Lighting the Way to Greener Libraries

Indian Trails Public Library District, located in Wheeling, Ill., reopened its doors on April 10, 2017 after renovating the building and rebuilding in the space — making the way for a more contemporary, bright, open, and energy-efficient space for all uses and ages.

Racetrack Lighting YS

Photo Courtesy McShane Fleming Studios

Patrons now conduct research amid low wattage LED lighting, which is easier on their eyes and does not cast a shadow. The children’s department is the home to the longest LED racetrack lighting in North America. At 815 feet, this racetrack lighting adds a fun, lively and seamless feel to the department and the rest of the library. The space also has a skylight, which offers patrons natural light, especially during the long winter season. And, visitors can also snuggle up with a captivating book next to the gas fireplace.

 

But, the most relevant upgrade of the new building is the conversion of the pricey electric heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system to a more cost-efficient and cleaner system which features geothermal wells and natural gas boilers. The library currently houses 28 geothermal wells. Since the library reopened in April, it is still too early to report any energy savings since switching from electric to geothermal energy, although early indicators suggest significant cost savings on energy bills.

In September 2017, Indian Trails added green roofs to the west and south sides of the library on the second floor. The plant material is composed of sedum, which is a perennial plant that is native to the area and requires little or no maintenance. In the springtime the plant blooms star-shaped purple flowers.

In June 2017 the library learned that it had become the recipient of a $100,000 grant from EBSCO Information Services, a library resource provider for academic, public library, and government, and school customers. This grant is for the installation of a solar array at the library. The other $100,000.00 grant recipient was the Athens-Clarke County Library located in Athens, Ga.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant and be given the opportunity to further enhance our new building, stated Brian Shepard, the library executive director. “Through our expanded STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics] programming and makerspace initiatives, we hope to educate and inspire residents to explore the lasting benefits that sustainability practices contribute to an informed community.”

Since its doors reopened in April 2017, the response to the new facility has been overwhelmingly positive. In August, the library hosted the solar house exhibit from  the Illinois Solar Energy Association. When the solar panels are installed next year, the library will include programs for all ages about how  families can reduce their carbon footprint, and the benefits of solar energy.

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Method – They Practice…What They Make

I have noticed lately that I’m not the only person in the natural cleaning aisle. In an industry abundant of chemicals and a plethora of scents, many of which do not smell like what they are advertised as, natural cleaning projects are, for a lack of a better term, a breath of fresh air. One such natural cleaning product is Method Home, which offers a wide variety of natural cleaning products – from multipurpose cleaner to floor cleaner to hand soap. Method Home’s Web site states “We follow the precautionary principle: if there’s a chance the ingredient isn’t safe, we don’t use it, period.”

Method also does not use any of the traditional ingredients such as phosphates or bleach, which are known to do harm to the environment. Method’s new facility has incorporated

Method

Copyright Method

this philosophy physically in their manufacturing and distribution center located in Chicago’s historic Pullman District – yes, the same Pullman who developed the luxury sleeping cars.

Green Cleaning, Green Energy

Method’s green cleaning supplies manufacturing facility is powered by clean energy. These energy-efficient sources include:

  • Wind Power – a 230 ft, 600 kW refurbished wind turbine will supply 30% of the center’s energy
  • Solar Power – three solar power trees with 60 PV modules on each tree can supply up to 45.9 kW of energy; with Chicago’s estimated 2,500 sun hours per year, these solar trees can generate approximately 115 MWh annually
  • Hot Water – hot water is supplied to the facility’s office sinks and showers by a 120 gallon solar-powered heating system
  • Energy Efficiency – the building’s rooftop and concrete are designed to reflect light, minimizing heat build-up, which lowers the air conditioning use during the summer
  • Natural Lighting – skylights provide natural lighting, which will decrease energy use; but will also contribute to better worker health and productivity
  • Biodiesel Shipping – Method’s fuel-efficient fleet of trucks runs on 20% biodiesel fuel, which will emit 20% less carbon than traditional trucks

Method’s manufacturing facility not only is energy-efficient and provides green cleaning supplies, while considering the environment, the company has also considered the aesthetics of the building and it’s influence upon the community. Conveniently located near public transportation, employees can get to work by train or bus, which lessens the carbon footprint. The building is not enclosed by a fence, which, according to Method, is a welcome invitation for residents to visit the factor. The company is also giving back to the community by providing a real life classrooms to schools. Method is working to offer school visits , so students can learn about renewable energy, hydroponic farming, and green manufacturing.

