The second week of each month, we feature a column on environmental issues submitted by IGov, an intergovernmental body composed of two representatives each from the village, public library, park district, township, and school districts 97 and 200.

Recent articles in this paper have highlighted ways your local governing bodies are leading the way in mitigating the impact of climate change. These public organizations are specifically looking at ways to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, ones that are trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and rapidly warming our planet. 

The Park District of Oak Park has been outstanding in its field in figuring out ways to make all aspects of their operations more sustainable. Their leadership continues to ask, “What more can we do?” to make operations responsive and adaptive to a changing climate. 

The village of Oak Park has taken a huge step forward this past year in setting aside grant funds for residents to adapt their homes and multi-unit buildings to a warming planet (Better Homes, Better Planet) and have asked the community to steer its efforts on a comprehensive climate plan (Oak Park Climate Action Plan). To ensure all voices are heard, the sustainability staff is working diligently to listen to everyone “beyond the choir.” The draft plan will be released in May, and community members will again have an opportunity to provide comments. Both District 97 and District 200 schools are also following the lead of District 90 in River Forest and are beginning to put together a comprehensive sustainability plan. 

These efforts offer such promise and remove some of the climate change fear we all hold in our hearts. Many people ask, “What can I do?” and “What impact does my one action really have?” Taking individual action will help you feel empowered and collectively will have a measurable impact. Here are a few scientifically-based ideas:

•      Insulate your home or apartment – Uninsulated walls and roofs make up 25-35% of heat lost in your home. Properly insulating your walls and attic and sealing any leaks in your home can help reduce heat loss. Air sealing helps in year-round energy use. Go to sustainoakpark.com for more information and financial support for these adaptations. 

•      Reduce or skip the meat — especially beef — in your diet – The amount of carbon involved in livestock production is weighty! Cattle are the No. 1 agricultural source of greenhouse gases worldwide.

•      Get a Smart Thermostat and adapt to a new temperature at home – In the winter, your thermostat should be set at no more than 68 degrees and in the summer 76 degrees. We keep ours at 62 in the winter!

•      Walk more and bike more – The less time we are in our cars, the better — for the planet and for our well-being. Plan your trips around town to rely less on your car. Oak Park continues to improve its safe biking/walking ways.

•      Energy assessments with ComEd – Have ComEd or Nicor assess your home for energy savings. From ComEd Peak Savings and ComEd Hourly Pricing to LED lighting, all will adjust your energy consumption. Visit Sustainoakpark.com.

•      Get involved locally with ways to sustain our regional eco-system – To name a few organizations, depending on your interests:

Oak Park Climate Action Network 
Interfaith Green Network
One Earth Collective
League of Women Voters
OPRF High School Environmental Club or It’s Our Future
Villages of Oak Park and River Forest sustainability efforts
West Cook Wild Ones (for native plants and landscaping) 

Join the discussion on social media!