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Park District Works as a Team to Be Green

Weekly musings from Jeff Long, public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District.

Preservation. Sustainability. Conservation.

These are not buzz words. They are words to live by.

More than just fashionable talking points, they signify a course of action that we – all of us, together – take daily. And we take it seriously.

Preserving our planet is a worldly ambition, bigger than any one individual. But every little contribution adds up in the long run. The mindset makes the mission.

We take that approach at the Fox Valley Park District every day. In 2005, the FVPD created its own “Green Team” to research, study and make recommendations to the Board of Trustees to set policies that position the District as a standard bearer of environmental stewardship.

Promoting eco-friendly practices on a daily basis is central to that ideal. With 163 parks that encompass over 2,300 acres of open space and natural areas, it’s important the FVPD be a leader in green achievements.

Sustainability is part of every new park design, and those that are renovated as well. Permeable paver parking lots, bioswales, rain gardens and non-invasive, native plant landscapes are commonplace now. Also, most park signs, benches and new refuse containers (coming soon) are made from recycled materials that are locally manufactured.

The centrally located Cole Center is a shining example of that. Once a vending distribution center, the warehouse-sized building was renovated and retrofitted with more than 125 sustainable features. In 2010, the District consolidated its administrative and park operations there, a move that resulted in four acres of land along the Fox River restored as public open space near South River Street Park where the District’s maintenance facilities were formerly housed.

Greening our communities – literally – has been a leafy aspiration, with upward of 6,000 trees planted District-wide in the last five years. Trees add shelter and beauty while removing carbon dioxide and creating oxygen. Take a deep breath if you like.

Recycling efforts have been ramped up as well. On average, the District recycles more than 60 tons of paper products and nearly 10 tons of glass, plastic and aluminum on an annual basis, figures that should continue to rise through expanded efforts from a partnership with the Association for Individual Development.

Comprised of employees from a variety of different departments, the Green Team’s function is to advocate rather than police, while promoting the adoption of responsible practices and policies that strengthen the District’s commitment to stewardship.

A good example of that teamwork is the anti-idling policy that was instituted in 2010 for the District’s fleet of vehicles. As part of the District’s Clean Air Counts commitment, the policy also helps reduce fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions.

There are dozens more examples, from the installation of super energy-efficient LED lights to motion detectors in District washrooms to the adoption of green cleaning products at the Vaughan Athletic Center.

Among my favorites is the inspiring choice by the Friendly Center Club to do away with Styrofoam cups – one of the worst environmental offenders out there – and replace them with reusable ceramic mugs.

We can all raise a mug to that – preferably a green one – and then reuse it for the next toast.

Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at jlong@fvpd.net

Fox Valley Park District
Upcoming Events

Saturday, Aug. 11: Fox Valley Amazing Race beginning at Prisco Community Center, 12:30 to 6 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 11-12: Red Oak Nature Center Back-to-School Book Fair, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 11-12:
Civil War Living History Display at Blackberry Farm, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (3 p.m. Sunday)
Saturday, Aug. 25: Bug Fest (free), from Lippold Park to Red Oak Nature Center, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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