For many years, the Park Ridge Park District has made sustainability a priority. Adopting an Environmental Policy in 2009, piloting our first “Pesticide Free Park” at Maine Park in 2015 and then expanding natural lawncare practices to all parks, and planting over 40 trees a year for the past 8 consecutive years, are just a few of the initiatives taken by the District in recent years.
The current Park Board realized the next step in the District’s environmental efforts would require a dedicated staff member assigned to this area. In the 2023 budget, the Board added a Part-Time Sustainability Coordinator. The Sustainability Coordinator is responsible for identifying ways to improve sustainability within the scope of the District’s capital projects, as well as identifying potential energy savings, emissions reductions, water conservation, and waste reduction opportunities within the District’s daily operations. Additionally, this position seeks and applies for funding assistance to support sustainability efforts.
The Sustainability Coordinator is currently working on the District’s first sustainability plan. With input gathered from a survey of the public, the plan will focus on areas identified as important by our residents. This new position at the District is helping the Park Ridge Park District lead sustainability efforts within the Park Ridge community as well as among other Park Districts.
Park Board Commissioner
Park Ridge Park District
When I was a kid I remember playing in the prairie over on Linden, when it hadn’t yet been destroyed to build a house. It was the only one left in our neighborhood. When I was older, I went to the Brookfield Zoo often and one year there was suddenly this beautiful thing called a prairie restoration. It was one of the most amazing things I’d ever seen! And then they built one on the inside too! Every time I was there observing this beauty I felt really happy. Decades later, I finally saw my first full prairie farther south in Illinois and was able to experience how they are filled with amazing birds and insects at different times of the year. Prairies are beautiful and filled with life. They smell really good :-)
So when when I moved back home I read that the trend was to replace half of your lawn with native plants, I started doing that. It’s been very rewarding to see all the different native bees and other insects using the habitats that I’ve created. On our property we have prairie, wetland, and forest understory restorations. These provide habitat for an incredible diversity of wonderful insects as well as birds and other living things.
Adding Native Plants to your property is something that everyone can do. There are many great online native plant nurseries you can buy from and feel safe doing so, that there are no pesticides impregnated into your plants that will kill pollinators and that they are appropriate for your location. It’s affordable, it’s easy, and it’s fun!
I would love to see Park Ridge residents adding many more beautiful native plants into their yards, schools, parks, and public spaces. Native trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers will provide the necessary diversity and resources for our important pollinators whose lives literally depend on it. They will add to the beauty of our neighborhoods and will support the environment we all depend on for beauty and pleasure.
Wheel & Sprocket is thrilled to be the May Changemaker especially as the season of summer opens up time in people's schedules to explore the roads in and around Park Ridge.
Cycling plays such a huge role in any green initiative! Running errands or commuting by bike in the warmer months can be an easy way to reduce trips by car which means less gas consumption, lower emissions, and reduced traffic congestion. Biking is great for the environment and mental and physical health, and we're here to support that whether it's a new bike, repair, or getting the gear you need to ride enjoyably.
As far as sustainability within our operation:
—David Fletcher (he/him), General Manager- Oak Park, Park Ridge
Laura started her environmental community involvement as Co-Chair of the Roosevelt Elementary School Green Team in 2004. She visited classrooms to teach the primary grades how to pack waste free lunch and how to recycle in the cafeteria. She installed Abitibi paper recycle bins and encouraged their use through promotions and contests. She also created “party packs” of reusable plates, cups and silverware to allow for waste free classroom events.
As her daughters moved on to Lincoln middle school, the green initiatives became locker clean out sorts and excess school supply donation.
Laura is currently Co-Sponsor of the Maine South High School Environmental Club. Each week the club conducts recycling sorts & audits in our classrooms. They collect data and report to students and staff on the items that they remove which otherwise would contaminate our recycling. With education and reinforcement, they have seen continued improvements in our overall recycling efforts.
The Environmental Club conducts forest preserve clean-ups across from Maine South, a vegan cooking challenge and a bi-annual electronics recycling event for our school and community.
As a club sponsor, her role is to support student initiatives. She is continually inspired by the vision of her student leaders who give her hope for the future. One of her student E-Club officers, Elliott, is leading the charge to add native plants to the Maine South Courtyard.
