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Cool reception

<p>File Photo</p>

File Photo

With winter in full swing, it doesn’t stretch the imagination to regard DuPage County as a cool place. An effort taking center stage Thursday, however, envisions the region keeping its temperatures in check all through the year.

The Conservation Foundation, based in Naperville, teams up with the county every January to host a public seminar centered on an aspect of environmental stewardship. This time around, the focus is on building economic stability through more mindful energy use, particularly as it applies to the business sector. The 2014 DuPage Energy Summit, titled “Making DuPage a ‘Cool County: A Plan for Energy and Economic Stability,’” will convene from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday at the Hotel Arista, 2139 City Gate Lane, Naperville.

“This is really targeted to those who can have the biggest impact on energy use and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Brook McDonald, the Conservation Foundation’s president and CEO and chairman of the county’s recently formed Green Government Council.

Designed to offer practical, can-do input for business and industry, the event will feature speakers sharing ways they have succeeded in reducing their carbon footprint through such means as cutting miles traveled and boosting energy efficiency, and ways to pay for the greener policies.

In September 2012, DuPage became the first Illinois county to sign on to the Sierra Club’s statewide Cool Counties initiative, codifying a local commitment to active support for the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Generation of greenhouse gases is among the human activities responsible for the rise in the earth’s temperatures documented over the past century, many climate scientists say.

Naperville officials are taking a look at adopting the Cool Cities parameters, the municipal forerunner to the county program. Assorted nearby communities already have committed to that undertaking, including Aurora, Bolingbrook, Carol Stream, Lombard, Oswego, Plainfield and Warrenville.

“The county has some very specific goals that it wants to meet,” said McDonald, who is overseeing the DuPage effort.

Among the targets is a 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2007 levels countywide by 2020, and 20 percent by 2030.

“The Green Government Council has a very specific, focused mandate, so we decided that the summit this year would have that as its theme,” McDonald said.

About 150 participants had signed up as of Monday morning, but it’s not unusual for large numbers of people to register just before the summit, which in the past has been held at Benedictine University. The free event, which last year spotlighted urban wildlife, typically draws 250 to 300 visitors.

Environmentally benign policy shifts, McDonald said, should not be seen as a threat to a company’s bottom line.

“First off, it’s about energy stability, making us more independent. And it’s about efficiency. The more efficient we are, the better control we have,” he said. “Certainly (there are) cost savings. People aren’t going to do it if they can’t save money.”

But beyond dollars and sense, McDonald noted, the issue speaks to quality of life.

“Clean air is a part of that,” he said.

Relocating the event to the Arista, which has earned the prestigious Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification and promotes its sustainable practices, made sense in part because the inn shows in real time some of the measures needed to achieve the cool-county aims.

“Those are the kinds of things we’re talking about,” McDonald said.

Area environmentalists have lauded the county’s move toward greener practices. State Sierra Club director Jack Darin, who lives in Naperville, commended the board’s support for becoming a cool county.

“These local sustainability efforts have demonstrated strongly that we can all make a difference,” Darin wrote in a letter to DuPage officials. “Although the consequences of climate change threaten our entire planet, the solutions to these threats are very local, and we can all do our part.”

Summit registration can be arranged at www.theconservationfoundation.org.

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