EPA lauds Evanston for sustainability efforts

Paige Leskin, City Editor

Evanston has been named one of more than 60 communities nationwide that have met a series of sustainability standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The city announced Thursday it has been designated a Green Power Community for its extensive use of green energy.

“Evanston has always been a leader in protecting the environment and supporting sustainable living,” Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said in a news release. “Earning the EPA’s Green Power Community designation is truly a testament to the collective efforts of our residents, businesses and staff, and is another step forward in achieving the City’s emissions-reduction goals.”

Of the total electricity used annually by the city’s government, businesses and residents collectively, more than 30 percent comes from green electricity, which comes from renewable sources such as wind water and solar power. The city uses 228 million kilowatt-hours of green electricity each year.

Although this is a significant percentage, this is just a first step in getting an increasing number of people in the community to use renewable energy, said John Nieuwsma, the vice president of Citizens’ Greener Evanston. The organization’s goal is to have 100 percent of the city’s energy come from renewable sources, he said.

“We, moving forward, want to get more and more residents into that program, which will most save them money and also the environment,” Nieuwsma told The Daily on Friday.

The city purchases much of its green electricity through the Community Choice Electricity Aggregation program, a partnership among local governments to provide its communities with less expensive energy. At a meeting in April, City Council approved a three-year contract with Homefield Energy to provide 100 percent renewable energy to residents and small businesses through the program.

Nieuwsma said the city still has a way to go in reaching its sustainability goals, which include reducing the city’s carbon emissions by 20 percent in 2016. Aldermen approved the plan in May, after the city had reduced emissions in 2012 by 13 percent from 2005 levels.

Working with the city, the aggregation program will continue to find other ways to provide the community with renewable sources of energy, including working with transportation, Nieuwsma said.

“We cannot backslide on any of the gains we’ve already achieved,” he said. “Climate change, it’s real, it’s happening now. It’s probably the biggest threat that faces civilization.”

In March, Evanston was the second city nationwide to be awarded a 4-STAR Community Rating for its sustainable initiatives, such as recycling and energy efficiency.

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