Method has many other components to their green manufacturing, which will be discussed in future posts.

Community Colleges Adding Green to Community Part 6 – Moraine Valley Community College

Tucked in one of Chicago’s southernmost suburbs, Moraine Valley Community College of Palos Hills has embraced sustainability and has integrated this mindsemorrainevalleyt in every aspect of the College.

The College’s Web site states that it’s sustainability efforts are multifaceted:

  • Green Campus – Guides the college’s operational and structural procedures and policies between the environment, our people and future prosperity.Green Careers – Supports green jobs training, awareness of green businesses in the local area, and building the capacity for the community to create a local green economy.Green Curriculum – Supports infusing sustainability across curriculum creating a larger population of the workforce that understands sustainability and how it relates to their work and lives.Green Communities – Serves as a resource to Moraine Valley students, staff, faculty, business members and residents.

The College made its green commitment in 2011 when it joined the Illinois Campus Sustainability Compact. In just a couple of years, the College has achieved:

  • the opening of the Sustainability Center
  • receives the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Bronze Stars
  • adopted sustainability to the general learning outcomes, which set measurable learning outcomes for sustainability outcomes
  • received an innovation award from the Moraine Valley Foundation to install a Bike Fix station
  • adopted sustainability to the general education learning outcomes, specifying measurable learning outcomes for sustainability literacy

A Green Commitment

According to Stephanie Presseller, Sustainability Manager at Moraine Valley, faculty has gotten involved with “greening the campus”. Presseller explains, “Faculty have participated in a ‘greening the curriculum Sustainability Scholars Program that helps them understand how to infuse sustainability into existing curriculum.  Each faculty learns what is sustainability and creates definitions that fit their specific discipline so they can teach it in context of the required content they need to teach. We have faculty from graphic arts, fine arts, biology, chemistry, business, recreation, physics, sociology, psychology, developmental education, heating and air, automotive, history, political science, speech, creative writing and literature… I’m sure I’m missing something. It’s really a diverse representation of faculty and disciplines and very exciting to have such a broad engagement.”

 

Community Colleges Adding Green to Community – Part 4, College of Lake County

Located in the Chicago area’s northernmost county, the College of Lake County has established a Sustainability Plan which, according to David Husemoller, CLC sustainability manager and adjunct horticulture instructor, “… is a three-year plan with goals and action items to be reviewed annually. Goals are organized in three areas: Greening Our Campus, Greening Our Curriculum and Greening Our Community.”

Broken down to a series of goals, the Sustainability Plan states that “Greening Our Campus  involves integration of sustainability principles and practices into all college operations including administrative decision-making, social responsibility, employee education, and physical facility management.”

Greening Our Campus includes:

 Buildings and Energy – minimize building energy consumption through conservation, efficiency and improvement measures. An example of this goal includes expanding the use of renewable the exploration and a feasibility analysis of logo-largesuch projects as the integration of geothermal heat and cooling sources and the conversion of the aging heat air handlers to solar-assisted systems. Another example is “…to provide physical and virtual access to energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies to be used as models for community and curriculum demonstrations.”

One such project is the geothermal system scheduled for the main campus at Grayslake, which will consist of a shared field and loop circling the campus. This geothermal system eventually will be used to heat and cool all the buildings on campus. As of this blog posting, drilling is completed and the pressure testing of wells is next.

