Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Park Forest Mayor John A. Ostenburg was a recent participant at the first-ever Green Cities Conference of the National League of Cities. The event was held in Portland, Ore., April 18-21.
According to NLC President Kathleen L. Novak, mayor of Northglenn, Colo., the decision to hold a separate conference devoted to environmental issues resulted from the interest expressed by mayors and other municipal officials during the NLC’s annual Congress of Cities sessions held over the last several years.
Portland was selected as the site for the conference because of its success in creating award-winning sustainability programs. The City of Portland collaborated with the NLC in setting up the conference and both Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski spoke to conference participants about “green” projects underway in the city and the state.
Mayor Ostenburg said he came away from the conference with many ideas on actions that the Village of Park Forest might undertake over the next several years to contribute to climate control and to improve environmental sustainability.
“I intend to hold a special meeting of the Village Board with the Park Forest Environment Commission and discuss some of the ideas that came out of this meeting,” he said. “I think there are several ways that the Village of Park Forest can begin immediately to help in the elimination of harmful contaminants that are entering our air, ground soil, and water supply routes on a daily basis. While our efforts may be somewhat limited when compared with the total global problem, whatever steps we can take will contribute to the solution.
“There’s an old proverb that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step,” he said. “I want Park Forest to take that first step.”
Among the concepts that Mayor Ostenburg said he hopes to implement in Park Forest are programs to improve usage of public transportation in order to eliminate the number of individual vehicles on the streets, to control the usage of plastics and other materials that take hundreds of years to break down when thrown into landfills, to promote wiser use of open space and to eliminate extensive expanses of concrete and asphalt, and to encourage homeowners to use more energy-efficient light-bulbs and appliances.
He said he will be establishing a team to develop a sustainability plan for the Village of Park Forest. Among the components he hopes to see in that plan will be purchasing standards to assure that products bought with tax dollars are environmentally sound, and building code standards that assure “green” techniques are used in any new construction activity that occurs in the Village.
“The impression everyone has is that ‘going green’ means spending more money, but I learned at this conference that’s not the case,” Mayor Ostenburg said. “In fact, because of ‘green’ purchasing cooperatives that have been established across the country, cities now can purchase many products that are both environmentally sound and less expensive. This opportunity is open also to school districts, townships, and other governmental bodies.”
He said he learned that three steps are necessary in order to create a community in which environmental sustainability can be found:
- educate the public on the value of undertaking environmentally sound measures;
- provide incentives for the public to be environmentally conscientious; and
- create ordinances and other community standards that assure compliance with environmentally sound standards.
“The last step should be undertaken only when absolutely necessary,” he said. “The first two steps are much better ways of assuring heartfelt and sincere cooperation. The ‘stick’ always should be the last measure undertaken.”
Mayor Ostenburg said speakers at the conference kept returning to the “three Rs” as the motto for assuring environmental sustainability: reduce, reuse, recycle.
“Basically, sustainability comes down to preventing the creation of as much waste as possible, and to conserving the valuable natural resources that we enjoy on our planet,” he said. “When we do that, we manage the climate in a positive way that helps prevent illness and the loss of natural beauty, and that means we improve the quality of life for ourselves and for future generations.
“Those are truly worthy goals, if you ask me.”