Pop Opera ECOLOGIC Competes for Funds in Pepsi Project

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When I was a kindergartner in an inner city neighborhood of the Chicago Public Schools, my class was bussed downtown to see Rapunzel at one of the grand old theatres. From my nearly front-row seat, the magic of the theatre left a lasting impression on this kid from an economically challenged family.

That kind of magical experience is one Jay Nagle and Dwayne Parks would like to give to thousands of other kids in the Chicago Public Schools. Their goal is to produce free performances of Ecologic, their original musical with an environmental message, in Chicago’s Millennium Park. But their vision needs funding.

Parks and Nagle have entered the Pepsi Refresh Project contest to compete for a grant that would bring their project to life. Jay Nagle is a playwright, dance teacher, and director. His partner, Dwayne Parks, is a musician and composer. Together, they own Totally New Theatre and TKATS — Talented Kids, Adults, and TeenS — a nonprofit theatre arts organization that produces original musical performances. Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) spoke with the team to find out more about their musical and why they think their project merits your votes in Pepsi’s Planet category this month….

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Green Campus Project Wants Your Vote

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Have you ever had a dream about a great project that would benefit humanity? Maybe it was little more than an idea. Or maybe you actually got to the stage where you had it all planned out and ready to go, but the funding just wasn’t there.

That’s where Marty Leenhouts finds himself today. He has an idea about a Green Campus Project that will benefit college and university students, reduce emissions and traffic congestion, and make the world a little greener. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the funds to make his vision a reality.

But PepsiCo does. And Pepsi has invited people with vision to submit their own project ideas to the Pepsi Refresh Project, to compete for some pretty hefty cash prizes each month. Here’s the story of one of those projects, in the Planet category. As visionary Marty Leenhouts says, “The fulfillment of the Green Campus project will only happen with the winning of the contest.”

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Leenhouts to tell us about his vision and what he hopes to accomplish with the Green Campus Project….

LEENHOUTS: I’m an educator by heart and by trade for many years, and so my interest has been with students for a long time. My involvement with electric transportation began with an interest in doing something good for the environment. I started it when gas was over $3 a gallon — about a year and a half ago.

People needed a different way to get around that was economical, clean, quiet, easy to ride. Nothing deluxe. Just to get from point A to point B. That got me involved in electric transportation….

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Sustainable Futures Repurposes Glass Bottles – and Human Lives

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“I was like one of those used wine bottles. I was used and discarded. I laid on the ground, my label faded and my contents dried. I forgot the good that was once inside, the joy and happiness I once knew. I hated what I was and what I had become. Life was dark, bad and not worth living. The prison took what little hope I had reinforcing what people and drugs had told me about myself my whole life. I came to the work center looking for work. I was told I had to have a job or I’d be sent back to the prison and someone else who was employable would take my place. Once again I was not worth keeping, I found a job here at Sustainable Futures and I was recycled. I was picked up, washed off a little and was cut off at the top, sanded down and polished. I’ve been given hope, worthiness and self love. Now I shine, not just on the outside but on the inside. I’m like the glasses we make. I have a new use.” — Lisa Childers, IDOC inmate

Sustainable Futures is a brand-new nonprofit that repurposes glass bottles — and gives new purpose to human lives. It’s a simple idea: Businesses donate used glass bottles to their Boise, Idaho-based center, and hard-to-place workers process the glass to produce new and improved glassware. The company then sells the repurposed glassware back to the businesses. “It’s a great product, and it’s the right thing to do,” says Carlyn Blake, executive director of Sustainable Futures….

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A Conversation with Larry Long, Lifelong Activist and Folksinger

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Smithsonian Folkways recording artist Larry Long has been an activist for decades. At various times he has used his musical talents to help organize citizens in protest and in celebration. Throughout his long career, he says he has, “employed art and oral history for the benefit of reconciliation and building community.”

Among Long’s many successful projects was the creation of the Mississippi River Revival. He is a longtime friend of famed folksinger Pete Seeger, whose acclaimed Great Hudson River Revival has been instrumental in cleaning up the Hudson River, and who has mentored Long over the years. Today, Larry Long serves as executive director for a nonprofit called Community Celebration of Place….

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Brownfield Remediation Provides Local Opportunity

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Late this past fall, Cindy Quast, an environmental engineer with Stanley Consultants’ Iowa City Office, invited Blue Planet Green Living to visit a brownfield site. Quast, a 20-year veteran of environmental consulting, has been cleaning up brownfields for more than 10 years. Joe Hennager and I joined Quast at the western edge of Davenport, Iowa, for a quick course in Brownfields 101.

A chill wind cuts through my coat, and I instantly regret having left my gloves in the car. On the far side of the highway where we have parked, wetlands serve as a buffer zone for the Mississippi River. Eagles nest in the trees high above, soaring over the water to catch their food. A few feet from the busy highway on the near side, environmental engineer Cindy Quast is talking with two men. They stand at the bottom of a small hill that borders a long, private driveway.

One of the men, Wyatt McCain, is taking soil samples from the base of the hill. The other man, Daniel Cook, wears the uniform of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). We walk together to the far end of the driveway, where McCain begins sampling again. Quast and Cook take turns patiently explaining to us the work being done on the site and why it’s important.

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GreenChoice Bank: Green Services You Can Bank On

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Going green as a business makes economic and environmental sense, even in tough economic times. It also provides opportunities to make a positive difference in a community. Like any business venture, a green business requires investment capital and banking services. GreenChoice Bank, led by co-founders, Steve Sherman and Jon Levey, is targeted specifically to address the unique financial needs of green businesses in the Chicago area.

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Seeking Sustainability in a Harsh and Beautiful Land

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Miriam Kashia, a Peace Corps volunteer who returned from Namibia one year ago, recently spoke with Blue Planet Green Living about her experience. What follows is Part 2 of a two-part interview.

BPGL: I’ve heard, over the years, about problems with poaching of African game. Is that an issue in Namibia?

KASHIA: In almost all African countries, there’s been a lot of poaching of wild animals. And most animals now only live in the game parks. There are very few left just roaming wild. There are still many varieties of antelope and, depending on where you are, a few others. But most of the more exotic animals now live in game parks or on game farms, actually. When I say farm, I’m talking about what we would call a ranch. Because it’s a desert, it takes thousands of hectares to support their livestock of goats, sheep, cattle, and wild animals.

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Tax Incentives Boost Green ROI

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Rob Rafson, P.E., is V.P. Engineering of Full Circle, a Chicago-based sustainability management solutions firm. He is also co-author, with Harold J. Rafson, of Brownfields: Redeveloping Environmentally Distressed Properties (1999). What follows is Part 2 of a four-part interview.

BPGL: You’re known in Chicago for the largest rooftop solar installation in the city, on top of a brownfield redevelopment project. But people say solar technology has a long payback. Is solar economically viable?

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