What began as an idea put forth at the Green Town Aurora conference in February 2015 is now the Fox Valley Sustainability Network (FVSN). It became official on March 16 when 75 people met at the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles to share success stories and snapshots of what municipalities, businesses and nonprofits are already doing to adopt and implement sustainability practices.
Seven Generations Ahead is leading the effort in collaboration with founding partners Kane County, City of Aurora and a5 Branding and Digital, which will provide opportunities for stakeholders to reach across boundaries and collaborate on sustainability planning and implementation, seek funding and report progress intended to create a healthier, more sustainable Fox Valley.
The charge for FVSN members is to think big. “We’re hoping that the network not only inspires and educates leaders, but also becomes a catalyst for big idea projects across community boundaries,” said SGA Executive Director Gary Cuneen during an overview of the new network. He then referred to the climate agreement reached in Paris a few months ago, saying he hopes the network will be a vehicle for Fox Valley communities to meet and exceed the goals set by the US as part of the COP 21 agreement.
In outlining the vision and goals, Cuneen said, cross community collaboration will be important, as will be building upon existing initiatives. Rather than focusing on getting a few households to install solar panels, why not pursue large-scale community solar initiatives that could deliver multiple megawatts of power, he suggested.
Officials with the Fox River Ecosystem Partnership; the cities of Batavia, Elgin and Aurora; Judson University, and the Sierra Club offered up quick summaries of sustainability projects.
“Sustainability has always been in our background at Fox River Ecosystem Partnership (FREP)", Jeff Mengler, president of the nonprofit organization, said. FREP, begun in 1996, focuses on the Fox River Watershed, which covers 1,720 square miles and nine counties. FREP’s Integrated Management Plan for the Fox River Watershed in Illinois has made 35 recommendations for action.
The City of Elgin has had a sustainability plan since 2009, said Molly Center, city liaison to the Elgin Sustainability Commission. In the last year, the city completed a permeable paved alleyway project and passed a solar ordinance. Elgin also has installed an electric vehicle charging station recently, adopted a backyard chickens program in addition to putting in permeable pavers in some city alleys to better absorb rainwater.
The Sierra Club has conducted extensive monitoring on the Fox River and implemented a plan to address high levels on phosphorus in the river, which decreases oxygen level and animal life, said Cindy Skrukrud, clean water program director for the Illinois chapter.