Category Archives: Environment

Historic Passenger Flight Out of Chicago Uses 100% Sustainable Fuel

On Wednesday, December 1, 2021, a United Airlines flight with over 100 passengers took off from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Washington D.C. on the first passenger flight with 100% sustainable aviation fuel.

The 737 MAX 8 aircraft used 500 gallons of green fuel in one of its engines and an equal amount of regular jet fuel in the other engine. Airlines are allowed to use a maximum of 50% of green fuel on any flight.

Chicago Sites for Pumpkin Composting

Illinois is offering residents an earth-friendly alternative for jack-o-lantern disposal, saving thousands of gourds from landfills and reducing methane emissions. Scarce, a local organization, has set up 49 different sites across the state where people can bring their pumpkins.

University of Illinois Extension educators continue to raise awareness, partially in an effort to combat bad advice being disseminated on social media, including recommendations to leave pumpkins in fields, abandoning them in natural areas for animals, or feeding them to household pets. These are all not advisable because of the legal prohibition of dumping anything on private property or in a nature preserve. Most animals don’t eat pumpkin naturally, so consuming the vegetable is likely to do more harm than good.

The first pumpkin drive was held in 2014 when close to 10 tons of pumpkins were composted. Last year, collections skyrocketed to 159 tons, as more people learned of the initiative.  

2021 Sites in Chicago include:

Plant Chicago, 4459 S. Marshfield Ave.

Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, 3857 W. 111th St.

Edgewater Environmental Coalition and Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, 6040 N. Clark St.


Astronics Corporation aerospace firm has started the building process of its coronavirus-killing robots.  Known as the Xenex LightStrike, the robots – at a cost of $125,000 per piece – are already being used in 700 US healthcare locations, including seven in Chicago. A statement from Astronics Corporation said:

“In a peer-reviewed study, published in the journal, Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, researchers report that within two-minutes LightStrike’s pulsed xenon, full-spectrum, ultraviolet rays achieved a 99.99% level of disinfection against the coronavirus.”

It works by using pulsed UV rays to penetrate the virus’ cell walls, eliminating its molecular structure, leading to the eradication of the virus.”  Morris Miller, Xenex’s CEO said:

““This technology is important today because these are the most powerful UV robots that have ever been made. They’re 4,000 times more intense than any other UV robot that has ever been on the market. As a result of that, they’re extremely fast.”

An initial manufacturing agreement of $20 million has been signed between Astronics and Xenex.

Chicago’s Water

In this video, Kari K Steele, President of the Metropolitan Water Reclamantion District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC) Board of Commissioners, introduces the viewers to Chicago’s WEFTEC 2021. Steele thanks the Water Environment Federation and the Water Professionals of Chicago for its hard work especially during the pandemic.

Chicago’s Environmental Optimism

While we keep reading and hearing about the negative impacts the coronavirus crisis is having on our economy, our youth and our consumerism, we thought it would be a welcome change to focus on something positive going on in the area with particular reference to the environment.

It shouldn’t come as such a great surprise that we are seeing lower numbers for air pollution and greenhouse emissions.  One way this is seen in Chicago is the increase in river-swimming fish.  This has been happening in recent times irrespective of the coronavirus but now it is further increasing. 

According to a recent Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Report, today there are close to 60 types of fish that can be found swimming in the Calumet and Chicago rivers.  Compare that to figures of four decades ago when there were around 10.  Some of the species that can be found include: bluegill, yellow perch and catfish.  Experts in the field believe that cleaner rivers are playing a huge part in this.

National Register of Historic Places

Two sites in Chicago have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium District today acts as a senior home and has changed its name to North Park Village.  Also there is a gymnastics center operated by Chicago Park Center and a nature center comprising 46 acres of land.  The second site is The Forum which was built back in 1897 and has since become a very popular local music scene.  For three-quarters of a century it could perhaps be best described as Bronzeville’s “political, social and cultural epicenter.”

According to Colleen Callahan, Illinois Director of Natural Resources, “each of these places tells a unique story that is part of the rich fabric of Illinois history. We are proud to work with local preservationists to obtain national recognition for these historic buildings and neighborhoods.”

All in all, 12 sites from throughout Illinois were added in 2019 to the register.

Local Sustainable Economics

Chicago – one of America’s largest and most culturally-rich cities – has historically been focused on the formulation of advanced technologies and burgeoning new options for its citizens.  This dates back to the 19th century when the region was a merchant’s city and then transformed into a manufacturing and industrial center by the 20th century.  

Today, Chicago has developed other ways of expanding its rich economic legacy through the creation, maintenance and advancement of its sustainable economy.  The choices that Chicago officials are making today will likely bolster the industries of tomorrow resulting in a more sustainable Chicago.

