Fire and Ice

A few weeks ago, we traveled west of St. Louis to an interesting river town along the Missouri River.  In New Haven, it’s become an annual event to showcase activities that ‘rely on the Wonder and Strength of Fire.’  We thoroughly enjoyed the New Haven Fire Festival, particularly the glass blowing, wood carving, blacksmithing, flaming-pumpkin chunking (via trebuchet), and the House of Fire and Ice display.

For the fire and ice display, thick chunks of ice surrounded a bonfire.  As the bonfire roared, the icy fortress surrounding it slowly gave way.  All in all, a very interesting event.



We’ve Come So Far

I found myself at a fun concert Saturday evening with free music (Tickets to the Beatles).  The shindig included a car show.

I love old cars.  I know they get poor gas mileage compared to today’s fuel sippers, but you can’t deny the coolness of classic styling!

I’m not sure I can relate much to sustainability here…except that the concert made use of an otherwise underused parking lot.  A few parking spaces were blocked off for the concert, inflatable bounce house (for the kids), and car show, leaving the rest of the lot for guests.  With this sort of event setup,  in between songs, one could duck into the camera store, get a hair cut, grab some margaritas, or enjoy some frozen yogurt by simply walking along the strip mall.  I’ve always disliked retail strips and malls in general because of the lack of social interaction involved (you pretty much have to pay a cashier for conversation).  With regular events like this, it’d be nice to socialize with locals and maybe even get to know people.  Nice!

The Butterfly House

We visited The Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House in Chesterfield, Missouri today.  It was hot and humid outside…and hot and humid inside the Butterfly House.  But the butterflies seem to love their tropical paradise.  It’s difficult to chase butterflies around with a camera, so I ended up mainly capturing resting individuals.  This facility promotes environmental stewardship, educates adults and children, and inspires anyone willing to walk among thousands of fluttering Lepidopterans.

B-e-a-utiful!  This one is called The Clipper (Parthenos sylvia).

Based on their website, I could not accurately identify these two.

Not actually a tiger.

This is an Orange Barred Tiger (Drayadula phaetusa).  I was going to add a few awful bar/tiger jokes here, but I’ll spare you.

This ghostly one was actually my attempt at a motion shot.  The little bugger fluttered too much for a clear shot, but the effect turned out to my liking.  I also couldn’t identify these insects based on the website’s descriptions…

If you’re ever in the Saint Louis area, consider checking this place out.  It’s amazing!  You can also check out a smaller butterfly house at the St. Louis Zoo for free.

Getting ‘Sustainably’ Involved in Saint Louis

I like St. Louis, although it’s not my hometown.  I did not grow up here.  I can’t answer ‘the high school question‘ with a name St. Louis natives can readily recognize.  In the name of graduate school at SIUE (studying Environmental Sciences, living walls, green roofs, etc.),  I left my home in southwest Missouri and became a transplant.   Ever since I arrived to the region, I’ve been looking for stuff to do.  I’m not a typical bar fly or a sports nut or a shopping addict.  I prefer more intellectually engaging conversations about interesting topics, like sustainability, green building, environmental issues, ecology, green stuff, conservation, etc.  I also want to be active in some way to promote those ideals.

Cool and Touristy

Unfortunately, I found it extremely difficult to find out about green events, at first.  Google searches brought up events from months and years ago.   Eventually, though, I started to find groups with an internet presence, as well as online sources for all things green.  Now, it seems, I’m finally making it to events as they happen.  Hopefully I can get more involved with the planning and promoting of future events!

So, this is for anyone out there with an interest in green things around STL but clueless about where to begin.  The following is a (by no means complete) list of helpful websites.  Some websites are for organizations, and others mainly promote certain events.

One of the primary sources for all things green is St. Louis Green.  This site lists various sustainable businesses, events, job and career opportunities, educational institutions, recycling opportunities, and teaching tools for various grade levels.

Another excellent website represents the Eastern Missouri Group of the Sierra Club.  This is an active chapter with several educational events, nature outings, volunteer opportunities, and networking activities.  On the Illinois side of the river, the Piasa Palisades Group is also recommended.

OK, so when I said I wasn’t a bar fly, I didn’t mean that local brews were out of the question.  I discovered the St. Louis Chapter of an organization called Green Drinks.  This website is helpful in reminding you about their monthly gathering to learn something, network, make friends, and maybe have an adult beverage or two.

Are you looking to learn more about environmental damage and progress in Missouri?  Consider the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.  There is a lot of information on events, Missouri-related goingson, and political issues.

There is an excellent sustainability-minded group called the EarthWays Center, affiliated with the Missouri Botanical Garden.  Their website offers lots of educational tools and various information on events and other sustainability-centered organizations.  These folks host the annual Green Homes and Great Health Festival on the last Saturday in September.  The event features a Green Marketplace, various workshops, solar car races, electric vehicles on display, live music, and exhibitors from several groups and businesses.  I had the pleasure of volunteering with on of the recycling booths last year, helping folks sort recyclables.

Electric VehicleDid your ears perk up when I said electric vehicles?  If they did, check out the Gateway Electric Vehicle Club.  They showcase their projects, help one another, and educate others about the pros and cons of unconventional automobiles. (If you still prefer your internal combustion engine, you can learn about other things you can do to save on gas in an older post.)

Are you interested in sustainable building design and engineering or LEED certification and credentialing?  Consider checking out the USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter.  This is a very active chapter of the US Green Building Council.  They have regular events like the Lunch n LEED program.  Update 01/13:  I took an excellent exam prep course through this chapter.  I’m now a LEED Green Associate!

Are you interested in urban watershed conservation and restoration?  Consider checking out the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance.  Learn about stormwater issues and management, water quality concerns and solutions, rain gardens, RainScaping Rebates, and nature in the St. Louis area.

If you’re big into hiking, the Ozarks offers plenty of terrain for you.  Visit the Ozark Trail, learn about activities and events, and consider volunteering to maintain or build trails.  I know it’s a bit out of St. Louis proper, but volunteer groups from St. Louis (like the Sierra Club) regularly help out on these trails.

Do you want to learn about native landscaping, gardening, urban farming, etc.?  Check out the Sustainable Backyard Tour.  This is an annual event put on by residents who are happy to showcase their yards and to try to inspire us to rethink the standard, boring, American lawn.

One large example of native and natural landscaping lies just outside of St. Louis in Gray Summit.  Shaw Nature Reserve, encompassing over 2,400 acres,  has examples of home gardening, rain gardens, wetlands, prairies, and woodlands.  There are also miles of relaxing trail to hike.  Update:  I volunteer out here once a week, learning more about native plants and natural landscaping!!

Anywho, there is a lot more, but I’m out of steam for now.  Happy hunting!

Please comment if you are aware of other regional green things.