City Watch: Green actions gain speed

Adam Sege

If this month is any indication, it’s looking like Evanston could be a substantially greener city come next Earth Day.

After launching an energy efficiency campaign and passing new trash collection rules, city officials had a lot to celebrate at Saturday’s annual Earth Day and Arbor Day celebration. And with a proposal evolving that would bring wind turbines to Lake Michigan, Evanston moves forward with welcome momentum when it comes to reducing the city’s carbon footprint.

The Evanston Porch Light Campaign, launched last Thursday, offers residents free compact fluorescent bulbs in return for pledging to make small lifestyle changes that will reduce their personal carbon footprint. The project sends a clear message that reducing the city’s carbon footprint isn’t just the responsibility of the Evanston City Council. It’s an effort that needs every household to do its part.

The new trash collection rules, which took effect April 1, follow the same principle. City residents must now pay more for trash collection unless they downsize from a 95-gallon bin to a 65-gallon bin. At the same time, the city is letting residents use either 65- or 95-gallon recycling bins, as opposed to the previous 18-gallon size.

While important, the small lifestyle changes encouraged by the new trash rules and the Porch Light Campaign are just that-small. To truly make a dent in the city’s footprint, we need fresh ideas for action on a larger scale.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to see the city take tentative steps toward building an offshore wind farm in Lake Michigan. The City Council’s unanimous decision April 13 to ask city staff for a Request for Information on the project represents the beginning of what could be a transformative endeavor for Evanston.

With the idea still in its infancy, few opponents of the proposed wind farm have emerged. But anyone who thinks the project will be either quick or easy need only look to the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts for a reality check. After drumming up political backing for their proposed wind farm for roughly a decade, Cape Wind supporters are still waiting this week on a key decision from the Obama administration, a decision that may well strike a serious blow to the project.

Regardless of what the future holds for Evanston’s wind farm debate, the council’s willingness to consider the idea can only be interpreted as a positive sign. If the proposal does turn out to be feasible, a wind farm could make Evanston a regional and even national example of how to fight climate change on a local level.

Taken together, the new trash rules, Porch Light Campaign and wind farm proposal show this city is serious about watching its carbon footprint. Let’s hope the coming year brings even more to celebrate next Earth Day.City editor Adam Sege is a Medill sophomore, and can be reached at [email protected]