Some of the ways this is being carried out is via more research into data on sustainability; the implementation of applications for clean energy for the progression of sustainable solutions; recruiting firms with sustainability solutions to bolster green energy in Chicago and more.

This, in turn will lead to a bolstering of the economy in a number of ways. This includes a substantial increase in the amount of offices focuses on sustainability including the Chicago Sustainable Industries and the Green Office Challenge. There will also be additional programming at the Chicago Center for Technology and the creation of open active streets and public spaces via the Make Way for People initiative and add 180+ acres within the Chicago Park District.

All these endeavors must be working because at the end of last year a COMMERCIALCafe study ranked 50 US cities for the efforts in sustainability to create a “resilient habitat for existing populations without compromising the ability of future generations to experience the same.” Chicago came in Number 6.

Chicago: Constructing Community in All Ways

Community building can be engineered in a variety of different ways.  Some involve the actual construction of buildings, renovations, enhancements and others are more connected to development of tradition or creation of events.  In this article we look at two recent efforts in the region to build, maintain and strengthen Chicago community.

The first example is what is happening in Vernon Hills with the Hawthorn Mall property.  Centennial Real Estate is preparing to begin its $6.2 million revamp of the center court.  The goal is to construct a multi-use “central park” environment.  This will involve a complete transformation of the area, hopefully in time for the holiday shopping season.

It is hoped that this space will feature: coffee store/wine bar; two treelike sculptures; lounges on upper level and more, resulting in a “sophisticated parklike experience,” that is “interactive, engaging [and suitable] for all ages.”

Uplifting a neighborhood and providing new experiences for the youth and other demographics is another way of building community. A recent example of this is the partnership between the 8000 Euclid block club and My Block My Hood My City.   According to 8000 Euclid Block Club Founder and President, Pam Bilal, these organizations can really result in a bolstering of a city.  She said:

“In a diverse city like Chicago with a lot of segregation, often times people like to stay in their own little pocket and just take care of themselves. And we want people to understand that it’s not about the little man, it’s about the community. And we want to have a vibrant, exciting, financially stable community. So that’s why we start block clubs.”

Clean Energy in Chicago

clean energy

Committing to 100 percent clean energy is not only great for the environment but is also a very good business decision. This is probably why “the world’s most influential companies [are] committed to 100 renewable energy.”  Chicago has now followed suit, becoming the nation’s “largest city” to make this commitment. What this means is that the 2.7 million inhabitants will be subject to clean and renewable energy in all buildings by 2035 and by 2040 all 1,850 CTA buses will be electrified.

Thanks to Resolution R2019-157 a transition plan has been codified. Thus by the end of next year a timeline and milestones will be put in place.  Locals have been very involved in this endeavor which, according to Jobs to Move America (Illinois) Campaign Director Kassie Byer is “integral to its future success.”  She said:

“The Chicago Collective who wrote this resolution, proves that not only can Chicago build a climate-safe future for next generations, but that a truly just transition also creates good, family-sustaining jobs.”

Over in Bronzeville positive effects are being felt thanks to ComEd. The Beethoven Elementary School has a pathway that is now lit up thanks to off-grid lights powered by renewable energy!  ComEd installed the 30-feet tall RPUs via mini power plants which do not connect to the electric grid.  Instead they get their energy from battery storage, solar panels and wind turbine and are manufactured by ARIS Renewable Energy.

Spurring Solar Solutions

Illinois is increasingly moving toward solar power for its energy sources.  The costs of the equipment used is significantly lower and the state of Illinois is so encouraging of the transition, that it offers many attractive incentives to move over.

One of the most popular solar markets today in Illinois are those that are in conjunction with farmers.  In these cases, the farmers benefit too.  They lease the solar companies some of their property which is used to cultivate solar energy and they get money for this as it is in place of crop growing.

The agrarians are needed to facilitate this process as they are the ones lining up the solar panels in the most efficient way to absorb the sun’s rays.  The energy then gets transported to the closest power substation, being absorbed into the power supply.  Ultimately this is a good business deal for landowners and solar companies.

Within Chicago itself, a recent statement given by the Sierra Club promised that they will be conjoining into a “new community coalition working to move Chicago to a 100 percent clean, renewable energy future.  The Club’s Ready for 100 Action Campaign organizer Krya Woods added:

“The Ready for 100 Chicago Collective stands ready to advocate for bold policy that will bring the greatest economic, environmental, and social benefit to communities across Chicago. A new energy economy can create jobs, save money through energy efficiency and phasing out fossil fuel, and empower our residents to participate in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of strategies that will most effectively address our communities’ needs. We are here to address how we power this city and who has power in this city.”