It’s a brilliant day in Barrington. The sky is bright blue and there’s not a cloud in sight. The Spring air is cool in the shade, and warm in the sun—the perfect work day for the group of volunteers who have gathered to do the controlled burn that will remove invasive growth, enrich soil, and clear the way for wildflowers in this Barrington forest knoll. Jennifer Lucas, in a deep-pink jean jacket and slacks, exchanges greetings with many of the volunteers.
“You see so many familiar faces at these environmental care events,” says Lucas, founder of Go Green Barrington, and an active volunteer environmentalist for decades. “But what’s even more exciting is that the number of volunteers are growing. More and more people reach out to me and say, “What can I do to help?”
Those words are music to Lucas’s ears. She founded Go Green Barrington in June 2018 to encourage local environmental awareness and to inspire individuals to find additional ways to personally take action. That her efforts are working, and more people are becoming involved is hugely satisfying.
Showing the film RIVERBLUE as a local host for Chicago’s One Earth Film Festival in March, for example, Go Green Barrington had the most attendees of all participating Lake County venues.
“It was unbelievable,” Lucas enthuses. “We had almost 170 guests. Adults, teens, and many new faces. So many people stopped to talk to me and to ask me to do the event again, saying they were inspired by it.”
Lucas’s reasons for starting Go Green have their roots in her own personal research—research that grew out of her family’s volunteerism with local environmental groups, and from reading the science papers her own kids wrote at Barrington High School as they studied the impact of solid waste on the environment.
“It was the kids’ papers delving into areas of waste and air quality that I found most compelling and spurred me to do much more research” says Lucas. “I couldn’t stop thinking that there was more I could do.”
Looking for local groups specifically focused on reducing plastic waste and educating about solar power as a renewable energy option, Lucas discovered that there weren’t any. So she reached out to area groups to ask if she could take on these initiatives under their umbrellas.
“But their resources were already focused on specific goals and missions,” says Lucas.
So, she started attending meetings at other suburban environmental groups, such as Go Green Park Ridge and Green Drinks McHenry County, and armed with their helpful information, launched Go Green.
Go Green’s initial goals include encouraging individuals to reduce their use of plastic waste (food and drink packaging, etc.), talking to restaurants about stepping away from the use of plastic straws, and creating awareness about solar power. The group hosts a Green Drinks event at a local restaurant once a month featuring presentations and discussion around a variety of environmental topics. The Shedd Aquarium has come to talk about the impact of plastic waste in bodies of water, and there have been talks on solar energy and even one on the impact personal care products can have on the environment.
This summer, Go Green is hosting a bag share station at the farmers’ market allowing people to drop off canvas shopping bags that they don’t use, or, to pick up reusable bags if they don’t have them. And, after months of urging Village government to create an environmental committee, Go Green is celebrating the recent announcement by the Barrington mayor on plans to create such a committee.
“Having an environmental committee will give us better way to communicate with the Village on a wide array of topics,” says Lucas, formerly a litigation attorney with Winston and Strawn in Chicago. “Things like working to get a charging station in town for electric cars, or advocating for more recycling on streets in business districts.”
Go Green’s website and meetings already broadcast upcoming events for many other Barrington environmental groups, such as Citizens for Conservation, Smart Farm of Barrington, Mindful Waste, and the Barrington Area Conservation Trust.
“We include all of their calendars and upcoming events on the website,” says Lucas. “We understand that it’s not one-size-fits all, so by including all of the volunteer options, there’s something for everyone.”
Thus far, leading the path for Go Green has been, “a phenomenal experience for me,” Lucas sums. “One of the main reasons we chose to raise our family in Barrington is because we love the open spaces and the forest preserves. Whatever we can do to help restore and preserve these beautiful open lands, to reduce the waste and practices that harm them, and to help others do the same, is vital to me.”
For more information about Go Green upcoming events, go to gogreenbarrington.org.