Make a Measurable Difference by Being a "Green Guide"

Christophe Boisson/Shutterstock

Christophe Boisson/Shutterstock

By Lisa Biehle Files

PlanItGreen is launching a campaign to make a big reduction in the amount of material we send to the landfill. The PlanItGreen sustainability plan outlines a goal to divert 50 percent of Oak Park and River Forest “waste” away from landfills by 2015 and into compost and recycling, where it becomes a resource.

Right now, Oak Park and River Forest together are diverting 37 percent. That’s not bad, but we believe we can do better – working together – to meet or exceed our goal.  Central to this initiative will be a new communications network called Green Guides.

Green Guides are residents who will communicate with their neighbors, to point them in the right direction for resources on waste reduction, water conservation, energy efficiency, and more,” said Jen Nelson, Zero Waste program manager for Seven Generations Ahead. You can be a Green Guide for your building, your block, or your neighborhood (a cluster of adjacent blocks).

“We are not expecting Green Guides to be experts in any or all areas. They will simply be links, connecting their neighbors to green resources in our communities.”  

“How do we get more people engaged in reducing, recycling and composting?” asked Jen. “It can be confusing to know what can be recycled and what can be composted. Our goal is to make that easier for residents to participate in these programs.”

To answer these questions, PlanItGreen is making an educational guide to hang on refrigerators, which illustrates what can be composted, recycled, or as a last resort, sent to landfill. Green Guides will distribute this information to their respective blocks.

We will be piloting the Green Guide program in the coming months.  You are invited to be part of the solution as Oak Park and River Forest work together to meet our original PlanItGreen goal of 50% waste diverted from landfill.

Sign-up today to be aGreen Guide share theGreen Guide invitationwith your friends!

Pulling neighborhoods together around a cause, getting to know more of our neighbors, and building a more resilient community, may be indirect side effects of the Green Guides program.

Jen underlined the waste reduction successes thus far through Zero Waste programs. Public schools in Oak Park and River Forest have had waste reduction programs in place for several years. When kids see their families and other adults in the community also recycling and composting, it helps them see that what they are doing at school is important and reflects a community-wide commitment.

For additional information on how schools and institutional leaders can get more involved, please see below.

The latest schools to join the waste reduction band wagon are St. Giles in Oak Park and Trinity in River Forest. Any schools that have not started a Zero Waste program yet are welcome to contact Jen at

Local institutional leaders will have an opportunity to share what has worked for them, learn about resources, and discuss sustainability collaboration at PlanItGreen’s 4th Annual Institutional Leaders Forum from 8 to 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, at Marion Street Cheese Market. Please RSVP to Lisa at

Through individuals, blocks, schools, and institutions, Oak Park and River Forest will work together to meet, and perhaps even exceed, PlanItGreen’s waste reduction goals.