Environmental Defense Fund Fellow Joins Cook County

Laura Oakleaf

Cook County welcomes 2016 Environmental Defense Fund Fellow Kate M. Buczek. Environmental Defense Fund is a non-profit organization that works on finding cost effective solutions to environmental challenges. The EDF Climate Corps fellowship program matches organizations with highly trained graduate students from the nation’s leading universities to advance corporate energy initiatives. Since 2008, fellows have identified nearly $1.5 billion in energy savings for organizations, with an average of $1 million for each organization involved. Fellows work on a multitude of projects including transformative energy efficiency, sustainability, and other innovative energy projects.

Recent Duke University graduate student, Kate Buczek, above, brings her extensive sustainability knowledge to Cook County

Kate was chosen to work with the County because of our large impact on sustainability.  The County is undertaking dramatic sustainability efforts, with goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions  80 percent by 2050 and water use  30 percent by 2025 and 40 percent by 2035. The County has surpassed its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal by decreasing emissions 11 percent, ahead of the 8 percent goal for 2014. That year, the County passed its energy benchmarking ordinance, requiring the County to track annual energy and water use which will help us understand our energy efficiency.

Additionally, the County has received more than $3.7 million in rebates or grants for completed energy conservation measures.

Kate will work on a carbon reduction plan, writing a strategic management plan providing a roadmap to achieve the County’s greenhouse gas reduction goal. She will also advise the County on internal sustainability targets while developing an implementation and monitoring plan.  For the plan, she will research the impact of and strategize goals for energy, waste, water and transportation emissions reduction. Kate will further the County’s goals by helping establish baselines for other county operations including water, fleet and waste.

“I’m looking forward to helping the County create its emission reduction plan and learning more about how to best help the County meet its environmental goals,” Kate said.

Kate comes to the County from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment where she recently obtained her Master’s degree in environmental management with a concentration in energy and the environment and sustainable systems. She competed in the prestigious Yale Graduate Consulting Club Case competition presenting a consulting plan for a real world business problem with her team. Her extensive sustainable energy project experience includes: writing corporate social responsibility reports quantifying sustainability goals, conducting a cost benefit net present value analysis of switching generator fuel, creating a strategic plan to reduce Chicago’s transportation greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2035 and advising an investor on repurposing a theater to create a sustainable cultural hub. Kate also volunteered for the Notre Dame Appalachia Fall Break Service Learning Seminar, learning about communities in the region focusing on, among other things, sustainability and energy.

When looking for a summer fellow, Energy Manager and Cook County’s EDF Fellow Program Director, Tony Dover sought someone who “could see the big picture and has an understanding of energy management and building systems.” With her extensive sustainable energy background, we are sure Kate’s ten weeks with the County will prove mutually beneficial. We look forward to learning from her.