Spotlight: Go Green Wilmette

This guest blog post is by RF100 Chicago youth volunteer and Sunrise Chicago member Caroline Bewley

Go Green Wilmette, a suburban chapter of environmental advocacy group Go Green Illinois, is partnering with local businesses to reward sustainable practices. 

The organization was founded fifteen years ago in response to the overusage of gas-powered leaf blowers in Wilmette. After a group of concerned citizens brought their complaints up to the village government and got a lackluster response, they joined forces to form Go Green Wilmette. 

Initially, Go Green Wilmette existed solely as an annual environmental fair. The event currently draws more than 1,500 Wilmette citizens, giving them a chance to learn more about topics such as energy conservation, sustainable landscaping, and green home design directly from field experts. 

In 2012, Margaret Martin-Heaton, the organization’s vice-president, realized that the fair’s main attractions weren’t the people brought in to give presentations or speeches, but the companies that had green solutions to sell. 

“It was clear to me that the people of Wilmette were interested in living sustainably,” explained Martin-Heaton in an interview. “They just didn’t know what their options were.”

That year, Go Green Wilmette met with the village to discuss Wilmette’s mandated energy provider. If all citizens bought electricity from that provider, they were individually promised reduced rates—a concept called aggregated electricity. 

Go Green pushed the village to consider adopting other companies that provided greener energy, like solar and wind. They didn’t have much success; while the village gave citizens the option to opt out of the traditional energy provider, the alternate provider cost an extra $0.50 per month.

It was then that Martin-Heaton began the Business Partners for a Greener Wilmette (BPGW) initiative. 

“I thought that if I created this program where we recognized local businesses that opted for green electricity, even though it cost them $0.50 more a month, more businesses would be encouraged to follow suit,” said Martin-Heaton. 

BPGW offers public recognition to Wilmette businesses that engage in environmentally responsible practices and encourages increased sustainability wherever feasible. 

Recognized businesses get a shoutout in Go Green Wilmette’s bimonthly newsletter, as well as an announcement posted on the organization’s Facebook page. Most prominently, businesses receive a decal that can be placed on a window or doors.

There are a lot of ways that a business can qualify for the partnership: reducing energy use, modifying landscaping programs, and reviewing packaging are potential criteria. Currently, Go Green Wilmette is partnering with thirteen businesses. To learn more, go to Go Green Wilmette.