Kankakee Area Farms, Cities and Schools Embrace Sustainability

On Monday, March 5, 2012 - 17:29

In the Kankakee River Valley, the buzzword is sustainability. Many local entities have taken major steps across the board to promote clean energy practices, and one key demographic at the heart of the efforts is farmers.

Loving the Land

Changes in tilling methods and advances in fertilization and pest control are allowing farmers to do more with less and reduce soil erosion, which benefits the environment and also results in a substantial cost savings. If a farmer can drive back and forth across his field fewer times, for example, he is taking better care of the soil and also using less fuel and creating fewer emissions. Genetically engineered pest-resistant crops and specifically targeted chemical sprayers that use soil nutrient and productivity data linked with GPS technology increase the effectiveness and efficiency of expensive materials. Many farmers then apply filter strips at the edge of their fields along waterways to act as natural “bio-filters” to keep any chemicals from reaching the water supply. Kankakee County’s agricultural community is certainly doing its part to save the world, but they are by no means alone in their commitment.

City Takes the LEED

In 2008, the Kankakee city government received gold level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification for its new administration building, and 87 percent of the materials removed from the facility were recycled. The new building’s green features include rainwater recycling for irrigation, energy efficient lighting and low water consumption sinks. The former city administration building, now the public safety building, also features a sustainable design, with pervious concrete and a rain garden.

All Green at KCC

Kankakee Community College is also steering sustainability initiatives in the community and beyond, with a major concentration on preparing students for green collar jobs. For example, the Electrical Technology Associate in Applied Science degree now includes a specialization track for Renewable Energy Technology. Seminars and continuing education courses are also available as part of the school’s sustainability focus. In April 2009, KCC collaborated with the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County to host an annual Sustainability Expo on Earth Day, with exhibits centering on residential energy efficiency. The school also created the Illinois Community College Sustainability Network, which shares resources among the state’s 48 community colleges through a system of campus sustainability centers. KCC’s Sustainability Center, one of the original four in the network, coordinates and delivers green technology solutions, resources and information to homeowners and businesses throughout the community.