“I am excited to be together in person with friends, with allies, and with the spirit of knowledge of how much progress we can make when we’re together,” said Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss to a packed crowd.
Dozens of Evanstonians braved the snow Saturday, Jan. 28, to talk about climate action, both at a community and an individual level, at the Morton Civic Center.
Of the 34 people who spoke during public comment, out of an audience of nearly 70, the conversation focused on collaboration and climate action steps.
The Saturday discussion was a revival of a community initiative on Evanston’s Climate Action and Resilience (CARP) plan that was disrupted by the pandemic.
“We want to restart these meetings on a quarterly basis. At this point, it’s been a couple years since the last CARP coordination meeting,” said Matt Cotter, a member of the Environment Board.
“The goal was to get everyone in the same room,” said Cara Pratt, the city’s sustainability coordinator. While climate action and policy steps rest with the Environment Board and city council, these quarterly meetings serve as a networking platform, she said.
Some of the city’s key climate goals under the Climate Action and Resilience Plan include a ban on single-use plastics by 2025, increased investment in renewable energy and expanding green infrastructure.
There is a tree preservation tree ordinance ready to go before city council Feb. 13, but the talk about green space Saturday sent a signal that more needs to be considered and done. The city loses nearly 200 trees a year, said Catherine Lott, a member of the steering committee at Natural Habitat Evanston, a group that seeks to promote habitat conservation. Lott said that while 400 trees are planted each year, about 600 are cut down.
The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 is working to address the tree shortage. Since 2018, the district has planted 90 trees, 25 of those planned for this year, said Karen Bireta, the district’s sustainability coordinator. Another problem the district is addressing is food waste, with a focus on lunchroom composting. Currently, more than 4,300 students at 16 schools are involved with the composting program, Bireta said.
The city is ramping up its climate efforts, with outlays in electric vehicles and staffing additions to the sustainability office. However, some at the meeting called for a more proactive push.
“You’re not doing enough,” said architect and Evanston resident Mike Vasilko, citing the city’s investments into climate action. Vasilko urged city council to more aggressively fund CARP goals and expressed his concerns that only two council members were present at the meeting, Biss and Council Member Jonathan Nieuwsma, (4th Ward).