According to Husemoller “We [CLC] expect to see 50% savings on water heating for buildings with solar thermal panels installed last year. We are experiencing savings in energy as we convert from metal halide and fluorescent lighting to LED fixtures, but those energy figures are difficult to highlight as they are confounded by changes in IT systems.”

According to the CLC Sustainability Plan “Greening Our Curriculum involves engaging faculty, staff and students in incorporating a foundation of understanding of sustainability context in all educational experiences offered by the institution. Through participation in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), the College of Lake County developed Student Learning Objectives in Sustainability and a set of definitions for identifying courses in sustainability offered by the College.

An example of Green Our Curriculum is  Student Engagement, which will offer unique opportunities for CLC students “to influence, participate, and learn from sustainability efforts on campus and in the community.”

Included in this student engagement is:

  • Communicate information and updates to all college students on institutional sustainability commitments and performance including materials in New Student Orientation, and opportunities to provide feedback and suggestions.
  • Work with offices and departments that coordinate student services and student leadership to integrate sustainable practices and activities into existing student life.
  •  Coordinate peer-to-peer sustainability outreach for students to receive training and support in representing and promoting sustainability resources and events to the student body.
  • Create partnerships within the community and on campus to offer extra-curricular experiences for students to be exposed to sustainability concepts as they impact their education, lifestyle and future.

Further Thoughts

Community Colleges are their own animal – these colleges truly reach into the community to not only educate community members, but much more. These colleges pose their own unique challenges as far as sustainability is concerned.

Husemoller notes “It can be a challenge keeping folks engaged across three campuses [Grayslake, Waukegan and Vernon Hills], but we had some success recently with a shoe and clothing/textile recycling drive with significant involvement across the board. Community colleges generate a significant amount of their carbon emissions from commuters. We have events highlighting alternative options for transportation. CLC serves a hub for the county bus transit system. CLC is installing more bike paths, connecting with the regional path system.”

Other accolades CLC can be proud of include:

 

Community Colleges Adding Green to Community – Oakton Community College

Community colleges – they’re at the root of many communities. These community colleges are just that – they serve the community and by doing so these colleges try to reach out to people with diverse interests. Sustainability is one of these interests. Being green and good to the Earth and more sustainable isn’t just a trend or an “in thing” anymore, it’s real – oakton_headerpeople from many backgrounds are interested in chipping in and preserving and beautifying the Earth and their surroundings – their community. I wanted to learn more about what the community colleges in my area (Chicago, Ill.) are doing to be more ecofriendly. So, I’m reaching out to these colleges to learn more. This is the first of a series of blogs which I will post when I have received the information.

Oakton Community College – Des Plaines, Ill.

Listed below are questions and answers I posed to Oakton’s Sustainability Specialist, Debra Kutska:

Q: What are some of the sustainability measures Oakton has taken which the college is most proud of and why?

A: A great piece of pride for the College is our 147 acre Des Plaines campus. We are located in a beautiful stretch of land alongside the Des Plaines River, Kloempken Prairie and a stretch of the Cook County Forest Preserve.  The College works hard on maintaining natural habitats for native plant and animal species. Our naturalist, Ken Schaefer, heads up such initiatives. We perform in regular habitat restoration endeavors including removal of invasive species such as buckthorn and garlic mustard, use native plants in our landscaping, compost lawn clippings and plant trimmings, avoid pesticides and herbicides whenever possible and have an extensive prairie restoration project in process including regular prescribed burns.  These efforts have resulted in recognition from the US EPA and Chicago Wilderness in the form of a 2010 Conservation and Native Landscaping Award and by the National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Another great endeavor is the opening of our new Margaret Burke Lee Science and Health Careers Center, our first building erected under LEED certification.  You can read more about that here: https://oaktongreenteam.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/margaret-burke-lee-science-and-health-careers-center-is-open/.

Q: How has the College reduced energy?

