Our first piece of legislation was an ordinance creating the Cook County Environmental Commission. This Commission brings together 9 people from various sectors of Cook County who a background in environmental matters. The goal of the Commission is to make Cook County a global leader in the fight against global warming.

Click here to read the ordinance.

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2020 Environmental Commission Goals

Composting is the process of using organic food waste to enrich soil, which can help to facilitate plant growth. Composting has many environmental benefits. It reduces methane emissions, aids in carbon sequestration, and reduces storm-water runoff. Composting can serve as a replacement for chemical fertilizers, as farmers use composting to stimulate crop growth and experience higher crop-yields as a result.

When food waste is not composted and is instead thrown in landfills, it emits a harmful greenhouse gas called methane. Roughly one third of food from agriculture production is either wasted, or lost in the production-phase. This ends up totaling an economic loss of approximately $680 billion for industrialized countries. Food waste is responsible for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions, and if it were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and the United States.  Industrial composting programs are necessary in addressing the extensive problems associated with food waste. Large-scale composting provides countless benefits, including regenerative ecological systems, jobs, and food supplies.

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Greenhouse gas emissions have led to catastrophic results associated with climate change, including natural disasters, drastic sea level rises, and pollution-related health problems. Tree-planting is an essential component of addressing this climate crisis. Trees not only offer a variety of environmental benefits that can offset some of the negative effects of climate change, but additionally provide monetary, health, and social benefits. Trees sequester, on average, 48 pounds of carbon per year, and one ton over a life cycle. Additionally, trees provide cooling benefits and storm water run-off absorption qualities that can save cities hundreds of thousands of dollars. The city of Berkley found in a study that their trees saved roughly $215,645 in storm-water runoff mitigation and approximately $458,994 in electricity costs. Additionally, significant mood benefits as well as property value increases of up to 19% have been documented in association with a higher presence of trees.  Cook County is implementing its own tree-planting and tree-maintenance program to help mitigate the effects of climate change, as the planting of trees is a vital and effective step toward increasing social welfare for citizens, as well as preserving the condition of its environment.

Update: This past September the Commissioner worked with Openlands to plant 40 trees at Bridgeview Courthouse. If you know of any community or location that is interested in having trees planted, please reach out to my office.

Many native plant species are not only aesthetically pleasing, but are beneficial to the environment. Native plants help with storm water absorption, reduce erosion, and provide food and shelter for local wildlife. They also require less water than grass and other plants, do not need fertilizers or pesticides, and do not require mowing. However, Chicago’s current ordinance on weeds is vague and broad. Many people who purposely cultivate native gardens are then fined by the City under the weed ordinance.

By amending this ordinance to distinguish between purposely cultivated native plants and weeds, we can encourage people to choose low maintenance native gardens without fear of fines.

Update: I am proud to announce that our work on the Commission helped establish a Native Garden Registry amendment to the Ordinance.

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Environmental Commission Meeting 10/18/2021

Below is our 2021 Annual Report, summarizing the Commissions activities for the year.Environmental Commission 2021 Annual Report