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portrait

 

 

 

Andrew Van Gorp 29 November, 2016.

(800 words)

2013: A young, naive, freshly-graduated Andrew Van Gorp was appointed to a three year term as an Environmental Commissioner for the Village of Glen Ellyn, swearing an oath to uphold and protect the United States Constitution. In brief, he thought he was hot sh*t. He’s had many small wins over his term, but autumn of 2016 brought his first BIG WIN.

As he entered the volunteer Commission he voiced to his fellow commissioners the one thousand project ideas that he hoped to achieve during his three-year tenure. As you all know, he’s a Sustainable Community Development geek.

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One of those ideas was that he thought Glen Ellyn needed more bus infrastructure, specifically heated bus shelters. It may not seem consequential to the uninitiated, but bus shelters are VERY CRUCIAL. Here’s why.

SCENARIO:

Install a heated bus shelter. When it’s raining, bus-riders are protected. When it’s snowing, bus-riders are kept alive with warmth. This creates a non-hell-like rider experience. More people decide to ride the bus.

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A photo of 60 people and the amount of road space they take up based on different modes of transportation.

Roads become less congested. Quality of life improves with less traffic. City planners no longer need to beg for yet another lane-widening project, which would actually just add to road congestion anyway. Less impermeable surfaces are needed. With less traffic, the air becomes less fatal for local neighborhoods to breathe. More groundwater is absorbed directly into the ground and streams begin to rebound with less salt runoff.

So really, if you care about air health, water health, soil health, animal health, and/or human health, then you should definitely care about bus shelters too. Especially since the Village of Glen Ellyn has no heated bus shelters (and barely any bus shelters to begin with #notsayinjustsayin). A young and enthusiastic Andrew Van Gorp asked at an EC meeting if we could change that, way back in 2013.

The Village put Andrew in contact with PACE. PACE let the Village know that the Village had bought a bus shelter many years previously and never installed it- so it was sitting in PACE storage. Andrew asked if maybe we could… install it… since… we… had… already… paid for it?

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A great idea! We met with PACE and went through a list of best intersections. Andrew was really pulling for a spot on Roosevelt, since thousands of people pass through our Village every day and watch as people on the side of the road are forced to stand unprotected from the cold, wind, and/or precipitation at multiple stops. He tried to make the argument that it might appear to many commuters that Glen Ellyn doesn’t really care much about the planet or its Villagers by not providing necessary infrastructure for active transportation.

Unfortunately, the sidewalk is designed right up to the curb in many places along Roosevelt (anyone who’s ever walked there knows how horrifying of an experience it is as semi-trucks zoom by within a few inches of your body and you are just praying to the Good Lord Jesus that you don’t trip on the quilt-work of uneven brick, broken cement, and puckered asphalt). Since the path’s so close to the curb, and the streetlight posts are posted in the center of the “walking path” there is no space for a bus shelter. Bummer.

Andrew asked if PACE might consider putting a bus shelter the next street over to the South (on Taft Avenue running parallel to Roosevelt) so that people waiting for the bus didn’t have to breathe in the micro-particulate matter of uncombusted fossil fuels from the motor fumes of Roosevelt Road. He thought, why should making the choice that’s better for the planet come at the cost of adenocarcinoma? PACE said they don’t track the hazard of particulate matter exposure for their customers along their bus routes and that it would be too costly to place new bus shelters in low-particulate areas that might be slightly off of their regular route. Bummer.

Ultimately, we decided on an intersection at the College of DuPage campus. After all, increasing student ridership would fall in line with national investment trends. And so, in September of this year, the bus shelter was installed. Who knows? Maybe a strapped college student will be protected from the rain while waiting to be driven home some day and think, “hey, this isn’t so bad” and become a lifelong bus rider. 

I did that. My three-year-crusade that started as a dream for a Village-wide installation plan for heated bus shelters shriveled down into installing a bus shelter that we’d already bought and never used. Someday, once I’m a Village Trustee, I can rev back up the ol’ heated-bus-shelter-near-every-major-intersection gag. But for now, I’m pretty damned proud of myself and thankful that the Village of Glen Ellyn empowered me with the ability to make a change by serving as an Environmental Commissioner.

