Earth Day 2010 Chicago: Climate Protection is Good Business

CHICAGO, Illinois, April 22, 2010 (ENS) – Chicago Mayor Richard Daley today marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by re-committing the city to protecting human health, the environment and the climate, which in turn promotes economic development and improves the quality of life for all residents.

“Earth Day has played a major role in making what was a low priority in our society in 1970 a high priority now,” the mayor said in a news conference held in Daley Plaza, where the city’s Earth Day events are centered.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley presents a Climate Action Plan progress report. April 22, 2010 (Photo courtesy Office of the Mayor)

“In Chicago, the environment is a major component of our strategy to attract people and jobs and to remain competitive in the global economy,” Daley said.

“I’m proud of the environmental leadership that Chicago has set and that is being replicated by cities here and around the world. I’m proud that we acted many years ago, in areas that many cities are just beginning to appreciate today,” he said.

Daley said that 2009 was a difficult year in Chicago because of the national recession yet environmental progress has been possible. “In the last year, we’ve taken many steps that show it is possible to implement responsible environmental policies that also create economic growth and protect taxpayers,” he said.

Daley said one of those steps has been the implementation of the Chicago Climate Action Plan, which the city unveiled in late 2008 as its blueprint for reducing greenhouse emissions by 2020.

“The benefits of this plan go beyond the important goal of improving the environment. Implementing the plan will save companies and residents money, enhance our quality of life and position Chicago for future economic growth,” Daley said.

He said he is pleased with what the plan has accomplished so far.

  • The management consulting firm of A.T. Kearney has provided pro bono assistance to create more than 450 individual climate action initiatives for 15 city departments and sister agencies.
  • Booz, Inc., also worked pro bono to create a strategy for energy efficiency retrofits of residential, commercial and industrial properties across the city. One part of that strategy, the Energy Action Network, has provided thousands of low income Chicagoans and owners of hundreds of commercial and industrial properties with help in weatherizing their buildings to make them more energy efficient.
  • The plan has helped Chicago leverage millions of dollars of resources from foundations, the private sector and the state and federal governments that ensure the plan’s implementation for the next decade.

In addition, Daley said the city and its partners have:

  • Achieved a $3.3 million savings in energy costs as a result of the Green Office Challenge, which involves building owners and tenants reducing their impact on the environment and meeting the targets adopted by the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Used $17 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to create nearly 650 community-based green jobs over the next two years for people who are hard-to-employ, including former prisoners.
  • Weatherized 7,000 homes through a joint effort of students, teachers, and community leaders through the Chicago Conservation Corps Student Clubs and Chicago Conservation Corp leaders.
  • Passed a new anti-idling ordinance for diesel vehicles that will improve air quality and conserve fuel.
  • Been listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency among the top five cities in the nation in terms of the total number of Energy Star-rated buildings, both public and private.
  • Saved, more than $10 million and kept more than 112,000 metric tons of waste out of landfills through the efforts of the Waste to Profit Network, a partnership of more than 300 area businesses, organizations, institutions and municipal departments.

The Mayor also noted that the Daley Center has achieved Energy Star status and that Chicago now has 88 LEED certified buildings, 32 of which are city-owned. With those 32 city-owned buildings, Chicago leads the nation by a two-to-one margin in LEED certified municipal buildings.

Solar panels on the roof of the Chicago Center for Green Technology, the first LEED certified building in the Midwest. The building also has a green roof. February 2010. (Photo by Heather Fugate)

And he said Chicago is acknowledged as the national leader among cities in green roofs, with 600 completed or underway totaling more than seven million square feet. The city requires green roofs to be installed on buildings of developers who receive economic assistance from the city.

Daley said that among new initiatives the city is undertaking to raise awareness of the importance of environmental issues are a neighborhood paper drive, in which neighborhood groups can win cash prizes through the Department of Environment for collecting paper for recycling. The paper drive will pay back the participants for the amount they recycle above the basic cost of the container, so they make money regardless of whether or notthey win a prize.

Also, a recycling competition is starting up at city facilities to see who can show the largest percent increase in recycling.

At Daley Plaza today, Chicago residents explored the Chicago Transit Authority’s new Ecobus and other clean city vehicles and visited Chicago Climate Action Plan partner booths to learn about simple actions that can reduce their carbon footprint and lessen their paper use.

The celebration, hosted by the Chicago Department of Environment, in partnership with the Chicago Climate Action Plan team, brought together hundreds of students, businesses, policymakers and a theater group on Daley Plaza.

Chicago high school and university students were awarded cash prizes for developing the most creative, 90 second videos that illustrate how they are taking part in one or more of the Chicago Climate Action Plan’s 35 mitigation or adaptation strategies.

Mayor Daley presented the first place winners with $2,000 to be used for education.

First place in the college category went to the video “Sustainable Living 101” submitted by: Katie Bates and Nick Ray Harris of Loyola University.

In the high school category, first place went to the video “So Hot” submitted by: The Happiness Club, a team from various high schools directed by Maureen Schulman.

Second and third place winners received $1,000 and $500 respectively. All the videos can be viewed at www.chicagoclimateaction.org.

Mayor Daley said there are many simple ways every individual and business can make the environment part of their every day lives, such as driving less, walking more and making greater use of public transportation.

He is encouraging people to use more energy-efficient light bulbs, insulate and weatherize homes, turn off appliances and computers when they are not in use, and also plant trees and shrubs around buildings to reduce temperatures.

“When we do such things as plant trees and create open space, remove pollution from the air and encourage construction of buildings that are smart for the environment, then we enhance the quality of life for all the residents of the city.

“As Earth Day reminds us,” he said, “protecting the environment is everybody’s business.”

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