On March 7, the Maine South Environmental Club will again host the Go Green Sponsored One Earth Film Festival. This year’s film is “Going Circular”. The film is about sustainability and the circular economy. The event includes a Sustainability Fair which showcases our local organizations making a difference everyday.
In addition to making greener choices for herself and her family everyday, Laura's intent is to educate and encourage students so their actions can impact the future.
Congratulations, Laura Wilkens!
Each month, Go Green Park Ridge recognizes someone who's making an important impact on our environment. This month's Change Maker is Park Ridge First Ward Alderperson, John Moran. Here are a few words from John about his recent contributions to the environment:
As a member of the Park Ridge City Council for the past 8 years, there have been numerous environmentally focused initiatives that I have had the chance to support. I’m extremely proud of my record in support of the following efforts:
While the impact these efforts will have on our planet might not be quantifiable, the example we are setting for future leaders of our town is one of the most valuable elements of our recent efforts. The message I hope to pass on to these future leaders is that, whenever feasible, we need to do what is right for our planet, because every little bit helps, there are financial benefits involved and collectively we can make a difference.
After the schools reopened and our staff were returning to the office on a more regular basis, it was clear that most of the world had a new attitude about the balance of working from home, commuting, and what they wanted “work” to feel like. We’ve always worked hard to maintain a humane, comfortable environment for people to work in. Of course that means things like ergonomics and free drinks and snacks, and yes, we are an IT company with an arcade cabinet and music pumped throughout the office most days. But how can we go farther? The farmstand was one of these ideas.
We planted our first seedlings in 2021, and since then we’ve gone through countless heads of lettuce, sugar snap peas, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, beans, bok choy, and this summer we produced more cucumbers than we could eat! Everything is grown hydroponically right inside our office on Prospect. Our Operations Manager and I take turns maintaining the water levels and checking the pH and nutrients, and then the staff help themselves to anything that looks tasty. Lunch food and snacks are the most common, but sometimes someone will harvest the ingredients for a salad to go with that night’s dinner at home. We’ve been drying our excess herbs and sneaking them into packages when we need to send things to our remote staff too. Even Penzey’s would be jealous of our dried basil.
At this scale, we aren’t providing all the produce for our staff by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s super fun, the produce is excellent, and you can’t get any more “local” than “grown down the hall”. We don’t currently have plans to setup additional farmstands, but we have moved toward starting our own seedlings in a germination station.
We’ve also started doing more 3D printing around the office for producing some of the parts we need with less waste and no shipping. Any scraps or failed prints or parts we don’t need anymore are all recycled back into fresh filament to use in future jobs. Not every green step you take is going to change the world, but each time we make something ourselves out of recyclable materials instead of shipping it from half way around the world, it helps.
Lincoln Middle School librarian, Denise Reeder, has been shepherding the Lincoln Seed Library for a number of years since founder, Lauren Maloney, left her position at the library for a new job. The library “checks out” seeds to the community and asks for seeds in return when harvest comes in. They also grow dozens of varieties of seedlings to give out to the community for free.
This job is not in the librarian’s job description but Denise finds time to take on the many tasks associated with running the program as a service to the community. She does it all—from ordering, packaging and potting seeds, to updating the website, growing seedlings, distributing orders to the community, and receiving contributions.
Unfortunately for us (but fortunately for her), Denise will be retiring at the end of this year. We are thankful that this program has had passionate overseers since 2014. We hope it finds another home when Denise leaves.
Thank you for your generosity in taking on this project, Denise. Happy Retirement and keep growing!!!
Kim Miller (pictured above in the dark green tee shirt) has been a volunteer and leader in Park Ridge’s green efforts for several years. She was an integral part of the Mayor’s Sustainability Task Force which developed a Sustainability Plan which was adopted by the City of Park Ridge. The Task Force led to the formation of a permanent Sustainability Commission to further green efforts in the City.
In the last few months, Kim has provided her home as a permanent drop off point for EcoShip Chicago, a new start-up and soon to be non-profit which collects used packing materials such as padded mailer envelopes, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, poly bags, and other materials which vary monthly depending on need. EcoShip provides the shipping materials free to small businesses to reuse for the shipping needs, saving the small businesses money as well as keeping the shipping materials out of landfills! Kim has used social media groups for Park Ridge and her neighborhood to spread the word and has had a huge positive response to EcoShip’s efforts within her Maine Park neighborhood as well as Buy Nothing Park Ridge (south).
