My Favorite Organic Things

My Favorite Organic Things


I’m just not a fan of pesticides.  Dating back to Rachel Carson’s warnings in Silent Spring, there’s no question that pesticides are harmful to people, pets, farmers and wildlife.  Sadly, pesticide use is commonplace and pervasive in our daily lives.  Residues lurk in our food, water and air… and insidiously collect in our bodies.  As a parent, I’m hoping to lighten my family’s chemical load (our kids are a bit young for the 5-day juice detox!).   So when it comes to what we eat and drink, put on our bodies, and are exposed to in our home and yard, I’m always on the look out for great products and services that won’t poison us or the planet. Inspired by Oprah’s Favorite Things list last December*, here’s my healthier, organic adaptation of 24 new favorites and trusted standbys (click on the green tab below to see a slideshow):


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*Oprah did highlight a few green gems in her 2012 list: the Jetson electric bike, Julep “four-free” nail polishes and Wakaya Perfection Organic Ginger


Learn more about pesticides from the Safer Pest Control Project and the EPA.


Hot Humor – Climate cartoon/video slideshow

Hot Humor – Climate cartoon/video slideshow

North Pole Comic


Of course global warming is gravely serious.  But for those alarmed by increasing climate chaos and endlessly FRUSTRATED with political paralysis… a clever cartoon or funny video can help lighten the mood.  Sit back and enjoy this slideshow spotlighting the folly of our ways…



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School Lunchrooms Trending Green

School Lunchrooms Trending Green

green food tray


A new sustainable menu


Lunchtime at Hubbard Woods Elementary used to be pretty old school.  Ten years ago when my oldest son started eating there, kids either went home for lunch or ate from brown bags on fold out tables in the auditorium.  Times have changed.  Now optional organic meals are catered in and a great deal of lunch waste can be recycled, reused or composted thanks to efforts by Environmental Committee Chair Liz Kunkle.  On average, school children generate 67 pounds of lunch waste per year, for a typical elementary schools this adds up to 18,760 pounds per year.  Why use educational dollars to build landfills?  And why not serve tasty, nutritious, eco-sourced food that supports kid’s health and learning?  Lunch may be the best time to weave in hand’s on lessons on waste reduction opportunities, nutritional eating choices and sustainably farmed food.  Thanks to some forward leadership, greener and healthier lunchrooms are emerging throughout North Shore schools. Principal David Rongey of Glencoe’s West Elementary School, (an all star of environmental stewardship!), sums up an important goal, “We are not looking for perfection from our 8 to 10 year olds, we just are trying to encourage and install life-long conservation values and skills.”  Since PTA/administration priorities vary and every lunchroom set up is different (from bring your own bags to catered food service to cafeteria meals cooked in-house), there’s a wide range of approaches.  Here’s a sampling of successful initiatives and local resources to green your school lunchroom.


Start or join the Green Team

Great green ideas need champions.  Fortunately, most local schools have built some form of a green team made up of  teachers, school and district administrators, parents and/or student clubs to promote sustainability.  Lunchroom/cafeteria staff, custodians and on-site garden/compost facilitators may also need to help integrate programs. The key to effective, lasting programs usually boils down to evaluating the costs/savings, working through the logistics, cultivating participation and securing commitment from school administrators, faculty

Mary Allen from SWANCC presents eco-programs for schools throughout the year. Photo from

and staff.  A great waste reduction resource for green teams is the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC). The agency provides lunchroom waste audit guidelines and waste free lunch tips, an E-List for Educators newsletter, and educator/green team/student presentations and workshops.  Also, last year Katie Nahrwold from Joseph Sears School in Kenilworth had the brilliant idea to organize occasional meet-ups with green team members from local schools.  Meetings, held at rotating schools, are a great way for school reps to share green ideas and resources.  The next (North Shore area) Environmental Awareness meeting is October 18.  Contact Katie Nahrwold,, if you are interested in joining.  Other green school information sources include SCARCE (in DuPage County), Center for Green SchoolsGo Green Initiative, and Green School Alliance.


Set up recycling/reuse collection

Typically recycling in the lunchroom includes aluminum cans and foil, plastic and glass bottles

and paper products.  Another emerging opportunity is school carton recycling.  Over 6.5 billion milk carton are used by k-12 students every year, so removing them from the wastestream can make a big difference.  Highland Park District 112, Wilmette District 39 and some Chicago public schools (often served by Veolia) are currently recycling milk cartons.  A pail or sink is needed to empty liquids before dumping cartons into the bin.  Terracycle brigades also allow for the collection of hard to recycle waste, such as drink pouches, dairy tubs and chip bags.  After signing up, items can be shipped free to Terracycle to be upcycled into new products.  Hubbard Woods currently collects Capri Sun juice pouches, and contributes them to West School creating greater efficiencies for both.  The lunchroom can also a great place to collect supplies for the art room or other projects.  Once while volunteering,

Find products made from repurposed lunch materials at

a teacher was collecting milk cartons for a candle making product.  In any case, a recycling needs to be convenient, with clearly marked containers set up next to the trash can.  Local K-12 schools can apply for a $200 grant from SWANCC to buy recycling containers.  Some sorting supervision may be needed to reinforce proper, consistent sorting.  At Hubbard Woods, the custodial staff and periodic parent volunteers help with monitoring.  West School has enlisted student Green Guides to help oversee the sorting stations.  In some schools, associates who assist with these efforts are compensated through stipends.  Behind the scenes, cafeteria kitchens can also recycle materials including cardboard packaging, steel cans and glass jars.


