Chicago Area Clean Cities names environmental leadership awards
Chicago Area Clean Cities Coalition announced its 2019 Leadership Award winners at its annual December meeting and reception at The Great Escape in Schiller Park.
The awards are given annually to organizations and individuals that take actions to locally reduce petroleum consumption and improve air quality, such as by using cleaner-burning alternative-fuel vehicles, electric vehicles or other advanced technologies.
This year's winners include: Village of Oak Park, Greater Chicago I-55 Truck Plaza, Ozinga, and Village of Downers Grove.
Tom Thompson, maintenance supervisor for the Forest Preserves of Cook County, was recognized for his Leadership in Public Service.
Chicago resident Neda Deylami also was awarded a Community Leadership Award for her efforts to help Chicago transition to environmentally friendly electric vehicles.
"The individuals and organizations we are honoring are terrific examples for others to follow to learn about the advantages of clean-vehicle and alternative-fuel technologies," said Samantha Bingham, coordinator at Chicago Area Clean Cities. "Their efforts serve the Chicago community by reducing harmful emissions from vehicles. That helps to reduce air pollution, making the air we breathe cleaner and healthier for all."
Leadership Award winners by category include:
• Best Performing Municipality: The Village of Oak Park is located eight miles from the Chicago Loop. The village is taking many steps to lower the carbon footprint and emissions of its vehicle fleet.
Oak Park recently installed five electric vehicle charging stations at its village hall on Madison Street. There are three stations with six ports for charging municipal vehicles and two charging stations with four ports for charging by EV owners. Along with the installation, the municipality deployed five new all-electric 2019 Nissan LEAFs.
Oak Park, with more than 50,000 residents, is a member of CACC and the B20 Club and is a long-time user of low-emissions biodiesel fuel for the village's diesel fleet vehicles. B20 generates fewer tailpipe emissions and reduces lifecycle carbon emissions.
The village also expanded its use of telematics to coach and educate fleet drivers on proper usage of equipment by decreasing idling, reduce speeding and excessive acceleration, decreasing use of fossil fuels. It also added a hybrid-electric bucket truck, which allows use of the bucket with a battery instead of the vehicle's engine.
Oak Park's green fleet is one of many sustainability efforts underway in the village.
"Oak Park has always been at the forefront as a green community," said Ken Crowley, superintendent of fleet services for the Village of Oak Park. "We place a high priority on environmental stewardship. We do everything we can to keep the air we breathe as clean as we can, and our use of biodiesel and electric vehicles are very important initiatives."
• Leadership in Public Service: Tom Thompson is the maintenance supervisor for the Forest Preserves of Cook County, one of the largest forest preserve districts in the nation at 70,000 acres. Thompson, who has worked with the preserves for 30 years, has led the forest preserve district's efforts to make their vehicles and mowers green as a part of an ongoing plan to make operations as environmentally friendly and economical as possible.
Maintaining all that green space requires a lot of vehicles and fuel. To mow the landscape in and around picnic groves and other recreational public spaces, the agency maintains a fleet of 40 riding mowers, 90 large tractors, 55 push mowers and 100 trimmers. The forest preserve district recently converted 20 vehicles and 40 large riding mowers to propane, a fuel that has lower emissions than gasoline and diesel.
"Tom is a true leader and a steward of the environment," said John W. Walton, chair, Chicago Area Clean Cities. "His leadership to green the forest preserves' operations is to be commended and is an example for all who what to contribute to a better world."
At the awards program, Chicago Area Clean Cities also awarded the Forest Preserves of Cook County its most prestigious award, naming the 2019 Clean Fuels Champion, an award given annually since 2001 to an individual, organization or business that champions sustainable transportation solutions.
• Community Leadership Award: Chicago resident Neda Deylami devotes much of her personal time to planning educational EV events in communities throughout the Chicago area and Illinois. She has organized and participated in over a dozen events at public libraries, city halls, sustainability fairs and other outreach events, which altogether were attended by hundreds of people in 2019.
This year, Deylami founded an electric vehicle community group, "Chicago for EVs." The group is comprised mostly of EV owners but is open to all who want to lend a hand in advancing the local EV market.
With support from other EV owners, Deylami has worked with aldermen and city officials in Chicago, municipal officials in the suburbs and officials and representatives in Springfield, advocating for policies that would promote wider adoption of EVs. She has written several policy and research papers to promote the growth of EVs, which have influenced legislative initiatives in Chicago and the state of Illinois. In her advocacy efforts, she has focused in particular on policies that would expand access to EVs among groups who currently face the most obstacles in accessing sustainable transportation, such as renters, lower income people, and minorities.
"Neda is an exceptional EV owner who is dedicated to making adoption easier for future EV drivers and educating communities about the benefits of driving electric," Bingham said. "She's one of CACC's star volunteers, having lent a hand on multiple occasions when the coalition has sought assistance for outreach events. She's gone above and beyond to assist Chicago-area communities become EV ready, and she deserves this recognition."