LESSON: Never doubt the power you have to change the world. If you give a sh*t, if you show up to meetings, if you do what you say you’re going to do, you can do anything!

Rock on DuPagers.

Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!

 

 

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This Symposium led to the creation of the organizational framework for the Environmental Commission & Committee Coalition (EC3)! By creating a space for these DuPagers to meet and interact, we realized a few things.

1) Environmental Comm. members have a unique opportunity to make positive change in their communities due to their special access to the Board of Trustees and Municipal Staff.

2) The Environmental Commissions & Committees of DuPage County share almost the exact same mission, vision, and challenges.

3) We have much to gain from pooling together our resources, professional experience, and investment into sustainability.

 

This symposium was broadcast live with three viewing parties throughout the Midwest.

Food for Symposium participants was donated by local farmers.

Sign up for our EC3 E-Newsletter to receive updates on our progress!

Questions? Email us here.

Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!

 

 

Portrait of president and founder andrew van gorp in a forest.

By: Andrew Van Gorp 18 September, 2015. 

 

Your County is Receiving a Failing Gradethe article we posted in July, presented data from a study that Sustain DuPage carried out about DuPage County municipalities (towns, villages, cities, etc). To our measure, only a very small proportion of DuPage municipalities are succeeding, sustainability-wise. This is because a majority have yet to set up an Environmental “Commission” or “Committee,” (which are advisory structures within a local government). 

For those who don’t know, most local governments have a Board of Trustees who manage the municipality for the People. Up until very recently, Environmental Studies classes were not included in most college’s general education requirements. This means that up until now, very few people, including our local leaders, have an understanding of how the world works around them unless they have sought out degrees in such an environmental field or taught themselves through private study. (It’s encouraging to know that in many schools our future college-goers are increasingly required to obtain this understanding regardless of their degree).

Unfortunately, at present, most of our leaders do not have an understanding of these basic world functions. And so, recognizing this, many municipalities have established commissions to advise their Board on ways the policy they are enacting might be affecting our human environments on a local, regional, national, or international scale. 

 

I have been lucky enough to serve on the Glen Ellyn Environmental Commission for two years now. It has given me a great opportunity to utilize my major in Sustainable Community Development to help my community in a tangible way. I have been very involved and engaged with our sister city, Le Bouscat in France on their Agenda 21 initiative, which has been very fulfilling. I’ve been able to inform the Village about ways that it might improve, and I have also learned much from our diverse group  of commissioners with important environmental backgrounds: legal, marketing, fundraising, horticultural, construction, etc. (Yes, most backgrounds are environmental ones in my eyes, since all professions affect the environment in some way).

The Glen Ellyn Environmental Commission is not just a tremendous resource for the Board of Trustees, it’s a great way for community members to plug directly into their local governing structure and shape the future policy of their community. How else could a fresh-out-of-college millennial like me end up on the front page of a french magazine? I was empowered by the Glen Ellyn Environmental Commission.

The bad news is that only sixteen out of thirty eight DuPage municipalities have an Environmental Commission set up. That means 365 days a year, we have uninformed leaders making uninformed decisions. Of course we have reckless development and unsustainable policy everywhere we look!

Here’s how that looks for those of you who didn’t see the graphic before:

 

DuPage Commission Map


 

This is why our new Sustain DuPage Challenge is great.

I was inspired by Erika Harris’ article How Green Can You Go? and I will be participating!

My goal for Sustain DuPage, is to have thirty eight out of thirty eight municipalities with an Environmental Advisory Commission by 18 September, 2016.

In my previous article, I challenged the DuPage County Green Government Council to make this happen. But that’s not how the world changes. Erika taught us that the world changes when WE step up and change it.

I’m going to need your help on this. Every week on our Facebook page we will be posting 1) a municipality and 2) a number you can call to encourage your local government to establish an Environmental Advisory Commission. In this way, we can swamp local governments all at once with our concerns, so that our voices ring louder!