 Compost food waste

Since a large portion of lunchroon waste is leftover or uneaten food, more and more schools are turning to composting.  The specific materials collected vary depending on the composting

A student at Highcrest Middle School in Wilmette dumps food waste from the cafeteria into the on-site compost station.  Thanks to eager student turning and watering, finished compost can be added to gardens within months.  Photo courtesy of Beth Drucker and Sarina McBride.

system.  West School has five Solar Cone containers that are assigned to each day of the week so the capacity isn’t overloaded. The Johanna model they use is rodent-proof and can accept bones, fish and meat and can be used in freezing weather with the addition of  special “winter jacket”.  They also mix in leaves, straw and lime to help process the food waste.  Several schools have paired their on-site garden/outdoor classrooms with compost piles.  Often these garden heaps recycle vegetable, fruits, and grains (avoiding meat and dairy to deter rodents and odors). SWANCC grant funding can be used toward compost bins, which helped Nichols Middle School (Evanston) purchase theirs.  Another composting option schools are turning to is food scrap pick up.  Mary Beth Shay from Collective Resource explained they can accept produce peels, lunch meat, dairy products and even uncoated paper products, chopsticks and compostable bio-containers, since collected lunch waste heads to a commercial compost facility.  The level of food waste pick-up services depends on the school’s disposal budget.  Liz Kunkle helped arrange weekly Collective Resource pickups

My daughter dropping her lunchwaste into the compost pail in the Hubbard Woods lunchroom.  Collective Resource picks up the leftover fruits, veggies, buns, meat, dairy and soiled napkins in their weekly pick ups. 

for Hubbard Wood’s (Winnetka) lunch waste.  Dewey Elementary (Evanston) collects a bucket per week from their Books and Breakfast program.  Other schools have set up special one-time collections for specific events, such as Earth Day, Math or Science Nights or other PTA/PTO fundraisers.  After a successful composting pilot project least year at Braeside School (Highland Park), District #112  is working with Organics on the Move to pick up food waste from all twelve of its schools.  Some North Shore schools are also diverting some food waste through vermicomposting or worm farms, a popular addition to science classrooms.  As with recycling, clearly labeled compost pails need to be conveniently located near trash cans and recycling containers.  Food waste needs to be transferred from pails to outdoor compost bins or bagged containers after lunch periods.  At West School (Glencoe), student Green Guides also help with this chore.  Composting can take a huge dent out of garbage disposal, especially if food scraps and compostable servingware from on-site cafeteria kitchens are also diverted.


Walking into New Trier East for a parent meeting, I was welcomed by a compost sign blanketing the the front desk. Spearheaded by student Andrew Katcha, Environmental Club members and physical plant staff are now overseeing composting of veggie and fruit waste in the big cafeteria.  Sawdust from shop, newspapers from the school newspaper office, and leaves for composting are also into the on-site bin.


Promote zero waste lunches

A sampling of lunch gear my kids like to use, all found at

Encourage parents and students to bypass throwaways by investing in durable,washable lunch gear.  Plenty of options have become available, including lunch totes, glass containers and stainless bento boxes, sandwich “sleeves”, utensils, thermoses, water bottles, cloth napkins, etc.  See Mighty Nest’s Essential Gear for a Healthy Waste Free Lunch.  A popular school lunchroom promotion is Waste Free Wednesdays, when posters, newsletter tips and calendar reminders encourage students to drop disposables.  At Romona Elementary in Wilmette, Jodi Ryan and Susan Pekar started a waste free lunchtime raffle.  On the first Wednesday of every month, kids who bring their own lunches in reusable containers or who are properly recycling their school lunch are entered into the raffle.  Winners are picked from each grade and prizes include a variety of reusable containers from Might Nest (purchased with SWANCC grant funding).  As a fundraising opportunity, Romona and several other schools in Evanston, Kenilworth and Wilmette have partnered with Mighty Nest.  Families that purchase eco-friendly products from the Evanston-based company earn back 15% of sales for their school.  Some schools also include reusable lunchware in their wearables sales, such as canvas bags or themoses stamped with the school’s label.  For more green product ideas, check out Green My Lunchbox or wren’s Earthwise School Supplies.

This lunchroom poster is available at


Avoid disposables in food service

Organic Life totes in reusables for catered lunch service.  Imagine the garbage nightmare (waste & cost) if catered lunch service was geared around disposables.

