Park Forest Recognized as a Leader in Sustainability Efforts

Carrie Malfeo Park Forest Sustainability Coordinator
Carrie Malfeo, Park Forest Sustainability Coordinator. (Photo: VOPF)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- In recognition of its position as an environmental sustainability leader, Park Forest in 2020 was named as one of 88 cities around the world to achieve “A List” status by CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project).  It was the only city in Illinois to be so recognized.

Quoting from the CDP website, Park Forest and the other cities on the list have “made major progress since the signing of the Paris Agreement, demonstrating that impactful and urgent action is possible.  These cities have stepped up by setting ambitious targets and adapting to the impacts of climate change.”

CDP is a nonprofit that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, and regions across the globe to manage their environmental impacts.

Park Forest Sustainability Coordinator Carrie Malfeo is working hard to build upon the village’s achievement.

In her third year as Sustainability Coordinator, Malfeo is focused on all aspects of the village’s environmental goals as outlined in its 2019 Climate Action and Resilience Plan, which calls for a 26% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2025 from its 2010 baseline.   Among other goals, the plan calls for a 20% reduction in energy use in village-owned and public buildings by 2025, and a 20% increase in land used for urban agriculture and community gardening.

Alex Bazan is assisting Malfeo in her sustainability efforts.  Bazan is working in the village for 11 months as a member of the Greenest Region Corp which is a partnership of the Mayors Caucus and AmeriCorps to help lead sustainability projects.

Malfeo and Bazan are at the forefront of the efforts to implement green practices in all aspects of the village business.  From the creation of ten community gardens and encouraging residents to investigate beekeeping and raising chickens, to educating residents on recycling and energy reduction, and attending/hosting community events, the sustainability team has been busy.

One such effort was the recent RecycleFest that was held on July 31.  Held annually since 2016, the event has kept more than 152,00 pounds of material from landfills, including the recycling of over 80,000 pounds of electronics, 700 TVs, and 15,000 pounds of clothing, shoes, housewares, and sporting goods.

A composting event held at the end of June, in conjunction with the University of Illinois Extension in Cook County, allowed residents to drop off yard, garden, and kitchen waste as well as pick up compost for use in their gardens.  While this was a one-time drop-off event, residents do have ongoing access to mulch and compost from the village.  The village will drop off a truckload of mulch or compost to a house for a fee of $35, or residents can pick it up at the Recreation & Parks Municipal Garage at no charge.  Details on the compost and mulch program can be found on the village’s Mulch and EQ Compost website.

Malfeo is developing a plan to enable residents to recycle their compostable materials such as food scraps and coffee grounds on a regular basis.  A few northern Chicagoland communities currently offer such a program.  Malfeo is working to identify a company that would serve the south suburbs.  While not sure of the compost program details, she is hoping to have a program in place within the next year if a viable collection process can be identified.

In the area of energy conservation, the village recently announced that its water treatment facility will soon be equipped with a solar array for energy production on its roof as well as in the adjacent field.  Once online this November, the array will provide 45% of the facility’s energy needs.  Using federal tax credits and ComEd rebates, the cost to the village will be approximately $670,000 with a 10.9-year payback period.  If legislation currently pending in Springfield passes, the cost could drop to $350,000 and the payback period cut in half by selling the renewable energy credits associated with the project.

Malfeo hopes that this is just the first use of solar arrays in the village and that possible installations on the awnings of downtown Park Forest buildings and the Matteson train station prove viable.

The Sustainability office is also encouraging residents who are interested in acquiring a rain barrel for their outdoor watering use to take advantage of a current offer from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.  Fifty-five-gallon rain barrels can be purchased and delivered for $21.96, or $10.98 for seniors over 65.  This offer is available to only Cook County residents.  Ordering information can be found on the Water Reclamation website.

Rain-Barrel

In another sustainability effort, the village is in the process of establishing a “mini forest” on the southeast corner of the intersection of Marquette Street and Niagara Street to help in the effort to improve biodiversity, support pollinators, absorb CO2, and reduce storm run-off.  This intersection has twelve vacant lots that are unusable for housing and two of the lots will serve as a pilot project.  The village, with the assistance of local residents, will be planting 30 to 55 native trees, as well as forbs and grasses. 

By choosing a site that is within 120 feet of Sauk Trail, the hope is that the mini forest will help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the 30,000 vehicles that use the roadway each day.  The pilot project is scheduled for completion by this Fall.

Further details on the village’s many sustainability initiatives can be found on the village’s Sustainability website.

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