Mayor Richard M. Daley today marked the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day, re-committing the City to protecting human health and the environment, which in turn promotes economic development and improves the quality of life for all residents.
“Earth Day has played a major role in making what was a low priority in our society in 1970 a high priority now,” the Mayor said in a news conference held in Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St.
“I’m proud of the environmental leadership that Chicago has set and that is being replicated by cities here and around the world. I’m proud that we acted many years ago, in areas that many cities are just beginning to appreciate today,” he said.
Daley said that 2009 was a difficult year in Chicago because of the national recession and that it is important for the City to use every tool available to support and grow businesses in Chicago so they can create new jobs.
“In the last year, we’ve taken many steps that show it is possible to implement responsible environmental policies that also create economic growth and protect taxpayers,” he said.
He said one of those steps has been the implementation of the Chicago Climate Action Plan, which the City unveiled in late 2008 as its blueprint for enhancing the environment and reducing greenhouse emissions substantially by 2020.
“The benefits of this plan go beyond the important goal of improving the environment. Implementing the plan will save companies and residents money, enhance our quality of life and position Chicago for future economic growth,” Daley said.
He said he is pleased with what the Plan has accomplished so far. For example:
- The firm of AT Kearney has provided pro bono assistance to create more than 450 individual climate action initiatives for 15 city departments and sister agencies.
- Booz, Inc., also worked pro bono to create a strategy for energy efficiency retrofits of residential, commercial and industrial properties across the city. One part of that strategy — the Energy Action Network — has provided thousands of low income Chicagoans and owners of hundreds of commercial and industrial properties with help in weatherizing their buildings to make them more energy efficient.
- The plan has helped Chicago leverage millions of dollars of resources from foundations, the private sector and the State and Federal government – resources that ensure the plan’s implementation for the next decade.
In other achievements in the past year related to the environment, Daley said the City and its partners have:
- Achieved a $3.3 million savings in energy costs as a result of the “Green Office Challenge,” which involves building owners and tenants reducing their impact on the environment and meeting the targets adopted by the City to reduce global warming pollution.
- Used $17 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to create nearly 650 community-based green jobs for the hard-to-employ, including the formerly incarcerated over the next two years.
- Weatherized 7,000 homes through a collaborative effort of students, teachers, and community leaders through the Chicago Conservation Corps Student Clubs and Chicago Conservation Corp leaders.
- Passed a new anti-idling ordinance for diesel vehicles. The new idling limit will improve air quality and conserve fuel; and
- Been listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency among the top five cities in the nation in terms of the total number of Energy Star-rated buildings, both public and private.
- Saved, through the Waste to Profit Network – a partnership of more than 300 area businesses, organizations, institutions and municipal departments — more than $10 million and kept more than 112,000 metric tons of waste out of landfills.
The Mayor also noted that the Daley Center has achieved Energy Star status and that Chicago now has 88 LEED certified buildings – 32 of which are city-owned. With those 32 city-owned buildings, Chicago leads the nation — by a two-to-one margin — in LEED certified municipal buildings.
And he said Chicago is acknowledged as the national leader among cities in green roofs with 600 completed or underway totaling more than 7 million square feet. The City requires green roofs to be installed on buildings of developers who receive economic assistance from the city.
Daley said that among new initiatives the City is undertaking to raise awareness of the importance of environmental issues are:
- A Neighborhood Paper Drive, in which neighborhood groups can win cash prizes through the Department of Environment for collecting paper for recycling. The paper drive will also pay back the participants for the amount they recycle above the basic cost of the container, so they make money regardless of whether they win a prize.
- A recycling competition at City facilities to see who can show the largest percent increase in recycling. A video contest for high school and college students built around Earth Day theme. The Mayor said there are many simple ways every individual and business can make the environment part of their every day lives, such as:
- Driving less and walking more
- Using more energy-efficient light bulbs
- Insulating and weatherizing your home
- Turning off appliances and computers when they’re not in use
- Planting trees and shrubs around buildings to reduce temperatures, and
- Using public transportation more frequently.
“In Chicago, the environment is a major component of our strategy to attract people and jobs and to remain competitive in the global economy,” Daley said. “When we do such things as plant trees and create open space, remove pollution from the air and encourage construction of buildings that are smart for the environment, then we enhance the quality of life for all the residents of the city.
“As Earth Day reminds us, protecting the environment is everybody’s business,” he said.