A: Reducing our electricity consumption is an ongoing process, particularly since our main campus buildings are older. Some of the things we have done include replacing parts in our HVAC equipment to those that are more energy-efficient, switching out to CFLs and LED lights in phases (we recently replaced all of our Halogen bulbs in the gymnasium with LED lighting), utilizing occupancy sensors and timers throughout buildings to turn out lights when not in use, choosing Energy Star appliances where possible and high-efficiency technology equipment, using solar heating for water at the Des Plaines campus, and installing a 23.6 kw solar array on the new Lee Center.

Q: Has the College reduced its water consumption?

A: Using native plants on campus results in less water usage for irrigating the grounds. We have switched to water efficient fixtures in restrooms (low flow toilets, faucets) and are in the process of remodeling our locker rooms which will also contain water-saving features.

Q: What has been the faculty and student reaction to the College’s green efforts?

A: Informally, folks are excited. My position is new to the College and I just started in July. I have received lots of great feedback from staff and faculty who are excited about opportunities to be more sustainable in our operations and lots of suggestions are coming in for how we can make this happen. It is great to see individuals from multiple departments, across disciplines come together with ideas.  Of course, there are many out there who are not interested or who do not see the value in green efforts, so we just have to work to frame projects in ways that will be more appealing to them. Maybe it is the cost-savings, maybe it involves the benefits our students can receive, or the way we represent ourselves as leaders in the community.  Every day is a chance to help people think about their behaviors.

Q: Is composting in the future?

A: Yes, we hope! We currently have a task force assigned with evaluating the waste we produce on both campuses. How it is produced, what is produced, how we can reduce our usage or better divert waste from landfills. Composting is high up on the list of conversation. We are currently evaluating opportunities and costs associated with onsite composting versus third-party composting.

Q: Future plans?

A: Looking at data to evaluate baselines for water and energy consumption, reducing our waste so that we send far less to the landfill, refining recycling opportunities and educational campaigns for all users of our campuses, reducing our paper usage and increasing digital technology for operational procedures.

Lara R. Jackson is a writer/editor based in the Chicago available for full-time, part-time or freelance opportunities. Visit www.lrjwriteedit.wordpress.com or contact her at lrjwriteedit@gmail.com.

Wild Film Fest, Climate Action 411 Kick Off Earth Month

Climate Action 411 Logo_V9Live in the Chicago area? Have a passion for the environment but not sure what you can do? The first Wild & Scenic Film Festival and second annual climate change conference, this year titled Climate Action 411 will be held Friday, April 9 and Saturday, April 10. The film fest kicks off the earth-friendly weekend from 6:30-9:30 on Friday. The conference follows the next day from 9 am – 4 pm. Both events are held at the Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist in Palatine.

Friday’s Wild Film Fest features over 12 films — from two minutes to 30 minutes in length — not only showcasing films about the latest sustainability crisis, but also hopeful films about innovative ideas and people making a difference caring about the environment. Some of the films which will be showcased include Backyard, which focuses on five very different people from four states at odds with natural gas extraction occurring around them; Harnessing the Sun to Keep the Lights on in India, a firsthand account about how solar power is providing clean, solar energy to Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state (and poorest too); and Monarchs & Milkweed, a journey of how monarch butterflies are dependent upon milkweed for survival.  Tickets are $5. For more information call 847- 767-0993 or visit https://wildandscenicfilmfestival.eventbrite.com.

For those who really want to learn about the different issues facing our environment, especially the Chicago area, reserve your spot at the Climate Action 411 symposium the following day, Saturday, April 10.

According to Climate Action 411, ” We’re shifting the conversation from “Is climate change real to “How do we work together on solutions ensuring climate justice for everyone?” Highlights include a panel discussion hosted by Jerome McDonnell, host of WBEZ’s Worldview and workshops focused on a variety of sustainability concerns and topics. Featured local sustainability leaders who will be attending include Barbara Hill, Sierra Club; Illinois State Representative Elaine Nekritz and Rebecca Stanfield of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Tickets are $10. If you register for both events, tickets are $12.

For more information about these events please visit the Northwest Cook County Group of the Sierra Clubs events page at http://www.sierraclub.org/illinois/northwest-cook-county/events-programs.

