IGov, composed of two representatives each from the village, public library, park district, township, and school districts 97 and 200, today begins a monthly column on a very timely and important topic.

Sustainability: This buzzword means, at its core, efforts humans and their institutions make to protect the environment, to ensure that life on our planet continues to thrive far into the future.

In Oak Park, this idea has had broad impact. In particular, our taxing bodies are taking measures and sharing ideas intended to make sustainability a lens through which all their projects and activities are considered.

Recently, for instance, the village of Oak Park has taken the following actions:

1) Hired a firm to, among other things, get the word out to villagers about the free energy audits conducted by Commonwealth Edison, which can pinpoint places in their homes that are costing money and wasting energy. For example, so many of our homes are graced with drafty old windows, losing heat in the winter and air conditioning in summer. 

2) In addition, the village is providing grants to low-income renters, landlords and homeowners for energy retrofits, as well as rebates for rooftop solar.

In collaboration with the village, IGov held its fall forum in September, focusing on sustainability. Through IGov, each of Oak Park’s taxing bodies works together to provide the community with more informed and responsive government — discussing issues, sharing information, building relationships and holding forums on topics of interest to the community.

At this well-attended Zoom forum, several groups, from the park district to Com Ed to the president of Oak Park and River Forest High School’s Environmental Club presented information both on their sustainability activities, and also ideas community members could use to improve their own efforts — everything from participation in the village’s composting program to having an energy audit of their home.

School District 97 has reported a large number of ways they are working to make their operations more sustainable, including: using a digital backpack for communication with school families, significantly reducing the amount of paper used; reducing waste from the cafeterias, including recycling and composting in all 10 buildings, no longer using plastic-wrapped utensils, and switching to a three-week cycle of menus, which reduces food waste from unpopular items and increases inventory efficiency; installing LED lighting in all new additions and retrofitting it in others as the budget allows; and adding storm water retention tanks at Longfellow and Lincoln, and permeable pavers at the administration building’s parking lot.

We can do many sustainable things in our own homes: print on both sides of the paper; replace light bulbs with LEDs; when we order takeout, ask that they not include plastic-wrapped single-use utensils; and use a compost bin in your garden, or participate in the village’s composting program.               

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