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Think Globally, Act Locally. It may sound trite, but when talking about the climate crisis, this slogan carries an extra punch.  Citizens’ Greener Evanston (CGE), an organization with more than 2,700 members, is living out this creed every day.  As we read grim headlines of extreme heat, fires, storms and flooding across the country and around the world, we at CGE continue to roll up our sleeves and we would love for you to join us.  This year, we are narrowing our focus to climate action through an equity lens.

As with COVID-19, climate disasters have the greatest impact on those with the fewest resources.  Hop Hopkins puts it this way in this excellent Sierra article, “You can’t have climate change without sacrifice zones, and you can’t have sacrifice zones without  disposable people, and you can’t have disposable people without racism.”

Sadly, we can see the truth of this statement right here in Evanston where the Waste Transfer Station is our own environmental justice issue. Thanks to the tireless work of Environmental Justice Evanston (EJE), a program of CGE, City Council just passed an Environmental Justice Resolution to address this and other environmental justice issues. The group is looking for new members, so consider reaching out to them at ej@greenerevanston.org.

In spite of these efforts, we are aware that the environmental movement, including CGE, has historically been largely white. There is much work to do to understand the significance of this and to create a more inclusive space. For this reason CGE is partnering with a wide array of community organizations, identifying intersections and working to achieve our shared goals.

Evanston’s historic Climate Action and Resilience Plan (or CARP), which guides our work, lists centering equity as the first of its guiding principles.  As the first city in Illinois, and the 100th nationally to create an ambitious plan to address the climate crisis, we are in a unique position to act locally to ensure that it is fully implemented.  CGE, with its eight programs, is partnering with City staff and others to push for full and swift implementation of CARP so we can reach its goal of carbon neutrality and zero waste by 2050.

Here are a few highlights of our work:

  • Citizens’ Greener Evanston is working with Trajectory Energy Partners to offer Evanston residents the opportunity to become community solar subscribers. For every subscription through this partnership, $75 will be given to the Evanston Community Foundation (ECF), specifically its Evanston Community Rapid Response Fund. Each donation will be matched through a $1,000,000 matching grant. Because of this match, every subscription through this partnership with Citizens Greener Evanston results in a $150 donation to the Evanston Community Rapid Response Fund.
  • Go Evanston, the transportation group of CGE, is dedicated to improving the ability of people to travel to, from and within Evanston, regardless of age, ability, race, income, gender or mode of travel. They support complete streets which consider the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users in street design and policy decisions, investment in infrastructure that supports sustainability and an equity-centered understanding of mobility.
  • Beyond Waste is moving us towards that ambitious zero waste goal by educating the public about recycling, composting, repurposing and more.Before COVID, they hosted a fabulous Repair Clinic at Y.O.U., where volunteers helped people fix everything from bikes to blouses! They too would love your help. info@greenerevanston.org
  • Natural Habitat Evanston (NHE) created a Fund For Evanston Trees, to ensure that our mature elms, along with other large trees will remain healthy.Mature trees sequester carbon, reduce flooding, improve air quality and cool the areas around them. By caring for our trees we are caring for our people. NHE has also established a Pollinator Pledge to support home owners in creating healthy natural areas. Through their efforts, Evanston was certified as a “Community Wildlife Habitat” by the National Wildlife Federation. “Nature for All” improves physical and mental health, reducing asthma rates, and lowering blood pressure.
  • Edible Evanston has facilitated the donation of thousands of pounds of produce from local gardens to food pantries. They are your go-to source for edible gardening resources. And, if you haven’t checked out their food forest, it’s a must-see!
  • Watershed Collective works to make sure our local drinking water is safe, to mitigate flooding in the face of climate change, and to educate the public about Lake Michigan.They are hosting beach clean ups as well!

At a time when many of us are feeling powerless, local action can have a real impact. Plus it’s a wonderful opportunity to connect with your community.  Pick an area that speaks to you. Sign up for some newsletters. Show up for a work day. Make a donation.  Make a difference.

Rachel Rosner is a life-long Evanstonian, a Climate Reality Leader, a Leadership Evanston Alum and the President of Citizens’ Greener Evanston.