Will County adopts framework to be more green

Greenest Region Compact to help build on local energy efficiency

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At its meeting last month, the Will County Board voted to endorse the Greenest Region Compact, which its supporters said is a framework to help the county build on its efforts to be more energy efficient.

The compact’s goal is to “align environmental issues, resources and actions at the local, regional and national levels to guide municipalities to achieve greater environmental sustainability,” according to a document on the Will County website. The GRC includes sustainability goals for 10 categories: climate, economic development, energy, land, leadership, mobility, municipal operations, sustainable communities, water and waste.

Sam Bluemer, an energy and conservation specialist with Will County Land Use, said the county had a plan to be more green in 2012 and endorsing the GRC would help bring a needed upgrade to those efforts.

“Like all things, technology changes, goals change, leadership changes,” Bluemer said. “And we felt that it was time to update it to better reflect what it was doing.”

The GRC’s framework provides something of a checklist for the county to use to see how many green initiatives it already has adopted and what more it can do to achieve its larger goals. Bluemer said she particularly liked the data-driven way it was designed by organizations in the region so that its goals actually would apply to communities in Will County. She said that already about half of the communities in Will County have adopted the GRC.

Bluemer also lauded county leadership for putting green initiatives at the forefront of projects such as the new Will County Courthouse. While the project already was built to be LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – certified, LEED county leadership has been interested in using the new courthouse to generate solar power. The GRC can help local officials push such green efforts to the next level across the county.

Now that the GRC already has been endorsed, Bluemer said she is working to come up with specific goals outlined in the framework that the county can work toward. One of the GRC’s supporters on the county board said achieving such goals will help the county in many ways, from combating extreme weather to creating local, sustainable energy jobs.

“We have to start having green jobs, innovations to help fight climate change,” said Will County Board member Rachel Ventura, D-Joliet. “These are things that are going to affect us in the near future. It’s really time to take a laser focus.”

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.