• Above and Beyond Award: Ozinga is a fourth-generation, family-owned company providing ready mix concrete, building materials, logistics and alternative fuel solutions since 1928. Ozinga has more than 200 ready mix concrete mixers running on renewable natural gas in the Chicago area.
As of spring 2019, all Ozinga natural gas fueling stations pump renewable landfill gas. With RNG, Ozinga's fleet produces over 4,000,000 Kgs fewer well-to-wheels greenhouse gas emissions than a comparable diesel fleet every year. Additionally, Ozinga can now help other organizations make the switch to RNG. As a part of station updates, Ozinga also added more electric vehicle charging stations to both the Mokena and Chinatown offices and yards.
Additionally, for the first time in company history, Ozinga is purchasing more than 6,000 megawatts of Illinois wind energy per year as of May 2019. The new electricity supply contract will use Illinois wind to provide power to Ozinga locations throughout Illinois. The 6,000 MWH/ year of wind energy represents more than 25 percent of the company's electricity usage. The renewable wind power Ozinga is purchasing through a new contract is the same price as any other power. After this current contract expires in 2021, Ozinga is planning to expand usage of green power. Wind energy is one of the most cost-effective clean fuel sources available. It also boasts less than 2 percent of the levelized CO2 emissions per kWh than traditional coal plants. In fact, the amount of wind energy Ozinga is purchasing this year is equivalent to the energy required to power 740 homes or 10 million miles driven by an average passenger vehicle.
These, among other initiatives, were initiated by the Ozinga Energy team. With renewable natural gas having a negative carbon footprint, it became a priority to implement in 2019. Due to the deregulated nature of Illinois' electric markets, Ozinga can sign contracts that lock in wind energy rates for several years, minimize risk from price fluctuations, and have a more consistent energy budget. So far, Ozinga has purchased over 2,500 MWHs of wind energy since the Wind contract started and dispensed over 750,000 GGEs of renewable natural gas.
• Service Station of the Year: The Greater Chicago I-55 Truck Plaza was one of the first, family-owned and operated, independent truck plazas in the United States to start selling B11 biodiesel in 2006.
After experiencing firsthand the economical, physical, and environmental benefits that biodiesel was having for truck drivers, their trucks, and the environment, Robin Puthusseril, vice president and co-owner of the Greater Chicago I-55 Truck Plaza, along with her father John Puthusseril, decided to take things to a higher level. In 2013, they invested more than half a million dollars to build the infrastructure at their truck plaza to begin blending and selling higher blends of premium biodiesel to all their customers.
Today, B11-B20 premium biodiesel is blended and sold year-round to all their customers at every diesel dispenser. The Greater Chicago I-55 Truck Plaza also offers fleet customers bulk B100 biodiesel for purchase, if needed.
In 2018, Robin testified before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment regarding Advanced Biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard. She explained why biodiesel is good for the country because it helps displace petroleum-based fuels and lowers the cost of fuel for all Americans. She also encouraged Congress to continue to incentivize retailers like herself so she and others can continue the work and impact that has only started.
"Robin is a true advocate for the performance and environmental benefits of biodiesel fuel," said John Walton. "She's making a huge impact in getting Class 8 truckers to reduce their emissions."
• Plugged-In Public Safety Award: The Village of Downers Grove, a municipality of nearly 50,000 people located in the western suburbs of Chicago, runs 83 percent of the village's fleet on some form of alternative fuel. These alternatives included biodiesel (B20), E-85 (ethanol), compressed natural gas (CNG), propane, solar power, and hybrid combinations. In 2019, the village began using its first plug-in electric hybrid vehicles. The vehicles, used by the Police Department's Community Support Officers, are averaging over 75 miles-per-gallon, replacing Ford Crown Victoria models that only averaged 14 miles-per-gallon.
The implementation of green initiatives like the use of cleaner, more efficient alternative fuels achieves the village's strategic plan goal of being "a steward of financial and environmental sustainability." Using alternative fuels reduces the environmental impact of fleet operations and is more cost-effective than traditional petroleum-based products.
Chicago Area Clean Cities, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is a nonprofit coalition focused on promoting clean transportation in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. The coalition's membership is comprised of federal, state and local governments, corporations, small businesses, and individuals. These stakeholders come together to share information and resources, educate the public, help craft public policy, and collaborate on projects that reduce petroleum use.
The coalition is one of nearly 100 coalitions across the country affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities program, which brings together stakeholders to increase the use of alternative fuel and advanced-vehicle technologies, reduce idling, and improve fuel economy and air quality. The coalition concentrates its efforts on educating businesses and municipalities in the six-county Chicago region, including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties. To get involved, visit chicagocleancities.org.