City to relaunch sustainable business recognition program and begin new solar initiative


Daily file illustration by Catherine Buchaniec

The “Sustain Evanston” program will help business advance towards the Climate Action and Resilience Plan’s goal to make Evanston carbon neutral by 2050.

Yiming Fu, Assistant City Editor

The city relaunched its Sustain Evanston business recognition program and announced residents will be able to sign up for Community Solar to use solar energy without having to pay an installation fee, according to a Monday newsletter.

Both initiatives will help Evanston advance on its Climate Action and Resilience Plan, which strives to make Evanston carbon neutral by 2050 

CARP also has smaller benchmark goals to keep the city on track. It aims for 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, and for the city to divert 50 percent of waste out of landfills from 2017 levels. 

Sustain Evanston encourages businesses to reduce their environmental impact, recognizing sustainable businesses with a storefront decal. Each recognized business also receives $350 to help offset costs associated with meeting the program requirements. The program previously recognized 17 businesses in 2019, including Kombucha Brava, Backlot Coffee and Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse. 

Businesses need to submit documentation and complete 10 required actions to be recognized. Some actions restaurants can take include providing clear signage for a recycling program and implementing composting. Sustain Evanston currently recognizes office/retail, restaurant, healthcare, landscaping and beauty/wellness/spa businesses, with actions varying for each type of business. 

In addition to incentivizing businesses to become more sustainable, the city has partnered with MC-Squared Energy Services, Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and energy provider Soltage to offer Community Solar as a renewable energy option to residents. 

Residents that join Community Solar will have lower electricity costs and will receive 20 percent savings on the energy supply portion of their bills according to the City of Evanston’s website. Community Solar will begin sign-ups on May 17. 

For every twenty participants in Community Solar, one low-income resident gets a “no-fee subscription.” Low-income residents on the Supplemental Nutrition Access Program or Medicaid are also eligible for 100 percent savings on the supply portion of their bills. 

Chicago firm MC-Squared has worked with the city to fund Community Solar. The city established a partnership with MC-Squared in early April with a two-and-a-half-year funding agreement. The firm will provide $1.25 million in revenue to the city over the 30 months to further consolidate electricity supply, according to the agreement.

“The remaining funding (will be) put toward things like low-income solar energy efficiency and other things that help reduce people’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Kumar Jensen, chief sustainability and resilience officer, told The Daily when City Council approved the funding agreement in April. “We may also use some of it to provide utility payment assistance.”

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