Evanston, Ill.: Working for the World They Want

When residents of Evanston, Ill., agreed to their Climate Action Plan, they accomplished its greenhouse gas-reduction goals, then set a bigger goal. Community involvement is a shared value in this suburban city 12 miles north of Chicago.

  • Evanston, Ill., sits 12 miles north of Chicago (in background) along the north shore of Lake Michigan.
    Photo by Lawrence Okrent
  • Residents frequently gather at Northwestern University for events that share the university community's expertise.
    Photo by Stephen Anzaldi/Northwestern University

Each year, MOTHER EARTH NEWS selects a handful of sustainable communities to highlight in our annual Great Places feature. Check out the other towns featured in our 2014 installment: 8 Great Places You’ve (Maybe) Never Heard Of.

Evanston, Illinois. In case you’ve ever felt that nothing you do can make a difference for the challenges we face these days, consider this: In 2006, dozens of Evanston residents partnered with city staff to draft the city’s Climate Action Plan, with strategies to fulfill the city’s pledge in signing the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.

Evanston achieved its goal of a 13 percent reduction (from its 2005 baseline) in the summer of 2013, and in May, Evanston’s Sustainable Programs Coordinator and the group Sustain Evanston presented a new goal: a 20 percent reduction in emissions by 2016.

Home to Northwestern University, this suburban city 12 miles north of Chicago has taken on climate change in a real way. Its Office of Sustainability supports initiatives for renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation, waste reduction and recycling, water conservation, and land use. The city recently installed protected bike lanes on two major streets and has plans to install more. More than 2,000 people gathered for the 2013 Streets Alive! event to show support for public transportation and a more pedestrian-friendly city.

According to Eleanor Revelle, president of Citizens’ Greener Evanston, citizen involvement helps make Evanston a remarkable place to live. As a gauge of this involvement, one of the ways the city celebrated its 150th year in 2013 was by logging 150,000 volunteer hours.

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