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Evanston has built a strong support network of “green” resources through the Keep Evanston Beautiful group and the variety of sustainability efforts being made through the city itself. The City of Evanston has invested in a new position titled “Sustainable Programs Coordinator,” hiring Carolyn Collopy to help initiate and oversee the Strategic Plan’s efforts community-wide. Collopy points out that they are beginning this process internally and looking at the departments within the city system. “We are taking a look at what we are currently doing, what we could do better and where we go from here,” she says, adding “we want to practice what we preach.” Some examples of this that are currently going on include the recycling of printer cartridges and the annual “Trashbusters” event where city employees are encouraged to clean out files and recycle old documents. In 2007 the event resulted in 19,627 pounds of paper being recycled, showing that little things add up.

Evanston has already signed on to the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement, committing to reduce its greenhouse gasses and is currently a member of “Clear Air Counts,” an initiative to reduce ozone-causing emissions. Building projects that are incorporating green strategy include the recently finished children’s area at the library and Fire Station #5, which will be re-built to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver Rating. This certification is given by the USGBC for those buildings that have environmentally-friendly design, materials and energy-efficient construction.

As Evanston continues working to become as green as possible, one of the efforts Collopy hopes to concentrate on is getting the recycling rates in the community up. Again she points out that starting within the city departments will be an important part of any initiative, as well as working closely with members of the community to identify “best practices.” The good news is that there are already some programs currently underway in the city, and have been for some time.

The Keep Evanston Beautiful organization was officially created in 1986. Certified by the Keep America Beautiful group and chartered by the City of Evanston, KEB has introduced a variety of programs to the area in their efforts to promote environmental awareness. Recycling initiatives that have taken place include those for cell phones, batteries—even athletic shoes. The “Adopt A Spot” program allows residents and businesses to take part in keeping their city free of litter by caring for a specific area. Other programming has included an Earth Day essay contest for children and annual garden walks.

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Keep Evanston Beautiful also works with Evanston-Skokie School District 65 on the Green School Initiative. The idea behind this program is to renew efforts in terms of recycling and to both initiate and support school gardens. Examples of this initiative include Dewey Elementary School, which has a garden that was started by a fourth grade teacher, and the butterfly garden at Walker Elementary School, which had some setup help from both Boy Scouts and Brownies in the area. Lynn Hyndman was a teacher at Dawes Elementary School prior to stepping into her role as School Garden Coordinator for the area. She is pleased with the garden program and notes that the recycling efforts are going well, highlighting Chute Middle School as one of the school leaders.

Evanston is committing to a green future and taking important steps to achieve that goal. With the backing and investment of the city and the efforts of groups such as Keep Evanston Beautiful, things are definitely moving in the direction of sustainability. With many new initiatives being evaluated and implemented, the future looks green indeed.

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