1f15gq

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.

giphy

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.

bike_car_comparison

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?

giphy-1

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!

Join us in celebrating parents who are

raising farmers in DuPage!

Have you ever heard of someone claiming that they, “come from a long line of farmers”?

The funny thing about that statement is that everyone alive today descends from an UNMEASURABLY long line of farmers. It is so important to raise kids up with an understanding of the long scope of their human history so that they too can brag about their farming ancestors. 

There are so many amazing programs online that can help parental guardians in raising their children with a respect and appreciation for their place in the world. (Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, and Here).

In this video, Jacob Cynamon- Murphy serves as an excellent real-life resource for DuPage parents by demonstrating how easy it can be to divert some of your yard away from lawnmaking and toward food production. He jokes about the garden being like a playground, but actually touches on some truth. Gardens can be like playgrounds. They are places to learn, play, and test ideas. Back or frontyard micro-farms can provide endless hours of imagination and exploration that is good for childhood cognitive development and social skills. These activities are also good for a child’s long-term mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health

We at Sustain DuPage hope that some day a majority of arable land in DuPage will be put to use for conservation or food production. Our friends at The Resiliency Institute also envision a landscape for DuPage County that flawlessly blends nature, agriculture, and yard.

Luckily for us, there are many DuPage parents who are already leading this revolution against the ill health effects of lawns!

Thanks for Watching!

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

“How Green Can You Go?” is a friendly DuPage challenge!

Erika

By Erika Harris on 31 August, 2015.

My mom was born in 1960 and remembers when being “green” was a foreign concept to people now only well known by the few remaining hippies of her time. She never ceased to educate us on the knowledge she had and it became a common mentality for my siblings and me. I was homeschooled until 3rd grade, and I distinctly remember being at a friend’s house and turning off the water for them when they weren’t using it to do the dishes and timidly lectured them about conservation.

I think back on when An Inconvenient Truth came out, and how it seemed to set my world on fire. The problem was real!  We environmental advocates were no longer invisible fairies! HOORAY! That was back in 2006. From then on, the issues of global warming began tumbling out of the mouth of the media. It became a hot topic for television and more documentaries. And now it’s 2015. I like to believe enough people know about the devastation and I’m excited to be a part of the spark that’s growing. But how can we turn that spark into a raging fire? The movement to prepare for these crises continues to grow, but it still feels to me like we are lacking momentum.

Why aren’t more people joining the movement in a meaningful way?

              1. Because the media is failing us.

On the positive side, the media generally highlights issues we wouldn’t have been aware of to begin with. But sometimes it focuses on problems too much. We can only watch so much devastation on this planet before we start to feel helpless. And therein lies the problem. People feel helpless!

Cartoon strip that shows a man at desk saying, "yes I know the icecaps are melting but what the hell am I supposed to do about it?"

Is the media known for giving solutions? Unfortunately, in this sensationalist world, the answer is no. In the minds of most of the public, if no solution is reported, no solution exists- and that’s problematic!

        2.  Because we are too comfortable.

Cartoon strip that says, "I agree there are some terrible terrible problems in the world but those icecaps aren't melting beneath my feet. It's sad, but hey, I've got work in the morning. What's on netflix?"

In other words, the problems in the world are too out of reach for us to truly understand their impact. As long as we’re safe, it’s hard to find a motivation to take action. Since the fifties, we’ve grown accustomed to convenience: throwing away tv dinners, drinking soda like it’s water, and tidying up by throwing all our unwanted garbage into those nifty little bin bags.

Woman with kids saying, "after 50 years of this lifestyle you're telling me I have to recycle and compost my food scraps and use my real silverware instead of those plastic barbie forks at this bratty kid's birthday party?! Not a chance!"

I get it. It makes sense as to why we haven’t seen much change. We can’t force people to change their lifestyle if they don’t want to.

BUT:

What DOES matter is if I try to help.

What DOES matter is if I contribute my voice.

I’m at the point where I don’t feel like I have time to count on others to create the necessary change for me.

I have to be the change (you’d think after all those facebook posts with that quote on it, I’d get it by now).

So there you have it. No matter how long it takes, no matter if I fail and fail again, I will take action and change what I can. I only have control over what I do and don’t do. The movement to protect humanity from global warming is something that I need to actively engage in.

How do we motivate people to join the movement in a meaningful way?

We only have control over what we do or don’t do, and preventing climate catastrophe by fundamentally changing how the world works is something that we really need to do.

That brings me to my first article of an ongoing project series I’m going to write in a cross-contribution agreement between my organization, whatsgoood.org, and Sustain DuPage. This series will be called, “How Green Can You Go?”

There’s nothing fancy about this project. It’s more of a personal aptitude test! Here is the gist of it: I’m going to challenge myself to help a business, house of worship, school, friend, family member, or anyone interested- to pursue an additional “green” project in their lives. By picking one group or individual to focus on, we can personably encourage and assist in developing an entirely new lifestyle practice that’s manageable for all!

