Climate Action Plan seeks to reduce Evanston emissions

Elise Foley

Inside a synagogue that calls itself “the greenest house of worship in the nation,” Evanston city employees and residents preached sustainability to the choir Sunday.

More than 200 residents gathered in the newly opened Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, 303 Dodge Ave., to discuss carbon footprints and learn about the city’s new Climate Action Plan. They also discussed how small steps, like switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, can make an impact on the environment. When a speaker asked audience members if they used compact fluorescent light bulbs, almost every hand went up.

“Right now we’re seeing a real paradigm shift,” said Rabbi Brant Rosen of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation. “Just in the past few years, the increase in awareness and willingness to act has been dramatic.”

The city is working with the Network for Evanston’s Future to create the Climate Action Plan, which will combine individual and city actions to make Evanston more environmentally conscious.

The plan, which will undergo more changes before being presented to the Evanston City Council in the fall, started in 2006 when the city committed to attempting to follow the Kyoto Protocol. The protocol asks industrial nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by about 7 percent of what they were in 1990. Although the U.S. has not signed the protocol, Evanston and about 800 other cities have decided to try to meet the goal, said Nicolai Schousboe, a co-chairman of the Evanston Climate Action Plan.

The draft had about 200 recommendations for lowering Evanston’s greenhouse gas emissions, said Carolyn Collopy, Evanston’s Sustainable Programs Coordinator. Creating wind turbines in Lake Michigan would power more than 500 houses and meet 30 percent of the total goal, she said. The city could meet another 2 percent of its goal by creating an “eco-pass,” which would allow free transit for people who boarded trains or buses in Evanston, Collopy said.

The audience was encouraged to look at Zero Footprint Evanston, a new Web site created by the city and the Network for Evanston’s Future. The Web site allows residents to enter information about the energy they use – such as miles they drive per year or servings of red meat they eat per week – to find out their carbon footprint.

The forum also discussed less physical components of helping the environment. In the keynote address, Rosen said “backlash” against environmentalism is beginning to be a problem.

“It’s a mentality that says there are certain interests, industrial interests or national interests, that are inherently based on exploitation of our resources, and changing a CFL light bulb or driving a hybrid car can’t do anything about it,” Rosen said.

“Walking the walk is absolutely central and important in making change in the world,” he said. “There is a direct line from that to state policy, to national policy, to international policy.”

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