Grainger’s New Data Center First LEED Certified Center

Lake Forest, Ill.-based Grainger, the broad line supplier of maintenance, repair and operating systems, recently announced that its new data center located in Lake Forest, “…is certified as the world’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] facility of this type,” as stated in a recent Grainger press release.

The new data cenGraingerter features an advanced cooling system where the energy used for cooling the facility is controlled by closely monitoring the air flow using outside air to cool the facility. Due to this feature, Grainger expects the new facility to consume up to 50 percent less energy for cooling compared to similar data centers.

According to the press release, “Data centers usually run nonstop, which means these facilities can consume up to 200 times more electricity than typical office spaces. Most of this energy is used to cool the building as temperatures from IT equipment housed in a data center can reach more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This Grainger data center’s air cooling design is anticipated to have a best-in-class PUE rating of 1.2 at full capacity; the industry average is 2.0.”

“Our goal is always to build the most sustainable facility possible,” said Gail Edgar, vice president of Grainger Real Estate and Facilities Services. “One of the most important components of the project was to realize significant energy savings by maintaining a low Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), which measures the energy used beyond the IT load.”

According to Grainger’s Web site, the company is committed to building more buildings up to LEED standards. Grainger became the first industrial distributor to have a LEED-certified facility in 2008. Presently, the company operates 16 LEED-certified buildings in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and construction is underway for its newest facility in Toronto.

The Web site states, “By sharing best practices across facilities, almost all Grainger buildings have adapted some components of LEED certification requirements in areas such as recycling, waste disposal, lighting and cleaning. For example, the company has retrofitted 168 facilities in Canada and the United States with energy efficient lighting, decreasing annual energy consumption by an average of 15 percent per facility.”

The United States Green Building Council’s LEED program “… is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Prerequisites and credits differ for each rating system, and teams choose the best fit for their project.”

Green Alternatives For Autumn Yard Work

September already! It seems as though we were just peeling off our parkas for the warm summer sun and now we’re digging through our closets searching for those hoodies, jeans and other fall clothes we were so eager to get rid of back in the spring.

For some of us fall also means preparing our yards for the nasty, and sometimes just plain brutal winters, which we leavesexperienced last winter in many parts of the U.S. including the Midwest. But, gardening nowadays means a lot of noise and pollution.In fact, according to an article posted on EarthShare’s Web site, “…one gas-powered leaf blower can emit as much pollution as 80 cars!”  What can modern gardeners do to adequately prepare their gardens for the winter while treating the Earth better?

The number one tip is to choose hand-powered tools over gas-powered tools. Sure, it may take you longer and it may be a bit more strenuous, but think of it as a built-in workout.  Some suggestions include:

  • Choose rakes over leafblowers. Rakes are just as effective. If you really need a leafblower for a difficult spot to reach, choose an electric leafblower, which are quieter, more energy-efficient and do just as good of a job than a gas-powered leafblower.
  • Try electric trimmers instead of energy-intensive garden trimmers.
  • Most lawns are small enough for hand lawn mowers instead of power mowers. If you decide you need a power mower, conduct some research on electric mowers, which make less noise and have less environmental impact.
  • Hire the neighborhood kids to help! Don’t have the time to take care of your lawn or garden?! Hire the neighborhood kids – it’s more affordable and ecological – plus it teaches the kids responsibility.
  • Compost as much as possible. Spread a thin layer of screened compost about a quarter of an inch to a half of an inch thick on the top of your lawn.
  • Final mowing – for the final mow of the season, cut the grass a little shorter than usual to prevent matted grass and snow mold.
  • When fertilizing your lawn try organic alternatives. Start by leaving the grass clippings on your lawn. Plant clover, which is rich in nitrogen. And then you can also leave compost on your lawn once a year.

These are just a few alternatives to prepare your lawn and garden during the fall for the winter months. These gardening tips have been around a lot longer than chemicals and gas-powered machines and work just as well, or even better. Many times, these alternatives may also be less expensive as well.

