Leading Green


Green to Propel Event Participation

Green Space Today
YouthBuild Lake County's Earth Day celebration brought civic and corporate leaders together

Earth Day 2011: While environmental purist have begun to shy away from the pop appeal of Earth Day, the holiday has become an appropriate time to celebrate projects. One such example is YouthBuild Lake County's (YBLC) Earth Day event. YBLC, a non-profit-organization that provides construction-based training for at risk, low-income teens, hosted an Earth Day event to showcase the first and only energy efficient home in North Chicago, IL that was built by the organization's trainees.

Jon Hirsch,Vice President, Krugel Cobbles Inc. is a current director on YBLC board. Regarding the event, Hirsch said, “We (YBLC) were able to do multiple things all at the same event. We celebrated an energy efficiency home in a low income area, the trainees and Earth Day all in one.” Furthermore, YBLC's event, which was sponsored by First Midwest Bank (Trust Division), was a success due to the presence of attendees. Laurel Tustison, Executive Director of YBLC, said “ Congressman Dold was present at the event; I think people are interested in Earth Day to learn about ways to save money through energy savings and to see what green means in a home setting."

Green Space Today

Also held in April was the Historic Chicago Bungalow and Green Home Expo, an event that took place at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Northlight Architects, LLC of Chicago was an exhibitor. Architect Frank P. Michalski, AIA, LEED AP of Northlight said, “We (Northlight Architects) get exposure by a lot of people. There was a low immediate return though. I keep exhibiting at the expo because I've met many of my best clients at this show.” Other memorable events at the Merchandise Mart include Canstruction, a non-profit-organization that organizes competitions among builders and architects who construct structures made out of caned food. After the competition, caned food is then distributed to local food banks. Canstruction attendee Mike Borter of YAS Architecture said, “ We (YAS' young architects) are especially eager to do new things. I think Chicago has an electrified atmosphere that is new to it within the last 5 years. I think most projects have green elements these days and people want to talk about them. ”

On April 26, 2011, environmental consultant Matthew Otto of Terracon Consultants, attended the prestigious Urban Land Institute's “Real Estate Executives on Leadership and Management” event at the Union League Club. “I've been in environmental consulting focusing on urban redevelopment projects for 15 years and been a member of ULI for 4 ½ years and it’s been a great experience. ULI has helped me meet a mix of professionals that I've learned from and developed relationships with to advance sustainable real estate. Speakers at the ULI event included Lauralee E. Martin, Chief Operating and Financial Officer, Jones Lang LaSalle, Energy Star Partner of the Year (2011).

Borter's enthusiasm is shared by organizations such as the Foresight Design Initiative. Foresight's series of Green Drinks is consistently well attended by people representing a variety of sectors. On April 27, Green Drinks focused on the State of Sustainable Business in Chicago and highlighted the leaders of the recently established Chicago Sustainable Business Coalition. Suzanne Keers, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Local First Chicago (a coalition member), presented at Green Drinks. “Green Drinks has a very receptive crowd to our message,” said Keers. Another coalition member, the Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op, was represented at Green Drinks and the Co-op's founder, restauranteur Dan Rosenthal, addressed the packed house at the Environmental Law and Policy Center. When it comes to planning green events, Rosenthal, who owns several Certified Green Restaurants including Trattoria NO.10, Poag Mahone's and the Sopraffina Marketcaffe, suggests people need to remember to reduce and reuse before recycling (IE using silverware and cleaning with an eco-friendly solution is more sustainable than using 'recycled' plastic ware once). Rosenthal also points out that people should be aware that the majority of compostable products do not wind up at sites that foster proper decomposition.