Lisa Winter, the Food Service Coordinator for Wilmette School District #39, shared with me some ways they are reducing waste in their six school lunchrooms, all having in-house cafeteria kitchens.  Depending on the school, students eat off of washable plates or compartment trays, compostable plates or paper boats and are supplied with washable metal utensils.  Polystyrene trays or plastic utensils are not used.  Recently, the Wilmette Junior High removed disposable water bottles, and now student helpers pre-pour water in reusable cups from pitchers.  Last year, Loyola University banned the sale of plastic water bottles as well.   The biggest hurdle for incorporating reusables in food service is having the capability to wash them.  Lunchrooms need space, funding and staffing for dishwashers.  At Baker Demonstration School in Wilmette, students can fill their own reusable water bottles with reverse-osmosis filtered water from their Coolersmart bottleless water cooler.  This system not only reduces the use of disposable water bottles, it also eliminates the cost and energy used to transport, store and dispose of hefty water jugs.  An interesting effort to remove styrofoam from schools is New York public school’s Trayless Tuesdays. On these days, food is served on compostable paper boats (with adjusted menus, such as sandwiches, to avoid leaky meals) instead of the disposable tray.  This cost neutral solution reduces tray use by 20% and diverts 2.4 million Styrofoam trays per month from landfills.  Schools can also reduce trash bulk and expense by “flipping, tapping & stacking” disposable trays.  For lunchrooms that don’t have an on-site kitchen and cater in food for students, it’s important to encourage food vendors to use reusable serving and tableware instead of disposables.  At Hubbard Woods (Winnetka), Organic Life delivers meals in stainless steel buffet pans. They also supply tubs of reusable plates and utensils, which they bring back and wash.

Lunchrooms aren’t the only place with food waste.  Consider all the throwaway stuff used for frequent class parties and special events. Peggy Salamon came up with an innovative solution for Central School (Wilmette) to cut down on trash and save money.  She assembled reusable “party packs” for every classroom in the school to replace disposables.  Each tote includes 30 sets of recycled, recyclable, BPA-free Preserve plates, cups and utensils that can be used hundreds of times. With wholesale pricing and a school discount, each pack came to $70, which was financed by parents, PTA and Environmental committee.  After two parties, the packs break even with the cost of disposables.  One mom per room commits to wash and store the pack.  As a modified version, Hubbard Woods has three party packs available on a first come first serve basis.



Reduce food waste

When it comes to home-packed lunches, most parents probably have no idea the food they lovingly pack may be trash bound.  From volunteering in the lunchroom, I’ve seen firsthand mounds of uneaten food pitched straight into the garbage.  Either kids are pressed for time,

Is sending a half sandwich more realistic in your kid's lunch bag?  

too busy socailizing or rushing to get to recess.  Or maybe they’d rather not dine on what they’ve been served.  Parents might want to look into how much their kids actually eat vs. throw away.  Bringing home leftover food or adjusting portion sizes can help.  Cafeteria-style food also creates a great deal of waste.  A 2002 USDA school cafeteria study, the value of wasted food is probably around $1 billion annually.  The cafeteria line and catered food service can cut back on waste by offering kids choices instead of doling out pre-fixed components.  By engaging parents and students with menu planning and taste testing, schools can improve the appeal and success of offerings.  Lunch servers have also found that appetizing food presentation matters.  Cutting fruit, instead of keeping it whole, or placing fruit in colorful bowls, increases the likelihood that kids will actually eat it.  Beyond cutting back on waste and saving money, consider that if we trashed just 5 percent less food,it would be enough to feed 4 million Americans.



Offer healthy, local, sustainable food

Imagine if school kids were served tasty lunch that was good for them and the environment.  By transitioning to a sustainable food system, schools can save money, offer students healthier food and reduce their ecological footprint.  So says Beyond Green Partners,

Jamie Oliver would be proud! Julian Arsen serves Niles North High School students fresh, organic food during their lunch period. Photo from Curtis Lehmkuhl, Sun Times Media.

the food-service consultants who just helped Niles Township District #219 high schools set up a new organic, sustainable lunch program.  Seeking more nutritious food, cheaper costs and eco-friendly practices, last year Niles North and Niles West left the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and contracted with OrganicLife.  Now food is mostly cooked from scratch with fresh, local/seasonal, organic, hormone/antibiotic free, free range poultry and grass-fed beef products.   Cafeteria food buyers are also connecting with local farms and farmers markets during the growing season for fresh healthy ingredients, found through Illinois Farm to SchoolFamilyFarmedIllinois MarketMaker and The Local Beet/Chicago.  Purchasing locally produced food can help save money and reduce pollution from transporting food long distances.  For schools that bring

Fast food is no longer the only food service option, with companies like OrganicLife, Gorilla Gourmet and Stash's offering healthy homemade organic meals to students. Photo from 

catered meals into their lunchrooms, several companies offer food made from fresh, local/seasonal, organic, hormone/antibiotic free, free range poultry and grass-fed beef products as well.  As a few examples, Hubbard Woods (Winnetka) and West School (Glencoe) use Organic Life, Baker Demonstration (Wilmette) and Crow Island (Winnetka) use Gorilla Gourmet and Braeside School (Highland Park) and Crow Island (Winnetka) use Stash’s.  For more on information about bringing sustainable food into school lunchrooms, see this Sustainable Table listing and Chicago-based blog Fed Up with Lunch.



