Environmental panel wants DuPage to join national climate change effort
By Susan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org December 15, 2011 12:08PM
Updated: January 17, 2012 8:10AM
DuPage County has made an array of improvements to reduce its carbon footprint in recent years. Its Environmental Commission would like to see officials solidify the upgrades with an ambitious commitment to continue confronting the prospect of climate change by signing on with the nationwide Cool Counties program.
In a letter being drafted to send to County Board Chairman Dan Cronin, commissioners plan to recommend adopting a set of policy statements aimed at a collaborative strategy for limiting the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere from DuPage sources. The package of statements the commission hopes will win County Board support comes from the U.S. Cool Counties Climate Stabilization Declaration.
Among the suggested parameters is working with municipalities and townships, as well as the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County and area businesses and private institutions, to devise and enact a plan of action for putting a cap on emissions generated in a variety of ways.
“Such a broad-based effort is needed and desired for attaining the implementation of programs that will achieve the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions set forth in the Declaration,” commission chairman Jack Sheaffer wrote in the draft letter reviewed by the panel this week.
County environmental specialist Joy Hinz said the letter, once finalized, will go to Cronin, who will decide whether to forward its recommendations to the board’s environmental committee. If the proposals clear that group, they will go on to the full board.
The Cool Counties initiative, launched by the National Association of Counties four years ago, intends to tap the resources of all 3,066 U.S. counties to address the issues presented by global warming. Cook County, one of the first to sign onto the partnership, is the only Illinois signatory among the 42 counties that have joined the effort so far.
Naperville County Board member Jim Healy, who represents DuPage in various National Association of Counties committee involvements, said the effort has seen a gradual takeoff in part because its launch came right about the same time the economy was starting to sour and governments were seeing signs their revenue streams would slow.
Healy is now part of a national task force looking into a related endeavor, Green Counties, that also is tapping corporate-county partnerships.
“It began a couple years ago, slowly, to look at ways counties can begin cutting energy usage and find ways to go green that do not cost money, because as we all know all counties are strapped like crazy,” Healy said.
Those ideas are still in the conceptual phase as well, but once a recommendation is ready for the board to consider, he would like to suggest using grant money to help fund a college-level intern who would earn a modest stipend while researching environmentally benign options available to the county.
“The idea is, can we come up with ways that allow us to go green without killing our pocketbooks? And the answer is yes,” Healy said, noting that DuPage and most other counties have been forced to reduce employee head counts in their current and upcoming budgets. “The staff cannot do it.”
Environmental Commission members, who are looking at ways the Wheaton campus might add new sustainable practices, see the county already doing a commendable job of adopting green habits. A team of commissioners including David Mullan, Dianne Barrett and Marie Piraino recently toured the administration complex, convalescent center and transportation department facility, and liked much of what they saw.
The county has made an assortment of environmentally friendly improvements over the past couple of years, including a switch to compact fluorescent and other energy-pinching light bulbs, installation of a green roof over the administration building cafeteria, and the elimination of printed packets for committee and board meetings, the latter of which typically comprise several hundred pages.
“We have been very much impressed with all of the improvements that they have done and continue to do,” said Mullan, who related that the group was told improvements made at the transportation building have cut the utility costs at the facility by $1.60 per hour.
Like the Cool Counties undertaking, additional sustainability ideas remain several steps away from adoption.
“I think what the chairman is looking for from you is to prioritize what will bring the most bang,” Hinz told the commission.
Brook McDonald, president and CEO of the Conservation Foundation in Naperville and a commission member, recognizes the process will take some time.
“I think it’s a series of recommendations, one of which would be the county bringing in a consultant,” he said. “It’ll be years to get this done. We need to get the ball rolling.”