant lot. This video, shot in Pilsen by locals Fresh Cut Media, provides a concise how-to and tips on the latest trend in guerrilla gardening. Seed bombs away ...

Carbon Emissions Grant Awarded to the City

Unfortunately, it's for $52,000, enough to reduce the emissions of 13 garbage trucks, among who-knows-how-many diesel trucks in the city's fleet. Well, every little bit helps!

Guilt-Free Electronics Disposal

A new pilot program from the U.S. Postal Service offers Chicago residents free envelopes for recycling small electronics and inkjet cartridges. "Small" means items such as PDA's, digital cameras and MP3 players; you'll have to go elsewhere to recycle that Atari 2600 you've had in your closet since 1984.

It's Getting Cold; Prepare the Beet Juice!

One anti-ice solution Chicago and surrounding communities are using this year is mixing beet juice with salt. Unfortunately, while it helps cut down on the amount of salt used, it has its own problems.

Rooftop Sprouting

The Gary Comer Youth Center's 8,600-square-foot rooftop garden is coming into its own.

A $15 Billion Problem

In response to a report issued by two non-profits, Mayor Daley is teaming up with the mayors of other Great Lakes cities to call for more federal funding to protect the five lakes.

Freeze, Thaw, Freeze, Thaw, Ouch

NPR shares Chicago's scourge with the nation: 250,000 potholes.

Dark Side of the Moon

It's a little repetitive, but here's a sampling of photos of the lunar eclipse over Chicago.

We're Number Nine!

Chicago makes Popular Science's America's 50 Greenest Cities list.

Shorter than Earth Day, it's Earth Hour!

Green Exchange is teaming up with WWF to promote Chicago Earth Hour activities.

Goodnight Moon

Want to see something cool tomorrow night? It's lunar eclipse time! Starting at 7:43pm on Wednesday, you can watch the moon turn groovy shades of orange and red before fading to black at 9:01pm. This will be the last total lunar eclipse visible in North America until December 2010, so bundle up, bring a hot drink and watch the planetary system do its thing.

Urbs in Horto = Energy Savings

The Wall Street Journal took a look at how nine cities, including Chicago, are using novel methods to conserve energy.

South Side Parakeets are Tougher...

Despite the blinding snowstorms and below zero temperatures of late, the famed Hyde Park parakeets are hanging tough after more than 30 years in the area. However, a University of Chicago professor who is delivering a lecture on the birds on February 20 says this winter was expecially rough and may thin out their ranks a bit.

Swap-o-Rama-Rama Comes to Chicago

The legendary Swap-o-Rama-Rama -- part swap meet, part political statement, part DIY Project Runway -- finally hies itself to Chicago on March 29 at the AV-aerie, 2000 W. Fulton. Bring $20 and a bag of your cast-off clothes, linens, and other goodies, then raid other people's stuff and gussy it up with the sewing machines, silkscreens, and other supplies on the premises. There will also be workshops and a fashion show. What is Swap-o-Rama-Rama, you ask? Watch this.

Chicago's Newest Green Home

Starting May 8, you'll be able to swing by the Museum of Science and Industry and visit Smart Home: Green + Wired, a new exhibit featuring a 2,500 square-foot house.

One Tough Flock of Herons

Despite the presense of long-banned pesticides showing up their offspring, herons nesting along the Lake Calumet area are still going strong. So where are the banned pesticides coming from? Why the good ol' Chicago alewife, of course.

No Dented Cans

Botulism is killing thousands of birds on Lake Michigan. The culprit? Zebra mussels and gobies.

San Francisco Mayor Green-Poaches from Daley

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom hired Astrid Haryati, formerly Chicago's Assistant to the Mayor for Green Initiatives to "make sure the greening of our urban landscape is not an afterthought but is central to all of our activities."

Recycle This

I saw several stacks of discarded holiday trees sitting while walking by several alleyways in my neighborhood tonight. Before you haul your tree to the garbage, think about a city-spondored opportunity to put your tree to good use this Saturday by participating in the "Turn Green into Blue" events at several city parks, where you can receive your choice of blue bags, a reuseable water bottle, or compact fluorescent bulbs in exchange for the tree (or a bag of recyclables).

Modular Housing of the Future

If you haven't checked it out already, you may want to swing by the Chicago Center for Green Technology and check out elementhouse, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign entry in the 2007 Solar Decathlon.

Who'd Outlast Whom?

Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us, offers some thoughts about what would happen to Chicago if we were all to disappear tomorrow.

Neglected Beauty

Rearview contributor and excellent photographer Carey Primeau launches a new photography site and portfolio. While I've seen my fair share of deserted and abandoned photography sites, Primeau really does elevate these photos to stunning. One of the more stellar sets has to be his Uptown Theater set, a building that has intrigued me for years. So good.

Green for the Holidays

Get in to the sustainable spirit of things this year with energy-efficient holiday lights. Save up to 90% of the energy used by traditional lights and get a whopping 50,000 hours of bulb life. You'll cough up a bit more cash, but the lights last longer while running up a smaller electric bill. Plus, Al Gore will thank you for it, and if that's not reason enough, everyone who's anyone is doing it. Available at Target, Lowe's and Costco, or buy through ComEd's online store and get $2 off each strand.

Chicago Landmarks Now Greener

CNET gives us a look at some Chicago landmarks that are greener than you'd think.

Battery Drive at DePaul

Do you practice eco-unfriendly, unhealthy battery disposal habits? Then repent for your sins and donate your used nickel, lead, alkaline, and lithium batteries to the Green Group tomorrow (that's Nov. 13) at the Student Center on DePaul University's Lincoln Park campus. The battery drive is a joint recycling effort with Columbia College. The donating lasts from 4-7pm, so stop by after work. For more info, call 847-971-3901.

Return of the Green Awards

Chicago Magazine will once again recognize local "groundbreakers in the areas of conservation and sustainability." Know anyone who fits the bill? Nominations are open until December 15th. Winners announced in April 2008.

Behind the Design: The Chicago Spire

Not quite the expose on Santiago Calatrava (also known for his work on the Milwaukee Art Museum), but Creative Review, a design magazine based in the UK, showcases the design work of Third Eye Design who did the collateral for The Chicago Spire. Even if you don't like the Spire itself, the accompanying literature praises our fair city.

Not Enough Spit in this Celestial "Snowball"

Coming unglued at a speed of 1000 mph, Comet 17P/Holmes will disintegrate in a highly visible spectacle for several weeks. (No word yet if Shia LaBeouf's career will follow suit.) The exploding comet, roughly 100 times the size of earth, can be seen by the naked eye in the northeastern night sky, and several local observatories are offering a closer look.

Sadie Hawkins' Day Race & Style Ride

The now annual Sadie Hawkins' Day Race & Style Ride is back again, November 10th. What is it? "Sadie Hawkins Day Race/Style Ride is an on-street, in-traffic, point-to-point bike adventure for couples or pairs... There are prizes for the fastest couple, fastest tandem team, fastest out of towners, best dressed, and more." Last year's inaugural event drew people from out of town, generated a ton of missed connections and suffice to say, there were a few couples that are still together to this day.

Film & Fashion Night with Nau

Nau, the outdoor atelier whose clothes are eco-friendly is hosting a Film & Fashion Night in the South Loop on Tuesday, November 7th from 8pm to midnight. There's going to be BMX Ballet, food and drink (first drink free or so we hear) and other festivities. Learn about sustainable economy! It's free if you download, print and bring this ticket. More details in Slowdown.

Outdoor Photography

The local Patagonia store is holding a photo contest. Local photographers are invited to submit a photo of themselves or family members doing active outdoor activities -- while wearing Patagonia clothing, of course. Three finalists will be selected to compete nationally for a trip for two to Vietnam. Bring your 4"x6" prints to the store by Oct. 31.

Gleaming the Kennedy

The Chicago Park District is proposing building a sweet skate park near the Kennedy at Logan Boulevard in Logan Square. The park will feature10 ramps, benches and a drinking fountain. The tag is nearly half a million, but it's a small price to pay for reviving that blighted strip while giving skaters a place to show off.


Apparently a batch of activists from the Rainforest Action Network scaled the Chicago Board of Trade Building this morning and unfurled a large banner protesting the CBOT for its trading of palm oil and soy. (Update) Naturally, it's already been flickred.

Running with the (Heat) Devil

Today's LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon will be a memorable one, as the unusually warm forecast is causing alternative preparations to be made by race officials to ensure the safety of the record 45,000 runners. Also, a number of CTA bus lines will be temporarily closed throughout the morning to accommodate the race route. Trains will be operating as usual. UPDATE: Despite precautions, one man died and 302 others were hospitalized as a result of participating in today's race.

Bloomingdale Trail Survey

If you have any interest into the Bloomingdale Trail-- "Chicago's Next Great Park"-- make your voice heard in the planning by completing their Community Visioning Survey. Your responses will be incorporated into a report that will be distributed to the City agencies that will ultimately design and build the Bloomingdale Trail.

Green Space, a Quarter at a Time

As we mentioned Monday, today is National Park(ing) Day! Head to Milwaukee Avenue, just east of Western, to visit several parking spaces turned temporary public parks. The Trust for Public Land is offering free info, cupcakes and even a wishing tree. (Thanks, Meghan!)

Future Perfect Almost Past

The Illinois Humanities' Council's series, Future Perfect: Conversations on the Meaning of Genetics -- which has staged panels and discussions throughout the city about genetic testing, stem cell research, and related topics over the past year -- wraps up next Tuesday night with a discussion of fairness and accessibility down at the DuSable Museum. Excerpts from the new Kartemquin documentary, Terra Incognita, will be shown. More details in Slowdown. If you've missed previous events in the series, you can catch up by watching the videos at the Illinois Channel, or listening at Chicago Amplified.

From the Heartland?

The Heartland Institute, a conservative Chicago think tank, is currently running advertisements asserting "global warming is not a crisis" featuring Czech president Vaclav Klaus. I'm sure that has nothing to do with the $800,000 in funding and executive assistance it's received from ExxonMobil in the last ten years, including $115,000 last year [pdf].

Is Chicago Bike-Friendly?

The Tribune sent a reporter and photographer along with two Chicagoland Bicycle Federation employees to ask the question in an article with video. Of course, they find out what most of us already know: cars mean trouble. Go ahead and take the poll, if you're so inclined.

Big & Green & Closing

You have till tomorrow to catch the very cool Big & Green exhibit at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, featuring 15 green building projects in Chicago or by local architects. Ugh, turns out the exhibit was from 2004. (Sorry, the pages included the date, not the year.)

Crazy (Not Lazy) Sunday

If you're planning to head to the lakefront tomorrow, be warned of two major events that may affect your plans. The Banco Popular Chicago Half Marathon will close Lakeshore Drive going south from the Bronzeville area to East 67th Street throughout the morning, with a post-race festival taking place in front of the Museum of Science and Industry. Cyclists from the Boulevard Lakefront Tour will be biking along the path as far south as Hyde Park, with their post-event fun taking place on the Midway Plaisance.

On the Fly

If you've ever been down Ravenswood near Wilson, you might have seen the rather large stickered and logoed truck with bright red, yellow and black graphics that say, "On the Fly." The Chicago Traveler has the scoop: On the Fly is a mobile bike mechanic shop. Joe Ebervein and Rich Kwaitkowski will go where you are to get you on the road again.

Green Scavenger Hunt

Foresight Design is sponsoring a green-themed urban scavenger hunt, Explorago. The event, to be held next month, will "broach environmental business practices, waste, pollution, alternative modes of transportation, green space, urban design and architecture, and much more."

New BP Ad Buy

Apparently seriously concerned about its public image, BP has taken to purchasing (regionally specific?) advertisements via google to tout its pledge to not increase discharge limits. This advertisement was embedded in a article about the Maison de Verre.

Calling All LEEDers

Environmentally aware builders, architects, facility managers and other related folk will be pleased to know that Greenbuild 2007 will be held in Chicago this November. The show promises to address how greener construction and renovation techniques can tackle issues such as "climate change, water conservation, and improving human health." And if you're a student, volunteer and get in free.

Don't Go (to) BP-Amoco

A few weeks after Pearl Jam's little environmental ditty "Don't Go (to) BP-Amoco" at Lollapalooza, the oil giant pledged that it wouldn't increase the levels of pollution it dumps into Lake Michigan (from its perhaps expanding Whiting, Indiana plant).

Dark Knight x Brachs Candy Implosion!

The Dark Knight which has been filming in Chicago on and off for the past few months is doing something big. The Brachs Candy factory will be imploded on August the 29th August the 30th between 10:30am and noon. The implosion will be later added digitally into the film for a building explosion. Details here. Update: Note the date and time change. New details here.

Downed Trees Everywhere!

So, today's weather produced a great deal of rain and wind, causing many trees to shed debris and/or fall in neighborhoods all along the north side. Click here for some current shots from Logan Boulevard, which took a hit this afternoon. And here's a link to photos tagged "chicago" and "storm" on flickr.

Saving the Point or Missing It?

Hyde Park's Promontory Point is the subject of much preservationist activism in the face of the Park District's plans to replace the limestone steps and lake wall with concrete. Hyde Park Progress looks at the changes to the steps and general upkeep since the Park Districts' plans were put on hold.

More Bad News for the Lake

As if the recent announcement from BP weren't enough to get worked up about, Illinois and Chicago were just rated as having among the most polluted beaches in the country. Park District personnel remind us we do more testing than most places. Ok, so we're polluted and other places are too.

A Garden Sprouts

In East Garfield Park, at Maypole and California, a community garden is taking shape in a formerly vacant lot.

Lake Michigan Stories

Got a good story or photo involving Lake Michigan or another of the Great Lakes? wants to hear/see it. They're running a photo and story contest through the end of August, with prizes awarded each month. (Thanks, Hugh!)

Columbia Goes Green

Sustainablog offers an interesting take on Columbia College's decision to revamp graduate programs in Architectural Studies and Interior Architecture that focus on sustainability. "Green is the mainstream," says Sustainablog's author.

Friday Mass

If recent talk of some riders wanting to disband the Chicago Critical Mass has you riled up, you may want to weigh in on the matter.

"Like a Big Family"

The Green Exchange, the proposed Logan Square environmental supercenter, is garnering serious national attention.