Once I’ve picked whom I will be working with, I will help them to carry out the project by researching, encouraging, or helping with the project myself. This project is great because it can challenge everyone, even those who are already engaged in environmental advocacy. I will be keeping you all up-to-date on my progress, and encourage you to join me! Pick someone and green them up a little more, then write an article about it for Sustain DuPage!

Sending my love to all the Sustain DuPagers out there. 

Stay tuned!

Erika

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

Village of glen ellyn plastic flag on tree stump

By Andrew Van Gorp on 30 March, 2015

The state of tree preservation in Glen Ellyn is much like the state of the Village’s parkway trees themselves, twisted and trimmed into mystifying and intriguing bonsai contortion. 

As many villagers will recall, Glen Ellyn passed the new Tree Preservation Ordinance (TPO) in 2011 (Village Code, Title 4, Chapter 8). Many may not understand the intricacies of what the ordinance states. This article is by no means an exposé, the ordinance is always available for the public to read here.

The Village claims to have a TPO, and they do- but how is this ordinance protecting Glen Ellyn trees? Maybe not in the way you might imagine.

The real issue with protecting Village trees is actually a great problem to have, and one which cannot be sidestepped. Every villager has an inalienable right to private property. This is great news for all of us- we are free to use our land in the way we desire (unless that desire conflicts with zoning laws or Village ordinances).

Unfortunately, when the ordinance was first proposed, officials were understandably spooked to put into writing any kind of wording that would protect trees at the expense of homeowners’ or developers’ rights. With so much on every public servant’s plate these days, people say that it’s a tough sell to get people to talk about trees in the first place, let alone to protect the trees in writing.

In the years since the ordinance passed, homeowners and developers are still cutting down healthy trees that can sometimes be more than one to two centuries old- for garages, additions, parking lots, decks, aesthetics, etc.

But we must understand that according to the ordinance, it is perfectly within their right to do so. The Tree Preservation Ordinance states that any villager can cut down a tree on their property without a permit, any time of year, with no duty to report the cutting to anyone.  Complete data is not being collected of how many trees in the Village are cut down, as there is no civic duty for homeowners to report random tree removal. The only tree removals the Village does learn of, are by means of the Tree Preservation Plan (TPP), which is a form that a property owner must complete in order to get a building permit.

The ordinance states that every property owner seeking a building permit gets to decide which trees they will cut down (“impacted trees”) and which they will keep (“protected trees”) on their TPP. The Village goes on to state that it will fine people who harm “protected” trees $250-$750. But, if a property owner needs to change their plan to cut down a tree they previously marked as a “protected” tree on the TPP, they may do so at no cost as long as they tell the Village.

Unfortunately, some believe that this policy might actually incentivize people who are on the fence about whether or not to cut down a tree on their property to declare the tree is “impacted” and cut it down- just to avoid a potential fine. Furthermore, some homeowners may question why they should have to jump through hoops if they get to decide the tree’s fate either way- without any consequence or incentive for their end decision.

Do we require these formalities so we can credit ourselves with having a TPO in Glen Ellyn, even though the TPO does (arguably) close to nothing to protect Village trees beyond cementing in people’s minds that trees are worthy of consideration? Is there any evidence that marking a tree as “protected” versus “impacted” on a TPP plan increases the likelihood of a homeowner saving trees they were otherwise planning on cutting down?

I believe there are many substantial ways to bolster tree preservation in Glen Ellyn without impeding someone’s right to private property. The first way would be to get more data. A good question to ask ourselves is, “how can any public servant make a good decision without good data?” The answer is, it’s impossible to make a good policy decision without good data.

I believe that an important first step to getting Glen Ellyn back on the right track, would be to amend the Tree Preservation Ordinance to include language that requires tree-cutting services within the Village of Glen Ellyn to measure and record the diameter at breast height (DBH) and species of the trees that they cut down. These numbers should be reported to the Village to be compiled, (regardless of the reason for tree removal or season of the year). In this way we can get a better feel for the rate of removals in our Village outside of those trees marked on a Tree Preservation Plan before construction. This dataset would also be beneficial as a way to estimate rate-of-spread for pestilences such as Dutch Elm Disease or the Emerald Ash Borer through Glen Ellyn. 

We may find that the tree take-down rate is as healthy as the natural rate we’d find in an Illinois Savannah. Maybe our “Heritage” trees in the Village are falling at a staggering rate. We can’t know until we amass the data.

The data provided will help our public servants to amend our Tree Preservation Ordinance to match the needs of our community’s tree loss. Furthermore, the data can allow the Village to send out literature encouraging homeowners who have recently lost a tree to prioritize replacing the fallen tree with a native tree species. This would provide a positive opportunity to point out the important role of Heritage (native) trees in improving home values and maintaining Village character at the crucial juncture before a homeowner has had the chance to replace a tree on their property. This practice would provide for the regeneration of our Urban Forest and a healthier Glen Ellyn.

Glen Ellyn, which has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA program, can definitely take this small step to do better by its trees.

“Timber!” Let’s fell the myth that we can’t have it all. In the end, only good data can allow us to create smart policy that allows us to both preserve our native Heritage trees and protect homeowners’ and developers’ rights.

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