Make connections to on-site gardens

Yum, fresh handpicked tomatoes from the school garden.  Photo courtesy of Academy for Global Citizenship website. 

Edible gardens are sprouting up in schoolyards throughout the North Shore.  Not only can outdoor classrooms offer engaging ways to teach kids a variety of subjects, ideally garden lessons reinforce the value of growing and eating local, fresh, healthy, organic food.  In 2004, the Dawes School Edible Garden Project was launched with the construction of six raised beds for an organic edible garden.  Students are involved in all aspects of farming the garden, including planting, watering, harvesting, cleaning, preparing, tasting, and donating/selling the food. Dawes was such a great model of an environmentally based experiential learning program, the SAGE  (Schools are Gardening in Evanston) initiative helped expand gardens to most of Evanston District 65 schools, from edible earth boxes to raised beds.  Many other hands-on, edible school gardens can be found in Glencoe, Glenview, Kenilworth (installation coming this October), Wilmette and Winnekta.  School gardens accompanied by compost piles serve as the perfect destination for lunchroom food waste.  What better way to teach kids about natural cycles than recycling food and yard

ETHS students tend to the Edible Acre that contains 24 garden plots. Photo from ETHS website.

waste into fertilizer for plants.  School gardens can also supply fresh produce for cafeteria meals, although this may depend upon the growing season, sanitation/certified food supplier requirements and the scale of production.  The Edible Acre project is a partnership with between Talking Farm coordinators, Evanston Township High School staff and hired ETHS students dedicated to educating the community about the importance of locally grown food.  Green team students help weed, water and harvest the raised beds plots.  The resulting beets, salad greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, yellow crook neck squash, parsley, basil have been used in cafeteria lunches.  Some produce is also sold at the farmers market or donated to local food pantries.  The green charter school in Chicago, Academy for Global Citizenship also grows food for their lunchroom. The school’s proposed new “living building” will incorporate a minimum of three acres of urban agriculture, including vegetable gardens, orchards and greenhouses.  Also, the University of Illinois Dining Services receives a supply of produce from their Sustainable Student Farm, which is a registered CSA.  For more information, check out the Edible Schoolyard Project and this listing of resources.


. . .


Written by Amanda Hanley.  A huge thanks to everyone that provided such great examples and insights!

Earthwise School Supplies

Earthwise School Supplies



Greener back to school shopping


As summer begins to fade, time to gear up for school.  Why not take this opportunity to choose greener and safer products for your kids?  Conventional school supplies are commonly laced with chemicals, such as vinyl/PVC plastic, lead, BPA, and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), that can threaten kids health and academic performance.  Other classroom staples are contrary to the Three R’s of the environment – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – taught at school.  The good news is that it’s easier to find more eco-friendly choices to satisfy your kids’ school supply lists.  Many less toxic, recycled or reclaimed, energy saving and waste free products are available locally and on-line.  You might also be surprised how kid-pleasing and competitively priced these products can be.

See wren’s companion Pinterest Board “Earthwise School Supplies

to better equip your kids to have a healthy, eco-smart

school year here



earthwise school supplies



For more information, also see:

Good, Green Eats

Good, Green Eats



Mmmm…fresh, earthwise & tasty


A few years ago I landed in jail.  Actually it was the Cook County Boot Camp.  I was taking part of the Windy City Harvest urban farm tour.  The visionary warden and partner Chicago Botanic Garden staff walked us through rows of raised garden beds as inmates tended to vegetables.  Not only is the organic produce used in the mess hall and donated to local food pantries, inmates learn valuable jobs skills to turn their lives around.  Throughout Chicagoland, a web of non-profit urban agriculture sites, including the Resource Center’s City Farms, Growing Power, Growing Home, and New Leaf Urban Garden (closer by in Evanston) have been sprouting up.  These sites are meeting farm-to-table demand by customers and restaurants seeking fresh ingredients, supplying healthy produce in neighborhoods considered food deserts and providing green jobs.  Why buy tomatoes shipped in from Mexico when you can grow them right here?  The locavore movement happens to coincide with rising interest in organically grown and more sustainably farmed foods.  From Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet to Michael Pollan’s The Ominovore’s Dilemna, the implications of our food choices have become more evident.  Our conventional, unsustainable way of growing and eating food is undermining our health, the environment, social justice and overall economics.  In The Pleasure of Eating, Wendell Berry encourages us to better understand where and how our food is produced.  There’s no better way to find out than growing some of your own vegetables and fruits, as highlighted in wren’s May post Grow Edibles in Your Yard.  And fortunately, the North Shore has more and more local, healthful, delicious food choices available.  It’s becoming easier to seek out organic and local products in the aisles of the Grand, Dominicks, Whole Foods, Traders Joes, etc.  If you prefer to more directly deal with local producers of sustainably farmed vegetables, fruit, eggs, grass fed meat, etc. you can

evanston farmers market henry's

I recently picked up some amazing strawberries and snow peas at Henry’s “all organic… all the time” Farmstand at the Evanston Farmer’s Market. Henry was there in person…it’s nice to actually chat with your food grower.