"Save Our Lake"

How pissed are you about the expansion of BP's Whiting Refinery? If you want to fight the increased dumping of ammonia and industrial sludge in Lake Michigan, join the Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago along the lakefront this weekend from 9 am to 1 pm to sign petitions or volunteer to recruit more signatures.

The Lake Effect

Now this is one city cause I can get behind. Chicago officials are exploring ways to fight an expansion of the BP refinery in Indiana which would put significantly more pollution into Lake Michigan.

Global Reduction

First there were the Cool Globes. Now there are Mini Cool Globes, basketball-sized globes designed by everyone from Sheryl Crow to Joe Lieberman. If you'd like to see them in person, head to the Wacker Lobby and the Jackson Pavilion of the Sears Tower.

When is it Time to do a Squirrel Necropsy?

When they're dying along the banks of Oak Lawn Lake.

Chicago, Coyotepolis

Our friendly neighborhood Quizno's coyote, Adrian, isn't alone as an urban explorer. Chicago coyote visits have increased from "perhaps a dozen" in the 1980s to 312 in the last three years.

Big Changes for the Lakefront?

In yet another public works project designed to win favor with the IOC (and area boaters), the Park District has released tentative plans to build three additional harbors. The Trib provides renderings.

The Mystery of the Anti-Weatherman

The National Weather Service has enlisted the help of the FBI to track down a person who is submitting bogus weather reports in Illinois and Wisconsin. The reports have caused the service to issue erroneous storm warnings. If you can't trust weather reports, what can you trust?

Turning the Alleys Green

NYC's Streets Blog summarizes a new pamphlet from the Chicago Department of Transportation: The Green Alleys Program [PDF]. Some interesting stuff in there.

Take the Express to Niki in the Garden

If you're interested in seeing the new Niki St. Phalle exhibit in Garfield Park (more than 30 playful sculptures by the noted artist are placed amidst gardens inside and outside the Conservatory building) but the thought of long waits for the west-bound Green Line discourage you, click here for details about new express trains running between Randolph and Wabash and Garfield Park Conservatory Saturdays and Sundays.

Not as Green as We Thought

Chicago Magazine has a nice feature dispelling a myth that has penetrated deep into our fair city. When it comes to city park space, we have the least of the "big nine", and third lowest of all 56 major cities.

ZIP Code Blue!

NU's Medill Reports blog alerts us to the results of the EPA's latest Toxic Release Inventory. To check your 'hood's Toxic Inventory with this handy ZIP-by-ZIP guide. Think you're so clean, Lincoln Park? Think again! The blog also looks at the City's top six most polluted codes.

Out of Exoskeleton, Into Belly

The cicadas are finally arriving, at least in some places (I haven't heard any yet). The Trib has a great, surprisingly creepy time-lapse video of cicadas molting, and Drive-Thru's own David Hammond and some friends are getting some press for a cicada dinner they've thrown. They'll be on the Jerry Agar show, WLS 890-AM, at around 9am this morning.

Mapping the Invasion

While not everyone is seeing cicadas, some Chicagoans are, and at least some observers are adding their input to this handy Cicada Emergence Map.

At the Drive-In

Whether you're looking for an anachronistic viewing experience or a cheap excuse to cop a feel, then you should check out some of Illinois' remaining drive-in movie theatres. There's the McHenry Outdoor Theatre the Cascade in West Chicago, the Skyview in Belleville and more.

Recycling Resources

If you're not lucky enough to live in one of those recycling bin pilot wards and if you hate the blue bag program, then you've got to go the extra mile to recycle. The Chicago Recycling Coalition helps you find places to recycle and donate stuff -- and also where you can acquire items for reuse.

Ethanol B.A.?

Treehugger reports that Illinois State University's trustees recently approved a new undergraduate degree in renewable energy, specializing in either actual power generation or public policy issues.

14,100 Gallons of Water Per Minute

Now that the Buckingham Fountain is going full blast, maybe you'd like to astound your friends with some related trivia. For example, it opened on May 26, 1927, and its computer's name is the "Honeywell Excel-Plus."

Farm Project

Did you know there's a small organic farm on the edge of Cabrini Green? It's possible you've even eaten its produce at one of the city's top restaurants. [via]

Bug Watching Tips

Wondering about the best place to watch the 17-year cicadas emerge from underground? The Tribune's gardening blog has some helpful tips. You might also want to check out, which has plenty of info about the impending onslaught, and this map from UofI.

Green Power in Hyde Park

A gang of undergrads at the U of C are building "an innovative wind turbine" with a grant from the student government. Follow their progress on their blog.

Honest Abe's Illinois Shenanigans

While Calgon may not take you away, Abraham Lincoln has you covered.

Petrillo Music Madness

The lineup for the Taste of Chicago musical performances has been announced. We'll all see each other at the Kenny Rogers show, I'm sure.

Get Out the Map

Now that it's finally nice, our hearts turn to vacation! Check out Ask Metafilter for some great ideas on where to go when you want to escape Chicago. Ideas include cheap hotels in Milwaukee, Taliesin and dunes up the yin-yang.

Give Away Your Glasses, Save the Earth

Recycling is good, but reusing is better. As part of Earth Month Chicago, area eyewear vendors are participating in a program--from today till next Sunday (6 May)--that collects donated eyeglasses for families in developing countries. So if you have some old specs you don't really need anymore, do a good deed and drop them off at your local LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sunglass Hut, Sears, or Target Optical.

Flora y Fauna

In today's Sun-Times, we learn about how to protect trees from the coming cicada swarms. Also, rats as big as cats!

Corn Oil vs. Eggs

The year's first volley of the epic human vs. seagull battle has been launched.


This "dusk-to-dawn cultural and artistic spectacle" is all about hyping the life and leisure available in the Loop neighborhood. The seriously random schedule of events includes museum talks, light shows, walking tours and a whole lot more. (Beware the music on the Looptopia site, btw.)

Recycle Your Cell Phone, Save the Earth

You know you shouldn't just throw old cell phones in the trash, right? As part of Earth Month Chicago, area police stations are participating in a program--from today till next Sunday (29 April)--that collects used cell phones. The Verizon Hopeline Project will reprogram the phones for use as emergency phones by seniors and victims of domestic violence. So do a good deed: take that old phone to your local police station.

No. 10 in Renewable Energy

That's where we rank in SustainLane Government's recent survey of major cities. The Chicago Center for Green Technology thinks we should be number 1.

Adrian Runs Free

Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, the organization charged with returning "Adrian" the Quizno's coyote to the wild, blogged about his release. The photos are heartwarming. (Thanks, Dubi!)

NAU Open

The uber-hot outdoor clothing company Nau, which focuses on sustainable and ethical clothing and a new business model as well, is now open in Chicago. Not to mention the fact that their clothes don't look like the neo-hippie earth tones of typical outdoor equipment manufacturers — this stuff can be worn to a club after you're done climbing that rock face. The Chicago retail store (one of four across the country) opened this morning. Where are they? 2118 North Halsted.

Sunday Parkways Forum Discussion

This is a real-life flesh n' blood forum discussion about the proposed Sunday Parkways — a community effort to give communities safe spaces to interact with neighbors. Inspired by Columbia and Mexico, in essence they are traffic-free times on weekends and holidays for pedestrians and cyclists to interact on selected streets. This Wednesday, April 11th from 6:30 to 7:30pm at Richmond Hall in St. Sylvester Church, 2156 N. Richmond St.

More Cause for Vomit

No more need for a flask! Six Flags is now able to serve you a mixed drink along side your post-Hurricane Harbor nachos and churros. This was, of course, the missing piece of the "family friendly environment" Six Flags has been striving to create. [via]

Fawn Over Flora

Did last week's warm weather leave you with a foliage jones? Then you'd better get to Macy's Flower and Garden Show. Located on the first floor of the flagship location, this year's show features species from all over Africa, as well as African art and more. It's open through April 7.

Geese Breach Peace

Beastly geese must cease increase. "Nest police, please decrease, bring surcease to geese eggs," park district pleads. Geese eggs to be beat or greased without caprice. Honk.

Licensed Public Way Contractors

From the bowels of the much-maligned City website comes a current (as of March 8) list of licensed public way contractors. If you see someone putting a hole in the street and they're not on this list, call 311.

Roadway Plant List

While you're out there in the garden considering plants, take a look at the 5th edition of the Chicago Department of Transportation's Roadway Plant List (PDF)-- an intense list of plants, trees, flowers, shrubs, vines, etc. with info on how well they hold up against road salt and other indignations on Chicago's medians and roadways.

Urbs in Horto Bloggius Maximus

Despite being a dingy grey urban hellhole here and there, Chicago has a number of blogs run by backyard gardeners trying to bring a patch of green to the city. Mr. Brown Thumb is one. Sweet Home and Garden Chicago is another, as is My Chicago Garden.

Another Bird to Check Off the List

Chicago birders will be pleased to hear that a Black Headed gull is currently visiting the Montrose Avenue Beach.

Experience Everything But Taste

As if you need another reason to head into the tropical climes of the Lincoln Park Conservatory, you have until the end of the month to check out Shawn Decker's "Chorus," playing in the oh-so-warm Fern Room.

Chicago Plucks Greenbuild Expo From LA

This just in: After some scheduling shenanigans, the US Green Building Council (USGBC) has ditched LA as the site of their annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in favor of, you guessed it, Chicago. The three-day event will take place in November and is expected to attract more than 12,000 people. Chicago vs. LA score update: 1-Zip. All the Olympics boosters in town are now hoping the USOC follows suit.

It's Cold, Let's Talk about Global Warming

Mayor Daley announced that 80 designer globes will line part of Lake Shore Drive this summer to raise awareness of the dangers of global warming. The project entitled "Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet" will feature designs by noted artists and will (eventually) be auctioned off to raise funds to support conservation clubs in the Chicago Public Schools.

GreenBean Adds Submission Form and Flickr Photos

GreenBean, the site devoted to "built, in-progress and unbuilt green buildings in Chicago," has just launched two new features. Developers can submit projects they'd like GreenBean to cover and amateur photographers can upload and tag photos of posted projects to Flickr so that they are displayed on the site. GreenBean is authored by Erik Olsen, the Green Projects Administrator for the Chicago Department of Construction and Permit, where he manages the Green Permit Program. Readers of the site have grown accustomed to his well-written, intensely documented essays that shine light on the broad green building movement here, from private residences to SROs, social services providers and government buildings.

Brownish Greens

D+ and C+. The University of Chicago and Northwestern University, respectively, as graded by the College Sustainability Report Card released last week. Faulty. Find out how your mater fared, and read up on the issue.

Shopping, Now With More Green

The Green Exchange, Logan Square's proposed "green merchandise mart" has launched its website. Dedicated towards green living, the site offers building plans, an FAQ and a forum to discuss the building and issues surrounding its development. [Hat tip: Craig]

Something Fresh, Something New

Increasingly needed in this day and age, A Fresh Squeeze is a site dedicated to green living in Chicago. Primarily a bi-weekly email, the site also offers articles in their archives for a taste of things past.

Bicycle Film Festival '07: Call for Submissions

After last year's small success in Chicago, we've heard word that the Bicycle Film Festival will be back again. Currently, founding director Brendt Barbur and co are looking for new submissions for the 2007 round of film festivals set to take place in up to 15 cities: "We are looking for films with a strong theme or character of bicycles. This includes all mediums and styles such as animation, experimental, narrative, documentary and music videos." The deadline is February the 17th so you have about a month to get going or fine-tune that piece you've been working on. Details at the site or take a look at the flyer here.

Our Environmental Report Card

Conscious Choice provides a quick rundown of Chicago's environmental status, including an interview with Mayor Daley.

Winter Bike to Work Day

Like it's sibling in the summer, the Winter edition of Bike to Work Day coming up features hot beverages and goodies at Daley Plaza this month on the 19th (Friday) from 7 to 9am. The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation hosts activities, a raffle with prizes and the chance to congregate and meet up with your fellow cyclists.

Take Your Tree Down!

The City of Chicago is once again holding their "Turn Green Into Blue" [PDF] Xmas tree recycling program. On January the 6th, you can bring your tree or a bag of recyclables to one of 23 locations from 9:00am and 2:00pm. You get your tree back in the form of mulch and you get a year's supply of blue bags for your time. Take a look at the PDF flyer for locations.

Fallen Rider Memorial Ride

A group of Chicago cyclists (myself being one of them) have organized a ride to raise awareness of the growing number of cyclist fatalities in the Chicagoland area. Named the "Fallen Rider Memorial Ride", the ride will start at the Thompson Center at 6pm tomorrow, January the 3rd and will ride to Diversey and Pulaski at an easygoing and respectful pace. The goal? To highlight how important driving and cycling are to Chicago and how the two require attention and respect. A PDF flyer can be viewed, downloaded, printed and passed along from here.

Even Green Sidewalks

Solar powered bus stops and recycled tire sidewalks are being tested by the Chicago Department of Transportation. Will they make the cut?

Go Green

Know anyone who's living the green lifestyle? Chicago Magazine wants to hear about them. Nominate people for the Green Awards.

Great Lakes Safe and Open for Now

The Coast Guard's plan to establish 34 permanent live-fire zones in the Great Lakes has been withdrawn due to citizen concerns.

The Last Four Miles

Friends of the Parks has proposed a plan to connect the chain of lakeshore parks along the South Side, buying property and creating an archipelago of islands where the lakefront is built up.

Cold + Precipitation + Tall Buildings = Trouble

What's the appropriate course of action when you see a "Beware of Falling Ice" sign? The Tribune helps you avoid an icicle in the head.

Wooden Chicago, Model Trains

I'm not a big fan of holiday schmaltz, but the Winter Wonderland exhibit at the Chicago Botanical Gardens is actually worth it. They've built elaborate recreations of Chicago landmarks using twigs, leaves, acorns, nuts, and other natural elements. Unlike art in other venues, there's a visceral reaction: it smells fantastic and is permeated by the sound of running water and model trains. Plus, the greenhouses are open in the new Regenstein Center if you want to feel tropical despite the cold temperatures. There's something neat about looking at cactus when the ground around you is covered in snow.

Sadie Hawkins Day Race

Sadie Hawkins is a fictional day from a L'il Abner strip. However, it is now also a bike race organized to encourage women of all kinds who ride bikes to come out and race for fun, as well as to benefit the Chicago Women's Health Center. There's a pre-race fashion party on Friday, Nov 10th in the Fulton Markets with the race happening on Nov 11th, followed with a post-party the same day. Want to race? Want to have fun? Check out the myspace.