If you’re not from the municipality we post, we ask that you send that link on to your friends who are living in that community! Or, feel free to call your neighbor government anyway and say it’s important to you that their community follow the example of the rest of the municipalities who have already created a Commission.

Once we have a Commission in every municipality we can form a strong coalition that would provide county-wide expertise, begin pooling resources, create weighty momentum behind sustainability issues across the county, and share in much-needed encouragement from our communities.

Meme that says, "A chicken in every pot, an environmental commission in every municipality.

I’m so thankful for all of your enthusiasm, and I can’t wait to work with you on this to get this done!

Signature

 

 

Andrew Van Gorp, Founder


 

Before you start calling your local leaders- check out the work that many of your neighbors are accomplishing on the Commission websites below.

These are municipalities that have committed to having hard-working volunteers advise the Board of Trustees on their decision making process. THAT’S HUGE! This allows for Board members to learn of cost-saving, cutting-edge sustainable policy that could bring our County toward a safer future. 

Aurora: Sustainable Aurora

Batavia: Environmental Commission

Bensenville: Infrastructure & Environment Committee

Downers Grove: Environmental Concerns Commission

Glen Ellyn: Environmental Commission

Hanover Park: Environmental Committee

Hinsdale: Environment & Public Services Committee

Lemont: Environmental Advisory Commission

Lombard: Environmental Concerns Committee

Schaumburg: Environmental Committee

Villa Park: Environmental Concerns Commission

Warrenville: Environmental Advisory Commission

West Chicago: Environmental Commission

Westmont: Environmental Improvement Commission

Wheaton: Environmental Improvement Commission

Wood Dale: Clean Air Counts Committee


For reference, here is a list of the municipalities without an Environmental Advisory Commission in DuPage. These are municipalities that have not committed to having hard-working volunteers advise the Board of Trustees on their decision making. These are the municipalities that we must reach. We must let them know that we want them to form an Environmental Commission!

Addison: Rich Veenstra, 630.693.7510- Mayor@addison-il.org

Bartlett: Kevin Wallace, 630.837.0800- kwallace@vbartlett.org

Bloomingdale: Franco Coladipietro, 630.671.5600- franco@vil.bloomingdale.il.us

Bolingbrook: Roger C. Claar, 630.212.2200- bbmayor@aol.com

Burr Ridge: Mickey Straub, 630.488.5890- mickey@mayormickey.com

Carol Stream: Frank Saverino, 630.871.6250- (no email address provided)

Clarendon Hills: Len Austin, 630.286.5420- laustin@clarendonhills.us

Darien: Kathleen Moesle Weaver, 630.271.1619- kweaver@darienil.gov

Elk Grove Village: Craig B. Johnson, (no phone number or email address provided)

Elmhurst: Steven M. Morely, 630.530.3010- (no email address provided)

Glendale Heights: Linda Jackson, 630.909.5302- ljackson@glendaleheights.org

Itasca: Jeff Pruyn, 630.773.0835- mayor@itasca.com

Lisle: Joseph Broda, (no phone number or email address provided)

Naperville: Steve Chirico, (no phone number or email address provided)

Oakbrook: Gopal G. Lalmalani, (no phone number or email address provided)

Oakbrook Terrace: Tony Ragucci, (no phone number or email address provided)

Roselle: Gayle A. Smolinski, 630.980.2000- mayor@roselle.il.us

St. Charles: Raymond Rogina, 630.377.4445- mayor@stcharlesil.gov

Wayne: Eileen Phipps, (no phone number or email address provided)

Willowbrook: Frank A. Trilla, 630.920.2234- ftrilla@willowbrook.il.us

Winfield: Erik Spande, (no phone number provided)- espande@villageofwinfield.com

Wood Dale: Nunzio Pulice, 630.595.8545- npulice@wooddale.com

Woodridge: Gina Cunningham-Picek, 630.719.4706- gcunningham@vil.woodridge.il.us

Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!