Countdown to Earth Day: Historic Coalition Will Conserve, Protect Natural Resources
- This month, Kane County Connects will highlight the organizations that are working hard to conserve and protect our local environment. Check out this “Countdown to Earth Day” feature every day from now until April 22 to learn more about the people and projects that are helping to improve sustainability throughout the Fox Valley!
As we count down to Earth Day 2016 on April 22, a fair question to ask is, “What’s the state of sustainability efforts in Kane County?”
A fair answer to that question might be that it has never been stronger.
One reason for that is an unprecedented coalition of public and private enterprises that launched just last month. It’s called the Fox Valley Sustainability Network, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it has the power to affect the quality of our local environment for years to come.
The date that might be etched in Kane County history books is March 16, 2016, when 75 people came together at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles to launch a coalition of organizations that until that point had been working side by side for many of the same goals. By the end of that meeting, the Fox Valley Sustainability Network was born.
The launch event was coordinated by the City of Aurora, Kane County, Seven Generations Ahead and a5. Nearly a dozen different Fox Valley communities, such as Dundee Township and the Village of Montgomery, were represented that day — along with environmental nonprofits like The Conservation Foundation and The Resiliency Institute, and private companies like Convergence Energy and WBK Engineering, LLC.
Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland said she had rarely seen so many local sustainability organizations in the same room at the same time.
“It was exciting to see such a wide variety of participants at the event, including familiar faces that have been supporting environmental efforts in Kane County for many years,” Jarland said. “But there were also plenty of new faces and representatives from local governments that we haven’t worked with as much yet — and I’m looking forward to even more organizations participating as the network grows.”
Perhaps what’s so important to understand is that “sustainability” isn’t just another buzzword. It’s a multi-discipline approach that includes everything from the health of the Fox River ecosystem to bike-friendly and walkable Fox River communities to education at Fox Valley universities.
During the March 16 meeting, Karen Miller from the Kane County Development and Community Services Department showed how Fox Valley communities can implement the Kane County Green Infrastructure Plan. Breakout sessions then attacked the topic areas of water, waste, food, transportation, energy, economic development and green infrastructure, and small-groups discussions brought out key issues that affect residents of Kane County.
The end result will be “big idea” projects that member organizations of the network can work together to implement.
Kane County planner Christopher Toth said it’s significant that economic development was included on the list of topics.
“We need to remember that economic development and sustainability are not mutually exclusive,” Toth said. “In fact, the economic development work at Kane County incorporates the tenets of the Green Infrastructure Plan and other sustainable frameworks.”
You’ll be hearing more on the “big ideas” that came out of this launch meeting very soon. The network will continue meeting the need for professionals to learn about key initiatives and discuss actionable solutions for some of the Fox Valley’s most pressing sustainability issues when it reconvenes at its next educational forum in May.
About the Fox Valley Sustainability Network
The Fox Valley Sustainability Network brings together the public and private sectors from around the Fox Valley to cut across boundaries and create a healthy, sustainable and vibrant Fox Valley. The network is co-produced by a5 and Seven Generations Ahead, with support from the City of Aurora and Kane County. Current sponsors of the network include Applied Ecological Services and Republic Services.
About the Kane County Division of Environmental & Water Resources
The Kane County Division of Environmental & Water Resources develops, evaluates, and implements programs to protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents and the environment. These programs include the countywide Stormwater Management program, the Kane County Recycles recycling and waste recovery programs, the electric aggregation program, the Sustain Kane program, and other resource conservation and environmental projects.