'Bout Time for Bins

The Tribune reports that city officials are set to announce the expansion of the curbside recycling program to seven wards throughout Chicago. Shocking to no one who has lived municipalities that provide separate collection bins (in other words, every other major city in the country, and most minor ones), recycling participation has surged to 80% in Beverly -- a dramatic change from the rest of the city, where only 13% bother (and probably only about 3% believe their blue bagged waste is actually treated differently than the rest of the trash).

"For the Not-So-Safe Driver"

Looks like the Chicago Bike Federation has a new website for their Drive With Care campaign. At first, I thought it was real, but then I knew that any memorial like "The Brittany" had to be too good to be true. Well done, chaps.

My Lake Michigan Firing Range

The Coast Guard has proposed establishing 34 permanent live-fire zones in the Great Lakes. The 2,500 square miles of water would be closed to public while in use. As you might expect, people throughout the Great Lakes are more than a little upset. Currently, the Coast Guard's information site is offline although a comment page and a press release are available.

Clean-Up The Forests

Want to help improve the Cook County Forest Preserve but don't know where to get started? A new website,, helps point you towards opportunities in the preserves. They even have a calendar if you just feel like popping in unannounced.

Bungalow Exhibition This Weekend

This weekend is the Chicago Bungalow Exhibition and Green Housing Fair. Expect to learn about historical fixtures and interiors for your bungalow, financing a house, city services, as well as how to improve your house's environmental footprint. Interested in solar energy? Or sustainable insulation? This free expo has the goods to get your started on improving your abode.

Make Tallgrass, Not Bombs

Nice article about the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, an effort in southwest suburban Midewin to return a former military arsenal to the tallgrass prairie it was prior to the 1800s.

Make Room for Tulips

It's hard to imagine the lush and dense Lurie Garden has room for 60,000 additional tulips, daffodils, and ornamental onions, but that's how many bulbs are going to be planted there between today and Wednesday. Here's a discussion of bulb expert Jacqueline van der Kloet's design strategy. Lots of color to look forward to next spring!

Get a Green Roof Grant

Got a roof? Green it up with cash from the city. When you plant on your roof, you help the heat-island effect and decrease water runoff. Interested? Attend an info session on the grant's requirements at the Center for Green Technology on Sept. 19 or 26 from 6-7 pm. Download an application today.

Garfield Park To Host County Fair

Speaking of gardens, Garfield Park is hosting a County Fair (pdf) this weekend. While there won't be any demolition derby, there will be free music, a farmer's market, crafts, carnival, petting zoo, and plenty of other activities.

Garden Walks And Home Tours This Weekend

If you feel like sampling some of the city's history, both Old Irving Park (NW Side) and Edgewater Glen (N Side) are hosting garden walks and house tours this weekend. For a small chunk of change you can tour the beautiful gardens and old Victorian houses of Chicago. Old Irving is Saturday, and Edgewater is Sunday. To get more details, keep reading.

The info for Old Irving Park tour is not on the website, but the dry cleaners on the 4200 block of W Irving Park has tickets and details. Tickets are $20 at the door and I do not believe reservations are required. Edgewater tours are on Sunday at 1307 W Granville, and available between noon and three. Their website has more detail.

Logan Square Good Times

Hey, have you checked out the Paseo Prairie Garden in Logan Square? It's across from the CTA Blue Line. The Garden's looking awesome and it's all thanks to Archi-Treasures, a non-profit that brings art, architecture, environment and community groups together. You can help support the Garden by volunteering on Saturdays or by kicking Archi-Treasures a few bucks. Do it!

Free Plants for You or Your Community

Next Friday (15 September) is the registration deadline for participating in the Great Perennial Divide, an event that supports community and other shared gardens by distributing free perennials. Individual gardeners can also participate, if they donate plants at the Chicago Center for Green Technology on 23 September. Click here (pdf) for details.

Chicago's living history

Flickr geotaggers and those viewing one recent post may have noticed that Chicago's historic neighborhoods like Little Hell and Shantytown are alive on the Internet. Other interesting locations include the Berkeley Cottages and Packingtown.

Bikes+Metra ≠ Bikes+South Shore Line

A Lincoln Park high school teacher has a lesson for you: Metra's bicycle regulations are more permissive than the South Shore Line's. He has a $150 taxi ride from South Bend to Lincoln Park to prove it.

A Fish By Any Other Name...

The Patagonian toothfish found its popularity rose dramatically after it was renamed Chilean sea bass, and now chefs lead the fight to save it. Experts in Illinois are now proposing that, instead of using electric barriers, if we would rename the Asian carp, say "silver cod", it would be what's for dinner tonight.

Buzz Buzz Buzz

Do you remember the great cicada invasion of 1990? That was the last time 17-year cicadas came out of their underground burrows in Chicagoland, and the Lake County Forest Preserve is collecting stories about it in anticipation of next year's resurfacing. Eric Zorn reprints a column from '90 about the 1973 invasion in his blog.

Chicago: Green Fashion Capital of the U.S.?

The city's recent appointment of Melissa Turner as Chicago's fashion czarina brought a challenge from treehugger: become the green fashion capital of the U.S. Designers, will you embrace the challenge?

Compost Bins Available, CHEAP!

Do you compost? You should, if you have any outdoor space at home. All day Saturday, the University of Illinois Extension is selling compost bins worth $80 for only $25 to Chicago city residents (bring proof of address with you) at the Garfield Park Conservatory visitor parking lot. Why compost? Besides creating stuff that makes for really good garden soil, it's a simple and environmentally sound way to divert yard waste and vegetarian kitchen scraps from garbage dumps and sewage. Slowdown has the details on this virtual giveaway. UPDATE: Bins will also be available at the Chicago High School of Agricultural Sciences at 3807 W. 111th St. and the North Park Village Nature Center at 5801 N. Pulaski. (Thanks, Amber!)

Start Gathering Your Toxics

Sure, it's hot, but with a household hazardous waste drop-off day coming this Saturday, now's the time to make a pile of your old oil-based paint cans, that broken TV in the basement, and that clunky laptop you replaced a year ago. You know this is stuff that shouldn't just go in the trash, right? Right. Carve out some time Saturday to haul your pile to the drop-off (see Slowdown for details) and get a year's supply of blue bags for your trouble.


The city of Chicago and public utilities doesn't just recommend that people conserve electricity. They're also hoping to get people to conserve water by buying a rain barrel to catch run off from your home to use for watering your lawn and garden. To make that easier to accomplish, they're offering barrels for $20 to city residents. My tomato plants wish I'd heard of this a few months ago.


Friend of GB, scooterist, designer and vegan guide making extraordinaire, PJ Chmiel hits the open road on his scooter on a tour he calls the 2006 R.A.M.B.L.E. Ambitious in scope, it should be quite a ride. Follow along when he kicks off tomorrow.

The Seiche Strikes

Even if it was historically mild, the weather pattern Dave mentioned yesterday still managed to wreak a bit of havoc at the lake shore. Seven boats flipped, sending a total of fourteen people overboard. The thunderstorms did cool things off a bit, at least temporarily. Today's temps are meant to be hotter -- possibly reaching triple digits -- just in time for several local beaches to be put under swimming advisory.

Today's Forecast: a Seiche

Sunday's Coastal Flood Statement predicts a seiche caused by severe thunderstorms. While not uncommon, they have caused considerable damage in Chicago. In 1954, an eight to ten foot reflective wave caused by a seiche drowned eight people (page 24) and swept dozens into the lake (page 67). But don't worry: today's seiche should be less than a foot tall.

Toward Sustainable Skyscrapers

Beyond its position as an architecture capital, Chicago continues to set a national example for environmentally responsible building. Architectural Record reports on how the Green Permit Program is helping contractors by getting their projects started faster and helping the ecology by incentivizing LEED-compliant design and construction.

More Concrete Lakeshore?

A concrete model for three North Side lakefront revetments is inexplicably hiding on the South Side (second article). Since most North Siders probably won't make it to Oakwood Boulevard and Lake Shore Drive this week, take a look at the model online, and decide if you prefer the current limestone or the proposed concrete. If you want to share your opinion with the powers that be, follow the instructions from the Lakeview Revetment Task Force, and get your letter in by the 26th.

Without the beetles

Remember when the Asian long-horned beetle was the talk of the town? Well, those days are over: today, after two years since the last beetle sighting, the final quarantine on Chicago neighborhoods was lifted, meaning that homeowners don't have to pulverize any hardwood trees that they may wish to remove. And Illinois could be declared completely free of the destructive pest as early as next year. But don't think that we'll be free of tree-killing bugs anytime soon: Kane County officials are still looking for signs of the emerald ash borer, which showed up in Illinois last month.

Protecting the Flying Jewels

One of Chicagoland's most endangered species is the Hine's emerald dragonfly. On Wednesday, the US Fish & Wildlife Service is expected to designate critical habitats for the 2-3" bug, including the Lockport Prairie south of Romeoville.

Border collies vs. sea gulls

The city is piloting a program at Foster Avenue Beach to see if Wild Goose Chase's border collies can scare away sea gulls. Fewer gulls means fewer bird droppings, and the city hopes that fewer bird droppings will lead to lower e. coli levels in Lake Michigan. Here's to actually swimming at our beaches!

Jammin' at the Beach

The beaches in Uptown were jam-packed on the Fourth -- so packed that the police closed the Lake Shore Drive exit ramps from Montrose up to Foster.

Behind the Buildings: David Woodhouse

David Woodhouse Architects has a spiffy new site detailing many of the architectural projects that have come out of the studio. Based in Chicago, they're the creatives behind quite a few of the Chicago Institutions you enjoy today. Take a look at the site, meander the buildings and find out the inspiration behind each.

Photos from Go Skateboarding Day

I don't follow up on skateboarding like I used to so it was a pleasant surprise to hear about last week's Go Skateboarding Day. You can live vicariously through these Flickr photo sets: here and here.

Emerald ash borer redux

Update on the emerald ash borer infestation in Illinois: the good news is that investigators have not yet found any signs of the tree-killing insect outside of a three-mile radius of the original place where the insects were found, a good sign that the insect has not traveled far in Illinois. The bad news is that all ash trees within a half mile of the infestation sites will still have to be destroyed to contain the insect.

Moonlight Canoe & Kayak

In addition to family kayaking excursions, the Park District is also offering moonlit canoe dinner trips. For just $18 each, you and a date can paddle up the Chicago River from Clark Park to River Park and then enjoy a boxed dinner. To register for the July 7, August 11, or October 7 cruises, call the Park District at 312-742-5039.

Canoe Trips on the River

Take your family, a date, or a group of pals on the Chicago River with the Park District this summer. You'll see turtles, ducks and herons while you paddle -- all for just $10 per "family." Friends of the Chicago River provides all the equipment and instruction. Register ASAP via mail. Get the form by calling the Nature Oasis hotline at 312-742-5039.

Meet your new insect enemy

It's been a couple of years since we've had to worry about Asian longhorned beetles, but unfortunately Illinois just got another new insect resident: the emerald ash borer, blamed for killing millions of ash trees in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio and just recently found in a rural subdivision about 40 miles west of Chicago. The Sun-Times reports that the state will be working over the next few weeks to determine the size of the infestation and to establish a quarantine around affected areas. In the meantime, homeowners can visit, which has loads of pictures of the insect and infestation indicators to look for in your ash trees.

Fish Hotel Returns

On your way to the new Bridgehouse Museum, take a look into the river. You'll notice that the Friends of the Chicago River's Fish Hotel is back. Can't wait till they install cameras so we can see what the fish are doing down there...

North Park Village City Wilds Festival

While no one has ever said to me "Nice dandelions. We should make a salad," it's comforting to know that some of the growing things in Chicago forests are edible. North Park Nature Center (near Pulaski and Peterson) is hosting its City Wilds Festival this weekend, with a native plant sale and a crash course on native plants that are edible. Also includes live animals, composting, children's music and probably a grand old time.

What's that Flower Called?

One of my favorite Chicago places is Millennium Park's Lurie Garden, and some time I'll take one of the 20-minute tours offered free (between 10am and 1pm) every other Sunday. In the meantime, this site has been useful for learning about the masses of purple flowers I've been admiring lately.

Bike Tour 2K6!

Friends and Chicagoans Andrea and Ira saved money for a year, resigned from their jobs and left for the open road a little over a week ago. On their bikes. They're riding around the country for a year. You can keep up to date and check up on them as they post on the road from the weblog. Earlier posts are informative — lots of information on prepping for such an adventure. I'm jealous too — they look insanely happy.

Garden in a Cube Farm

Perk up life in your office today with Palla Palla's photos from the Garden in a City show, which closed yesterday.

Got Hazardous Waste?

Saturday is Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Day, which means you can haul your old computer equipment, nasty chemicals, small appliances, and gas-powered garden tools to 1150 N North Branch and feel confident they'll be properly disposed of. Bonus: turn in your old gas-powered mower for a $100 rebate coupon for a new electric or manual mower. Details in Slowdown, or click here for the event flyer [pdf].

Greener For Sure (But What About the Blue Bags?)

The City in a Garden has added 500,000 trees since the mayor took office in 1989. That's a lot, for sure, but if Daley wants Chicago to be "the most environmentally friendly city in the U.S.," we've gotta get a new recycling program. Pronto. [via]

Mulch into Moolah

From the Times: "By wrapping its arms and famous big shoulders around its Latin motto -- Urbs in Horto (City in a Garden) -- Chicago has become a global model for how a metropolis can pursue environmental goals to achieve economic success."

Learn to Conserve

Want to improve your local quality of life? Get trained with the Chicago Conservation Corps and develop an environmental improvement project for your community. To learn more, attend a free orientation May 6, 9, 11 or 13 at locations throughout the city. Visit the site or call 312-743-9283 to register. (Thanks, Michael!)

Bat Out of Wacker Drive

Walking out an office building on North Wacker earlier this week, I noticed a little dark gray mouse on the sidewalk. No -- a bird. No -- a mouse. No -- a bat. I wondered if it was dead. While I was wondering, a seagull swooped down and snatched it. This made me think about Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, who may or may not be interested in bats, but just opened a bird hospital and are looking for volunteers to help scour the Loop for stunned and injured migrating birds this season. A training session is scheduled for next Tuesday evening (May 9) at 7pm at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

Starved Rock In the News

Late last week, the Tribune ran a story detailing how budget cuts have hurt Starved Rock State Park. The next day, the state promised to fill two long-unfilled positions at the park. Unfortunately, better staffing probably wouldn't have helped save the teenager who died at the park this weekend after a fall.

