Cook County Exceeds Target in Key Sustainability Metric

Laura Oakleaf

New report shows 22 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions

For the third year in a row, Cook County has exceeded its greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) reduction goals, the County’s Annual Sustainability Report shows. GHGs from County buildings have decreased by 22 percent since they were calculated in 2010, an achievement that surpasses the target of a 10 percent reduction from 2010 through 2015. GHGs are a key factor in climate change, according to reputable scientific studies.

The County has increased energy efficiency through measures such as updating building control systems, and replacing and modernizing boilers and chillers. The County has also invested in renewable energy technology at facilities across the County.

The County’s reduction in utility use between 2010 and 2015 has saved taxpayers over $5 million in utility costs and has reduced the CO2 emissions equivalent to the electricity use of nearly 24,000 homes in one year.

The Sustainability Report was authored by the County’s Green Leadership Team, which is led by John Keller, Chief of Staff for Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle.

“The County has made tremendous progress in making our buildings more energy efficient and I am very proud that we’ve surpassed our goal by such a large margin,” Preckwinkle said.  “We are working to implement sustainable practices into all of our programs. We are focusing on reducing our emissions from fleet and transportation, reducing water use and waste, and finding ways to make the County’s communities more sustainable in the years ahead.”

Other key highlights from the report include:

  • Sustainability is being incorporated into the County’s work on transportation planning, economic development and resiliency and disaster recovery. In 2016, the County released Connecting Cook County, a policy plan that prioritizes transit and other transportation alternatives.
  • The County has reduced the number of vehicles in its fleet by 10 percent since 2012.
  • More the 900,000 tons of building materials have been diverted from landfills thanks to a 2012 County ordinance.
  • With grants from the federal government, the County is assessing brownfields in seven west suburban communities to begin the process of cleaning and redeveloping sites previously used for commercial or industrial purposes. The County is also expanding the market for community solar, making solar energy more accessible to all residents.
  • At the Rolling Meadows courthouse, water efficiency improvements have already resulted in a 52 percent reduction in water consumption in just the first five months of implementation.

The report also shows that in addition to energy efficiency work, the County is investing in renewable energy sources by installing the following:

  • Solar canopies that will convert the sun’s rays into electricity at the Bridgeview courthouse.
  • Solar thermal walls at four Department of Transportation and Highways maintenance facilities. The solar thermal walls convert the sun’s rays into thermal energy, heating air and delivering it to the facility.
  • A geothermal heating and cooling system at the Skokie courthouse.

President Preckwinkle has made sustainability and green practices a priority in her administration. She created the Green Leadership Team, which is tasked with working with her office, the Cook County Department of Environmental Control and other County departments to put forward innovative solutions and resources for sustainability programs that foster energy efficiency and decrease pollution.

Additionally, President Preckwinkle named Deborah Stone, the director of the Cook County Department of Environmental Control, as the County’s first chief sustainability officer.