ELMHURST – The Elmhurst City Council took a stride toward sustainability March 5 by unanimously passing a Public Affairs and Safety Committee report promoting the city's Sustainability Action Plan.
The action plan is composed of strategies and goals custom fit to Elmhurst that, upon its passage with a resolution at an upcoming City Council meeting, would be implemented and used by city staff and elected officials, with assistance from community partners, to develop best practices to protect and restore the environment and promote sustainability in Elmhurst.
According to the plan report, the Sustainability Task Force charged with developing the plan was challenged to tailor all recommendations to Elmhurst and make them cost-saving, cost-neutral or without cost. The plan incorporates four focus areas, which include goals and strategies that fall into ongoing, short-term and long-term categories. The four focus areas are waste reduction and recycling, transportation and mobility, energy use reduction and alternative energy, and water resources and conservation.
An ongoing strategy is an action the city is currently doing and plans to continue, such as designating priority electric vehicle parking in shopping areas. A short-term strategy is deemed one that should begin within a year, and a long-term strategy would be implemented in one to five years.
One short-term strategy related to alternative fuel, fuel conservation and emission reduction is encouraging bicycle use for city activities such as parking enforcement, while one long-term strategy is creating a vehicle anti-idling education and awareness program for residents, municipal fleets and other sectors, and at strategic waiting locations like schools and railroad crossings.
After the vote, Mayor Steve Morley thanked the members of the Sustainability Task Force and added one of the biggest challenges involved was the number of decisions city government makes that have a sustainability consideration. The city had adopted a sustainability policy in 2009 with the intention of assisting city staff in making decisions related to environmental concerns, according to a Feb. 26 Public Affairs and Safety memo accompanying the report.
"It's a monumental task," Morley said. "That's part of the reason why, I think, it took the task force the time that it did, but I think it's because of their passion and their dedication that we ended up where we ... are. ... As technology continues to move forward, there's going to be greater and greater opportunities for the city of Elmhurst to apply this."
Alderman Scott Levin, chairman of the Public Affairs and Safety Committee, said after the meeting he thinks it's important the residents involved "see their work come to fruition."
"I think it's a good plan. ... It is their passion," Levin said.
City officials said there will be a meeting in the next four to six weeks about how to carry out the plan.
Elmhurst resident Lisa Gerhold-Dirks, chairwoman of the Elmhurst Cool Cities Coalition, was among the residents recognized at the meeting for her work on the plan.
"I'm happy that the city's moving forward with it," Gerhold-Dirks said in a phone interview March 7.
She added it seems like Elmhurst Is "turning to the next chapter" in the process of becoming a "more sustainable community." In her role as chairwoman of the coalition since 2012, she sees more and more interest in sustainability among residents every year, she said.
The Sustainability Action Plan is slated to be updated every five years, and the city manager will have an annual report on achievements toward sustainability, according to the report.