Mayo's Bike Day

Fellow cyclist and friend Mayonnaise (a moniker) is having a Bike Day at the loading dock of 800 N. Michigan Ave from 1 to 3:30PM this Friday (4/28). Stop by for a quick in n' out bike tune up. He's doing it out of the goodness of his heart but he'll have a mayo jar for any donations to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. [Apologies for the date mix-up!]

Reduce Reuse Re-bluebag

The cover of this week's Time Out Chicago cleverly recognizes Earth Day (April 22) by reminding you to "Recycle This Magazine." While periodicals may be among the paper items that Chicago residents can be diverted from the dump, only 13 per cent of city households can be bothered. The battle for blue bag banishment never seems to end, but the latest development was today's announcement that there will be a later announcment of the communities that will join Beverly in the successful curbside collection pilot program.

Classy Camping

There's no better place to host an event than in a tent in Naperville, and the city has now made that even easier. The new Tent Permit form is now in pdf form on the web. After filling out the paperwork, there's a convenient meeting held every Tuesday from 8:30 to 9:30am you have to attend, and poof... tent action.

Our Latest Invader

First rabbits, now geese: Grant Park is being overrun by Canadian geese, and park officials are weighing their options on how to fix the problem. Shrubbery and dogs have been brought up, but shooting them is not an option ...yet. (848 did a story on this awhile back; download the mp3 here.)

More Bikey Goodness

Here's another way to get your kicks on Route 66: a bike trail that extends from Chicago to St. Louis along the route of the historic highway. A lot of thought and planning went into this as it includes lodging, Amtrak stops, and places to eat.

Bike Season Begins

Since it's spring: if your bicycle is feeling lonely from a winter of neglect, get motivated to ride by attending this weekend's Chicago Bike Show at Navy Pier. And if that isn't enough, don't forget to visit the list of Illinois Bike Rides in 2006.

Spring Has Sprung!

(Though you wouldn't know it by the weather forecast.) Tom Skilling says the south suburbs might see a bit of the white stuff tonight, which definitely makes one want to crawl back under the covers. But, while you're still bundled up to your nose, you can try that old balancing the egg thing, since the vernal equinox occurs this afternoon at 12:26 p.m.

Flower, garden, and Mac

The 2006 Flower and Garden Show opened this weekend at Navy Pier and runs through next Sunday. If you can't make it to the exhibition to see the 50,000 different types of plants and flowers on display, enjoy this Flickr group of photos of exhibits, one of which includes a novel use for a Macintosh SE. (found at the very worthwhile Moleskinerie)

Coyotes Among Us

More from Smithsonian Magazine about the coyotes living in Chicago and other big cities. [via]

2006 Flower And Garden Show

Will all and snow and fog, here's something to get you thinking about spring instead: next weekend is the Chicago Flower and Garden Show. And if you can't wait that long, the Garfield Park Conservatory has their Spring Flower Show on now, and it's open late on Thursday.

Wolf gonna be okay, Uncle Lar'?

Too bad WLS isn't running Animal Stories anymore, because this would be the top headline on that show: one of the wolves at Brookfield Zoo lost a leg this week, and zoo officials don't know how it happened. After doctors operated on the wolf, it seems to have recovered okay, and can now stand up on its remaining three legs.

Local Food Goodness

A little early, but we'll remind you again: March 10th and 11th the Cultural Center is having a two-day expo devoted to locally grown produce. The site with the information,, also contains links to lots of local growers if you want to learn more.

It's Getting Harder to be Green

Any number of unusual websites pop up on the "chicago" tag on, but among the more unusual of late is the Calling Frog Survey sponsored by the Chicago Wilderness Habitat Project. Unusual, yes, but interesting and important, as well. While most of the winter workshops have already taken place, volunteers are still needed to help organize this annual effort to preserve the local amphibian population. Check the site for more details.

Dangerous Birds

If you're like me, the Morton Arboretum is one of those wonderfully nature-filled spots in Chicagoland that you haven't been to in years. Like the Chicago Botanic Gardens, it's beautiful, affordable, and a great escape from the city. The Arboretum, however, won't be so calm this weekend as it features hawks and other birds of prey.

Coyotus in horto

Chicago can add another number one to its list: coyote population.

Species Invade the Shedd

There's a new exhibit on invasive species in Lake Michigan at the Shedd Aquarium. So if you've ever wondered what an Asian carp looks like, here's your chance. One organism is so invasive the Shedd included only replicas in the exhibit: they were afraid real zebra mussels would clog the aquarium's pipes and filtration system.

Elk? In Elk Grove Village?

With all the villages, groves, and parks in Chicago, who would actually check to see if there are elk in Elk Grove Village? As a recent visit showed, there is a herd of elk in Busse Woods in Elk Grove Village. Who knew? (You figure it has everything an Elk could want - easy access to the highway, a bowling alley and movie theater...)

December Down; January and February to Go

History says, "Don't get used to this 'warmth'; it's not going to last. In fact, it's probably just taunting you." (Or, at least, that's what WGN's meteorological statisticians say.)

Paddling Through The New Year

If you're not too hungover, you can join the annual paddle down the North Branch of the Chicago River with fellow canoe enthusiasts. It's a free event if you have your own canoe; you can rent one too if you call in advance. This page from the friendly Chicagoland Canoe Base (probably Chicago's best canoe store) has all the details.

No Rest for the Frigid

"At least it's too cold to snow" is a refrain one often hears around this time of year, but Tom Skilling says it's a notion best put to bed -- heavy blanket optional.

Wintering Ducks Arrive in Belmont Harbor

Amid the usual gulls and mallards, we spotted a half-dozen Common Goldeneyes and a couple of Hooded Mergansers in Belmont Harbor this morning. The sight was cheering not just because these birds exhibit some rather entertaining behaviors but because it signals that even as Chicagoans hunker down for winter, dreading the cold, some creatures find a welcome respite in our neighborhood's climate.

Get Your Skates Out

Perfectly timed with the first flurries of the season, the Millennium Park ice rink opened today, a few days behind schedule thanks to the warmer-than-usual weather last week. Skating is free till 10pm most nights, and you can rent skates for $7.

Podcasting the Preserves

In a beautiful mix of technology and nature, nearby Kane County Forest Preserve District is planning to create podcasts for its Forest Preserves. So, soon, you should be able to make a short trip and then be strolling through the woods with your iPod (or otherPod) learning all about the beauties of preserved open spaces. Let's hope this gives some ideas to other Forest Preserves around. [Thanks, Dan]

Howloween at the MCA

The MCA's sculpture garden will play host to a bevy of costumed dogs next weekend for the Howloween Dog Day Parade. In addition to dressed up dogs, find bobbing for dog treats and prizes for best dressed. Check this week's Time Out Chicago for pet costume ideas. Howloween is in conjunction with MCA family days. This is the kind of family dog fun that helped Chicago receive rank as dog-friendliest major city in the US. (The MCA's Howloween is not to be confused with this Howloween 2005 event in British Columbia.)

Drab Autumn

Chalk another one up for this summer's drought -- the trees have smaller leaves and are less colorful as they turn this year.

Landscapers' Challenge

West Chicago-based Ball Horticultural introduced a showroom of sorts this summer: the Gardens at Ball. Designed by landscape architect Douglas Hoerr (responsible for much of the beautification of Michigan Avenue, by the by), the grounds are meant to show off nearly 2000 of Ball's varieties and inspire would-be gardeners to, well, get diggy with it. After all, as today's Washington Post notes, in an era in which interest in domestic gardening may be waning, the 100 year-old company's future depends on it.

Aw, nuts

An interesting blurb in today's Sun-Times: they're looking for tales of dealing with squirrels, no doubt for an upcoming autumn squirrel pictorial. Two words for the Sun-Times: Squirrel Cop.

Counting Down

You can take your bike on Metra only till 30 October. If you want to be able to do so throughout the year, give Metra Chairman Philip A. Pagano a piece of your mind. The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation recommends you send him a thank-you letter if you took your bike on Metra this summer, and ask that Bikes on Trains be reinstated year-round.


The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has released its list of Fall Allergy Capitals, which are the most challenging cities in the US for people with fall allergies to live in. Guess where Chicago came in? Yep, we're #1, up from #53 last year. The rankings were based on each city's pollen counts, the amount of allergy medicine used per patient, and the number of allergists per patient. Other high-ranking cities include Little Rock, Tampa, Daytona Beach, South Bend, and Dallas-Ft. Worth.

Buy Kleenex Now

Chicago has the questionable distinction of ranking first among the Asthma and Allergy Foundation's 2005 Fall Allergy Capitals. According to the detailed results table [PDF], the Windy City was no. 53 last year, so your guess is as good as mine when it comes to what caused the surge in the poll. Nevertheless, we "won" due to high pollen levels and medication use and a lower-than-average per capita number of allergists. In other words, make the necessary doctor appointments soon.

City of Gold

Tom Skilling's blog has a great photo taken of the Chicago skyline last night, as the sun set and the buildings downtown reflected a beautiful gold color. This can only happen around the equinoxes each year, as the sun hits just the right angle and the weather (hopefully) clears at dusk around the Fermilab in Batavia, where this shot was captured. You can hopefully get your own view of the city in gold this week, and try to balance those eggs on Thursday, when autumn officially begins.

I'll have the poached salmon and a side of mercury, please

In yet another "win" for Chicago and Lake Michigan in general, the NOAA has released a report which concludes that Lake Michigan receives more mercury pollution than any of the four other Great Lakes. The report, sponsored by Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill, has yet to be signed off on by the EPA but this bit of info is cause for concern.

Street Art, Chicago-Style.

In a city that's completely banned spray paint, Chicago street-artists have had to take creative and untraditional routes to get their work on the streets. Chicago Street Art, the latest group pool on Flickr, is starting to document all of the hand drawn-stickers, stencils, plywood cutouts, scrawlings, paste-ups, and installations that bring color to the all-too-often drab urban landscape.

An Interesting Look at Urbanity:

urban / rural / wild

Colaptes auratus on South Wacker Drive

Walking to my office the other morning along South Wacker Drive, I saw a Northern Flicker on the sidewalk in front of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Unaccustomed to the sight of dead woodpeckers, I did a little research and learned that migrating birds sometimes smash into the glass windows of skyscrapers, particularly at night. Not all birds die; some of them are just stunned. This Chicago organization is dedicated to helping bird victims of the glass-window aspect of human encroachment on the planet. And its looking for volunteers.

The monarch makes it big in Chicago

One result of this year's drought in the Chicago area: a large number of monarch butterflies. The Sun-Times reports that the butterflies do well in warm, dry weather, and this year's population is 5 to 10 times greater than it was last year. Look for large swarms of monarchs to be streaming through Chicago on their way to Mexico during the next two weeks.

El-e-phant, el-e phant.

PETA had a scientist speak on their behalf in a city council meeting regarding a proposed ordinance that would increase the amount of space in Chicago zoos or circuses traveling through Chicago. Best quote of the day: "We don't deal with elephant issues on a day-to-day basis in our neighborhoods, and we want to dig deeper into the issues" The fact that the three elephants in question are named Tatima, Peaches and Wankie is enough to make me like this story, as is.

Garbage Tours

Care to tour the trash? You could, and for just $7. The Southeast Environmental Task Force's "Down in the Dumps" tour took a group through water treatment facilities, landfills and recycling centers on the Southeast Side for a peek at how the city disposes of things.

A home underwater

Although this article in BASS Times is ostensibly a status report on gamefishing in the Chicago River, it also provides some interesting history of the river's aquatic environment and its recent improvements. That's the very issue near to the hearts of the Friends of the Chicago River; you've likely heard of the "fish hotel" they recently installed near the Michigan Ave. Bridge. To learn more about the project, listen to the habitat's designer, Ted Gray, talking to Scott Simon on NPR's Weekend Edition.

Free Organic Herbs/Veggies!

Sound too good to be true? Well we're in luck: head over to the greenhouse at Kilbourn Park until Friday, August 12th, and feel free to pick what's left of the organic bounty leftover from the plant sale that happens close to Mother's Day. Earlier this week, basil was available in large supply, along with cabbage, tomatillos, and possibly a new round of cherry tomatoes. Read the thread over at the (foodie) LTH Forum, and check out the park info here.

Protecting Our Environment

Now get your local environmental news straight from those who are committed to preserving it. Jack Darin, the Director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, is writing the newish IllinoisSierraClub weblog, covering "the policies and politics of protecting Illinois' environment."

Spray and Pray

As mentioned earlier, West Nile cases are up in the Chicago area and spraying has started. Last Friday, officials said that the number of infected mosquito pools found in Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) traps jumped 33 percent last week, bringing 2005's cumulative total from 45 to 60. What that means is more spraying. If you live on the south and southwest sides, you were sprayed last night. Tonight is the far north and northwest sides again. Here is a full map of the spraying areas.[PDF]

Go Take a Hike

Since we might have some non-freakishly hot weather this weekend, seize the opportunity to head for the great outdoors. Trailmonkey, which bills itself as the "largest free hiking, mountain biking, maps and trails site on the net," is a great place to help you get started. For quick and easy day trips, visit their comprehensive list of hiking maps and trails in Illinois or their equally comprehensive list of biking trails and maps in the state.

Sick Bugs

It was expected, and here it is: the first West Nile infection within city limits. The dry weather has kept mosquito numbers down, but they're still out there, so don't forget your bug repellent. If you're interested in keeping track, here's the USGS's map of reported cases in Illinois, updated weekly (it's a little out of date at the moment).

More Butterflies in the City

For all you budding butterfly watchers out there, GB staff member Brian wrote me with another great Chicago spot for observing these colorful insects. He recommends visiting the McCormick Place Bird Sanctuary, a 6-acre park along Chicago's lakefront, just south of McCormick Place's Lakeside Center.

Chicago Solar Partnership

Want to put all this hot sunshine to good use? Then visit the website for the Chicago Solar Partnership, which includes helpful information about renewable energy in Illinois. Find out about incentives for installing renewable energy technologies in your home, and check out a map of locations around Chicagoland that are using solar energy right now.

