There is a new flag flying over the Lisle Village Hall. Along with the United States, Illinois and village flags, the latest addition is a pristine planet Earth centered on a blue field representing the universe.
SCARCE -- School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education -- and DuPage County awarded the village the Earth Flag in recognition of its communitywide recycling, sustainability and environmental projects and practices. The flag's fabric is spun from recycled plastic bottles.
"I loved working with the village of Lisle staff," said Kay McKeen, founder of SCARCE. "They have so many green initiatives going on that it is amazing."
McKeen credits the motivated staff bolstered by the village board's approval to move forward. The community also has a number of organizations and schools that have paved the way to earning an Earth Flag. Among recipients are: Tate Woods Elementary School, Lisle High School, St. Joan of Arc School, the Morton Arboretum, the Lisle Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Molex Inc.
The village's effort began in earnest with the formation of the Environmental Concerns Committee roughly 20 years ago. The group began the Lisle Environmental Awareness Program, or LEAP, recycling center at 4930 Lincoln Ave.
"At that time there was no easy way for a resident to recycle newspaper, cardboard, bottles or cans," said village staff engineer Mary Lou Kalsted.
Next came a convenient curbside recycling pickup service in 1993. Large blue, labeled recycling bins were given free to every homeowner to encourage use. Lisle was one of the first communities in DuPage to offer the service.
Educating the public was key to widespread participation. Eye-catching pamphlets that explained the triangular numbering system for plastic recyclables and other recycling facts were put in the hands of every resident. The service continues to be free to homeowners.
As the village designed and built its new police department headquarters on Route 53 and its new village hall on Burlington Avenue, environmentally friendly practices were implemented. Metal filing cabinets were re-coated and reused. Furniture is reused within the village and from other businesses. The entire landscapes of both buildings make widespread use of native plants; water retention areas serve to hold water and allow it to slowly percolate into the ground.
The overhaul of downtown Lisle and creation of Prairie Walk Pond and Dragonfly Landing Playground emphasize the village's commitment to environmentally friendly practices with native plants, permeable pavers, stormwater management and a green roof that shades the playground.
Administrative Services Director Eric Ertmoed oversaw the successful Sustainable Saturday recycling programs made possible with the help of Benedictine University. Huge semitrailers were filled with recycled electronics of every imaginable type along with bikes, scrap metal, batteries, eyeglasses and fire extinguishers. So far, 300,000 pounds of electronics have been collected at these events.
Currently the village has a monthly recycling collection program for electronics, small appliances, batteries, toners and printer cartridges. At the Lisle Police Department, the Rx Drop Box in its lobby is a convenient and proper way to get rid of unused prescriptions and over-the-counter medications past their expiration dates. The old disposal method of flushing medications only shifted the contaminants into the waterways, and proved to be an awful practice.
Kalsted organized the village's efforts to earn the SCARCE Earth Flag. The process included green audits, staff training, established recycling program, and activities to reduce waste and energy. Lisle is the fourth town in DuPage County to earn the recognition, joining Carol Stream, Glendale Heights and Itsaca.
"Today there are people involved in every department at village hall," Kalsted said.
SCARCE's green audit was on the village's four main buildings. The audit revealed that turning off lights, computers and monitors at the end of the day was not uniformly practiced since it is not a written policy. Programmable thermostats, motion sensors on lights, tinted windows, weather stripping, low-flush faucets, native plants, rain barrels and green cleaning products were put into practice. Staff even turned off lights in vending machines that had run around the clock.
Other Earth-friendly practices the village uses include computerizing salt spreaders, selling 125 rain barrels to residents and implementing a strict anti-idling auto practice.
The village's annual Lights of Lisle on Saturday, Dec. 3, begins this year's recycling program drop-off inside the village hall lobby for broken or unwanted holiday light strands and extension cords. The program runs until February. As more people turn to environmentally-friendly LED Christmas lights, recycling old strands keeps them out of landfills and allows for the reuse of the copper wire and plastic in the materials.
As of January, a new Illinois law will ban all electronics from landfills. No longer may these items be put in the trash. All must be recycled, including keyboards and mice, DVD and MP3 players, computers, printers and more.
"There are lots of natural resources in electronics and we need those," McKeen said. "There are also small amounts of rare earth minerals that are in the components and we for sure need to capture those metals and materials."
Last week, Lisle learned it received three "Excellence in Economic Development" awards for communities with a population under 25,000 from the International Economic Development Council, said Catherine Schuster, economic development director.
Both the village's downtown redevelopment project and its promotional video, "The Arborteum Village," were honored by the organization.
The village's Green-By-Choice Program also earned a "Sustainable and Green Development" honor because it encourages businesses to reduce waste and conserve natural resources. Participating businesses receive a green audit and are listed in the Green Directory of Lisle Businesses.
"We primarily focused on our retail businesses first as they impact the public via products and services they offer," Shuster said. "The Green Directory includes businesses from pet grooming to home improvement; investing to florists. We can all make changes to positively impact the environment and future."
• Joan Broz writes about Lisle.