The goals for “Sustainable Chicago 2015” aren’t just about alternative energy or the environment. Yet out of the seven major initiatives for a sustainable city, it is refreshing to see that five directly relate to the better use of resources that contribute to clean water, clean air and clean energy. (Learn more about the program here.)
What’s equally important is that the city sees environmentally-sound policy not as a buzz word or even political capital – but as part of a strategy for Economic Development and Job Creation.
The program’s seven initiatives are synergistic and build upon their unique successes. Initiated in September 2012 by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Sustainable Chicago 2015 has issued its first progress report, six months into the effort.
Here are some green highlights from various initiatives in the report:
- 11,050 apartment units in 314 buildings have gotten retrofits, cutting 13, 965 metric tons of emissions while creating more than 400 jobs.
- Shedd Aquarium is deploying a model that estimates a 50% reduction in energy consumption by 2020.
- Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) will replace 300 existing buses with new, 40-foot, low-floor, clean diesel buses; full production is expected to begin in February 2014.
- The Chicago Public Schools Composting Program kept more than 22 tons of food scraps out of the landfills
- Blue cart recycling was expanded by131,000 additional households and managed competition for recycling services will decrease costs by 38%.
There were a lot of great efforts noted in the update (read it here), but I say that with a bit of caution. Sustainable Chicago 2015 set forth very clear, very measurable objectives. For example, the Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy initiative is charged with the following tasks:
- Improve citywide energy efficiency by 5%
- Improve overall energy efficiency in municipal buildings by 10%
- Create an additional 20 mw of renewable energy, consistent with the Illinois Renewable Portfolio standard.
Each item is then defined further by key action steps, such as: “Support and advance the installation of smart meters in Chicago’s businesses and households” and “Target 10 million square feet of municipal buildings for energy reduction of 20%.” Though the new progress report surely shows a great deal of positive activity, collaboration and enthusiasm, the updates did not correlate back to the goals or action steps.
Don’t get me wrong – what’s happening with Sustainable Chicago 2015 is all good news. Still, the plan is stronger for having set measurable goals and I’d like to believe that Chicago can track the implementation in the same quantifiable way it designed the plan. I look forward to further updates.