visit local farmers markets or sign up for a crop share.  The Local Beet is a great resource for 2012 CSA farmslocal farmer’s market info and local food sources.  Another fun way to eat greener, in North Shore fashion, is to dine out… more selectively.  So which places around here support local farms, feature organic ingredients and/or follow sustainable practices?  Although I would have loved to personally experience all the best sustainable restaurants myself, I turned to local foodies, health conscious eaters and eco minded folks for their tried and true favorites.  The resulting wonderful diverse list, which surely just skims the surface, is definitely something to chew on. (note some places are more earth friendly than others!)  THANKS everyone for your great suggestions!


Favorite sustainable eateries around town:

(***updated green eats listings available on Pinterest for North Shore here and Chicago here.  Also find green coffee shop listings for Chicago here and North Shore here.)





We LOVE Abigail’s American Bistro in Ravinia, esp. love the Barramundi w/ roasted brussel sprouts and fingerling potatoes. Tomato basil soup also phenom.  The menu reflects the seasons and features local sources.  Service is consistently exceptional … Kati Hansell, Winnetka


Bistro Bordeaux

Bistro Bordeaux lists all of their local purveyors on their website. Photo courtesy of

Bistro Bordeaux in Evanston is a classic French bistro.  Featuring a menu with a host of traditional French specialities the restaurant has received rave reviews from Chicago Magazine, Time Out Chicago, and its customers.  Our family appreciates the Bistros’s ever changing array of specials which reflect locally available produce.  The restaurant has made a strong commitment to local farmers and strives to apprise its customers of what is available in local markets … Georgie Geraghty, Winnetka


**Blind Faith Cafe is a certified green restaurant that has been in the Evanston/Chicago area for more than 30 years.  It’s the original vegetarian cafe with amazing options from across the globe:  their Black Bean Ginger Tofu, Enchiladas Verdes and Mongolian Seitan Stir Fry are classics with a wonderful aroma.   Owner David Lipschutz is inspiring and works constantly to offer new entrees and an array of tempting bakery selections and fresh juices … Darrel Brayboy, Glencoe


Campagnola in Evanston is one that emphasizes local and sustainable ... Jack Darin, Sierra Club, Evanston


Combine the best of both worlds – gardens and dining – by reserving a seat at the Chicago Botanic Garden Farm Dinners on Wednesdays July 18, August 15, and September 5.




I’ve enjoyed Fuel in Wilmette many times.  Owner Tim Lenon really does the local, organic thing and is very committed to it … Beth Drucker, Go Green Wilmette


Hummingbird Kitchen

Good eating on the fly at HummingBird.  Photo from




HummingBird Kitchen, a mobile food truck, is bringing sustainable food to Evanston streets (and private catered events). Follow them on twitter to find out where they will land next @hummingbirdtogo.




Inovasi in Lake Bluff has a great menu featuring food from many local farms. They also use herbs and greens grown on their rooftop … George Covington, Lake Forest  


I ate at Michael in Winnetka for the first time recently.  There is a Groupon now that is great.  The food was terrific and they seem very conscious of where the food comes from … Nels Leutwiler, Lake Bluff


Ravinia features local food too! Photo from





Next time you’re enjoying a show at Ravinia, stop by the Farm to Fork table at Mirabelle for a fresh bite to eat.







My local favorite is Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook that sources food from the Green City market.  Chef Sarah Stegner if very involved with the school gardening movement….kids favorite dish chicken cutlet…adult favorite dish anything made with Tallgrass Beef  (wonderful grass fed locally raised beef) … Jeannie Nolan, Glencoe, The Organic Gardener


A few faster options include **Roti in Northbrook and Chipolte…both offer sustainable, locally grown food.


Glenview HouseSweet Dreams Organic Bakery in Glenview is really special in its gloriously beautiful baked goods, warmand friendly atmosphere, great cappuccino and satisfying entrees. The grilled tofu salad makes my mouth water just to think about.  But I am not sure that here in Glenview we are ready to share this gem so don’t tell too many people about it.   Also the recently reopened Glenview House offers fresh, locally sourced, organic food.  You would not expect to find that at a bar but they get CSA food and are vocal about it.  Kind of like an Old Town Social but up here in the burbs … Henrietta Saunders, Glenview


The American bistro Terraone of the newest restaurants in Evanston, has a diverse and eclectic menu of fine locally fresh ingredients. Many of the items offered are Farm to Table according to the waiter.  The food was great, the ambiance was family friendly elegant and the staff was very friendly. I am excited to return, as the menu offers such a great variety that I couldn’t handle eating it all at once. … Keith Glantz, Glantz Design, Evanston