Green Space Today
Dan Rosenthal at Poag Mahone's

Chicago's environmental spirit has become contagious in neighboring cities and counties too. GreenTown 2011 was held on April 28th at The Centre in Elgin, IL. Collectively produced by a5 and Seven Generations Ahead, the conference focused on The Future of Community. David P. Gorman, PE, Asst. Director of Public Works, Village of Lombard, attended the conference. “With the economy, I've had to directly tie sustainability to cost savings for the village,” said Gorman. Through the conference, I've learned how to avoid being a slave to the zoning code and there is real connection between health and sustainable design that promotes well being and savings for tax payers.” Also presented by a5 and Seven Generations Ahead was The County Green event hosted by the College of Lake County (CLC) on May 24th. Randy Blankenhorn, Executive Director, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) was the keynote speaker and discussed CMAP's Go To 2040 Plan. The plan takes a comprehensive, regional approach that also encourages participation among cities and counties outside of Chicago and Cook respectively. To learn about CLC's Sustainability Center, please visit http://www.clcillinois.edu/gogreen. The Center is financed by the Illinois Green Economy Network http://www.igencc.org/.

Doug Widener, LEED AP O+M, Executive Director, U.S. Green Building Council - Illinois Chapter, attended and presented at both Green Drinks and GreenTown and collaborated with his staff to plan the 6th annual Emerald Gala at Soldier Field United Club on May 21st. The IL chapter offers over 150 events throughout the year and continually strides to develop innovative programs. “We are launching GPRO, a certification program for people in the building trades. We are one of two chapters licensed to do it," commented Widener.

In May, events were widespread in Chicago. Despite lower attendance that reflected slow growth in the construction and real estate industries, Buildex Chicago still showcased 170 exhibitors. Other notable events in May included Green Festival Chicago held at McCormick Place (May 14-15) and Chicagoland Greenforce Summit and The Chicagoland Green Collar Jobs Initiative. The festival showcased numerous eco-lifestyle products and organic food that was actually competitively priced and well consumed, showcasing the public's growing demand for healthy, affordable food and companies' innovative means to deliver the goods at lower prices.

The Chicagoland Greenforce Summit, organized by Jobs for the Future (JFF) and National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the proceeding Chicagoland Green Collar Jobs Initiative (produced by Chicago Jobs Council (CJC) were held at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law on May 17th.

Green Space Today: what are the greatest challenges facing the creation of green jobs in the US and how can they be overcome?

Stephen J. Lynch, Sr. Project Manager, Jobs For The Future: My short answer is that our greatest challenge is that change is scary; people have a natural tendency to fear the unknown, but education eliminates ignorance and reduces fear. In a way, I think the question itself indicates some of the challenges that we face in trying to advance a greener economy. Our national challenge is to create jobs. A "green" job means different things to different people, and sometimes folks argue over how green a job is or is not. In addition to that debate, we hear the jibs and jabs of politically motivated discourse about the presence, or lack thereof, of these color-coded jobs. Amidst all this clamor and noise, it is easy to become distracted from the basic premise that what we are trying to do is create jobs, preferably good jobs that allow workers to earn family sustaining wages. For me, successfully greening the economy means two things:1) at the macro-level, we alter some of the underlying assumptions and components that drive our current economic model in ways that reduce our "consume and throw away" culture and narrow the growing chasm between the rich and the poor; and 2) at the micro-level, we create jobs that not only help people get by, but jobs that help people get ahead, and these jobs should fit within the fabric of self-sustaining local or regional economies.

Angela M. Bailey, M.A., Policy Associate, CJC, said, “There was significant reason for Chicagoland Green Collar Jobs Initiative to help promote jobs for underprivileged workers. Jennifer Keeling, Director of City Policy, CJC added, “Last year, we had a greater federal perspective. This year was more practitioner and locally focused. This year was dealing with an economy that hasn't bounced back.”

This summer, a variety of expos, fairs, and seminars will continue to take place in Chicagoland. Some will solely be green focused and other events will include eco-themes, companies and operations into the dynamics. While clearly driven by environmentalism, green innovation and events are largely being propelled by the timely principles of sustainability and the necessity to promote new domestic markets for the creation of resources, project development and jobs.