Adrian Fisher, Triton College’s Sustainability coordinator, highlighted the new Bike to Campus Coalition and environmental science program.

Julie Moller, a member of the River Forest Sustainability Committee, reported on the annual Recycling Extravaganza, which has helped divert 160,000 pounds of electronics in the last four years.

Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, projected that Oak Park’s updated bike plan “will have a lot more people biking.”

These were some of the snapshots of local sustainability efforts shared at PlanItGreen’s 4th Annual Institutional Leaders Forum on Nov. 12. The breakfast meeting, held at the Marion Street Market, brought together more than 40 community leaders who offered updates on what their organizations and agencies have done in the last year to help Oak Park and River Forest become more resilient communities as both villages continue to make progress on PlanItGreen’s Environmental Sustainability Plan.

Following opening remarks and introductions by Gary Cuneen, Executive Director of Seven Generations Ahead, Village of Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb, Village of River Forest Administrator Eric Palm and Kristin Carlson Vogen, CEO and President of the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation, the program included an overview of the 2014 PlanItGreen Report Card, 2016 strategy framework and an update on three years of institutional water and energy use.

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Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb

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Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry Executive Director Michele Zurakowski

Other success snapshots offered:

  • Cheney Mansion Garden and food collaboration (Concordia, Sugar Beet Food Co-op, Park District of Oak Park): 800 pounds of food harvested and donated to the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry.
  • Rush Oak Park Food Scrap Composting: 41 tons of food scraps diverted from landfills.
  • Village of Oak Park Water Conservation Plan: Instituted code revisions, village-wide leak detection; tightened irrigation hours; upgraded water meters, and distributed 5-minute shower timers.
  • D97 Hatch (School) Patch: Student garden yielded more than 400 pounds of fresh vegetables.
  • The Surplus Project: Collaboration between Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry and Rush that delivers surplus hospital meals to pantry clients.

During a collaborative ideas discussion, Interfaith Green Network’s Jim Babcock talked about the benefits of community, or “shared” solar power. Community solar is becoming a popular avenue for individuals, institutions and municipalities to collaboratively support the development of new clean energy installations, he said. “One of the many business models for these developments is called ‘Power Purchase Agreements.’ The customer subscribes for a certain amount of electricity over several years, and the energy company uses the collective subscriptions to help finance a new solar farm. In this way, the cost benefits of using solar energy are made available to renters and to others who may not have the money to finance their own solar system.”

The morning wrapped up with one-minute commercials for the Midwest Pesticide Action Center, Elevate EnergyOne Earth Film Festival and PlantItGreen’s soon-to-be-launched Green Guides initiative.