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Updated 5-2-2015

Going Green Locally...

La Grange Public Libary Goes Green

Carolyn Coryell, Go Green La Grange!

From the start, the La Grange Public Library was intended to be as Green as possible. The Library’s Board’s Building Interior Committee worked with the architect and staff for GO GREEN features to be incorporated into its new 2007 building.  Some of these were -

  • Sophisticated lighting controls of timers and sensors which reduce power consumption to a level 14% below code requirements
  • All pumps and fans work on an “as needed” basis
  • Multiple windows take advantage of natural light on all floors
  • Outfitting the interior with recycled and recyclable materials
  • Use of long-lasting materials (brick, copper and slate)
  • Landscape irrigation system uses groundwater
  • Sensors for toilet flushing and faucets for handwashing.

Once the new building was opened the GO GREEN principle was continued by several motivated staff who initiated changes in the overall “green” dynamic of the Library.  This core group became responsible for continuing education of colleagues on the importance of sustainable practices and recycling and facilitated such changes as -b5c886772fa95ffb5d480ff196690851

  • Recycling glass, all plastics except #6, paper, cardboard
  • Recycling bin placement
  • Use CF: bulbs for majority of lighting, save all bulbs for recycling
  • Purchased cutlery and dinnerware to replace disposables for Program attendees and staff
  • Purchase green office supplies and cleaning products
  • Reuse of scrap paper
  • Purchased recycling bins for copiers and public printers
  • Drop off point for battery, small electronics, hearing aids, eyeglasses, toner cartridges
  • Out-of-date books and magazines are sold at the Friends of Library book sales or donated to interested organizations or by recycling
  • Computer monitors turned off after hours
  • Library Board packets and internal memos are sent electronically.

The Library staff decided to formalize its GO GREEN efforts by developing a Green Plan written by Noel Zelthmeyr, head of Young Adult Services, and Nancy Bent from Reference Services.  This plan emphasizes the need of sustainable practices and for the Library to serve as an example to the community.  Such future plans range from modest steps to building modifications.  The Plan also sets the goal of educating the larger community through partnerships, programming, and acting as a drop off point for more types of recyclable materials. 

 Resulting from the Plan are current initiated changes:

  • Reuse paper for printing internal documents, note-taking, etc.
  • Use “economode” or “fast draft” for printing draft documents
  • Reuse cans boxes, tubes, bottles, etc. for Youth Services craft programs
  • Encourage staff to ride bicycles to work
  • Heightened awareness of recycling possibilities and opportunities
  • Library sponsors Voluntary Simplicity group, partners with civic organization GO GREEN La Grange
  • CD jewel cases and DVD cases are available for the taking.

The Plan identifies these future initiatives -

  • Perform energy audit of building (electric and gas) with goal of reducing usage by 2012
  • Purchase green cleaning products and can liners, both for staff use and for use by cleaning service
  • Continue staff education in importance of environmental sustainability and recycling
  • Replace halogen bulbs with CFLs as bulbs burn out
  • Improve insulation around windows, particularly on north and west walls
  • Find landscapers who use green fertilizers, pesticides, etc. as well as electric mowers, leaf blowers, etc.
  • Explore e-waste recycling such as CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, floppy disks
  • Partner with local schools for paper recycling service (i.e. Paper Retriever Program©)
  • Replace equipment with energy star rated models where applicable
  • Explore UV coating for windows
  • Explore feasibility of tankless water heaters
  • Explore roof modification, e.g. green roof, solar panels, paint roof white. 

How We Went Solar

Jenny Hall, Go Green La Grange!

In the Spring of 2007, my husband and I visited the Chicago Green Festival and attended a discussion on solar energy systems.  We had been thinking about installing solar panels for a while - now we were inspired to get serious and investigate the options. There are essentially two main types of solar energy systems for the home:  photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal.  A PV system converts the sun’s energy into electricity, while a solar thermal system converts it into heat.  This heat may be used for hot water in your home, swimming pool, hot tub or to supplement a heating system.Hall House Aug 08

After much research, we had a 5-panel solar thermal system installed on the roof of our home in November of 2008.  We chose solar thermal because, in the Midwest, the payback period is less than that of solar PV.  The main reason for this is our climate – we have longer, colder winters and shorter summers.  We use hot water every day and typically heat our homes 7 months out of the year.  Sunny winter days generate heat for hot water and supplement the furnace.  Air conditioning, which requires electricity, is used less here.  In the Southwest, with hot summers and many sunny days, solar PV is a better investment.

