Sustainability Program raises environmental awareness in Champaign

Champaign residents are encouraged to be more eco-friendly through the Champaign City Council initiative Growing Greener Sustainability Outreach Program, which spreads awareness about environmentally friendly practices.

A multitude of events will be held from mid to late April to get residents involved in sustainable activities. 

Lacey Lowe, senior planner in the planning and development department of Champaign City Council, said the sustainability outreach program was first published in 2013, and was the City’s first community-wide plan on sustainability. The purpose of the project is to reduce electric power expenses and to conserve natural resources and save money through recycling. 

Lowe said the goal is to make Champaign a model for environmental sustainability, which is difficult to achieve without resident participation. 

After the plans are settled and events are launched, Lowe said the next step is to reach out to the community and involve more people. Champaign has been working to promote different and easy ways for people to help Champaign go green.

“There are little things you can do that are easy, that are fairly fun, that are not terribly difficult to kind of have a greater awareness of sustainability,” Lowe said. “Those simple changes can result in a big impact for not only local environment but also global environment.”

According to Lowe, many people have concerns about plastic water bottles, so the program has also been working to protect the underground aquifer. There will also be an electronic recycling collection on April 11 at Parkland College, said Nichole Millage, environmental sustainability specialist on the Champaign City Council, which offers the community an opportunity to safely recycle unwanted or unused electronics, such as old televisions. 

The Champaign City Council coordinated with Champaign County, Urbana and Savoy to increase the program’s impact. 

“We are just providing service to the community and most of the time it always exceeds our expectations as far as how much staff we actually get,” Millage said. 

Currently, a website is being built for the program where residents can find information about the program, as well as quick and easy tips on how to be more environmentally friendly, the website will be launched on April 20 and will also include the program’s progress to date.

Lowe said the sustainability program has only been launched in Champaign, but the city council is working with the staff in Urbana, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District and the University to expand the program because of commonalities.

Mayor Don Gerard said the new program ties in well with his own initiatives to help the city become more eco-friendly. 

“I think it’s wonderful and I’m a huge supporter,” Gerard said “The city does many, many good things in regards to sustainability.” 

The program will also host a booth at the annual expo held by the University in the Union on April 21.

Lowe said the goal of the initiative is not only to promote local sustainable development but also to increase economic development.

“We are talking about changing habits, those habits are good, they are good for the environment, but also good for people’s pocket book and good for our business community. So it is about the economic development, as well,” Lowe said. 

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