Going green doesn’t have anything to do with choosing a natural paint color for your kitchen, or planting herbs in your community garden. But the phrase can have many different meanings across a broad spectrum. Turning off lights in rooms in vacant rooms is a green move; installing a gigantic wind turbine in your backyard is a bigger one. Communities throughout the Chicagoland area place green practices and programming at different positions on their lists of priorities—and the steps they take depend on funding, community interest, feasibility and other factors.
About 15 years ago, former Mayor Richard M. Daley started the ball rolling to make Chicago the most environmentally-friendly city in the country. Today, the Second City has become number one on the green scale: Chicago is one of the world’s greenest and most livable municipalities supported by seven million square feet of green roofs, an eco-friendly transit system, and more bikeways and parks than any other American city.
Some Chicago-area condo communities have followed suit and make energy-saving policies and programs a top priority for their building community. Residents have jumped on the bandwagon with their own initiatives. Simple tweaks, such as updating light bulbs and plumbing fixtures are a good start, says Jennifer Easton, communications associate for the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in Washington, D.C. Homeowners can also use recycled materials to make their home more green, such as using salvaged wood when building a porch, setting up a composting operation or building a rain garden.
Condo owners can also save on their electric bills while helping the environment by sealing up cracks and gaps in their homes.
“It will reduce the amount of air that you have to heat and cool, which will save you money,” says Peter Ludwig, energy efficiency programs manager at CNT Energy in Chicago. “It also reduces the spaces where vermin enter and exit your home, reducing the need for toxic pesticides and extermination costs.”