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Who We Are

Green Community Connections provides a place to tap into conversations about sustainability issues and to identify concrete steps you can take. We believe change is both necessary and possible and the best way to get there is together. Learn more About Us.

Oak Park Green Energy Plan Sparks Excitement and Imitation

by Jim Babcock

100 Illinois Communities want to know how they can save too

For the last month, phone calls have been streaming in from all over Illinois to the office of Oak Park’s Sustainability Manager, K.C. Poulos. These calls are inquiries about Oak Park’s successful Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program. One hundred Illinois communities such as Urbana, Arlington Heights, Belleville, and Elmhurst want to find out how they too can save close to 25% on their electric power rates.

That’s the savings that Oak Park residential and small business accounts can see starting the first of the year, after the Village Board approved a new 2-year contract on October 17th with Integrys Energy Systems. In addition to the much lower rate, the new agreement for electric power is remarkable in that the source is from 100% renewable wind power—92-94% of which will be from credits from wind farms within Illinois. This development, acquiring totally clean electric energy from local sources, has created “quite a splash” according to Poulos.

CCA programs are not new—there are 19 other cities in Illinois that have already gone to the open market to find more economical electric energy sources. What is novel about Oak Park’s bid process is that it requested an option for renewable energy sources in the power mix.

Growing numbers recognize the need to move quickly beyond carbon-based energy

“To some, this may be just about saving money on one’s electric bill, which is a very good thing,” said Village Manager Tom Barwin. “But to those increasingly growing numbers of individuals who recognize the need to move as quickly as possible beyond carbon-based energy generation systems toward clean, renewable energy sources, this is a significant, far-reaching step.”

Indeed, Oak Park is just part of a rising worldwide demand for renewable energy of all kinds. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2010 was the first year that global investments in power plants from renewable sources (wind, sun, waves and biomass) exceeded that for new fossil-fuel sources (natural gas, coal and oil).

Oak Park’s efforts to reduce its dependence on polluting energy sources don’t end with the CCA program.

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PlanItGreen implementation gains momentum as first quarter priority strategies are identified

Submitted by Sally Stovall

The official  Oak Park-River Forest Sustainability Plan was presented to village officials, the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation, representatives of institutions in the area, and community residents in June of this year.   The plan, which was commissioned by the OPRF Community Foundation has been adopted by the the two villages and many other stakeholders.  Seven Generations Ahead and the Delta Institute have been retained as consultants to the project to guide the implementation process.

Twenty strategies in the 9 different focus areas have been prioritized to be started in the first quarter of the implementation.  This is not an exclusive list and other strategies may also be undertaken by various institutions and community groups.  Following is a brief description of the 1st quarter priority strategies, grouped by topic areas:

Topic Area:  Education

  • Develop Sustainable Teachers Network / Task Force
  • Develop local web-based resource and information portal through Green Community Connections
  • Green Town Oak Park 2011   (Complete:  Held 10/12/2011)
  • Develop best practice case studies by strategy and institution related to core topic areas)
  • Conduct PlanItGreen Adopter / Stakeholder Forums  (Scheduled:  11/30/2011)

Topic Area:  Energy

  • Access and promote existing energy efficiency upgrade loans and grants to support local business, residents and condo owners

Topic Area:  Waste

  • Develop pilot residential food scrap collection and composting program in Oak Park & River Forest.  (A pilot program including 2500 homes in south Oak Park is being planned to begin in April, 2012).
  • Establish building materials re-use center

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Aquaponics Projects to be featured in talk at Ascension School – Nov 20th at 2pm

Submitted by John Owens

New Development in Urban Agriculture

A new development in urban agriculture is surfacing just off the campus at Chicago State University and at selected high schools in Chicago’s West and South sides. Tilapia and Perch are being raised organically and symbiotically alongside crops of fresh vegetables. Chicago State professor Emmanuel Pratt is developing and promoting aquaculture in Chicago based on systems that he pioneered with Sweet Water Organics in Milwaukee. Follow this link http://sweetwater-organic.com/ for the Milwaukee story.

Learn about projects in the Chicago area

For the Chicago story please join us at 2 PM, Sunday, November 20 at the Ascension School Pine Room,   601 Van Buren, Oak Park. This presentation is sponsored jointly by the Ascension Catholic Church Community Garden Group, the Interfaith Green Network and the Shawnash Institute.  Event Flyer to share with others is attached.

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Oak Park Takes the Lead: Opting to Purchase Electricity from Renewable Sources at a Lower Price

Submitted by Earl Lemberger

Oak Park is first municipality in Illinois to offer residents 100% renewable energy program

Oct. 18, the Oak Park Village Board approved a plan making Oak Park the first municipality in Illinois to offer its residents and small business owners the option to choose a 100% renewable energy program.   This move will provide energy certificates, or Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from green sources while saving customers 25% on the energy portion of their bill.  This will result in a projected savings to residents of about $4.5 million over the 2 year agreement with the supplier, Integrys Energy Services.

The current sources of Com Ed’s power were presented as 50% nuclear with the balance predominately coal and other non-renewables. While power will still be delivered to all residents by Com Ed, participating Oak Park residents and businesses will be purchasing power from Integrys which will be generated from 100% renewable sources, thus reducing the proportion of power supplied to the grid by conventional, non-renewable sources.

25% savings on energy portion of the bill will result in an average 15% reduction in overall electric bill

According to Village Manager, Tom Barwin’s post on this topic on his blog, MissionMainStreet, “Based on an average bill of $100 per month, the 25% savings on the energy portion of the bill will result in an approximate 15% reduction in the average resident and small commercial business overall electricity bills over the next two years. All bills will continue to flow through ComEd.”

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Growing Power CSA – Pick-up Available in River Forest

Submitted by Sue Crothers

What is Growing Power?

Growing Power transforms communities by supporting people from diverse backgrounds and the environments in which they live through the development of Community Food Systems. These systems provide high-quality, safe, healthy, affordable food for all residents in the community. Growing Power develops Community Food Centers, as a key component of Community Food Systems, through training, active demonstration, outreach, and technical assistance.

Will Allen, our Chief Executive Officer believes, “If people can grow safe, healthy, affordable food, if they have access to land and clean water, this is transformative on every level in a community. I believe we cannot have healthy communities without a healthy food system.”

Our goal is a simple one: to grow food, to grow minds, and to grow community.

Growing Power’s Chicago Projects Office officially opened in February of 2002 to manage resource development and the technical assistance needed to assist emerging Community Food Centers and urban and small farm projects in the metropolitan Chicago area.  By bringing together food related activities that are typically dispersed, an urban farm as a community food center allows for an integrated approach to addressing food security, ecological, nutrition and public health issues.

Pick-up for CSA deliveries from Growing Power is available in River Forest

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