Business Leaders Spurring Chicago’s Environmental Efforts

Chicago Clean Energy

A group of business leaders is overseeing the implementation of Chicago’s Climate Change Action Plan, ensuring it won’t sit on a shelf like so many others.

John Tracy, chief technology officer at Boeing recently joined the committee, bringing an engineer’s methodology to the group. “I’m the one who I think is pushing them to use all of the spreadsheets.” Tracy said. “That’s the way to make sure it’s more than just talk and words…to me, without the metrics we’ve got nothing.”

Far from the country’s leader on environmentalism, carbon dioxide emissions have grown, despite pledges from city hall to curb them. Mercury pollution a result of coal fired energy plants in Illinois rose in 2008, while nationwide they declined. Sewage dumped into the Chicago River has rightly earned the moniker of “partially treated.”

Throughout all of this, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has made it clear he would not wield a big stick on business.

However progress is being made. A green hotel certification program has been created, 600 low-flow showerheads in city facilities are in the process of being installed, the city can now reuse soil and rubble as opposed to tossing it in landfills. Other initiatives like, a leak reduction program for companies that heavily rely on refrigerants are about a year off.

“The work they have produced in terms of tracking documents is about as sophisticated as anything I have seen in business,” said Christopher Kennedy, president of Merchandise Mart Properties, who along with Tracy is a member of the Green Ribbon Committee overseeing the project.

Kennedy says he is most optimistic about programs that mix engineering and marketing. Through the committee, he is pushing utilities to print electric bills that not only detail a customers usage, but also the average usage of neighbours with similar-size homes.