Turn that waste into gold

Gardening gold that is! If you're amazed at the amount of food waste you create, then you might be interested in picking up a compost bin. The Garfield Conservatory is selling the bins for $25 and they're specifically designed for use in the city so no worries about your eggshells being consumed by the neighborhood creatures that go *squeak* in the night. It's a one-day only sale July 23, so get there early. Cause when they're gone, they're gone! (Thanks, Fil!)

Going to the Dogs

Big news concerning the dog beaches and other "dog friendly areas" in the city parks: the Cook County Department of Animal Control has decided to require the park district to follow some rules it was previously exempt from. The dog beaches must now be fenced in, and all dogs must be licensed and fingerprinted... so to speak. Read the details at

Time running out on Marathon registration

The Chicago Marathon is three months away, but registration for the event is almost full. If you were planning to participate, you'd better register soon, because the 40,000-person limit on the event will probably be reached this week. If you don't make it into the marathon, you can always vote for your favorite T-shirt design for the event. It's not as prestigious as being in the marathon, of course, but then again you don't have to run 26.2 miles to cast your vote. (thanks to Jake for the tip)

The Great Divide

Did you know that there's more than one continental divide? One of them happens to run through Oak Park. (via Coudal)

Where To Catch The Tour In Chicago

The Tour De France is about to get started. The whole world and Sheryl Crow are eager to see if Lance is going to take home his record-setting seventh win. If you want to check out the racing in Chicago, head over to Brasserie Jo, where the chef has created specials particular to the region where each stage is held. Also, everyone's favorite Handlebar will have coverage too.

Don't Breathe

It's another Air Pollution Advisory Day in Chicagoland today, thanks to high temperatures and humidity. Try not to drive, if possible, and if you've got a yard, don't mow it.

Wander Cook County

Not sure if this is the best weekend to point it out, considering the 90°l;-plus weather we're expecting, but the Unofficial Cook County Forest Preserve website offers a selection of "mini trail maps" of bike, canoe and other trails in the county. Not sure what makes them "mini," but they're pretty useful for planning a nice weekend bike ride.

BIke to Work Routes

This is super handy: Bike to Work Routes. Low-fi, direct and sparse, these simple routes to get you around the suburbs come with a one-way distance, an average time, directions and cool ascii maps. What are you waiting for? Ride on!

GPS and Map-Making

Let's say your really into GPS, right, and then by extension you're probably really into maps. Have you ever thought about making your own? Rich Ownings, author of Make Your Own Maps will be speaking at the REI in Niles and Oakbrook Terrace next week, giving a talk on how to use a bike and GPS to make your own maps. Topics covered include topo, 3D, and aerial imagery maps.

What's New At Garfield Park

This weekend saw a lot of activity at Garfield Park. The Garden City Market is now open for business and selling fresh farmer greens at the West Side market on Saturday mornings. And the Conservatory has a really fascinating exhibit, Reciprocally Prickly, that asks, "What if evolution had taken a different turn?"

Bikes On Metra - Today's The Day

Today's the first day you're officially allowed to take your bike on Metra trains. A few tips (since I got kicked off this morning by an ignorant conductor): bring a bungee and schedule or print-out that shows bikes are allowed on the train. Some conductors still think that no rush hour commuting is allowed, which isn't true -- reverse commuting is OK. Also, it helps to have your bike be neat and tidy. The conductors on my line have not been helpful; let's hope it gets better.

Oh wow, it's nature!

While walking to get ice cream last night (yes!), a stunning bus stop billboard caught my eye. The Chicago Botanic Gardens has a campaign called "Just One Look" with the site as the address (it shows a brief glimpse of the poster before redirecting you to their special events page). What they're mysteriously telling you is that this summer (starting tomorrow actually), the gardens will be open till 9pm everyday and at sunset each day, the freshly unveiled Evening Island will be lit up. As one of my favorite places in Illinois, this should be a real treat

Rabbits love Millennium Park, too

The rabbits that have historically infested Grant Park have recently found their way to Millennium Park. Fortunately, the Chicago Park District is keeping up with the invaders by trapping the rabbits and releasing them in the western suburbs. Still, several hundred plants and trees have reportedly been destroyed by the rabbits, and park officials describe the invasion as "serious."

Just remember the sunscreen

Today marks the opening of the Lake Michigan swim season. The Chicago Park District's Swim Report has all the information a would-be bather could want, including a handy link to the current weather forecast. (Incidentally, this weekend's shows partly cloudy skies, with highs in the mid- to upper-60s). And, if you're looking for suggestions on where to take a dip, New City Chicago's Dave Witter has a few ideas.

Chicago Bikeshops Online

Some members of the Chicago bicycle scene have collaborated to create, a new site that has a directory listing of bicycle shops in Chicago. In addition to having some handy info (Do they offer rentals? Can one get a discount?) there is also a place where users can leave comments Amazon-style to know who out there is worth your hard-earned money when buying new equipment.

Mega Mystery Animal Maze

Let's say the concept of giant mazes doesn't totally scare the bejeezus out of you. If that's the case, you might be interested to know that next week the Notebaert Nature Museum is opening their Mega Mystery Animal Maze. It's a life-sized, interactive maze where kids search for "mystery animals," and a special component asks them to guess names for animals native to the state. Sounds interesting and educational, but, um, I'm a big sissy so you probably won't see me there. The Museum is located at 2430 N. Cannon Dr. and you can all 773-755-5100 for more information. The exhibit will be on display through September 5.

Amsterdam of the Midwest

Saturday morning, the Garfield Park Conservatory will host the Chicago Park District's 2005 Tulip Bulb Give-Away. The event starts at 9am and runs 'til 1pm, but would-be green thumbs are encouraged to get there early. It's an easy, free and fun way to make our city more beautiful. Plus, it gives little girls like those in this photo flowers to stop and smell, and that's definitely something special.

Prefab is fab

A lot of hype has surrounded pre-fabricated housing lately. From IKEA's venture into mass-produced homes to Dwell Magazine's most recent issue dedicated to it, it is quickly becoming a lower cost alternative to building your first modern home from scratch. As another (and to me, preferred) option to the condoliths (as coined by Andrew) that are spreading all over the city, you may want to look into it. Fortunately, The Field Museum think it's important too and has a temporary exhibit about it called "Design Innovations in Manufactured Housing."

Northerly Island Worth A Visit

This weekend saw a visit by me to the very cool Northerly Island. If you see what the site used to look like, it's quite amazing that it's lovely and quiet and grassy already. Especially neat is the former airport building, which is now an exhibition hall. Peek in the windows and you can see the former cafeteria and all of the tasteless and bland 1950s architecture. There's a lot of construction going on, so get out there before the site is 'improved' for Clear Channel concerts.

Turn on the bright lights

As the always useful WGN Weather Center Blog notes, Chicago witnessed an episode of the aurora borealis last night. They've posted two gorgeous photos of the northern lights over Woodstock (1 | 2), and, according to meteorologist Steve Kahn, "it is possible the aurora may be visible again tonight, especially in Canada, Alaska and areas north of Chicago." Keep your eyes peeled.

Clean & Green 2005

Mayor Daley and the Chicago Park District invite you to participate in the 2005 Spring Clean & Green Day. Come out, meet your neighbors, and help beautify your local parks. Dress for the weather and bring work gloves. Tools will be provided. Meet at the fieldhouse at any of these parks. GB reader, Robyn, will be planting flowers at the Logan Square Blue Line station; go out & lend a hand if you're free!

Bridgeport To Bloom

In what will certainly be a huge boost to the South Side, the quarry at 28th and Halsted will become a natural park sometime next year according to The Gazette. The development craze that swept Pilsen will surely continue to Bridgeport now. (via Payton)

NYC looking to Chicago for Inspiration

Everybody's favorite mayor, Mayor Daley, has another fan on his side. Majora Carter, writes a piece for Newsday citing Chicago as the leader in the "green" city movement. The article sums up the tie-in to the Time article, "Behind environmental innovation, there must be policy innovation; and behind policy innovation there must be a strong mayor. Mayor Daley ensured that the dream of a greener Chicago became a reality because he charged his administration to come up with policies that actually have teeth." Majora is a resident of South Bronx, pushing for a bicycle/pedestrian greenway along the South Bronx waterfront to provide open space, waterfront access and opportunities for mixed-use economic development.

Darkness is for the birds

Chicago blogger Jennifer Roche alerts us to an article she wrote about Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, a group started in 2003 to prevent migratory birds that fly at night from striking buildings in the Loop by having the building owners turn off the lights after 11 PM. Jennifer's article is in the April issue of Conscious Choice.

The Ill. 'Dillo

The Tribune reports the slow invasion of an unexpected creature into the Land of Lincoln: the armadillo. There have been at least 80 sightings in recent years, mostly in the far south of the state, but the armored bug-eater has been spotted as far north as Bloomington. Could it be long before 'dillos are competing with rats and pigeons for trash in our alleys? We'll keep you posted.

When the other man is a falcon

Joshua has been in the hospital since December, and yesterday he headed back home to Rosie. But it appears that Rosie may have found herself someone else. The plot of the next Nora Ephron movie? A Jerry Springer show? No, it's the latest news concerning a pair of falcons nesting atop UIC's University Hall. Maybe a wise-cracking next-door neighbor falcon can offer Joshua some advice on how to win Rosie back.

More Canine Puns

The Chicago Park District is developing another dog park, this time at the south end of Grant Park. The "Grant Bark Park" is being touted as "the best in show for dog parks." Here's a map of what it'll look like.

Live Aid, Farm Aid, and now ... Lakes Aid!

A board member of Great Lakes United, a group dedicated to preserving and restoring the Great Lakes ecosystem, has proposed a series of benefit concerts, in the model of Live Aid and Farm Aid, to raise money for upkeep of beaches and other Great Lakes sites. The first concert is tentatively planned for Chicago in 2006, with Soldier Field as a possible venue and veteran benefit concert headliners The Beach Boys mentioned as a headlining act.

Northerly Island Amphitheater

Northerly Island may not get the various amenities suggested in the years since Daley had Miggs Field bulldozed, but it's probably getting something completely unexpected: a 10,000-seat amphitheater, to be run by Clear Channel. Understandably, lots of people are upset, including JAM Productions, the local concert promoter that claims to have originated the idea, only to have it handed to their biggest competitor.

Music or wildlife?

Clear Channel Entertainment wants to build a temporary concert venue on Northerly Island (the place formerly known as Meigs Field), promising a considerable amount of income generated for the Park District. Environmental groups are worried that the concert plans are going to be a little more permanent; the venue could remain in place for up to 4 years and cut into plans to establish a fish and wildlife preserve on the island.

Chicago groundhogs' predictions differ

"Windy City Woodie," the woodchuck that's the weather predictor for the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, did not see his shadow this morning, predicting the coming of spring. However, Brookfield Zoo's groundhogs, "Cloudy" and "Stormy," saw their shadows (or at least their representative, "Maddy Skunk," did), which means six more weeks of winter.

Free Shedd

The Shedd Aquarium is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and as part of the celebration it's offering free general admission to the aquarium, and reduced admission to its Wild Reef and Oceanarium exhibits. According to the Tribune, one of the newer exhibits is "Seahorses and Seadragons," which features some animals from the aquarium's wildly popular "Seahorse Symphony" exhibit, which ended last year. Better hurry to take advantage of the free admission; the offer is good only through this Thursday.

Let The Sun Shine In

If you're feeling a little blue lately, it might have something to do with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and our recent lack of sunlight. WGN's Tom Skilling reports that Chicagoland has only received 201 of its possible 7,662 minutes of sunshine this month as of last night (that's only 2% of our possible sunshine). Also of note is our January rainfall so far, which has now established a new record of 4.30 inches recorded at Midway airport, the most since recording began there in 1928.

100 Years of Jumps

The Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year with a ski jump tournament this weekend -- as well as the Junior Olympic Qualifiers and Masters National Championships. The club is expecting past and future Olympic competitors to show, and on Saturday night there'll be a live band and fireworks. Tickets are $15 at the gate. Check here for more information. (Incidentally, 2005 also happens to be the 100th anniversary of Norway itself.)

Chicago Testing New Street Deicers

In the ongoing efforts to make Chicago more environmentally friendly, news comes that two streets in Edgewater, Kenmore and Winthrop, will be testing a new corn-based anti-icing spray, M-1000. These safer road deicers are billed as 70% less corrosive to streets, making the steeper price tag acceptable in the long run due to less road repairs and maintenance.

Swimming Into the New Year

If you want to ride off that hangover on New Year's, you might want to join the Chicago Cycle Club on their annual Champagne Ride, where club members bike to the lakefront and take a quick dip. If you don't want to ride and still want to jump into the lake, the Chicago Polar Bear Club is having their Sixth Annual New Year's Swim. (Though the link's from a previous year, the details for this year's "swim" are the same.)

Free Blue Bags for Recycling

The Department of Streets and Sanitation is offering a year's supply of free blue bags to folks who take their Christmas trees to be recycled at 22 Chicago Park Distrct locations. But only if you bring it in on January 8 between 9am and 2pm. Because they want to make recycling easier for us.

Bundle Up for the Holidays

According to weather guru Tom Skilling, Chicago may experience record lows on Christmas Eve. He's forecasting the daytime high temperature on Friday to be just 2 degrees above zero. So bundle up!

Winter Solstice in Chicago

Celebrate the Winter Solstice with Chicago. They'll provide: shadow puppetry, chestnuts (yes, roasting on an open fire), a gospel choir, and a big bonfire. You just bring your bad self over to the North Park Village Nature Center this Saturday.

Breathe Deep

There's something in the air -- or, more to the point, there isn't: Chicago and the collar counties now meet the EPA ratings in the one-hour National Ambient Air Quality Standards. We also pass standards on airborne particulates (dust and soot) and are below limits for carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Woohoo!


I was reminded of how to catch a squirrel at this past weekends kick arse DIY Trunk Show. As Pulaski Park is a haven for squirrels, it came up in a conversation with some friends. I then remembered my dear friend Annie's guide to catching squirrels or rather, Squirrelfishing.

National Geographic Goes Green

Yet another glowing review of Mayor Daley's "mandate" to continue the trend towards environmentally friendly green roofs. Nat'l Geographic News runs a feature which talks about the benefits of our green roof initiative, and why other cities should take notice. Da Mare also gets in some nice talk regarding why it's so important to talk about these issues, "The environmental movement often seems like it's happening somewhere else and people forget about our own community. We need to be sure that we're planning well."