So the first time I set foot in Union Pizzeria in Evanston it was to attend a benefit for the Safer Pest Control Project at SPACE, a performance venue nestled inside of Union. That told me that Union’s owners were interested in keeping toxic pesticides out of our schools, parks, and water — so far, so good. The second time, it was for dinner. That told me their food was terrific as well — even better!  Next, it so happens that I just participated in a ribbon cutting of Peeled in Evanston, a new green “artisan juice bar” which offers local, organic, conventional and hydrophonic products  … Rep. Daniel Biss, Evanston


**Update – newer spots

Evanston: Found Kitchen & Socail House, offers an eclectic American menu, featuring locally found decor to local food finds.  Company, features a rotation of upscale pop-up chefs known for farm-to-table, such as Winnetkan Erwin Dreschler, an early pioneer of the local food scene.  Also, Farmhouse, in Evanston, focuses on locally sourced tavern food and craft beers


Wilmette:  Nick’s Bar & Grill a gastropub has the theme “fresh, local & delicious”  


Glencoe:  Guildhall is committed to working with local and artisanal purveyors


Highland Park:  Benjamin Tapas sources from local farms


Deerfield:  Bobby’s Deerfield is farm-to-table


O'Hare urban gardening

At O’Hare, 26 vertical aeroponic towers grow produce in Terminals 1 and 2.  Photo by Future Growing from



Now you can even eat greener at the airport.  Herbs, greens and tomatoes grown inside O’Hare are used by Wolfgang Puck Airport Cafes (located in Terminal I and Terminal 3) and Rick Bayless’s Tortas Frontera at Terminal 1.












**  Avec and **Publican are reliably outstanding and a popular recommendation for clients or family visiting Chicago. It may sound strange to say but the food tastes good at Kahan’s restaurants, as opposed to some noted establishments where the food seems to compete for attention with everything else going on. And yet, both restaurants have a vibe – Avec and its cozy room has more of an edge, while at Publican you are among friends even in a crowd of strangers … Jennifer & Dave Stricklin, Winnetka


Elizabeth'sElizabeth’s mission is to highlight nose-to-tail, root-to-branch, and farm-to-table Midwestern bounty, featuring local farms including Nichols and Hazzard Free.  Vegetarian adaptations of tasting menu available!


Farmhouse in River North is a fun new (farm-to-) tavern that specializes in local, made from scratch food and Midwestern craft beers … De Gray, Chicago



Floriole, which began as a pastry stand at the Green City Market, remains committed to high quality, organic, regionally sourced and sustainably farmed ingredients. Photo from


My favorite place for lunch is Floriole Cafe & Bakery in Lincoln Park.  Fresh, local, suatainable…they shop the Green City market twice a week. I always get the Tartine of the Day…topped with whatever is fresh from the farmer’s market.  They also have the best baguettes and croissants I’ve ever had outside of France!  For dinner, I love The Bristol in Bucktown …  Gina Rasmussen Mathews, Winnetka




Not only is the food delicious at award winning **Frontera Grill and the new quick serve (& LEED certified) **XOCO , but Rick Bayless has helped bring into fashion organic and locally sourced cuisine.  It’s also great that the Frontera Farmer Foundation provides grants to small local farms that follow organic practices … Debbie Ross, Winnetka


I go to **Hannah’s Bretzel at least twice a week for lunch. They have the best and freshest organic ingredients.  Their vegetarian sandwiches, weekly salad specials and soups are delicious.  They have a very unique design where there is a long counter with multiple “über” sandwich makers creating different parts of your sandwich. Also the company has made a very clear choice in promoting sustainability and green choices where possible. I respect their dedication and I am willing to pay a premium to support their restaurant … Mike Sekulic, Chicago


Karyn's on Green.

“Making vegan sexy” at Karyn’s on Green.


Inspired by the China Study, a book that cites studies of the connection between certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and nutrition, and recipes from Forks Over Knives and Green Smoothie Girl, I’d like to pass along good reviews for Karyn’s on Green in Chicago which serves vegan food. Let’s rein in our damaging behaviors … Merilee Redmond, Winnetka



Monday Night Farm Dinners at Lula Café in Logan Square stir up wonderful, unexpected combinations of farmer’s market ingredients that make delicious, memorable meals … Sally Kenyon, Chicago, Uptown Brownie, Chicago



Mana Food Bar in Wicker Park is a vegetarian restaurant that takes it up a notch. Mana means “the life force in nature” or “the things magic is made of. Who wouldn’t want to taste that?! … Pam Gross, Glencoe,


Native Foods, so far with three Chicago locations, has become a hotspot for healthy, organic, vegan food available in 6-9 minutes that tastes homemade … Richard Bograd, Chicago


North Pond Restaurant sits within the gorgeous grounds of Lincoln Park in Chicago. Photo by



We love North Pond Restaurant in the city…the best…Chef Bruce Sherman recently won a James Beard award. They source as much food as possible via local sustainable farmers through Green City Market … Jeannie Nolan, Glencoe, The Organic Gardener






