April 26, 2008

What I learned at the Eco-Fair

No better site for an Eco-Fair
than Racine's refurbished rail station

13: There's more to wine than red or white: Sherry Etes of Uncorkt displayed almost a dozen organic wines, all certified by their country of origin. The grapes that go into them are grown without chemicals, and the wines themselves have no sulfites added, as many do (it's a preservative). Her favorite (yes, she has to taste-test all the wines she sells -- it's a tough job, but someone has to do it.) is Mas de Gourgonnier, from Provence, $18 a bottle. Just remember: while it's environmentally OK to sit back at the end of the day with a glass of wine, it's no longer OK to do it by a roaring fire.

12. Support your local farmer: Community Supported Agriculture brings the produce of local farmers to your dinner table. The closest participating farmer is Pinehold Gardens in Oak Creek which will deliver a box of produce to Racine just for you, every Thursday for 20 weeks, for a fixed fee. Pinehold Gardens' goal "is to close the loop in agriculture by providing most of our own inputs, including much of our own electricity through a large photovoltaic system." For information about Pinehold Gardens, email or call 414-762-1301. For more information about CSA farmers throughout Southeastern Wisconsin, as well as a listing of all farmers' markets in the region, go to www.farmfreshatlas.org.

11. Churches go green, too. Betty Brenneman pointed out that the Eco-Fair grew out of efforts by Dr. David Rhoads of Racine, a professor at the Lutheran Seminary in Chicago, who has led the "green congregations" movement. Now some 16 local congregations from various denominations -- Lutheran, Catholic, Dominicans, Unitarian Universalist among them -- are sharing ideas about "growing lifestyles that are ecologically friendly." For more information, check their website.

10. It's never too late: Four years ago, Mike Prudhom wrote an essay that won one of 50 bicycles given by Biketown to Racine residents. Now he's president of the Kenosha Racine Bicycle Club (125 members) and, at least once a week in the summer, bicycles to work -- 19.5 miles each way. It's an hour and 45-minute trip. Which might not seem so much except that Prudhom weighs "north of 350 pounds." Definitely not the physique of your typical bike rider. He says he loses about 40 pounds each summer, but mostly rides for the enjoyment (and doesn't mind saving $7 a day in gas.) The bike he rides is a hybrid: not a road bike, not a mountain bike -- but somewhere in-between. So far, he's put 5,000 miles on it. "My doctor says all my numbers are good, except my weight," he says cheerfully.

9. Recycling is the law: Since 1989, it's been illegal in Wisconsin to incinerate or put into landfills all of the following: plastic containers, glass containers, office paper, corrugated cardboard, tires, lead acid vehicle batteries, aluminum containers, steel containers, newsprint, magazines, old appliances, used motor oil. The reason: to cut down on the amount of trash sent to landfills each year: 6.7 million tons in 1990. For highlights of recycling in Wisconsin, go to: http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/aw/wm/recycle/

8. It's more than just coyotes: The National Wildlife Federation has a new crusade. Rebecca Eisel, a local volunteer, explained, "if we don't stop global warming, all the work we've done for animals will be ruined." NWF has a new program -- Good Neighbor -- which lays out the things each of us can do, including recycling, cleaning furnace and air conditioner filters, making sure you car's tire pressures are correct, shopping for Energy Star appliances. For more information, go to : www.nwf.org/goodneighbor.

7. Drink tap water: Kari Olesen of the Sierra Club said the average American drinks 14.3 half-liter bottles of bottled water each month. Multiply that by 300 million of us and you've got far too many plastic bottles to dispose of. Bottled water "is the fastest-growing drink of choice in the U.S., and Americans spend billions of dollars on it each year." And yet, blind taste tests show that few people can distinguish between bottled water and tap water..

6. Watch your legislators: The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters rates all legislators every year, comparing their votes on a number of environmental issues. Adrienne Roach checked the rankings for us for the Wisconsin 2005-2006 legislative session, : State Rep. Robin Vos voted "green" 12% of the time; State Sen. John Lehman got a 100% rating. (Lehman showed up at the Eco-Fair while I was there. The only other pol I saw there was Mike Hebert, who is running for the Democratic nomination to oppose U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.) For more information, go to www.conservationvotersinstitute.org.

5. Buy used stuff: Carla Wilks pointed out that Habitat for Humanity's ReStore "accepts and sells a variety of household-related goods -- lighting fixtures, doors, appliances -- all of which otherwise would probably end up in the landfill. Plus, you can save money.

4. Why not drink coffee that benefits someone? Why not, indeed! Andrea Godson of Holy Communion Lutheran Church, part of the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, was offering taste tests of Mt. Meru coffee, a fair-trade blend. "It's a way to help the farmers get more money. We're not only selling it, but many of us buy it." The Mt. Meru coffee project is a partnership between Lutheran churches in Northern Tanzania and Southeastern Wisconsin. For more information, contact Jerry Schmidt, 262-335-3815 or email

3. Go Native: Nan Calvert of the Root River Chapter of Wild Ones, a native plant advocacy group, promoted the organization's native plant sale, scheduled for June 7, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Kenosha County Center. More than 6,000 native plants for sun and shade, wet and dry soil, with proceeds supporting local nature centers. More information at www.for-wild.org.

2. Burn grease, not gas: Swee Sim showed off his 1984 Mercedes that runs on biodiesel fuel that he makes from grease from a friend's Chinese restaurant. The grease (jar at left) goes into a 55 gal. drum heated to 130 degrees, mixed with methanol and sodium hydroxide. After two hours of heat, and 16 hours of settling, he skims off the glycerin and has diesel fuel (right jar) that takes his car 25 miles per gallon. (Actually, the car will run directly on the grease itself, as long as it's sufficiently heated; in his car trunk are two fuel tanks, one for each of the fuel sources.) Swee has a store in Milwaukee, Future Green, specializing in organic clothing, fair trade housewares and other green goods.

1. Pride Goeth Before a Fall: Despite the windy day, I drove my Vespa motorscooter (60 miles per gallon!) to the Eco-Fair, and parked it next to dozens of SUVs in the parking lot, a warm Eco-Superior feeling washing over me. But then I saw Mark Hertzberg, the Journal Times' chief photographer, arriving on his bicycle...


  1. You missed me at the fair. I drove my Prius over there to check it out (seriously).

  2. Is anywhere safe from Uncorkt?

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