Eco-tours on Chicago's Southeast Side

May 14, 2011 5:34:04 PM PDT
The Southeast Environmental Task Force offers students an eye-opening environmental lesson on their Toxics to Treasures Eco-Tour.

The advocacy group took students from Douglas Taylor Elementary School on a bus tour through their own neighborhood, but the tour stops at places they not have noticed before, like coal-fired power plants.

"They have been ordered by the EPA to clean up their act," the tour guide said. "Basically the owners of that company have said it would cost too much to clean up, so they're going to shut down."

The tour also stops by landfills.

"Landfills and the materials in the landfills deteriorate and they create methane. Methane gas is then captured and they use it to make electricity," the guide said.

The Southeast Environmental Task Force leads the tour in effort to raise awareness about environmental issues on the city's southeast side.

"The area has historically been a dumping ground and it has to do with the early development of the area as a steel district," Rod Sellers said. Sellers is a member of the Southeast Historical Society. "People put up with air pollution, water pollution, et cetera, as a trade off for jobs and that's even a concern today."

The tour also points out places like the Harborside International Golf Center, harborsideinternational.com, which the group considers to be a treasure. The upscale golf course was built on top of a garbage dump. The task force wants more eco-friendly businesses to convert space in their neighborhood.

"Most of the steel companies are gone and chemical firms, grain elevators they all just picked up and left, either went bankrupt or left town and in their wake, they left a lot of contaminated property," Tom Shepherd, Southeast Environmental Task Force, said.

Students seem to be getting the message.

"It made me think like we actually don't take pollution as seriously as we should and we should try to do more to help with it and we should actually think of it as a serious cause instead of living our lives covering it up," Jazzmyn Aguilera, 7 th grader at Douglas Taylor Elementary School, said.

"It was interesting to get to know a bunch of things that, some things that I have already known, to learn more about it, and things that I didn't know anything about, that teaches me a lesson on how better ways to keep our environment safe," Nicole Viveros, 7th grader at Douglas Taylor Elementary School, said.

The Southeast Environmental Task Force also conducts that tour by trolley for the general public. Find out about the tours at www.setaskforce.org/.


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