City uses Web to promote eco-consciousness

Katie Park

Evanston residents interested in going green can contribute to the city’s sustainability efforts with just a few clicks of a mouse.

The city offers sustainability resources on its Web site as a way of making the Evanston Climate Action Plan more accessible to residents, said Sustainable Programs Coordinator Carolyn Collopy.

“We can make a lot of changes in policy, but I think the best approach is informing our residents and allowing the community to make the decisions based on what info they have,” Collopy said. “It’s really important that we do everything we can to communicate with our residents what they can do and why it’s important.”

In addition to offering a recycling guide and links to both local and national environmental organizations, the city also participates in several online green initiatives:

The ENERGY STAR Pledge

Through a partnership with ENERGY STAR, a program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, residents can pledge to save money and energy by taking small steps toward energy conservation. The pledge gives residents options to save, such as setting thermostats to save energy, making sure their homes are well-insulated and replacing appliances with ENERGY STAR-qualified equipment.

ENERGY STAR estimates the amount of money and energy saved by each pledge. According to ENERGY STAR’s savings breakdown, Evanston has saved more than $225,000 and more than 2.8 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions through resident pledges.

However, the city hopes to involve many more residents than the 185 who have made the pledge.

“We have a goal of getting 5,000 pledges by the end of May,” Collopy said. “We’re nowhere close to that goal.”

Collopy said the city plans to reach out to more residents through a campaign around the time of Earth Day on April 22.

Zerofootprint Evanston

How many tons of carbon dioxide does a resident use in a year? The Zerofootprint calculator helps residents learn that number, also known as a carbon footprint.

Users plug in their food, travel, energy and waste use to the site’s calculator. The average carbon footprint for Zerofootprint Evanston users is 12.8 tons of carbon dioxide, 0.2 ton more than the average American carbon footprint.

“It was set up when we were developing our climate action plan as a way for city members to measure their carbon footprint,” Collopy said. “If (residents) couldn’t change their actions, they could purchase carbon credit.”

Residents purchase “carbon credit” by donating to the Evanston Community Foundation’s Climate Action Fund, Collopy said. The donations help fund projects to make energy improvements to nonprofits and low-income households, she said.

“(Zerofootprint Evanston) gives an opportunity to see what activities contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and you can learn ways to reduce,” Collopy said. “It breaks down what are the various things that contribute to your own personal emissions.”[email protected]