Alex Silva has lived in far-flung places like upstate New York, Ecuador and Oregon but her heart never leaves Forest Park.

This 23-year-old is environmentally conscious and she cares deeply about conserving natural resources. Water is a particular concern. Seeing the proliferation of rain barrels in town has encouraged Alex and motivated her to make her own.

Alex’s passion for protecting the environment doesn’t end with recycling rainwater.  She’s a strong advocate for affixing solar panels to our public buildings, keeping our streets free from litter and installing more bike stands in Forest Park.

Alex graduated from Cornell University with a degree in animal science. She applied what she learned there by teaching wildlife conservation in Ecuador and working for an environmental advocacy organization in Portland.

Returning to Chicago, Alex served in the trenches: going door-to-door soliciting donations for Environmental America. She was too sensitive a soul, though, to take the constant rejection. So, she’s going back to school to get her Master’s degree in environmental education.

Alex cares about all things Forest Park. For a high school assignment, she wrote a letter to the Review protesting the fence restricting access to the soccer field. She also attended planning meetings for the Roos building and was incensed when the architect said installing solar panels would be a waste.

Solar power makes sense for Forest Park, she said, because we get 85 percent as much sunshine as Miami. She’s also a strong believer in wind farms. Alex is a hands-on environmentalist, who picks up trash while she walks to her Forest Park job.

I didn’t know anything about rain barrels until I interviewed Alex. Afterward, I decided to conduct a survey of rain-barrel owners.  I found a four-barrel man on Lathrop, J.T. Terry. He bought the 55-gallon barrels from the village. They’re equipped with screens to keep out mosquitoes and debris and spigots for overflow and drainage. J.T. wanted to help conserve, in a small way, the free water he saw going down the sewer.

Now, he uses rainwater on his lawn and flowers. It has some chemical content from the atmosphere but is not as harsh as tap water. The barrels may also be saving J.T. some money, as it takes a hundred gallons just to water the front.

Sally Cody confirmed that the village did have a rain-barrel program two summers ago. An OPRF student, Isaac Sinnott, made the barrels from recycled materials. The village is no longer in the barrel business but Sinnott’s company is still selling rain barrels for $40 at  They also can be purchased locally at Schauer’s or McAdam.

If you place a rain barrel under your downspout, you’ll keep a precious resource from adding to our flooding problem. You’ll also be making your plants and a young environmentalist very happy.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.