Chicago, America’s Largest Sustainable Community

Green ChicagoChicago has gone green, leading the world with America’s largest sustainable community, according to the U.S. Chamber Business Civic Leadership Center.  This commitment to creating a greener city finds supporters in the Mayor’s Office, City Hall, Universities, businesses, property owners, grocers, urban farmers, community gardens, civic organizations, and citizens from every neighborhood.  We are witnessing a city-wide awakening that is happening from the streets and manifesting in so many ways.

Unlike many regions, Midwesterners are a practical people who focus on goals and carrying out the work.  Chicago’s green awakening began quietly decades ago by dedicated pioneers such as Ken Dunn of City Farm, Will Allen of Growing Power, and Michael Thompson of Chicago Honey Co-op.  They have laid foundations for Chicago’s transformation into a living city. From these foundations, and many more unsung pioneers, Chicago has decided to be part of the solution and take leadership in developing a sustainable city.

What is a sustainable city? According to Mayor Rahm Emmanuel: “A sustainable Chicago is a city that spends less on energy use with each passing year, creates good-paying jobs in up-and-coming industries, responsibly maintains and upgrades its infrastructure, and ensures every Chicagoan has the opportunity to live a healthy and active lifestyle.”

The City’s “Sustainable Chicago” plan has programs across seven categories, with 24 goals, aiming to make a major difference by 2015. Programs that will lower energy use and increase efficiency include “Retrofit Chicago” (which seeks to lower businesses energy use by 20% within five years), developing incentives to nurture and attract eco-friendly businesses, creating an Urban Farm District which will include 13 sq. miles on Chicago’s south side, and a network of incubators to create training for these future jobs. The entirety of the program can be found in the Sustainable Chicago 2015 Action Agenda.

In order to help the city meet its green goals, in 2011 the Mayor appointed Karen Weigert as Chicago’s Chief Sustainability Officer. Her primary duty is to bring implementation of the sustainable strategies laid out through innovation and practical solutions across the city. As Weigart has said: “We want Chicago to be the most livable, most competitive, most sustainable city.”

So Chicago is awakening to a green future, a future that will help the city survive and thrive in our changing world, no matter what comes. This is a commitment that is growing, and everyday Chicago is renewing its goal to become the world’s most sustainable city.  With such pioneering citizens and a focused government the city’s future is bright and growing ever greener.

– Source: Sustainable, March 2013, Media Planet.

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