by Francesco Guerrieri
World Wildlife Fund announced on January 26 that the city of Evanston is a finalist in their Earth Hour City Challenge, part of the organization’s We Love Cities campaign. Evanston is now one of three cities, alongside Seattle and Cleveland, competing to represent the United States in the competition.
The challenge, which was inaugurated in 2012, highlights cities’ innovative methods to combat climate change and reduce carbon emissions. The competition saw entries from 17 countries, and 44 cities across the US.
Kevin Taylor, senior specialist for local engagement at WWF, said the We Love Cities campaign is meant to “communicate to the public” the success of cities’ green efforts.
“There are a lot of great things happening to combat climate change, and cities are taking the lead on that,” Taylor said.
The City of Evanston has had great success in becoming greener over the past couple of years. In summer 2013, Evanston achieved the goals set in its 2008 Climate Action Plan, reducing its carbon emissions from a 2005 baseline by 13 percent . Last year the city adopted more rigorous goals to reduce emissions by 20 percent by 2016.
To cut down emissions, Evanston invests in renewable energy projects, like the solar power project at the city’s water plant. Evanston also provides 100 percent green energy to residents and small businesses through its electric aggregation program and has been named one of the top 30 governments globally in the EPA’s Green Power Partnership
But besides showing the world Evanston’s environmental efforts, the competition brings people together, said Catherine Hurley, sustainability manager for the City of Evanston.
“It’s exciting to see this…engage people that might not have been members or involved at all,” Hurley said. “The whole mission of this endeavor is to bring people together.”
Although Evanston has already seen a great deal of progress, the city’s efforts aren’t over. For instance, the city is now working on increasing biking and cutting down on individual car use. While the global recognition is nice, Hurley said she also sees it as “an important reminder” to continue improving .
The winner of the Earth Hour City Challenge will be determined by a vote, both on the We Love Cities webpage and by using #WeLoveEvanston. Voting will be open until March 27, and a winner for each country will be announced by April 9.