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Surprising facts about green Chicago

Chosen from a pool of 60 American cities, Chicago had the honor of being named the 2014 U.S. Earth Hour City Capital by the World Wildlife Fund earlier this year. In anticipation for Earth Hour tomorrow, March 29, during which Governor Pat Quinn has encouraged all Illinoisans to turn out the lights from 8:30-9:30 pm, here are a few surprising ecological facts that make Chicago one of America’s greenest cities.

  • Chicago’s green conscience has been whispering into the city’s ear since the emerging government in the 1830’s adopted the slogan, urbs in horto, i.e. “city in a garden,” due in part to Chicago’s origins as a marshy swamp.
  • Conservation of the city’s parks has been a public initiative since the 1850’s, when citizens began to advocate for the creation of the city’s comprehensive park and boulevard system.
  • Chicago boasts over 400 million square feet of rooftop gardens, including the garden atop City Hall. Rooftop gardens absorb less heat and more rainwater than tar roofing, among other environmental benefits.
    • It’s a little known fact, but the massive green space of Millennium Park above Millennium Garages comprises what is technically one of the world’s largest green roofs, spanning 24.5 acres.
    • Equally surprising to some is that Soldier Field, home of the beloved Chicago Bears, is also a green roof, and it became the first North American stadium to be awarded LEED certification through the U.S. Green Building Council in 2011, following extensive recycling and sustainability efforts there in the past decade.
  • The Chicago Center for Green Technology building, spearheaded by the Daley administration, was the first renovated municipal building to receive a LEED platinum rating for its green technology usage. The elevator’s hydraulic system even uses vegetable oil!
  • The city was recently counted fifth among the top 50 bike-friendly cities in the U.S. by Bicycling Magazine, and it made the top eight according to CNN last year. These honors are due in large part to Chicago’s massive, growing network of bike lanes, covering a total of about 350 miles.

Following Governor Quinn’s initiative, many major public buildings in the city, including the James R. Thompson Center and the Michael A. Bilandic Building, will be turning out the lights for Earth Hour tomorrow. Be sure to join them from 8:30-9:30 pm and help Chicago celebrate our well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s greenest cities!

(Photo: Choose Chicago / City of Chicago)

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