Last Monday, the Evanston City Council voted unanimously to adopt an ambitious Climate Action & Resilience Plan that makes Evanston the first city in Illinois to commit to achieving carbon neutrality. Reaching that goal will require action on many fronts, from building codes to waste management.
Even trees and green spaces will play a role. They help to capture and store carbon dioxide, and they help us weather consequences of climate change that we already are experiencing, like extreme storms.
Fortunately, the work underway in natural areas around town already has begun making a contribution. Trees and deep-rooted prairie plants have superior carbon-storing capacity and also intercept stormwater and help it soak slowly into the ground. In that way, natural areas like those we are nurturing along the North Shore Channel act as “green infrastructure”—a nature-based alternative to grey infrastructure like sewer pipes. As the plan notes, “The implementation of green infrastructure in appropriate locations throughout Evanston can reduce potential flooding risks and potential capital expenses associated with grey infrastructure.”
Trees also clean the air and, by blocking sunlight in summer and wind in winter, can reduce energy use. And of course trees and natural areas are beneficial not only for humans, but for birds, pollinators, and other wildlife as well.
The Climate Action & Resilience Plan was prepared over the last year by a task force appointed by Mayor Hagerty, which worked closely with the city’s sustainability manager, Kumar Jensen. Support for its adoption has come from dozens of community organizations, including major employers. Those of us already working to care for natural areas and rain gardens around town will be doing our part, too.
— Wendy Pollock