Residents of Illinois can apply for a state rebate of 30% of project costs (capped at $10,000) and a Federal tax credit of 30% (no cap) on both solar thermal and PV systems.  The state rebate is allocated on a first-come-first-served basis until the budgeted funds are exhausted for that fiscal year, so you may be put on a waiting list for the following year depending on when you apply. 

The cost of a system varies depending on your installation location and the size of your system, but can range from $10,000-$20,000 for solar thermal and $15,000-$30,000 or more for solar PV (before rebate and credit).  For example, if you installed a $10,000 solar thermal system, you could receive a $3,000 rebate from the state and a $3,000 federal tax credit, resulting in a net cost of $4,000.  There are several online calculators, such as the one found at, which estimates your payback period. Many variables impact that period including the size and cost of your system, energy usage, and energy costs. 

A statistic on the website of our installer states that a typical four-person household can reduce their CO2 emissions by nearly 2.5 tons annually with a four panel heat and hot water system.  It’s a good feeling to know we are helping to reduce emissions – we love to hear that system kick in and know we are getting hot water and heating our home with the sun’s rays!

From Food Barrel to Rain Barrel – La Grange Resident Making a Difference

Cassie Soofi, Go Green La Grange!

image004Jim Klun, a La Grange resident since 2006, has always been a fan of DIY and loves to work with his hands. When his neighbor bought a compost bin for close to $100 he laughed, then made one himself out of an old garbage can.  When that same neighbor (it was me, okay?) purchased two new rain barrels locally, another idea flashed through his mind and shortly thereafter Green Scene Chicago was formed.  Partnering with his friend Michelangelo Alvarez, co-owner of Scala Foods, they take used food barrels and turn them into rain barrels.  After cleaning, sanitizing and painting the barrels, they add a few finishing touches and there you have an attractive vessel to catch rainwater from your roof.

The benefits of the handmade rain  barrels are two-fold – they provide a new use for the hundreds of food barrels Alvarez goes through a week and give homeowners a way to collect roof water for use on gardens and lawns, thereby conserving gallons of water from Lake  Michigan.

Not only do the barrels conserve water, they benefit the environment in the following ways (taken from

  • Reduces the volume of water flowing to the sewer treatment facility
  • Lowers the percentage of roof top rainfall as a component of urban runoff
  • Backup source of water during times of drought or between rain showers
  • Helps to keep our creeks and beaches clean
  • Naturally softened water - great for delicate houseplants, auto cleaning and window washing
  • Saves money by lowering your water bill
  • Reduces the need for additional tax dollars earmarked for sewer expansion
  • Chlorine-free water helps maintain a healthy biotic community in the soil
  • Educational tool for teaching residents about water conservation.

Green Scene Chicago rain barrels  are available for pick-up right here in the Country Club section of La Grange or in the River West area of Chicago. For more information visit

The Village of La Grange also continues to provide rain barrels  for $40 each and can be picked up at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Water Reclamation Plant in Cicero on the first Saturday of each month from 9 am to 1 pm.

Western Springs Resident Raises the Bar for School Food

Rose Naseef, Go Green La Grange!

Many residents wish that local schools would provide healthier food to their children, but few voice their concerns or take the steps to make it happen. One exception is a Western Springs resident and parent, Jacqueline Vasan. She organizes a pizza lunch one day per month for students at McClure Junior High School in Western Springs.

McClure Junior High SchoolThe attention paid to the ingredients is what makes the lunch unique. Zacarelli’s in Bridgeview prepares the pizza, which includes hormone-free cheese, organic white flour and organic whole wheat pastry flour purchased by Ms. Vasan. Ms. Vasan, who is an environmentalist as well as a health-conscious parent, purchases these ingredients from local sources whenever possible.

Zacarelli’s makes three separate deliveries to the school, bringing over 50 pizzas at each trip. Along with two slices of pizza, each student receives a baked good and water. Ms. Vasan, who is also a professional baker, often makes the additional item, using natural ingredients. The response to the lunch has been positive. Some students say that they prefer a pizza crust made from all white flour, but most of the students like the pizza. Teachers and parent volunteers enjoy the pizza too.

In addition to providing variety for the children, the pizza lunch is a fundraiser for the band and orchestra. The price of the lunch, approximately $4.50, covers Ms. Vasan’s costs and generates revenue. She realizes that she could raise slightly more money by using cheaper ingredients, but she rejects this option. Serving quality food is a priority. Despite the challenges to improving school lunches, Ms. Vasan demonstrates that you can improve the quality of food served at school, one lunch at a time.

Jacqueline Vasan is an avid baker and offers tasty, natural baked goods at She currently purchases the flour for the pizza from Adrian Plapp of Plapp Family Organics in Malta, IL ( She also sells local flour, cheese, milk, cream, basil, and greens at winter markets in the Chicagoland area (


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