Staying safe, happy and healthy in Grundy County

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Happy New Year, Grundy County! For this winter, I have some tips to help make it safer and healthy in your home, have some outside family fun, and keep hearts healthy.

Home Safety

Firewood for those cold winter nights: Using firewood from limbs and branches cut down in your own yard, or someone else’s, make sure it is well seasoned or dried to be used in your wood burning it in your fireplace or wood stove. Creosote buildup is caused from an excessive amount of smoke rising through your chimney or vent. As the vent cools, the creosote will stick to the sides and layers begin to form. Creosote may be more prevalent in the burning of “green” wood and creosote buildup in chimneys or vents is a highly combustible.

How can you tell if the wood is “green”? If the wood has bark that is still tightly attached, and fresh looking centers. Look for grey logs where the bark has either come off or is coming off easily. If the wood is stored outside, stack the wood such that there is air circulation around the longest length of the logs. Well-seasoned and dried wood will burn efficiently and produce enough heat for you and not cause excessive creosote build-up.

Shoes off policy

This policy is not just a good idea based on not making your home dirty, but for other reasons as well. Bacteria and toxins (motor oils etc.) follow you on the bottom of your shoes or boots and get spread on carpets and wood/ceramic floors. Footwear can also scratch wood floors and over time high traffic areas on carpet show more from wearing shoes/boots. Consider wearing slippers which you put on in the home and during the winter you will also find your feet are warmer too.

Cold rooms in the house

Cold rooms in the home may be indicating to you that your hvac system is either not sized appropriately or that the ductwork is not properly sized or insulated in the unconditioned spaces where it is located. A HVAC contractor would be able to determine whether the furnace is providing enough conditioned air to all spaces in the home. A Manual J calculation may be done so provide those answers. Insulation for our Region 5 Illinois area ductwork should be a minimum of R-8.

Organizing Wardrobe and Reuse

Maximize what you have by going through your closet’s contents. Check clothes and consider how many times the items has been worn, and whether it still fits. Closet items may be then organized into three categories:

• Give away

• Start wearing

• Worn out use for rags

By doing so before you consider shopping online or in a store, you will know what you have and if you are needing anything new. As all materials and the processing of those materials into clothing takes natural resources and energy to do so, you are not only saving your money but helping the planet.

Outside Fun for the Family

Beauty of the snowflake – Snowflakes are really beautiful and as we have more to enjoy now during these winter months. Enjoying the snow on days when the temperatures allow it, brings good family fun and respect for the earth.

A couple fun facts:

• Snowflakes can measure almost 2 inches across

• The larges snowflake measured 15 inches across and 8 inches thick

• The largest snow fall within a
24-hour period was 76 inches in 1921 in Silver Lake, CO


When the temperatures are favorable, it is good to appreciate and respect our earth by going on a walk and seeing a side of nature that you usually do not see. As we are fortunate to live in close proximity of state parks like Starved Rock in Utica, the I & M Canal, and Goose Lake Prairie. Moderate winter days are perfect to listen to the peace of the woods and see nature in a whole new perspective.

Feed the birds

Making suet for the birds with the family teaches your children the stewardship that we have with nature. Take a large pine cone and mix one part peanut butter with five parts of corn meal and adding some mixed outdoor bird seed. Pack this mixture into the crevices of the pine cone and then hang in a tree that will be visible to the family from your home. This mixture is good for the attraction of woodpeckers, chickadees, and warblers. Make sure that a supply of water is also provided for the birds as well to keep them well hydrated.

Giving of the Heart

St. Valentine’s Day being right around the corner brightens the month of February.

Think about making homemade Valentines with family using household items which might have been recycled. Trash to treasure is the theme and who doesn’t like a homemade valentine.

Valentine’s Day is also a heart smart month which makes all of us think about exercise and getting heart healthy activities in our lives. The beginning of the year there are many health clubs or fitness centers that have great rates to help with that.

Giving blood is another activity to consider in the winter as many blood banks are in dire need of supply. Giving from the heart to another heart is a great idea of caring and reusing blood which is a precious gift.

Events for 2020

All events that are being planned for the 2020 year will be issued onto our Environmental Resource and Conservational Office website or We will have two electronic waste events, a tire recycling event, Trashformation competition, used children's book, used toy drive, two shredding events, and more.

It is a pleasure to serve you. Please feel free to contact me at (815) 941-3229 or by email at

Thank you for loving your Earth and keeping it resource-rich!

• Heidi Miller is the director of the Grundy County Land Use Department.