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Deep Green Sustainability

Jeff Smith as Mayor will work to brand Evanston as a leading green city.

  • Former chief attorney for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources
  • Faculty, Loyola Institute of Environmental Sustainability
  • Frequent speaker on renewable energy, public trust, energy, and wildlife issues
  • Evanston Climate Change Action Plan task force
  • Citizens' Greener Evanston (a founding director)
  • Sierra Club Air & Energy Committee
  • Former Board member, Executive Committee, Sierra Club Chicago Group
  • Evanston Lakefront Plan, participant/speaker
  • Volunteer/supporter, Friends of the Chicago River
  • Pro bono representation of the Lake Michigan Federation
  • Served on Cook County State's Attorney's Environmental Task Force

Jeff on a deeper green Evanston:

Prioritization: The number one issue of our time is the environment. This is hard to keep in mind when we face so many other pressing problems, but we can no longer afford to put our combined environmental emergencies anywhere but front and center in our attention.

Importance of Local Leadership: Evanston can and should set a national standard in environmental leadership and resource stewardship. The ascent of climate deniers to the White House and Cabinet demands that dedication to the commons can no longer be an afterthought where we give so-so candidates a pass; a liveable planet needs champions at every level to combat irresponsible neglect of problems that will challenge our grandchildren.

Evanston opportunities (generally): In Evanston, though we've made strides in greenhouse gas reduction, we have the potential to aim for carbon neutrality and true all-renewable electricity, and to transform priorities from pouring cement to restoring habitat. We can leverage our grid system of streets to have a far more comprehensive active transportation system, and the mayor must be an advocate for more reliable and accessible mass transit. We also have the duty to stop turning a blind eye to piecemeal privatization of our treasured lakefront.

Evanston issues (specific answers to CGE questions):

  • GHG reduction: I support revising the Evanston Climate Action Plan to reflect the Compact of Mayors target of 27% by 2020, and in fact I would support a more ambitious goal than that
  • Aggregation/renewable sources: I would like to see Evanston aim for carbon neutrality and it'd be difficult to achieve that without continued 100% renewable electricity, so I fully support continued aggregated purchase from all-renewable sources. I would support direct purchase instead of aggregated purchase via 3rd party if possible.
  • Local PACE or other financing initiative to fund energy efficiency and solar investments for Evanston homes and businesses: I would prefer a statewide program but also support localized initiative (whether county or municipal); such installs are greatly incentivized by programs that let the investment not be borne solely by owner, who may not get benefit of payback.
  • Tree ordinance: I support an Evanston ordinance that would protect trees in a manner comparable to the way neighboring  other communities. Such an ordinance recognizes that the urban forest, while largely privately maintained, is something more than the owner has a stake in. May also reduce some neighbor tensions.
  • Local regulation of pesticides, such as neonicotinoids (currently not allowed by state law): I would push to help Evanston being allowed to pass an ordinance regulating neonics because the science of neonics and impacts on esp. bees is pretty well accepted in Europe tho not here. This preferably should be done at state or at least county level; an Evanston ordinance would have limited impact; still, the "push" itself may help spur change.
  • Bike plan:  I support implementation because I see biking as a large part of Evanston's future, and Evanston should brand itself as a bike hub. Some Plan aspects could be better integrated. I would prefer greater separation of lanes; there are problems with execution esp. downtown, or where lanes/routes suddenly end. Some routes could be better integrated with destination locations, e.g., Central Street. On a larger scale, I want a re-thinking of Evanston's entire traffic plan. Such re-imagination would integrate bicycling from ground-up rather than having to patch onto an existing quilt of ad hoc controls and barriers.
  • Drainage/flooding:  New development must be required to take measures to prevent impact; that externality needs to be captured instead of passed on to the neighborhood (or to the Lake when locks are opened). A grant program representing the savings from incremental cost of sewer construction/maintenance could be instituted, and/or combined with a tax on non-green roofing, impermeable pavement and patios, etc. The City could actually enforce its yard drainage rules. Adding a surcharge/credit to the transfer tax is an opportunity to incentivize individual measures. The City could supply riprap or waste material from deconstruction as material for soakaways from French drains. "Soft" incentives such as contests and recognition for greening property are another tool.
    Public land should be flooding-neutral. All city projects should be green, period. A comprehensive bioswale program (that also uses native plants and local labor) should be undertaken.
  • Local/healthier food: I would encourage the use of vacant or non-used land, and suitable empty commercial/industrial space, for food production. More community gardens; indoor growing projects in a high-visibility location, or a downtown decorative flowerbed converted to food production as a statement. Rather than simply tolerate, license, and restrict, the City should encourage more local food production, including honey and eggs. Other animals besides chickens can be considered for husbandry.
    A program of encouraging more vegetable growth, citywide, even in small quantities (such as windowbox herbs), can have a cumulatively large impact. I would also utilize the schools: parents can often learn from their children, and the schools can be instrumental in educating about local produce, the importance of vegetables, where to buy them.

Sustainability and jobs: Movement toward true sustainability – which also includes a sustainable economy – will put more money in average folks' pockets and create far more jobs than current trends. Low-income households lose a far greater portion of their household budget to inefficiency and lost energy than do high-income households. Improving transit and supporting localized business most helps those who can't afford a car. And so on. The myth that we can't afford to be green 'because jobs' needs to be shredded and composted.

Green branding: Years ago while advocating for green building, I urged branding Evanston as a 'green' city not just for altruism and environmental consciousness, but because it would prove an attractor, especially in siting by younger entrepreneurs. When Walgreen's chose Evanston for its first LEED-Platinum store in the US, their explanation proved my point. More branding of Evanston as 'green and smart' will produce more of that. Organic, local-sourced, repurposive, and other innovative and forward-looking businesses will locate here as much for the Evanston cachet as for the well-matched consumer and labor force.

Local impact of green initiatives: Many environmental initiatives, such as habitat restoration, weatherization, or solar installation, are great local stimulus because the work can't be outsourced to India, China, or a robot. Environmental and sustainability jobs programs can provide not just work, but skills and education. Evanston should be positioning itself to take advantage of the opportunities contained within the recent landmark energy bill passed by the Illinois legislature.

Environmental justice: Of course, environmental justice needs constant attention. Where costs are higher for some greener products or services, or studies are needed, Evanston should look at ways to capture that higher cost through local sourcing. But investment in local workforce and truly sustainable measures provides returns in multiples through everything from greater circulation of money in the local economy to improved physical and mental health of the populace.

See also:

Evanston has a chance to elect an environmental champion. On Feb. 28, think globally and vote locally for Jeff Smith.


©2017 Jeff Smith. Paid for by in-kind contribution to Jeff Smith for Evanston. A copy of our report is or will be on file with, and available for purchase from, the Illinois State Board of Elections.
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