Rebates for buying energy-efficient appliances. Bike lanes. Classes on how to recycle and compost.
Niles residents were buzzing with those ideas, and dozens more, when they gathered Wednesday as part of the kickoff of the village's Environmental Action Plan Study. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning awarded it a technical assistance grant in 2011, according to the village, and CMAP sent planners to gather information and start the process.
The planners divided residents into groups of seven or eight and asked questions about how to improve energy efficiency, how to maximize use of green space, how to conserve water and more.
"The village can use hybrid vehicles, or if they really want to do it, go electric," said resident Rich Mangold. "Or wind energy."
"How hard would it be to say we're going to start planting one park a year with native plantings?" asked resident Chris Zalinski, adding that would save money on costs to water the flora and buy new annuals every year.
"The library can educate people about new (energy efficient) heaters and air conditioners," said a woman whose name tag read "Jan."
After more than an hour of brainstorming, Kristin Ihnchak, an associate planner with CMAP, and Hala Ahmed and Louise Yeung, who served as facilitators from CMAP, read off a list of ideas and comments that had come up in their small-group sessions. The ideas and comments included:
- Educate people about water-conserving appliances and techniques.
- Provide clear signs indicating the Pace bus stops.
- Niles has a good transportation system on main streets.
- The Niles Courtesy Bus (Free Bus) is an asset. But the buses are slow and schedules inconvenient.
- There's not enough safety for bicyclists, not enough secure places to lock bikes.
- People should know the Public Works Department makes mulch available.
- Use gray water. (In environmental lingo, gray water is water that is not pure enough to drink, but clean enough to use to water lawns, supply to toilets for flushing, or other secondary uses, so it is not wasted.)
- Encourage use of permeable paving.
- The village should have connected sidewalk networks.
- Better connections for Pace bus routes are needed.
- Educate parents to have their kids use public transportation or walk.
- Have the village become a model for residents in the area of energy efficiency.
- Have electric car chargers available.
- On open space, more property available for adults to use, including trails and community gardens.
- More coordination between the village, park districts and Cook County Forest Preserve District on open space and park uses.
- Recyling bins are overflowing because people are recycling so much.
- There's an increased need to recycle CFL bulbs and electronics.
- Educate people that the village receives a rebate for the materials residents recycle.
- The village can do a pilot program on how to compost.
- Teach people how to compost so they don't attract pests.
- Use library and civic center as locations for events to educate people.
- Consult energyimpactillinois.org for rebates up to $1,750 for buying a new energy-efficient furnace or windows.
Ihnchak said CMAP is basically acting as the project manager for the project, which is funded by a federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The project will include additional stakeholder hearings and public workshops, according to the village website. The village expects it to be completed by the end of the year.
"At the end of the project, the village wil take over the implementation," she said.