Stories by Patty Wetli

EPA Relaxes Enforcement, Citing Pandemic. Environmentalists Call it a ‘License to Pollute’

Environmentalists are seething over the EPA temporarily relaxing enforcement rules. (mvpdv0ra / Flickr)

The EPA is relaxing enforcement of “environmental legal obligations” during the coronavirus pandemic, and activists are seething.

Had Enough of Canned Goods? Local Growers Team Up to Bring Farmers Market to Your Door

A sample farmers market to-go box. (Courtesy of Closed Loop Farms)

Closed Loop Farms is leading a group of local food producers to deliver everything from Michelin-worthy greens to naturally fermented sodas directly to your door.

Help Fight COVID: Donate Vital Health Care Supplies This Weekend at United Center

Protective equipment is needed to keep healthcare workers safe during the outbreak of COVID-19. (Travis AFB / Flickr)

Masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and other vital supplies can be dropped off Sunday at the United Center and will be distributed to health care providers in Illinois.

Lightfoot Threatens to Shut Down Entire Lakefront if People Keep Gathering in Groups

Now is not the time for a long stroll or ride along the lakefront, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. (Eric Allix Rogers / Flickr)

Chicago’s mayor says too many people are flouting the governor’s order to stay home and maintain social distance, particularly along the lakefront and at playgrounds. “This situation is deadly serious,” she said Wednesday.

Still Open: Chicago Print Shop is Offering Free Signs to Small Businesses

Free banner signs help business advertise their new hours and services during COVID-19 lockdown. (Courtesy of Snappy Printing and Graphics)

Tony Grammatis, owner of Snappy Printing and Graphics, is offering free banners to small businesses struggling to stay afloat during the COVID-19 crisis.

Mariano’s Joins List of Stores Offering Special Shopping Hours for Seniors

Grocers are setting aside shopping hours for seniors, to protect them from COVID-19. (Lynn Friedman / Flickr)

A number of grocers and big-box retailers have announced special shopping hours for senior citizens and others vulnerable to COVID-19 to ensure less crowded situations, as well as access to essential items.

It’s a Toilet, Not a Trash Can. Don’t Flush Disinfectant Wipes, MWRD Says

Keep wipes out of Chicago's sewer system. (Patty Wetli / WTTW)

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago has seen a rise in disinfectant wipes stuck to filtering screens at its water reclamation plants, and it now has some advice for residents.

Nailed It! A Chicago Bakery is Rolling With These Crazy Times

(Courtesy of TipsySpace)

TipsySpace has created a toilet roll cake that’s worthy of bingeing, not hoarding, and it’s so authentic looking, customers have nearly mistaken it for the real thing on pickup.

It Takes a Village to Bake a Loaf of Bread: Neighbors Swap Sourdough Starter

(jacme31 / Flickr)

Food continues to create a sense of community even during these days of social isolation, with strangers swapping free sourdough starter.

How Much Toilet Paper Do You Really Need? There’s a Calculator for That

(Sharon Mollerus / Flickr)

A couple of Brits created the website  to help demonstrate need vs. panic buying.

All Chicago Public Libraries and Parks to Close Saturday

(Smart Chicago Collaborative / Flickr)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the closure of the citys public libraries and parks as of 5 p.m. Saturday.

‘Chicago, We Need to Love Each Other With All Our Hearts’: Lightfoot

"We miss our neighbors." A simple truth shared by a restaurant in Lincoln Square. (Patty Wetli / Flickr)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot this week called on Chicagoans to remain connected even while practicing social distance.

Got Time on Your Hands? Check Out the Wide World of Live Web Cams

Live web cam feeds of nature and wildlife are a great way to bust free of quarantine without leaving home. (Terry Ott / Flickr)

Live web cam feeds of nature and wildlife are a great way to bust free of quarantine without leaving home. Here are 10 to check out.

Spring Still Has Hope: Season’s First Blooms Are Here

Spring is coming through with signs of life and hope. (Patty Wetli / WTTW)

Snowdrop, crocus, hyacinth and other early spring bloomers are cheering up the gloomy landscape.

Party Animals! Brookfield Zoo Carries on With St. Patrick’s Day Tradition

Lucy (left) and Charger, two California sea lions, received shamrock-shaped treats on St. Patrick’s Day at Brookfield Zoo. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

At least one St. Patrick’s Day tradition is alive and well in these topsy-turvy times. Animals at Brookfield Zoo received special shamrock-shaped treats on Tuesday.

Neighbors Attempt to Salvage St. Patrick’s Day Fun With No-Contact Shamrock Scavenger Hunt

Chicagoans are getting creative when it comes to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the shadow of COVID-19. (Torbakhopper / Flickr)

Neighbors in Bucktown suggested hanging shamrocks in windows for a DIY scavenger hunt, and Lincoln Square grabbed onto the idea. Who else wants in?

COVID-19 Got You Feeling Cooped Up? An Expert Says It’s OK to Go Outside

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Japan (Daniel Peckham / Flickr)

Concerns over the spread of the coronavirus have a lot of people working from home, schools closed, restaurants shuttered and sports canceled. Can we even go outside? Yes, say the experts, but still practice social distance.

St. Patrick’s Day Miracle? The Chicago River WAS Dyed Green, After All

The Chicago River flowed green on its North Branch, as seen from Kedzie Avenue. (Patty Wetli / WTTW)

The annual dyeing of the river was canceled downtown, but the waterway flowed emerald green on its North Branch.

#ToiletPaperApocalypse: We Found the Natural Solution

Mullein was a popular wipe in olden days. (John Tann / Flickr)

Here we are a nation on edge, the future uncertain, civilization as we know it seemingly on the brink of collapse. And our very first survival instinct is to hoard toilet paper. 

Have You Heard About the Ultra-Hot Planet Where it Rains Iron? It’s Our New Obsession

An illustration of exoplanet WASP-76b, where it rains iron. (ESO / M. Kornmesser)

Think things are bleak on planet Earth? At lease it’s not raining metal. That’s the kind of bizarre climate scientists recently observed on an ultra-hot exoplanet they’ve dubbed WASP-76b, located 640 million light-years away.

The Next Tree-Killing Pest is Already Here. Join the Ranks of First Detectors

The spotted lanternfly threatens grape, apple, pear, cherry and hop plants and trees, among others. (Chesapeake Bay Program / Flickr)

The spotted lanternfly, oak wilt, gypsy moth and boxwood blight are among the latest threats in the plant world. And citizen scientists have a role to play when it comes to stopping the next plague.

McKinley Park Neighbors Prep for Showdown With EPA Over Asphalt Plant

McKinley Park residents are fighting against an asphalt plant located in the midst of parks, schools and homes. (Neighbors For Environmental Justice / Facebook)

Southwest Side residents are mobilizing to pump the brakes on MAT Asphalt’s application for a 10-year permit from the Illinois EPA, and say they don’t trust the agency to put people over profit.

The Ash Tree’s Last Stand, And Why It Matters

Neighbors in Ravenswood Manor are raising funds to save the area’s parkway ash trees. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

The city has given up on its ash trees, but some Chicagoans refuse to let theirs die.

Look Up for Super Worm Moon Monday Night, First Supermoon of 2020

Super Worm Moon, photographed in March 2019. (Twelvizm / Flickr)

March’s full moon is called the Worm Moon, and it will be an extra bright supermoon.

Starbucks Pulls Plug on Reusable Cups Amid Coronavirus Fears

(Patty Wetli / WTTW)

Starbucks said it is “pausing” the use of personal cups in its stores as a precautionary response to the coronavirus epidemic.