Kim’s house is regularly a top dropoff location for EcoShip, as we’re able to provide a full SUV-load every 3 to 4 weeks! She is looking forward to continuing to grow EcoShips’s reach for both collections and reuse. Please follow EcoShip Chicago on Facebook and Instagram, and check out their website at https://ecoship.org for up-to-date collection needs, pop up events, and volunteer opportunities (volunteers are always needed to sort the collections and fill orders).
If you have shipping materials to contribute to EcoShip, please contact Kim at 773-294-4072 or firstname.lastname@example.org for drop off instructions and information.
Congratulations, Meghan O'Neill, owner of Sweet & Tart Restaurant located at 112 South Prospect, Park Ridge. Meghan shared with GGPR the following message:
"We see the connections with our role in the community and the future of our planet. It starts with the small things, such as using compostable straws and packages. We recently have begun our journey in composting, as well. For us, it is all about ensuring that our children will continue to have a habitable planet.
We strive to limit our food waste as much as possible. If there is anything that needs to be tossed, it goes into our composting bin. The amazing teenagers who work at the restaurant are always giving us new ways to be environmentally conscious. They inspire us to be better. Our hope is that other businesses and people will be inspired to make changes. Small changes can lead to big ones.
Sweet & Tart is thrilled to be honored for being recognized as a GGPR Community Changemaker! Thank you to all. Come and see us soon."
I am Holly Gansz, a retired District 64 teacher. I garden and have been living in Park Ridge forever! I have been eco-friendly and green for many years. We recycle, reuse, and repurpose. I have used some large things, a wood burning stove, as garden art. But I would like to focus on three areas of my garden: 1) straw bale gardening, 2) dressing up my garden and 3) overhauling a garden.
Thank you for nominating me for the Changemaker recognition!
This is a form of urban gardening. Bales can be placed anywhere, on patios, driveways, existing gardens, or grass. There is a science for treating the bales in the spring to prepare them for planting. It is a process of feed and water to start decomposition. Then you just place your seedling with a small scoop of soil and get ready to enjoy the harvest. Bales need very little water and then only to the top of the bale. (I watered twice in 2021). Our garden delivered eggplant, beans, kale, spinach, lettuce, red and green cabbage, green and wax beans, acorn butternut and mystery squash, tomatoes (finished my last tomato 12/7) rhubarb, zucchini, potatoes, onions and cukes. This is my second year using straw. I look around my neighborhood for homeowners with Halloween decoration using bales and invite them to let me recycle those straw bales. I have been very successful at gathering them free. I am hoping to reuse 9 bales and added seven new already.
Dressing Up My Garden
Although I plan to have something in bloom every day, sometimes my garden is not colorful. So to dress it up, I hang colorful pretty dresses in the trees and bushes. I have use a theme or I am spontaneous and fanciful with my choice of dresses. Maybe a wedding theme in ’22? I visit Goodwill, Salvation Army, or resale shops for deals. Several friends have contributed dresses. It’s just for fun and it’s interesting! Come by 909 S. Prospect (kitty corner from Roosevelt School) for a peek at the dresses next summer.
Overhauling A Garden
My large perennial area was looking shabby, weedy, and tired. In the process I read an article in the Trib about a plant rescue in an abandoned lot in Chicago using plastic grocery bags. In the fall, I dug up each plant, with a shovel of dirt to protect the root structure, placed it in a plastic sack, doubled the bag, moved the bagged plants to my vegetable garden and buried the bags for the winter. I had about fifty bags and only lost two. I cleaned up the old garden, rototilled, fertilized, and planned before winter took hold. Come spring, I dug up my sacks, replanted the flowers and enjoyed a well-earned colorful summer garden. I’m probably the only one to swipe bags from the Jewel recycle box! This was about 12 years ago, and I am thinking about a repeat. I did 2 other areas to complete restoring the beds.
Other Go Green ideas
2L pop bottle greenhouses
Reclaimed chair gardens
Planted 12 trees
Take a look at what your neighbors are doing for Park Ridge sustainability!