Northern lights this far south

If you were outside Chicago's sphere of streetlights last night, you might have seen an impressive Aurora Borealis. Extreme geomagnetic storms made the Northern Lights visible as far south as Decatur. There's a chance they'll be active again tonight, so if you're someplace where you can actually see stars (not within Chicago's limits -- it doesn't get dark here, it gets orange), look up.

See the Lake from Your Desk offers views of lakes across the country -- including one trained on Lake Michigan from the North Avenue Beach House.

It's Now, or 2007

Tonight's the last full lunar eclipse until 2007! If you haven't made plans, head down to the Adler Planetarium. The Adler'll have free telescope viewing and field any questions you might have. There's also a Sky Show inside the Planetarium for you space junkies.

Fall Color Peaks

According to the weather channel, we're now in the peak viewing season for fall foliage and colors. So head out to one of these fine spots near Chicago for checking out this autumn's treasures.

Sanctuary for Primates

Did you know there's a home for baboons being built in Pulaski, Indiana? The Peaceable Primate Sanctuary will be the first such place in the United States, giving safe harbor to baboons from pet, entertainment and research industries. They've got a weblog so you can follow along with their progress toward developing this important center.

You've Got Frankenfish!

Most fish names are soothing - trout, salmon, blue gill. The Northern Snakehead, however, sounds scary, and the fish looks just as scary as it sounds. The DNR has announced that one of the dreaded suckers has been found in the Great Lakes (in Chicago's harbor no less). Whether this is a one-off occurance or a change in lake's ecosystem isn't known yet -- but let's hope this nasty little fish doesn't stick around.

Solar Power Open House

In Chicago, there are three constants in life: death, taxes, and heating bills. You might be able to reduce/eliminate the heating bill portion by using solar power. Many of the solar energy sites around the city and region are offering open-houses this weekend so you can see how people in Illinois put the sun to good use. There is a clickable map to illustrate the tours available, or you can look at the tour list if you want to see the addresses of the sites sponsoring tours.

A Swampy Future

The NYT runs a short feature regarding a farm that lies 165 miles southwest of Chicago, called Emiquon. Why is this sprawling farm in Illinois taking up front page real estate at the Times? According to the article, an interesting experiment is taking place. Over the next few months, after the last harvest of corn and soybeans, planting will cease and flooding will begin. The expected result: "ecologists think that within just a year or two, they can return this farm to its natural state as a thriving wetland". When planting began along riverbanks to ease agriculture many decades ago, it destroyed the precious wetlands surrounding our rivers. Read more here about the attempts to create more wetlands in Illinois.

The Bloomingdale Trail

You may have heard of NYC's High Line but have you heard of The Bloomingdale Trail? An old freight railway, Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail are trying to turn it into an elevated multi-use public space. Possible uses would be for running, biking, and general recreation. You can read up on the history or go directly to the FAQ or if you live in the Bucktown and surrounding areas, become a member. [Via Fueled by Coffee]

Garden Club

I was at the Wicker Park Farmer's Market last Sunday and started chatting with some of the friendly volunteers from the Wicker Park Garden Club. They have tons of great programs -- helping get kids involved in building gardens as well as helping local gardeners with plant selection, wormboxes, and transforming the fountain in Wicker Park through landscaping. They always have room for volunteers, and are also offering a lecture series this fall that's outta this world (email them for details; they haven't gotten the new lectures up yet.)

Chicago: Flower-Power Model?

Who would ever predict that the city that spawned the birth of flower-power in the late 1960s, would come to admire and model itself after our city? San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome is one convert. When he ran for office last year, he committed himself to creating a vision of his city following the success of our Mayor's various green initiatives. Most noticable, the many ways Chicago incorporates flowers into daily life, including "hanging baskets attached to alleyway lampposts, planted in the median strips of busy thoroughfares, and in decorative boxes and sidewalk gardens in front of businesses and apartment buildings." Mayor Daley achieved this by requiring developers to install landscaping around properties and on the public right-of-way.

Fancy a BLT?

While not of the bacon, lettuce and tomato kind, the BLT aka The Boulevard Lakefront Tour is brought to you by the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. From the site: "Join us for the 16th Annual Boulevard Lakefront Tour! One of Chicago's favorite bike rides, the BLT explores our great city's 'emerald necklace' the parks, boulevards and historic places on the South and West Sides." It goes down this Sunday, September 12th and registration is still open. Your choice of 10 mile or 35 mile ride. How many people did this last year? Over 2,200.

Northerly Island opens!

A little behind schedule, but without much fanfare, Northerly Island has opened to the public. (You be more familiar with Northerly Island under its previous name, Meigs Field.) There's not much in the 90-acre park right now (the main feature is an asphalt running track), but plans to build more (oh, so much more) on the site are already under way.

Chicago, City of Trees

The city is really getting serious about making our humble burgh a greener place. If you call 311 and request it, they'll put a tree in front of your house for free. The city's CityTrees website has info on this program as well as how to get free perennials, pictures of the trees they suggest, and information about their care and upkeep. Urbs in Horto, man, Urbs in Horto.

When You Run Out of Blue Bags

Got more to recycle than will fit in your common blue bag? Here's a list of recycling centers around the city where you can drop off those old phonebooks, gratis.

Asian longhorned beetles: we're not out of the woods yet

Remember the Asian longhorned beetle? Well, keep thinking about them, because they're still around. City officials, prompted by the recent discovery of a single beetle in the city (and also by the discovery of a number of infestations in New Jersey, prompted by the finding of a single beetle), are organizing local volunteers to inspect their own city blocks once a week. Remember, kids, this is what an Asian longhorned beetle looks like.

Does This Spider Look Fat To You?

According to entomologists, spiders in the Midwest are bigger and fatter this year because our cool, wet summer provided them with many tasty insects on which to feed. And did you know that no one anywhere is ever more than 3 feet away from a spider? Find out more in this AP story. Did you just feel something on your leg?

Take a Hike with your Dog

Ever head out to the great outdoors with your best friend only to be met with a sign that says, "No Dogs Allowed"? Now there's a website that can help you plan your hikes to make sure you can bring your dog along for the trip. Of course, Illinois doesn't have as many wilderness areas as some other states, but there are dog-friendly National Forests around and dogs are welcome in most Illinois State Parks. You can help the site grow by adding your own dog-approved hikes as well.

Tour the City by River

The Chicago Park District and the Friends of the Chicago River are offering a guided tour of the North Branch of the Chicago River this Saturday. The catch: the tour is by canoe! For only $15 they'll lead a guided tour of the river and feed you lunch. Considering that it's usually $18 an hour on the weekend to rent a canoe, this is quite a bargain!

Women Gaining Ground

The Chicago Park District board voted Wednesday to name two more parks after notable Chicago women, bringing the total to 35. Hyacinth Park in Kenwood will be renamed Gwendolyn Brooks Park, after the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize. And a park at 1762 W. Diversey will be named for Chi Che Wang, founder of the Chicago Chinese Women's Club and physiology professor at the NU Medical School.

Catch them as they fall

It's time again for the Perseid meteor shower, when the earth passes through a cloud of debris from Swift-Tuttle comet. The shower is expected to peak tonight and tomorrow night, and should be seen decently from Chicago, as the moon is in in its crescent phase and its light will not interfere.

Chicago Astronomer suggests "start looking to the East/Northeast at dusk; this is when "Earth Grazers" skim the atmosphere like a rock across a pond and can produce great fireballs. You'll see more as the evening progresses, especially after midnight as we run directly head on into the debris field." The most meteors should be visible around 2am. Related: The Adler Planetarium has a newsletter, What's up in the sky this month?

Paddling Through Summer

The Lincoln Park Boat Club is a great way to see a totally different view of the skyline - from a boat that you're paddling! In addition to teaching classes such as next weekend's Introduction to Sea Kayaking, they also have excursions to nearby waterways for members. Members are also allowed to check out equipment for excusions (say, a midnight paddle along the lake anyone?) If you'd like to get out and paddle but don't think you can store a canoe in your 1BR, this is the thing for you.

Constant Flow of Water

Rejoice, all ye who drank from the fonts of Lincoln Park! The water fountains in the park will once again flow constantly, thanks to overwhelming complaints that the water tasted bad after the city installed on-off switches on the fountains to conserve water. See, you can make a difference!

Tall Buildings

MoMA has launched a new exhibition site called Tall Buildings. It's not quite what you'd expect — the Sears Tower and Hancock have no mention, and the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia is absent. Rather, the site explores buildings from across the world but more importantly, buildings that have yet to been built or were proposed but not built. From a set of criteria, weighing in at number one out of 25 buildings in the exhibition, is the Chicago building that wasn't, at 7 S. Dearborn (more info here) which would have been the world's tallest building.


Wonder where to buy orchids in Chicago (not including the isles of your favorite megastore)? You can swing by Hausermann's Orchids, Oak Hill Gardens, Klehm Growers, EFG Orchids, Fox Valley Orchids, and Natt's Orchids all on the web, or in person. Or you can plan your orchid attack by using the Chicagoland Orchid Growers Association map. There are eight orchid growers in the area, all waiting for you to visit and ask them about this simply elegant (and not that hard to grow) plant.

Would You Like to Fly... my beautiful, my beautiful, buh-llooooon!? Well, you can. There are two balloonports within an hour's drive of Chicago: Windy City BalloonPort in Fox River Grove and Sky Ride Balloons in Plainfield. With tickets starting at $175, it's not a cheap date, but well worth the memories.

The Peregrines of Uptown

Did you know that for the past four years a family of peregrine falcons has made the Uptown Theatre their home? Check out these great photo galleries of the falcons, taken by local photographer Kanae Hirabayashi.

Get Your Styx Fix

Ah, the Illinois State Fair is just under a month away. Can you wait? This year's grandstand features headliners like American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken, Clint Black, Styx and Kansas, Average White Band, and Hall & Oates. And that's in addition to horse racing, tractor pulls, and destruction derbies. Let's carpool!

Free Electronics Recycling

HP and Office Depot have teamed up to offer free in-store electronics recycling between July 18 and Labor Day. Just bring your old computer/printer/monitor/what-have-you (any make) to an Office Depot store (limited to one computer system or other device per customer per day) and they will take care of the rest (word to the wise: wipe that hard drive first!). Dell is offering a similar service, free for people who buy one of their systems online, and at a small per-unit fee for those not buying new computers.

Are you an Airhead?

Airhead is a site created by the Chicago-based Center For Neighborhood Technology. Use the emissions calculator to determine how much you contribute to air pollution, or search for the pollution data for common household products like dishwashers or televisions. [via theboxfactory]

Best. Name. For. Daley. Ever.

"I like to say he's a janitor with a vision," has to be one of the most original descriptions of Daley ever. It's from an article in Metropolitan Magazine, a pub devoted to sustainable policies and design. Has great details about what the city is doing to make itself the greenest in the country.

O'Hare expansion may mean increase in wetlands

The Tribune reports that the planned expansion of O'Hare could mean an increase in the amount of wetlands in the surrounding area, because the US Army Corps of Engineers requires the creation of 1.5 acres for every acre of wetlands destroyed. The expansion project is set to take away 150 acres of wetland space, and so the city is requesting bids for wetland migration work along the Des Plaines River.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

The Joliet Arsenal, once the world's largest TNT factory, has been transformed into the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Developed as part of the Openlands Project, Midewin is the country's first national tallgrass prairie. Midewin is located at 30239 S. State Route 53 in Wilmington, Illinois. The prairie has several hiking trails and also holds tours, including the unusual Ghosts of the Ammunition Plant tour. Call 815-423-6370 for more information.

Caving In

Do you enjoy dark places? Like squeezing between rocks? Are some of your closest friends bats? Then the Windy City Grotto is for you. The local chapter of the National Speleological Society meets every month to plan caving trips and other activities.

Best of the Best: Spaces

The Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects released a survey completed by AIA Chicago members on what buildings and spaces are the best in the city. Some are predictable (Millennium Park) and some are relatively new (Sofitel). The Sun-Times has more. [via Gigantic]

Paddling Along

Friday was a day off for me and I took one of the coolest trips ever - canoeing the Chicago River. Chicago River Canoe and Kayak rent canoes for $10/hr on weekday and $18/hr on weekends. We saw turtles, lots of wildflowers, herons, and a shipwreck (no joke!). If you want a little adventure without having to travel far, check out the park behind the Jewel at Western and Roscoe. If you want to try paddling other places, check out the massive site, which has history, locations, pictures, and just about everything related to waterways in Chicago.

Lawnmower Buyback Program

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has a program for people to turn in gas-powered lawnmowers for a $150 rebate towards the purchase of electric, rechargeable or push lawnmowers, and they also provide free exchanges for low-emission gas cans. The next exchange for the Chicago area is June 26 in Des Plaines at the State Police Headquarters at 9511 W. Harrison from 8am to 3pm. Visit the official Illinois EPA website for a complete list of dates and locations.

Transit of Venus

Tomorrow morning from 5:18am till 6:25am, Chicagoans will glimpse something that hasn't happened in more than 100 years: Venus will travel between Earth and the Sun. We'll only catch the last bit of the transit (best viewing is in the Middle East), but with the right equipment, anyone can watch. The Chicago Astronomical Society will be observing the transit at the Adler Planetarium, but if you can get up that early, all you have to do is head to the lakeshore to get an unimpeded view.

Mall Includes Wetlands

This past weekend marked the grand opening of a new gargantuan outlet mall in Aurora. However, the mall is earning kudos not for its 430,000-square-feet of shopping but for its 80-acre wetland habitat that was designed as part of an environmental deal that could become a national model for future business development.

Become an Outdoors-Woman!

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources sponsors weekends for women who want to get away from it all and go out for a weekend of camping and outdoor activities. Events can include bird calling, archery, target shooting, fishing, canoeing, and more. The next weekend trip is June 11-13 at the Lorado Taft Field Campus in Oregon, IL. Visit the Department of Natural Resources website for registration forms and more information.

Fishing and Hunting

Past the 1993-stylin' splash page is a wealth of information about fishing and hunting in good ol' Chicago and Illinois at Chitown-Angler. There are topics about fishing in Lake Michigan, the rivers, the smaller lakes and the forests. There's information about where to get a licence and also an illuminating hunting quick reference guide. Groundhogs beware: there's no limit as to how many can be hunted.

