Sustaining Progress

Thomas O'Neill III, Peoria County Board

Two years ago, the Peoria County Board adopted an internal sustainability plan that helps the County maintain a leadership role in environmental stewardship. At our facilities and in our operations, the County engages in pollution prevention and implements practices that maximize beneficial effects on the environment while reducing harmful ones. The County's Sustainability Team uses performance measures to assess the impact of these efforts, and has recently developed a two-year progress report to highlight successes and identify areas in need of improvement.

The Sustainability Plan details specific goals and objectives for each of the following elements: buildings and construction, land use, operations, employees, solid waste and purchasing. For each element, the progress report indicates whether the County has exceeded the plan’s goal, met it or needs to do more work. Key components for success include active staff involvement; user-friendly tools and resources; appropriate training; and ongoing commitment from the board, administration, department supervisors and employees.

The completion of two large construction projects in the last 13 months has helped the County exceed its goal of building to LEED principles for both the Peoria Riverfront Museum and Heddington Oaks, the County's new nursing home. This goal reads, "The County will build to LEED Silver standards for projects over $5,000,000." The Peoria Riverfront Museum achieved LEED Gold certification in July, and an application for LEED certification was submitted for Heddington Oaks in October. Upgrades to the County Highway Department and Juvenile Detention Center also contributed to a successful year in sustainable building construction.

In addition to bricks and mortar, County employees have exceeded the goal of sustainability in the workplace. An internal team of environmentally-conscious employees was formed a year ago to encourage employee engagement in preservation and conservation efforts at work. These efforts include onsite recycling for household batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs and holiday lights. The Green CREW (Conserving Resources and Educating Workers) has also organized farmers markets in the courthouse plaza, established an internal free-cycle program, and twice hosted the “Green Café” to encourage employees to buy coffee from local vendors.

Sustainability goals for operations, purchasing and solid waste have also been met since the plan's adoption. Operational changes, including reducing paper usage and finding alternative solutions for road treatment, have helped lower costs and conserve natural resources. Amendments to the County's purchasing policy, including recommendations for demolition and construction practices, have helped meet the goal of developing a sustainable purchasing program. And lastly, implementing co-mingled recycling programs at the County Highway Department and nursing home has enhanced recycling, thereby diverting solid waste from the landfill.

While a two-year review of the Sustainability Plan has resulted in identifying successes, it has also helped us recognize areas in need of improvement. To minimize our impact on land, air and water quality, the County will continue its efforts to improve grounds and water resources management. We also hope to establish a complete waste reduction program. Your help in that regard is appreciated by viewing the plan and progress report online—rather than printing it—at peoriacounty.org/countyboard/sustainability-plan. iBi

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