Protecting the environment requires the collective effort of all people. Although it is deeply satisfying to live a green life, you will not receive the benefits of cleaner air, water, or food if you are the only person who reduces, reuses, and recycles. Pollution travels through the air and water. Pollution created in the United States impacts other countries and pollution from other countries impacts the United States.
If you want clean air, water, and food, you will have to protect the sources from individuals, corporations, and other entities that have competing agendas. For example, if you want to protect Lake Michigan, the source of your drinking water, you can make personal decisions that will help (e.g. reduce your consumption of gasoline so there will be fewer Lake Michigan refineries, keep rainwater out of the sewer system during heavy rains so that raw sewage isn’t released into Lake Michigan).
Your likelihood for success could improve, however, if you inform governmental agencies, like local environmental protection agencies, that you want stricter permits for polluting. You also can vote for candidates who whole heartedly fight to protect the Great Lakes. Additionally, you can inform others of potential threats to the drinking water so they can consider their impact when making decisions about consumption and candidate selection. If you get involved beyond the individual level, you increase your chances for obtaining clean drinking water.
You will not be able to get involved in every environmental issue. Fortunately, there are many issues and many forms of involvement from which to choose. You can decide which ones excite you the most. Hopefully, the following ideas will help you find others who want to Go Green!
Ways to get involved
Join or contribute to a local group dedicated to one or more environmental issues
League of Women Voters of the La Grange Area (LWVLGA): Each year, the League of Women Voters establishes natural resources goals at the the national, state, and local levels. Members from the LWVLGA have formed a Cool Cities committee, which is working to get local communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adopt more earth-friendly policies.
Save the Prairie Society (STPS): This organization works to preserve and restore the 80 acre Wolf Road Prairie and bufferlands in Westchester, Cook County, Illinois. Protecting the biodiversity, wildlife, and watershed within the prairie benefits all local residents.
Environment Illinois: Environment Illinois is a state-wide, citizen-based, environmental advocacy organization. It advocates for the residents of Illinois on a variety of issues, including clean air, energy, Lake Michigan, toxic chemicals, global warming, pollution, and open spaces. By supporting Environment Illinois, you will receive valuable information about the environment in Illinois and support legislation that makes Illinois a healthier state
Illinois Sierra Club: This is a state-wide organization that is committed to protecting the environment in Illinois. Joining the Sierra Club allows you to learn about local as well as national issues. Illinois Sierra Club offers volunteer experiences, nature outings, and legislative information and opportunities. You can visit the website for valuable information about our state and local areas.
Don’t forget to become part of Go Green La Grange! by sending email and attending meetings!
Create an environmental group at your workplace, church, or school
People are joining together and finding ways to save energy and reduce waste. Churches are eliminating styrofoam cups and replacing them with reusable coffee mugs. They are saving energy and informing their congregations about ways to protect the environment. Schools are encouraging waste-free lunches, gardening with native plants, and recycling more. Students are forming eco-clubs. Businesses are carrying products made from recycled materials, serving more local and organic food, and recycling. If you are involved in an organization that could do more to protect the environment, you may find others who share your concerns. By banding together, you can make changes that help the environment and foster a sense of community.
Urge your community leaders to adopt earth-friendly policies and practices
Several Illinois communities have committed to becoming “Cool Cities.” (see www.coolcities.us/state.php?state=IL for details). These cities have pledged to adopt policies that will help stop global warming. They commit to purchasing renewable energy, hybrid vehicles, energy-star appliances, and energy efficient lighting. They also implement no-idling policies and encourage energy efficient buildings. Some local communities that have made the pledge are Elmhurst, Oak Park, and Chicago. Residents in La Grange Park and Brookfield are working for similar results in their communities.
Government officials can help the environment in other ways too. They can practice the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and encourage residents to do the same. They can reduce waste by establishing demolition fees, with an option to refund the fees to owners who deconstruct, rather than demolish, their homes and recycle the materials. By adopting residential and commercial zoning codes that preserve green space and trees, they can improve air quality, rain water absorption, and biodiversity in their communities. By growing native plants in public areas, they can protect the water supply and avoid fertilizers and pesticides. The Village of La Grange is part of the Greenest Region Compact, an environmental initiative detailing sustainability measures for local governments. Click here for information about the Greenest Region Compact.
Park district and forest preserve district officials can also impact the environment in many ways. They can commit to a zero net loss policy, which means that all funds received from the sale of park land will first be spent on acquiring land in an amount equal to that sold. They can restore some of their parks to a more natural state, which would absorb more rain water, require less maintenance and fertilizers, and increase biodiversity. They can also work to increase recycling, reduce waste, conserve water, avoid toxic materials, and use less energy within their organizations.
If you would like your community to be more environmentally friendly, you can attend board meetings, meet with your community’s officials and staff, or send correspondence explaining your concerns and desires. By voicing your concerns, you can raise awareness of an issue that may have gone unnoticed. You also might find others who share your concerns and want to work with you to make changes in your community.
Join or contribute to a national group dedicated to one or more environmental issues
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): NRDC is an effective environmental action group whose mission is to safeguard the earth, including its people, its plants, its animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends. NRDC has broad goals to improve the quality of life for people in all corners of the world. By supporting the NRDC, you will learn up-to-date information about the environment and how environmental issues intersect with economic, political, and social issues. Often, you will hear about issues months or years before they appear in the articles of popular newspapers and magazines.
Sierra Club: “Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet” is the Sierra Club’s motto and its members are active in doing so. Since 1892, the Sierra Club has been working to protect communities, wild places, and the planet. Founded by John Muir, the Sierra Club claims it is the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. By supporting the Sierra Club, you will become informed about the latest environmental issues, both nationally and locally. You will also enjoy being part of a well-respected, professional organization that makes the planet a healthier place to live.
Invest in companies that are earth-friendly
Investors are increasingly considering environmental impact as well as bottom line when deciding whether to invest in a company or a group of companies. The definition of an earth-friendly firm can vary, so you will have to do some research. You may choose a portfolio that simply excludes the worst environmental offenders, like coal and oil companies. You may choose a portfolio that includes only companies with the best environmental records. You, or a fund manager, might look at greenhouse gas emissions, adherence to environmental laws, or commitment to alternative energy, conservation, and organic farming. There is a lot of information on-line to help you get started. By investing in companies that protect the environment while they make a profit, you can feel better about receiving your dividends and planning your retirement.