Highland Park readies for GreenTown conference
WHAT: Greentown Highland Park
WHERE: Art Center, 1957 N. Sheridan Road
WHEN: Oct. 18-19
FEATURING: Sustainability workshops and seminars including such topics as commercial food scrap collection for composting; the future of Chicago’s water supply; and creating environments that encourage walking, biking and community.
CONFERENCE FEE: Ranges from $40 for teachers and seniors in groups of three or more up to $125 for individuals.
INFORMATION/REGISTRATION; www.greentownconference.com; (312) 706-2533
Updated: October 13, 2012 10:26AM
HIGHLAND PARK — Steve Mandel just smiles when he drives past gas stations with signs showing $4-per-gallon prices.
He smiles because the city councilman knows that his monthly fuel expense is the equivalent of about 2 ½ gallons of gas.
“I drive an all-electric car,” Mandel said. “I get 300 miles to the gallon. I spend $10 per month on fuel.”
He regularly fills up a 96-gallon recycling container, puts a 33-gallon garbage container out only every two weeks, has joined the city’s composting program and has real time electric metering in his house.
While taking all of these environment-friendly steps, Mandel categorizes himself as “good, not excellent” in sustainability.
“I don’t have any solar panels or wind generators. I will do those when I get the money,” he said, citing what is holding back a higher grade in his self-assessment. “I will get solar panels for the car before too long.”
Mandel and other area residents will be able to pick up plenty of sustainability ideas as Highland Park conducts a three-day GreenTown Conference Oct. 17-19. Events will start with the screening of the movie “Wasteland” Oct. 17 at the Renaissance Place Cinema and culminate with a full-day conference Oct. 19, featuring 250-plus community leaders from Highland Park, the North Shore and the Chicago area. The zero-waste, carbon-neutral conference will have speakers, networking events and hands-on workshops providing opportunities to learn, connect and foster change.
“I want people to learn stuff,” said Michael Blue, Highland Park’s director of community development. “If everyone went away with at least one thing they learned — and not just having them come and learn something, but if they went away with something that they would do — that would be great.”
Blue, who has attended a number of similar conferences, said normally such gatherings just focus on the sustainability of the environment. Highland Park’s effort will focus on the sustainability of the entire community, focusing on government and the whole community, not just the environment, he said.
Highland Park has been a leader in sustainability for years. The city is in the process of hiring a sustainability coordinator. And the city has a “pay-as-you-throw” garbage-collection system, in which residents pay for the amount of garbage they put out. It offers electronics and Styrofoam recycling on a weekly basis.
“In Highland Park, it is our priority,” said Mandel, a driving force behind Highland Park’s GreenTown Conference. “The mayor (Nancy Rotering) has set out to have zero waste from schools, for kids to learn and practice sustainability.
“We are at the top of who does sustainability programming in Lake County, but we can do better. We can reach out to multifamily residences to do better. We can focus on electric cars, getting people out of gas vehicles. We just approved a bike and walk plan. We can put chargers in town. We can look at electric vehicles for employees. We were one of the first, if not the first town, to put staff in Priuses, and we have saved a ton of money. We use a lot less cars, staff shares cars. We have put together good models and achieved good sustainability.”
Blue noted that a highlight of the event will be an awareness walk at 7 a.m. Oct. 19 with Mark Fenton, host of “America’s Walking” on PBS. The walk will point out keys to getting more people out as pedestrians.
“Part of the fun is that this is beyond just one day,” Blue said. “It is a community event, not just sitting in a room talking about stuff.”
Cost to attend ranges from $35 per teacher for those attending in groups of five or more to $125 for individuals.
For a schedule of events or to register, go to www.greentownconference.com.