Have Fun in the Sun….And Learn Something Too With Sierra Club Group Outings

The summer and fall months are perfect for meeting new people while exploring the great outdoors and learning about the preservation of the environment and the Sierra Club provides all of this.

“Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet” is the Sierra Club’s motto and members and nonmembers can explore the outdoors with the Club’s many outings. There are three parts to the Club’s outings: local, national and international. Another outings offshoot are the Inner City Outings in which the Sierra Club visits urban areas giving these residents the opForested dunes hikeportunity to explore the outdoors – many urban residents never have the chance to visit rural areas. The Sierra Club Northwest Cook County Group, which serves Park Ridge to the Cook County section of Barrington and south to Schaumburg and Elk Grove Village offers a variety of outings for all skill levels – from easy to more strenuous hikes to canoe trips to cross country skiing during the winter.

Rick Szafarz, Outings Chair of the Northwest Chapter explains, “When people participate in these outings they generally have an overall love to get outdoors and explore. The Sierra Club’s outings range from hiking to camping, biking, backpacking and paddling and many other activities. We usually offer between a dozen and two dozen outings per year.”

For more information about outings, including pricing information (most outings are only $3) check out both the Northwest Chapter’s and the Illinois Sierra Club’s pages. You don’t need to be a member of the Sierra Club to attend the outings and, even if you live in the Northwest Cook County region you can still attend outings throughout the state or the country as well.

Some upcoming outings presented by various groups throughout the state include the Wilderness Act Celebration at Lusk Creek (Shawnee National Forest) on Saturday, August 9; Cycling the Oak Savannah and Prairie on Sunday, August 10; Adopt a Trail Work Day – Illinois Prairie Path in Glen Ellyn on Saturday, August 23; Sand State Forest Exploratory Backpack on Sunday, September 7 and South Kettle Moraine Beginner’s Backpack Friday, September 19-Sunday, September 21.

And, if you have more of an interest in the environment and conservation and would like to be surrounded by other like-minded individuals, the Northwest Cook County Group has monthly program meetings the second Thursday of every month at 7:30 pm with a time to socialize beforehand at 7 pm. Light refreshments will be served. Currently the meetings are held at the Spring Valley Nature Center, 111 E. Schaumburg Rd. in Schaumburg. Meetings are free and open to the public. Be sure to check the Group’s Web site for the meeting’s topic.

Climate Change…It’s Us: Part I

I recently attended Climate Change: Connections for Action at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Palatine, Ill. and was pleasantly surprised by how many people showed up — it was great seeing other like-minded individuals. It’s nice to know I’m not the only liberal, tree-hugging liberal in the conservative Northwest Suburbs of Chicago!

Dan Hunthsha, Climate Reality Leader at The Climate Reality Project kicked off the conference with an eye-opening, but a bit worrisome presentation about climate change beginning the conference stating, “Climate change is real — it’s definately us, but there is hope.”

The one statistic that really stood out for me is that five percent of all carbon comes from lawn mowers! I was stunned by that statistic.

Hunthsha shared scientific data clearly proving that we are the culprits of Global Warming – it’s no longer something that we can shy away from – especially after the worst winter the United States has faced in over 30 years. Those of us who live in the hardest hit areas of the country affected by this winter have experienced Climate Change firsthand.global-warming2

According to Climate Reality, “Our planet is heating up, and carbon pollution is to blame. Ninety million tons of carbon pollution enters our atmosphere every day. Nine of the ten hottest years on record were in the past twelve years.”

Evidence of Climate Change can be seen over the entire world – from Superstorm Sandy to extreme pollution in China to extreme rain and flooding this winter throughout Europe and, in 2013 the hottest summer on record in Australia. In fact it was so hot in Australia that meterologists had to add a new color to the weather map defining the extreme temperatures.

After the introductory presentation, the conference got local with representatives from various regional and state green organizations including the chapter of a national location. I will discuss this panel discussion and more of the day’s activities in part two of this blog.

But, I leave you with this question…What is your impact on the Earth? And…what can you do to lessen this impact?

 

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