Pelago is an upscale, elegant, organic place for wonderful celebrations. It’s also farm to table. Butcher and the Burger on Armitage is a healthy, delicious, organic place.  You make your own burger… pick the meat (including grass fed beef & bison, naturally raised turkey, locally farmed pork, sustainably farmed salmon, etc.), toppings, cheese, bun, and more … Anne Wedner, Winnetka


**Province is my favorite place for both business and casual lunches. The menu has choices to suit everyone’s tastes, the food is fresh and delicious, and the service is impeccable. The colorful, sustainably outfitted space is located near the Metra station in the west loop. You can’t go wrong with a three-star rated green restaurant in a Gold Level LEED building … Nancy Watson, Natural Resources Defense Council, Chicago


**Trattoria No. 10, to put it simply, earns its reputation as a great source for local, sustainable food right in the heart of the Loop. The menu features homemade, classic Italian fare and seasonal specialties make it one of my favorite places for working lunches or quiet dinner parties. Servers are attentive, yet respectful, and, as one of Chicago’s first restaurants to be certified “green,” it’s a great option for diners looking to support businesses that make a real effort to conserve water and energy and reduce waste and pollution.  Also next store and elsewhere, **Sopraffina offers a wide variety of environmentally friendly “fast food” options and follows a similar earth-friendly ethic. I’m a big fan of their catering menu for our office functions … Sherri Racine, Sierra Club, Chicago


Uncommon Ground's Sidewalk garden.

Uncommon Ground’s edible sidewalk garden.

Two places come to mind… **Uncommon Ground which I believe is North side Chicago and has a roof top farm on top that is cool.  Green Zebra is best vegetarian in Chicago and has local food … Nate Laurell, Chicago


  • see the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition for a listing of **guaranteed green restaurants. These certified eateries must achieve significant standards in the areas of sustainable food purchasing, cleaning products, disposables, and furnishings, as well as in their management of energy, water, and waste
  • check out listings in the the great blog Chicago Farm and Table
  • refine searches in website/aps such as Urbanspoon with “organic” or localeats with “farm to table”


Why not ask your favorite restaurant how they are approaching sustainable food service support them in taking further green steps…

Also for good, green coffee in the North Shore and Chicago, check out Green to the Last Drop.

Butterflies Welcome

Butterflies Welcome


Attract winged wonders into your yard


Butterflies hold special meaning to me.  A few years back my family gathered together as my 100-year-old beloved grandfather peacefully passed away in his home. Shortly afterward, my grandmother and sister went to collect some clothes for his burial.  As Gram slid open his closet door, most surprisingly, a beautiful butterfly fluttered out.  The improbability, timing and symbolism was not lost on us.  This incredible sight lifted our spirits and has become our family’s emblem of hope.  We cherish butterflies that explore our gardens and linger for a while.  How can anyone resist the delight of a colorful butterfly weaving around a patch of flowers?  Plus these lovely cross pollinators help your garden grow.  If you’re looking to invite more butterflies into your North Shore yard, here are some tips adapted from the Morton Arboretum and Forest Preserve District of Cook County:



Butterfly Garden Basics:

Red spotted purple

Red Spotted Purples prefer nectar from white blossom shrubs including Spirea and Viburnum, and lay their eggs on Birch, Linden, Oak and Serviceberry trees.  Photo by Bob Moul from

Around 100 species of butterflies can be found in Cook County. You can design a gorgeous garden that also meets the habitat needs of local butterflies throughout their entire lifecycle.   Their lifecycle includes an egg, larvae (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and adult stage.  Ideally a butterfly garden offers both nectar plants to feed adult butterflies and host plants to provide a place for them to lay their eggs and to supply food for caterpillars.  Since needs vary from species to species, the more diverse your landscape is of beneficial annuals, herbs, perennials, shrubs and trees, the more butterflies you will attract.  Here are a few garden basics to attract winged wonders:


  •  Select appropriate host plantings native to the Midwest.  Butterflies will only lay their eggs on specific plant species, as their caterpillars depend solely on certain foliage for food.  The relationship between native plants and local butterflies has co-evolved over many years, and they depend on each other for reproduction and survival.  While North Shore landscapes tend to feature plantings introduced from Asia and Europe, many lovely native Midwestern flowers, shrubs and trees have been gaining popularity over the past few years.  And don’t worry, leaf damage from hungry caterpillars is usually short-lived and non-threatening to the plant.  See listing of host plants below.
  • Include a variety of nectar sources, plants are often labeled “butterfly friendly”.  Adult butterflies need fuel for their high-energy activities of mating, reproducing, and seeking out food and shelter.  While nectar plants can be native and introduced to our region, only natives can serve as both host and nectar sources. See listing of nectar source plants below.
  • Situate your garden in the sun to support both plants and butterflies.  At least six hours of direct sunlight per day is ideal.  Butterflies are cold-blooded insects that often start their day by warming their wings for flight.  A large rock in a sunny spot may be an inviting perch.

