The Earth Ministry Committee shares environmental stewardship practices for Earth Month and every month.

Did you know?

Healthy ecosystems help a community become resilient in the face of climate change. Here on the North Shore, we can support a healthy ecosystem by replanting the plants that evolved in this area, and planting them everywhere we can think of. Native plants (true natives and not ones that have been bred for different colors or other traits) provide an anchor for the rest of the life in an ecosystem, from invisible soil dwellers such as microbes and fungi to pollinating insects and migrating birds. An ecosystem with all its parts in place can withstand changes in temperature, seasons and weather better than one that only has a few of those parts left.

If you have a yard, consider reducing the size of your lawn and replacing it with a native plant garden. You can leave the leaves in your plant bed in the fall, which will provide a home for overwintering insects, many of which are food for birds the next spring. You can embrace a little messiness in the bed in the spring as well, leaving dead plant stalks and leaves in place at least until June, when insects have safely emerged.

Several North Shore communities have started native plant sales, providing nearby spots to get true, healthy natives. Go Green Wilmette’s plant sale will be held on May 7 from 9 am until 11.

You can contribute by signing up for work days in parks and forest preserves. The forest preserves of Cook County have many work days. In Evanston, work days are scheduled in the Clark Street Beach Bird Sanctuary beside Lake Michigan and at the Canal Shores Golf Course (click on “Ecology”). Part of the work in these habitats involves removing invasive plants, such as buckthorn, which degrade local ecosystems and do not support local wildlife in the way that native plants do.

Learn more about how to support healthy local ecosystems. Many environmental organizations locally offer educational opportunities. Citizens Greener Evanston has an events calendar and information on how to get involved in green solutions locally. Go Green Wilmette will host a free webinar on April 20 at 7 pm called Beneficial Bugs: Getting the Balance Right in your Yard. Speakers will address the many kinds of butterflies, bees, dragonflies and other insects you can host in a North Shore yard with the right supporting environment. They will also talk about the best ways to minimize mosquitoes in your yard without using chemical spray treatments. Register now for this April 20 webinar. 

Chicago’s Field Museum and Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI) provide more education and opportunities for involvement. The Field’s Monarch Community Science Project allows us all to get involved with science by recording monarch butterfly activity on milkweed plants throughout the area. CRTI’s website hosts many resources about protecting and saving trees and Chicago’s tree canopy. Openlands has several opportunities for you to help save and restore habitat, including its TreeKeepers tree care training program.

Many organizations and individuals in Chicago have realized how important it is for an urban area like ours to start reclaiming land as native habitat. You can further this cause plant by wonderful plant.