Party Like it's 1999

The city has announced that when the Millennium Park finally does open on July 16, it will be celebrated with what some are referring to as an "entertainment orgy" lasting three days. Years late, and a good chunk of change over-budget, the Millennium Park will be the site of numerous of events including a (literal) three-ring circus, sunrise yoga and tai-chi, park tours, and a world-premier concert of new music by the Grant Park orchestra. For a cool interactive map, check this out.

It's either a cougar ... or a big dog

Investigating nearly 50 sightings of a large animal in Lake County since February, wildlife experts have examined paw prints left behind by the animal and surmise that the animal is not a cougar, as has previously been thought, but instead a large dog. Bad dog! Sit! Stay!

Word of The Day: Entomophagy

Get ready: it's going to be a cicada summer. Not the usual swarms of singing insects, but the 17-year cicadas are starting to hatch. Plus, as some have found out, you can eat them (pdf). El Chirper Tacos anyone?

In case you're wondering, Entomophagy is the consumption of insects by humans. More info here:

(Sometime this) Millennium Park

Channel 7 news has a nice little recap on the history of Millennium Park. Four years behind schedule, costing three times its original budget, and with most of the park still under construction, the place is finally scheduled for opening this July. (Don't forget, you can still keep an eye on the construction of "The Bean" sculpture via webcam!)

Official Flower of Chicago?

This is cool. A retail site totally devoted to reducing and eliminating plastic grocery bags - The facts about the wastefulness of plastic bags are astounding. A dot-com that does good things and has their headquarters on S. Michigan Ave no less.

New Green Elementary School

More news on Chicago's green front: today the city will break ground for the first certified "green" elementary school, an eco-friendly structure featuring drought-resistant plants on the roof, solar panels, harvested rainwater and flooring made of recycled glass. The new Tarkington Elementary School, in the Marquette Park neighborhood, is one of four schools built following a philosophy of using resources efficiently, making the least impact on the environment and making the health and productivity of the occupants a priority.

Summer Geocaching

In a post I wrote last year, I mentioned Geocaching. The ChiTown Cachers is a local group of cachers who organize events and get togethers to share stories of geocaching and to gush over their GPS units (I'm presuming). Most importantly, there's a huge list of caches all over the Chicagoland area. For even more info, join the Yahoo Group. Damn, do I want a GPS unit now. Another item added to the summer To Do list.

Orange Meadowbrite: made in Chicago

As previously reported in GB, the Chicago Botanic Garden unveiled a new plant this year: the Orange Meadowbrite, a scented orange coneflower that was mentioned on today's All Things Considered. The Orange Meadowbrite will be one of the stars of the botanic garden's upcoming 39th annual spring plant sale, A Bloomin' Sale.

Park Watch

Millennium Park is the crown jewel in Daley's plan for the "greening" of the city. As it nears completion, it's worth taking a look at, a clearinghouse of information about the construction of the park and its many amenities.

Freecycle it!

If you're doing some spring cleaning and have stuff to get rid of, or if you just moved and need a few secondhand items, check out Freecycle. Freecycle is a worldwide non-profit group that helps to reduce the amount of garbage in landfills and new products bought by providing a forum through which people can post unwanted items, or requests for things. There is only one rule: everything must be free. No bartering, no selling. The Chicago chapter is thriving with over 1800 members exchanging furniture, books, computer equipment, and lots of other odds and ends.

Spring Cleaning

Spring is in the air and Chicago is cleaning itself up for the summer tourist crush. Leading the way is an ambitious plan to clean up the Chicago River involving a pontoon boat and a crew of five to help remove debris and graffiti along the river. Besides the cosmetic cleanup, water quality issues are also being discussed by city officials. Unfortunately, real progress on water quality is still many years off, but it's a good start. The city is also calling for an all-out citywide cleanup on May 1, the spring "Clean & Green Day". This event is coordinated by the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation and loans brooms, shovels and rakes and provides free trash bags to local groups to assist their volunteer clean-up efforts.

Bear-y Bear-erson?

The Brookfield Zoo has a new polar bear cub! And of course there's a contest under way to name the bear. The winning name will be selected by a group of judges from the zoo staff, its volunteers, and (of course) the Chicago Bears. Start working on your name ideas, because you only have until May 12th to enter.

Keep an eye out for beetles

The Sun-Times reports that, because city investigators have noticed that Asian long-horned beetle infestations appear to be occurring near places that are trafficked by El trains and cars coming from already infested locations, officials are asking people to check their cars for beetles before driving off. If you're unfamiliar with what the beetle looks like, have a peek at this informative site put together by people at UIUC.

The South Side is For the Birds

There are some reports that the monk parakeets have begun to come out this season on the South Side. Monk parakeets are originally from South America and came here as pets. They have established feral populations around the country, esp. in Illinois and Florida. They are most well known in Hyde Park, though they've been spotted in Wolf Lake on the far South Side. If you'd like to go and see these creatures

on the North Side or South Side, here are some instructions: Hyde Park: "It appears to me that these are the same parrots that inhabit Hyde Park, with several large nests, and a notable one on 53rd street, about 100 yards west of the lake. Take the lakefront path to 51st St, cross Lake Shore Drive, then ride south through the park 2 blocks, near the tennis courts. Further south in Jackson park (57th St - 63rd St) you can enjoy the lagoons and Wooded Island, along a major bird migration path (now's a great time to see the migration)." North Side (Margate Park): Margate Park is roughly 5000 N. Marine Dr. Take the Lake Front path north to Argyle and head under the ugly slab of concrete to the park. The nests were in the northern point near Foster last year. Wolf Lake: The Wolf Lake parrots are back in town. Their large hanging nests can be seen from the south end of the park by the ranger's residence (130th St. & Ave. O). Parrots can be seen flying around and perched in nearby trees. The low-stress way to get there from downtown via bike is to take the Lakefront Path to its southern terminus at South Shore Drive. Continue south on South Shore Drive following the "U.S. 41 South" signs to 95th/Ewing/Ave. "L". Three restaurants are on the corners; The Mexican Inn, Agua Blanca, and Skyway Hotdogs. Take Ave. "L" south to 104th St. Take 104th St. east to the Burnham Greenway. Take the Burnham Greenway south to the spur that goes to the William H. Powers Conservation Area. Follow the park road south through the woods and around Wolf Lake until you pass the ranger's residence. You will see the large parrot nests there. Alternately you could take the Red Line to 69th St. and then transfer to a #30 bus and get dropped off in front of the park. (Thanks to Bob Matter for compiling the reports!)

Humans escape from ape house

The Lincoln Park Zoo invited a group of professional climbers to test their new ape housing, to see if the apes are going to be able to escape from them. The climbers were able to escape from the outdoor yard, and so the zoo will continue working on the design of the $25.7 million structure, which is scheduled to have cimpanzees and gorillas living in it by May.

Brookfield Zoo gorilla dies

Sad news from the Brookfield Zoo: Baraka, their 13-year-old female gorilla, died on Sunday from an abdominal infection.

Meigs Field park opening soon

City workers are planting bushes and carving out walking paths in the space formerly known as Meigs Field, in the hopes of opening it to the public in mid-July. The work is designed to allow the public to use the property while city officials discuss plans for a more permanent design for the land now known as Northerly Island.

Planes vs. cranes

A pair of sandhill cranes is nesting near the Lakewood Forest Preserve in the suburb of Wauconda, which has prompted preserve officials to shut down a model airplane airfield in the preserve, because the cranes are a threatened species and protected by state law.

Chicago Wilderness

Speaking of favorite parks...Check out the website for the Chicago Wilderness Coalition, an alliance "of more than 170 public and private organizations working together to protect, restore, study and manage the precious natural ecosystems of the Chicago region for the benefit of the public." This beautiful website discusses the biodiversity of the Chicago region from the Wisconsin border to Indiana and includes information about how you can volunteer to protect our region's woodlands, wetlands and prairies.

Dusable Park -- A Reality?

The land has sat vacant, lined with fences, for more than 15 years. In 1987, Mayor Harold Washington set aside more than 3 acres of land northeast of Lake Shore Drive and the Chicago River, to be named in honor of the city's first non-native settler. Financial, developmental and artistic issues have kept the peninsula fenced off and unused. Now, four years after park proponents came together to champion DuSable Park, the park district's $55 million capital plan set for a vote in May includes funds for the park's design drawings. Additionally, establishing the park is key to completing the vision of Daniel Burnham to make the entire lakefront a series of parks accessible to the public.

Peregrine falcons return to Chicago

We previously mentioned that bald eagles are coming back to the Chicago area, and now the Sun-Times reports that peregrine falcons are making a comeback, as well. The Illinois Endangered Species Board has changed the bird's classification from "endangered" to "threatened," which although it still sounds bad indicates that the falcon's numbers are on the rise. Used to nesting in cliff faces, the falcons are making their homes in any tall structure they can find: building ledges and rooftops, smokestacks, and tall trees.

Drinkers with a Running Problem

Like to drink? Like to run? You might want to join one of the city's Hash House Harrier clubs. The groups combine the pub crawl with the paper chase, following markers on the street to run from bar to bar, having a drink and moving on. Great exercise for your body and your tolerance. For more info, check the websites of the Chicago, Second City, Chicago Full Moon or Thirstday Harrier groups.

First Chicago eagles in a century

A pair of bald eagles is nesting in Chicago. The last nesting eagle in the Chicago area was seen in 1897, so this is a pretty big deal. The location of the pair is being kept secret for the time being, so that they can be left alone to make their nest and hopefully for the female to lay eggs.

City park renaming redux

As reported previously in GB, the Chicago Park District is mulling over plans to rename 9 city parks to honor various women from Chicago's history. One of the women, Lucy Ella Gonzales Parsons, was a 19th century activist whose husband was hanged for his purported role in the infamous Haymarket Square bombing of 1886. This choice was not appreciated by the Chicago police union, which is protesting the choice of a woman who may be considered an anarchist. But district spokesman Julian Green says that Parsons was chosen for recognition because she "promoted women's labor and civil rights in Chicago. She was highly regarded by Jane Addams and other social reformers."

Art in the Garden

Something to help you get through the cold weather and snow flurries of this week: the Sun-Times reports that the Chicago Park District is working with a handful or artists to create living works of art made of flowers, decorative grasses and other plant materials. The displays in the "Art in the Garden" project will be located at a number of parks in the city, including Grant Park, Lincoln Park, Washington Park and Douglas Park. The artwork gardens are scheduled to open to the public on June 15.

Green Roofs Lead the Way

In a bit of coast-envy, suddenly Chicago is at the forefront of an environmental movement. As Californians move to catch up to this growing phenomenon, even they acknowledge Chicago encourages living roofs on most new public buildings, and is nudging private developers to do the same. It started on the top of City Hall, after a visit to Germany by Mayor Daley in 1997. Green roofs can reduce heat needs inside the structure and capture rainfall before it gushes into larger drainage systems, keeping as much as 70 percent and filtering the rest. In addition, the green rooftop is estimated to save $10,000 per year in energy costs for the building.


City officials recently unveiled plans for a $42 million new park development at 47th street. Unable to decide between building a beach or a peninsula, planners compromised by creating a hybrid "Beach-insula." Neato.

Climbing up the walls

Want to go rock climbing? There are only three places to climb legally in Illinois, but some other spots too. There are plenty of indoor walls you can climb, or you could just head on up to Devil's Lake.

The sweetest-smelling exhibition

Spring may not quite be here, but this weekend you'll get a respite from the recent cold weather and snow flurries, as the 10th Annual Chicago Flower & Garden Show kicks off at Navy Pier. Gardening exhibitions, presentations by gardening experts, and free advice from "plant doctors." In short, if you're a gardener, you gotta be there. The exhibition runs through Sunday, March 21st; see the Website for times and ticket information.

City parks may be renamed for women

The Sun-Times reports that the Chicago Park District is considering the renaming of 9 city parks to honor various women from Chicago's history. Currently, only 27 of the district's 555 parks are named for women. Some of the women to be honored under the proposal: gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, playwright Lorraine Hansberry, and Poetry Magazine founder Harriet Monroe.

Karma on two wheels

The third annual Ride for AIDS Chicago is looking for riders, crew volunteers and pledgers for a two-day, 200 mile trip between Chicago and Lake Geneva to take place the first weekend of June. Each rider is expected to raise $1000 in pledges, 100% of which is returned to Test Positive Aware Network and BEHIV.

Beetle quarantine area extended

Because of a single Asian longhorn beetle found outside the current Chicago quarantine area last year, the state has extended the area to cover the Gold Coast and Cabrini-Green, the Sun-Times reports today. But that was the only live beetle found last year, so things might be looking up. Another good sign: quarantines were recently lifted from parts of Addison and Summit, which had been under quarantine since 1998.

The last year for lilacs

Each May in suburban Lombard, a local gardening club hands out hundreds of free lilac bushes to its residents. Unfortunately, as the Tribune reports, this will probably be the last year for the free giveaway, due to a decrease in available funds and an increase in state fees. This will probably not hurt Lombard's standing as "Lilac Village," however; it still has Lilacia Park, which was started by residents William and Helen Plum as their own private garden in 1910.

Make your own Blue Bag

Is the only thing stopping most Chicago residents from recycling the price of blue bags? That's what the city aims to find out, in a pilot program happening in the 47th Ward. Residents will be able to pick up free yellow stickers and blue ties that they can use to identify any ordinary garbage bag as having recyclable contents. (No word as to why they just didn't hand out free blue bags...)


As we're slowly dragging through the ass end of winter there is no better tonic for all the gray skies and slush than a trip to the steamy greenery at the Garfield Park Conservatory. The Conservatory is currenly hosting an exhibition of African dinosaurs, most of which are arranged in ways you'll never see at the Field Museum. And if that's not enough reason, admission is free if your conscience will let you walk in without kicking in for the $3 donation. You're telling me you don't want free dinosaurs?

Outside Travel Expo

Planning a vacation but not sure where to go? Head on down to the Navy Pier Convention Center this Friday, Saturday and Sunday for Outside magazine's Outside Travel Expo -- formerly known as The International Adventure Travel & Outdoor Sports Show, the worlds largest exhibition showcasing destinations, guided trips and products from all areas of the travel market including adventure, eco and active travel. Admission is only $10, which gives you access to hundreds of businesses and organizations. (Thanks Anne.)