    Mourning cloak

    Mourning Cloaks actually prefer to eat sap and decaying fruit over nectar and live up to nine months, similar to the Monarch’s life span.  Photo from

  • Grow plants in masses by color, which are easier to find than single plants. Adult butterflies are attracted to bright, fragrant drifts of colorful blooms.
  • Sequence a range of plantings for continuous bloom.  Active butterflies need nectar from April to October.
  • Provide shelter.  Trees and shrubs can provide protection from wind, rain and predators. Shaded areas also provide a place for butterflies to roost at night and cool-down in hot weather.
  • Offer shallow watering areas.  Butterflies drink from moist soil, wet sand or puddles, and like to flock in puddle groups.
  • Avoid herbicides and pesticides.  These products can kill fragile butterflies, caterpillars and other beneficial insects. Try nontoxic pest control methods, such as companion planting, pest eating insects, garlic oil and organic horticultural sprays (for more on this, also see Grow Edibles in Your Yard and Nurturing Our Land).
  • Be sure to plan a cozy spot for your family to observe and enjoy your fly by visitors, such as a well placed garden bench or window view.


kitchen window

Right past our kitchen window, we strategically planted Aruncus, Purple Dome Aster, Baptisia, Bee Balm, Black-eyed Susan, Butterfly Bush, Coreopsis, Daisies, Liatris, Milkweed, Phlox, Purple Coneflower and Turtlehead.  Inside and out we can see butterflies from spring to fall!




Plantings recommended in our neighborhood:


Nectar Sources (*native species):


Tiger Swallowtail on blazing star (Liatris aspera)

The giant Tiger Swallowtail, shown here feeding on Liatris, is an amazing sight. They seem to like the Bottlebrush Buckeye shrubs in my backyard. Photo courtesy of the Morton Arboretum,

Annuals & Herbs:  Alyssum, Basil, Cosmos, Garlic Chives, Lantana, Marigold, Nicotiana, Oregano, Petunia, Queen Anne’s Lace, Sage, Salvia, Sunflower, Verbena, Zinnia


Perennials: Alium, *Aster, *Baptisia, *Bee Balm/Bergamot, *Black-eyed Susan, *Boneset, *Butterfly Weed/Milkweed, Catmint, *Clover, *Coreopsis, Daisy/Chryanthemum, *Goldenrod, *Goatsbeard/Aruncus, *Joe-Pye Weed, Lavendar, *Liatris, Lily, Mint, *Phlox, *Purple Coneflower, *Scabiosa, Sedum, *Turtlehead, Veronica, Yarrow


Shrubs:  Azaela, Blackberry, Butterfly Bush, *Clethra, *Dogwood, Hydrangea, Lilac, Raspberry, *Serviceberry, *Viburnum



Baltimore checkerspot.

Black-eyed Susans are both a host plant to the Baltimore Checkerspot and a nectar plant visited by a host of local butterflies. Photo courtesy of




Host Plants (*native species):


Spicebush swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtails lay their eggs on native Spicebushes. Photo courtesy of

Annuals & Herbs: Carrots, Cleome, Dill, Dogwood, Hollyhock, Nasturtiums, Parsley, Snapdragons, Sunflower


Perrenials: *Aster, *Baptisia, *Black-eyed Susan,  *Butterfly Weed, *Columbine, *Coreopsis, *Goldenrod,  *Purple Coneflower, *Thistles, *Violet


Shrubs & Trees: Apple, Ash, *Birch, *Black Chokeberry, Cherry, *Cottonwood, *Dogwood, Elm, *Hackberry, *Hawthorn, *Hornbeam, *Linden, *Locust, *Oak, *Quaking Aspen, Plum, Poplar, *Redbud, *Serviceberry, *Spicebush, Tulip, *Viburnum, *Willow, *Witch Hazel




monarch caterpillar

The Illinois State Insect is the Monarch Butterfly.  The sole host plant for it’s caterpillars is Asclepias or Milkweed, without it the Monarchs could not survive.  Orange flowered Butterfly Milkweed, or pink flowered Swamp Milkweed is a must for Illinois butterfly gardens! Photo by Andrew Williams from



If you’re lucky, maybe you will spot a tiny ruby throated hummingbird quickly hovering around red flowers in your yard. Photo courtesy of Dr. Joe Turner from




Another fun pollinator to watch is the hummingbird. Similar to the butterfly, it enjoys the nectar from many native plants including *Bee Balm/Bergamot, *Butterfly Weed, *Cardinal Flower (Lobelia), *Liatris, *Phlox, *Orange Jewelweed, *Red Columbine, *Trumpet Creeper Vine, *Trumpet Honeysuckle, *Turtlehead and *Turks Cap Lily. Native plantings also support a variety of songbirds, bees beneficial insects and wildlife.



To learn more about local butterflies and native gardens…

Nectar seeking butterfly

Recently, my daughters loved seeing zillions of butterflies up close at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Butterfly and Blooms exhibit (right next to the new Children’s Learning Center) .



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Written by Amanda Hanley in June 2012 and revised in May 2013.  Dedicated to William Ruddy, the ultimate grandfather, 1907-2007.