More than 300 municipal leaders and environmentalists convened at Unity Temple Wednesday for an all-day conference to gain practical tools and inspiration in the fight for sustainable communities.

Oak Park’s village government was one of the lead sponsors.

Greentown: The Future of Community included upwards of 10 lectures and question-and-answer sessions, in which participants were given an inside look at the cutting edge of green design and sustainable building practices-from green roofs, HVAC systems and renewable materials, to building orientation, photovoltaic cells and rural conservation communities.

“While we are about to open the state’s first LEED-Silver (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified Public Works facility in the state,” said Village President, David Pope, “the reality is that we still have a lot to learn. The Greentown conference will be a critical springboard in this effort.”

The keynote speaker, William McDonough, a leader in the green architectural movement, covered many of the ideas behind his book “Cradle to Cradle: Rethinking the Way We Make Things.” The book itself is printed on a plastic composite made from recyclable materials.

In his book, he argues the materials found in everyday products can often be reconfigured so that today’s waste can provide material for the same or similar products in the future–not just mass in a landfill. The “technical metabolism” of industry, he said, mimics that of the biological world, in which waste becomes food for future organisms.

McDonough concluded that the movement toward sustainability allows for economic growth and is not at odds with the profit-seeking world. Thus, the green movement makes great economic sense. 

His work in designing and manufacturing reusable carpeting provided one of his main examples.

To offset the environmental impact of the event, Community Energy, one of the sponsors, donated renewable energy credits for the regional commuters who made the trip.

To learn more about the conference, visit

More detailed coverage in next week’s newspaper section.

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