President Preckwinkle’s ‘Green’ Initiatives Moving Forward

August 21, 2014

Annual report to Sustainability Advisory Council details progress
Cook County is moving aggressively to advance President Toni Preckwinkle’s sustainability agenda through new and existing programs that reduce waste, decrease the County’s environmental footprint and make the County’s use of energy and water more efficient.

Preckwinkle’s Sustainability Advisory Council recently accepted a report summarizing progress made during the past year, as well as upcoming and continuing initiatives. The Council was created in March 2012 and is co-chaired by Christopher G. Kennedy, Chairman, Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises, Inc., and ComEd CEO Anne R. Pramaggiore. Its membership spans government, business and environmental groups, and the philanthropic community.

The Council’s initial recommendation to President Preckwinkle’s administration was for the County to reduce its carbon footprint and to establish a data-driven approach aimed at institutionalizing sustainability.

The report to the Council was generated by the County’s Green Leadership Team (GLT), which is composed of a cross-functional group of directors and bureau chiefs and chaired by Preckwinkle’s Deputy Chief of Staff Tasha Cruzat. It is staffed by the County’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Deborah Stone, and members of several County departments.

“I have tasked the GLT with advancing our ‘green’ programs across all departments and functions of County government,” Preckwinkle said. “We remain committed to working with the Council members and benefitting from their expertise in ways that can help us to pursue our goals through the development of sound environmental policies and practices.”

Among the highlights of the report presented to the Council:

The County continues to exceed its goals in the reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, supporting President Preckwinkle’s commitment to reducing Cook County’s GHG emissions by 80 percent by 2050 a year ago. The 2013 target was a 6 percent reduction in GHG emissions from the baseline number in 2010 – the actual reduction was 9 percent. Cook County Commissioners last month approved a Building Energy Benchmarking ordinance that will require the County to capture baseline data on energy and water use and set accountability measures as it continues to pursue its GHG emissions goal.

The Demolition Debris Diversion ordinance, approved by the Cook County Board of Commissioners in 2013, requires contractors to divert (by weight) 70 percent of the debris from demolition projects, and has shown great success. During its first 16 months of implementation, 90 percent of the materials from eligible demolitions and renovations in suburban Cook County (more than 400,000 tons) were diverted from landfills. In January, the County Board approved an updated Solid Waste and Recycling ordinance that will require haulers to report municipal waste and recycling by individual municipality beginning later this year. The data will serve to focus Cook County’s approach in assisting community-based efforts to increase waste diversion. The County has acted as an aggregator for grants and financing involving municipalities which, by themselves, lack the resources or staffing to pursue such opportunities. In May, the County received a $600,000 grant to pay for an assessment of brownfields in seven west suburban communities. Modernization of building infrastructure through Guaranteed Energy Performance Contracts (GEPCs) is already in place at the Department of Corrections and Stroger Hospital campuses and is expected to achieve a reduction in energy use of 20 percent, and annual utility cost savings of about $4.2 million, once all work is completed. The County plans to issue additional GEPCs for more of its facilities this year, and is moving towards having over three-quarters of its building square footage under energy savings contracts.

“The Sustainability Advisory Council pushed hard to have the County adopt a very aggressive goal, and I’m pleased to see that President Preckwinkle has taken up the challenge and that the County is not just meeting but exceeding its Greenhouse Gas reduction goal,” said Council Co-Chair Kennedy.