River Forest's newest commission gets down to work

Seven named to advisory group focused on sustainability initiatives

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By Deborah Kadin

River Forest's green team of volunteers is looking to set an ambitious strategic work plan once it gets up and running as an official village commission after May 1.

Seven residents were named April 24 to serve on the new River Forest Sustainability Commission. Kathleen Brennan, Sue Crothers and Julie Moller, prominent local environmentalists and members of the former Sustainability Committee, will serve on it, with Brennan appointed as chair.

Other members include:

•      Eric Simon, an executive with a Chicago-based company that provides logistic services for the airline industry. He has been engaged in sustainable energy education and water issues in Colorado.  

•      Mary Susan Chen, a physical therapist and volunteer with locally-based environmental programs;

•      Mindy Credi, a vice-president for human resources with PepsiCo who has engaged in a variety of community programs;

•      Mary Masella, owner of a gardening services company. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in plant and soil science from Southern Illinois University.

Appointments are effective May 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

"We're ready to hit the ground running," said Brennan during an interview with Crothers and Moller on April 19.  "We want to continue to be a real resource for this community. We will need a lot of help."

Its work plan will fit in with its mandate of promoting the protection of the public's health, safety and welfare as it relates to environmental sustainability, promoting the conservation of natural resources and protection of the environment and acquiring and disseminating technical information relative to the environment and natural resources.

The commission will rely on two roadmaps that will gauge where the village should be heading.

The first is the PlantItGreen Sustainability Report Card. This document sets out a series of indicators showing the village's strengths and shortcomings in several sustainability areas. The report, prepared by Seven Generations Ahead, an Oak Park-based organization that promotes sustainability, will help support decisions for future policy, strategy and resource allocation. A 2016 edition was just released.

The second will be the Greenest Region Compact, a series of sustainability goals set out by the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus.

Both reports aim for the creation of sustainable, livable communities and encourage an enhanced quality of life, protection and stewardship of the environment and sustainable economic vitality.

"Both reports have common goals. That will make our tasks easier. The timing [of the release of the PlantItGreen report] is perfect," Crothers said.

The commission, they said, will focus attention on the programs it fostered when the group was a committee under the aegis of the Parks Foundation. There are green block parties to roll out this summer and the commission will continue educating residents on the importance and the value of recycling, composting and using pesticide-free lawn care.

In addition, the group will set its sights on having a longer-lasting impact by drafting and recommending new programs and policies that will meld sustainability more into the village's character, they said. The commission could take a look, for example, at an ordinance on the use of plastic shopping bags.

The commission may create its own webpage, with a link from the village's website, to serve as a community resource for environmentally-related services and to promote events on recycling, such as paint exchanges, Moller said.

The commission's strategic plan, as well as programs and policies will need approval from village's board of trustees.

Twelve people applied for seven spots, and Village President Catherine Adduci.

"I'm looking forward to hearing about the valuable ideas the commission will bring forward," she said.

The commission grew out of a partnership fostered between the village and the Parks Foundation in 2014. The group successfully spearheaded more than 20 initiatives, and last year, the group requested commission status so it could take on more responsibilities.

Making the group a full-fledged advisory commission was unanimously approved by the village board in February.

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