Not So Green Gaia

They're all over the city: bright green clothing donation bins for Gaia-Movement Living Earth Green World Action Inc., an environmental charity. But, as the Tribune reports today, Gaia is giving little of the proceeds of all those clothes to the environmental causes it claims to support. Gaia is part of a shadowy Dutch-based organization called Tvind, whose leader was arrested in 2002 on fraud charges.

Muskrat Love

Looking for something really unique to do for Valentine's Day weekend? How 'bout a hike to look for muskrats in love? The Lake County Forest Preserve District is offering a hike through McDonald Woods Forest Preserve this Sunday from 1:30-3pm, with the intention of seeking out the big, cute rodents. For more info and to reserve a spot (prepayment required), call 847/968-3321. $7 per person, $5 if you live in Lake County.

Breathe a Little Easier

The City of Chicago is slightly healthier--our EPA air quality rating has slightly improved over previous years. This means saying you're going outside for a "breath of fresh air" won't be so ironic anymore.

How to make Chicago more sustainable

The Sun-Times reports that the winners of the first annual Chicago Sustainable Design Challenge have been announced. The competition was sponsored by the Foresight Design Initiative, an Illinois nonprofit organization. One of the more novel ideas that won the competition: planting tough strains of bamboo in landfills to absorb pollutants and provide wood for construction. The winners are all listed at the Foresight Design Initiative's Website.

Birds lured by Matteson voles

In south suburban Matteson, the Bartel Grassland forest preserve has been restored to a more natural state, which in addition to providing a more hospitable home to various species of birds, apparently caused an increase in the vole population. So a number of birds that depend on the mouselike animal for food, such as the short eared owl and the northern harrier, have also returned to the preserve.

Introducing the Orange Meadowbrite

Researchers at the Chicago Botanic Garden have created the Orange Meadowbrite, a new coneflower that has a scent, which is apparently very rare for the genus. So rare, in fact, that they're planning to sell 40,000 of the plants this year, at $17-20 per plant. The Sun-Times has the story.

Acoustic Ecology in Chicago

The World Forum for Acoustic Ecology is in the initial stages of organizing an American chapter. The group "is dedicated to exploring the role of sound in natural habitats and human societies, and promoting public dialogue concerning the identification, preservation, and restoration of natural and cultural sound environments." Chicago already has a good auditory documentation contingent, and will likely play a role in the chapter's formation; to find out more, join the ASAE listserv by emailing with the word "subscribe" in the subject.

On your marks, get set, snow!

Sunday morning kicks off the 2004 Tour da Chicago, a six-stage alleycat bike race. This weekend's time trial will start in stages from the Bahai Temple in Wilmette and race to YoJimbo's Garage at 1310 N. Clybourn. Entrance is $10 for the race or $45 for the series. Register at 1461 W. Chicago at 7 a.m.

Bring out yer trees! *clank*

Still got a Christmas tree up? No worries. The city has a tree-recycling program in place, where you can cart your tree over to a Chicago park to have it mulched (yes, you may keep the mulch). The program had been scheduled for only one day (this Saturday, January 10) but the city has added Saturday the 17th to its schedule, making it twice as easy for you to take advantage of the service. There's a list of participating parks (in PDF form) on the city's Website.

Saving Flowers And What Have You

Despite opposition from Gov. Blagojevich for tax reasons, the state government over-rode his veto to provide the lovely Chicago Botanic Gardens with some much needed funding for repairs. Boo, Guv. Yay, State Gov!

Everything's coming up Bubba

A Springfield, Ill. man has legally changed his name to Bubba Bubba Bubba. Said Mr. Bubba, "I kind of like to laugh and joke, and it's something silly to kind of poke fun with." True dat.

Lead Contamination in Urban Plants

A new study by Northwestern University researchers shows that edible plants grown in urban gardens could contain potentially hazardous amounts of lead. Chicago has one of the highest rates of lead poisoning in the United States, an extremely persistent health problem that particularly plagues urban areas. While the majority of the lead was concentrated in the roots, some lead was detected in shoots, which is often the portion of the plant that people eat. Much of the soil's lead contamination comes from deteriorated paint, past use of lead-containing gasoline and industrial air pollution.

This Song Is Ribbiting

Want to hear some mp3s by some locals? Listen to the frogs. No, not The Frogs, these are real amphibians: the Chicagoland Calling Frogs.

Exploring Chicago, differently

In our latest Fuel, Tony points us out to Letterboxing, a site that guides those who wish to explore Illinois off the beaten path in search of hidden letterboxes. On a similar note, if you have a handheld GPS unit, you may want to do the same thing in search for hidden caches of goodies in an activity called Geocaching. People are hiding caches all the time.

Chicago Wilderness

Cook County has an incredible amount of green space, despite the concrete jungle in the middle of it, and there are thousands of acres of protected lands in the collar counties as well. So it seems, er, natural that Chicagoland would have its own nature conservancy organization -- which has a nicely designed quarterly magazine.

Through rain, snow, sleet and hail

Not even a Chicago winter should be an excuse to stop commuting by bicycle. The good people at Bike Winter know all the ways to keep you warm, clean and safe on two wheels while everyone else is shivering on the El platform. Nov. 1 at 1 there will be an educational expo in the field house at Daley Bicentennial Plaza, 337 E. Randolph Drive.

Free flower bulbs

Do you participate in a community garden? Would you like free flower bulbs to plant? Then print out this application and fax it to 312-746-9778 before October 16. Daffodils, tulips, hyacinth and crocus bulbs are donated by Greencorps Chicago.

Oh, bugger.

An Asian longhorn beetle was found on the North Side yesterday. It was outside the established quarantine zone. Hopefully this was an isolated incident. Hopefully.

Fall Colors

This weekend would be a good one to travel to Wisconsin or Michigan to see the fall color change -- the trees in Wisconsin are reportedly at their peak color right now, and in Michigan it's just getting started.

Ladybugs Attack!

As noted in Fuel today, Chicago was invaded by Asian ladybugs yesterday. According to a spokesperson at the Field Museum interviewed for this story, "the reclusive bugs get restless as the days grow shorter, and a sudden onset of warm weather can set them to swarming. Cued by a hormone that prompts them to gather together, the insects assemble in huge numbers for some pre-hibernation socialization."


As birds begin to migrate south, now is a great time to keep your eye out for unusual species passing through Chicagoland. The Chicago Ornithological Society is a good resource for bird-watching in the area.

Funky Fall Festivals

Ready to soak up a little rural flavor now that the colors are changing? October's hopping with funky festivals: the Morton Arboretum is hosting an outdoor walking theater event among other things at their Fall Color Festival, and little Morton Illinois is hosting the annual Pumpkin Chuckin' contest. But most eccentric of all has to be the Turkey Testicle Festival. As they say, let's all get nuts.

Chicago Climate Exchange

Did you know that Chicago is home to a major force in climate control? The Chicago Climate Exchange is "a voluntary cap-and-trade program for reducing and trading greenhouse gas emissions." Member companies and organizations make a voluntary binding commitment to use a rules-based market for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, and they receive credits for reductions which can be bought and sold in order to reduce overall emissions. North American trading began this year, and eventually will be opened to the international community.

Stalking the wily rabbit.

Apparently, Grant Park is (still) infested with rabbits. And with 200 new elm trees ready to be planted in the park, the park's advisory board is still trying to develop a humane and effective way to prevent them from eating everything in sight. Good luck to them! [Trib. login: gapers/gapers]

Bald Eagle Benefit

Plum Island, near Starved Rock, is a primary nesting ground for Illinois's 3,100 bald eagles -- and it's slated for bulldozing to build vacation homes. This Saturday, between 2 and 5 PM, visit the Edgewater Branch of the Chicago Public Library and meet Deshka, a 7-year-old female bald eagle, and representatives of SOAR (Save Our Amazing Raptors) to learn how you can help preserve this habitat. If you can't make it, sign Lt. Governor Quinn's petition online.

Smoking Ban on Beaches?

As a recently turned non-smoker, a proposed smoking ban on Chicago beaches caughy my eye. The idea is two-fold: to protect public health and cut down on litter. Cigarette butts are the biggest component of litter collected on beaches, representing 42 percent of all trash. Can a ban like this be enforced in such a large city? If you'd like to participate in the annual cleanup, it's this Saturday starting at 9 am.

Fall Color Report

There's no doubt that there's a hint of fall in the air, and that has me thinking about watching the leaves change. Both Wisconsin and Michigan have weekly updates about their fall colors, as does drought-ridden Iowa. And if you're wondering why leaves change color, the forest service has an excellent site to explain why leaves change color along with fall foliage updates from around the country.

Cabrini land raises Heirlooms

Interesting article in today's NY Times (login required) that mentions a farm experiment on an acre of land near Cabrini-Green. I hope this isn't the only place that an experiment like this occurs - any attempt to improve the quality and flavor of the tomatoes in this city must be supported. Oh, and that whole sustainable living thing too.

Save Your Breath

We're experiencing Ozone Action Days this week due to warm weather and light wind. In this weather, vehicle emissions and VOCs cause increased levels of ozone which can be harmful to those with respiratory problems. Partners for Clean Air has some tips on how you can help. Also be sure to check out the HazeCam.

Feral Monk Parakeets!

Chicago got Fark'd recently for an article on exotic wildlife. Duh. Hyde Parkers have lived under the threat of Feral Monk Parakeets. But did you know they have extended their unholy rule from Seattle to San Francisco to Connecticut. Beware the Parrots!

Talk about a wrong turn!

The Black-Tailed gull, a bird native to Japan and Syberia, somehow ended up on Montrose Beach much to the delight of bird watchers in the city. Hopefully, the tough city gulls won't kick its butt and it will stay for a spell. Tribune login/password: gapers/gapers

North Branch Docks in Jeopardy

Private piers and docks along the North Branch of the Chicago River may be torn down soon if the Water Reclamation District has its way. A lawsuit has been filed, and property owners are fighting back. Meanwhile, Friends of the Chicago River wants your help to continue cleaning up the waterway.

West Side Garden Club

Hey, all y'all on the west side sportin' green thumbs and looking for some similarly green-thumbed homies, there is a West Side Garden Club so bust a move, yo!

West Side Green Corridor

The city has a plan for turning more of the West Side into a "green town" along the corridor near the Garfield Park Conservatory. The vision is to turn empty lots into jobs for the community, including landscaping businesses, a garden center and greenhouse. This initiative is the direct result of a study after the Chihuly glass exhibit last year, which brought thousands of visitors to the area, but little of those tourist dollars flowed into the surrounding economy. [Trib login: gapers/gapers]

Millenium Park

One of the most comprehensive reviews of Millenium Park seen to date. The park will be finished during the summer of 2004, with some pieces already in place. The article includes a great picture with details of the items to fill the park, including the previously mentioned bike garage, Frank Gehry's band shell, "Jelly Bean" sculpture, and a 2.5 acre garden designed by an American who won the international design contest.


Right now, at both the Botanic Garden and the Garfield Park Conservatory, there are 90 sculptures from the Chapungu Sculpture Park in Zimbabwe, Africa, on display. Chapungu: Custom and Legend, a Culture in Stone runs through October 31, but the best time to see it would be now, when the parks are in full bloom and the weather isn't too hot.

Solar Energy Homes in Chicago

We're already one of the most bike friendly cities, but did you know Chicago is working to be the 'Greenest City in America'? The Environmental Resources Trust (ERT), a national non-profit catalyst for renewable energy development, is launching a project to construct 100 Solar Homes in Chicago. The first ten homes will be built this fall, with all 100 to be completed by 2004.

Preserving Meadow Lake

Designed in cooperation with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Lakes Study, the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL is undertaking a project this summer to improve the health of Meadow Lake. According to a story in the Daily Herald, "The lake, on the arboretum's east side near the main entrance, suffers from erosion and sediment caused by the fluctuating water table. Its high phosphorous levels make it uninhabitable for many fish." The solution is carefully digging a 3-foot-wide slurry wall to enclose the lake. This project is also part of the arboretum's $43 million expansion and renovation, expected to be completed in 2005.

Sustainable Chicago

June 26 marks the launch of Sustainable Chicago, the local network of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies: a group of locally-owned independent businesses, farms, and non-profit organizations. The event is at Garfield Park Conservatory at 6pm, and will feature an organic food reception (cooked by some of Chicago's top chefs), a talk by BALLE co-founder Judy Wicks, and a panel of local speakers. The cost is $20. For more information contact Sustain at 312-951-8999 ext.106 or email Jim at

The bird will outlive us all.

Cookie, a Major Mitchell cockatoo at Brookfield Zoo, celebrated his 70th birthday today, and his birthday celebration this morning kicked off the zoo's Bird Weekend. Cookie is the last surviving original zoo resident, part of the intial collection of animals when the zoo first opened its gates in 1934. Although the average life expectancy of a cockatoo is between 50-60 years old, they can live to be as old as a hundred. Read more about it, and check out the zoo website for more Bird Weekend activities.

Lincoln Park Zoo Upgrade

Sooner or later it's bound to stop raining, and when it does, you should get back to the Lincoln Park Zoo. They've finally opened the Regenstein African Journey which not only means that you can see the giraffes and elephants again, but there are now warthogs, an aardvark, some excellent new fish and the coolest meerkat in Chicago. Now how much would you pay? Nothing. It's still free.

Lights Out Chicago

Thousands of migratory birds are killed in Chicago every year, confused by building lights and flying into glass-and-steel buildings, which appear invisible to many species. The Lights Out Chicago initiative, now in its fourth year, encourages building owners to dim or turn off outdoor lights thereby reducing mortality rates. Learn more about Chicago's feathered visitors from the Chicago Ornithological Society and read more about the dangers to migratory bird populations in the area.

What's the buzz?

As part of the ongoing project atop City Hall, non-aggressive honey bees have been added to the rooftop garden. The city has installed two bee hives -- inhabited by four-thousand honeybees -- in the City Hall roof garden. The Sun-Times asked readers for creative names for the honey to be sold by Gallery 37. Some of the suggestions include, "Sweet Comb Chicago", "Daley's Gold", and a favorite to honor one of our own, "Sweetness".

Free Bulbs

Stop by Pritzker Park at State and Van Buren today and pick up a dozen free tulip bulbs, courtesy of the Greater State Street Council. There's only 40,000 of them available, so get there early.

Green Rooftops

Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities, the "First North American Green Roof Infrastructure Conference, Awards and Trade Show," was co-organized by Green Roofs for Healthy Citiestour the rooftop greenspace atop City Hall. Tickets are $35, availability is limited: register here.



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