HIGHLAND PARK – It is not easy being green, but it is important to improve our communities’ natural resources and overall health, according to community leaders who spoke at a recent environmental workshop. The event, “Impactful Strategies: Support the Environment,” was held at the Highland Park Public Library on August 17.
Highland Park City Councilwoman Kim Stone began the discussion with a presentation on coal tar sealants, pesticides and the benefits of green roofs. “Coal tar sealants are toxic and have been banned in some states and municipalities,” said Stone.
She also warned about carcinogens found in pesticides, and how sometimes doing the right thing comes with a price. “A neighbor got a ticket for having dandelions after being encouraged not to use harmful pesticides,” said Stone.
Stone pointed out the advantages of having a vegetative or green roof. “Green roofs reduce the impact of run off on the storm water drainage system, and reduce the likelihood of local flooding,” she said.
The next speaker was Kelly Nichols, Illinois organizer of Moms Clean Air Force. She expressed concern about environmental exposure on pregnant women and children.
“We must fight to mitigate disasters caused from climate change,” said Nichols.
Nichols urged citizens to talk to legislators using a personal approach. “Putting a face on the battle encourages change,” she said.
The following speaker, John Sentell, president of Lake Forest Open Lands Association, stressed the importance of educating children on environmental issues.
“If young people don’t understand the land, how will they protect it?” asked Sentell.
Sentell encouraged residents to conserve water, maintain rare habitats, and to recycle. “Recycling one soda can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours,” he said.
Sentell spoke about the benefits of planting trees and native plants. Planting an oak tree reduces warming and cooling costs. Native plants don’t require regular watering, landscaping, fertilizing or even raking.
The final speaker on the panel was Ethan Brown, resilience coordinator for Alliance for the Great Lakes. Brown said the Great Lakes represent 20% of the earth’s fresh water supply. He also pointed out that rain from Highland Park, Lake Forest, and Lake Bluff goes into the Lake Michigan watershed.
Brown discussed the importance of allowing storm water to filter naturally into the ground, improving local water quality and reducing erosion on sensitive stream banks and shorelines. “The ravines are the most important ecosystem here,” he said.
Brown stressed that our cities must become more resilient, “We need to empower communities to incorporate green infrastructures, and we need to hear from citizens.”