Image credit: cityofgalena.org
A citywide focus on sustainability is paying off – both in savings for Galena residents as well as statewide attention and an award from the governor
Most people would say that Galena is known for its past. It’s a showcase for over 1,000 19th century buildings listed with the National Register of Historic Places, and Galena is home to former President Ulysses S Grant and eight other Civil War generals.
Coming to light is more recent, history-making news. The city of Galena is also becoming known for its forward-thinking sustainability efforts. A program called “My Green Galena” is helping to meet current social, environmental, and economic needs for the Illinois community, without compromising the needs of future generations.
The City of Galena was awarded the Governor’s sustainability Award from the Office of the Governor in 2014. It was awarded in conjunction with the sustainable Technology Center of the University of Illinois.
The accolade was presented to Galena in recognition of its demonstrated commitment to outstanding and innovative sustainability practices.
An example of this sustainability is a project started in 2012 to build one of the nation’s largest municipal solar arrays. The city council had watched electricity prices increase by nearly 80% in just five years, and they were looking for a way to spare the community from having to absorb the rising costs.
The finished solar array now saves the city over $50,000 yearly. The estimated life of the system is more than 40 years, and the project will pay for itself in only about 10 years. A healthy flow of sales tax contributions as a result of Galena’s tourist trade helps further reduce the financial burden on community residents.
A citywide undertaking
Galena’s city government deserves the credit for leading this award-winning sustainability effort. City officials decided to make sustainability the core guiding principle of government in 2013. It was kicked off with a logo competition to accompany the “My Green Galena” slogan.
Residents responded with overwhelming encouragement – but that’s not to say they already weren’t on board. Galena had already established curbside recycling, as well as an innovative “pay as you throw” garbage system that caps how much each household can send to the landfill. The city even sponsors a recycling program for items commonly not collected, ranging from prescription drugs to used batteries.
Moving forward, residents have voted to move even deeper into the sustainability movement. Projects range from the installation of electric vehicle charging stations for visitors to energy-efficient LED streetlights.
One of the projects residents are most proud of is converting an old grocery store into Galena’s city hall. The historic building is close to the downtown area, and the transformation includes LED lighting and thermopane windows and skylights. Sustainability efforts also include landscaping with perennials chosen for their low-to-no-water needs.
The “My Green Galena” challenge
Residents of Galena have chosen to take the idea of sustainability seriously. It’s helping the city to achieve economic prosperity, while at the same time protecting the area’s natural systems. It meets the needs of present generations without stealing from future generations.
The city government has devoted an area of its website to sustainability practices. Here you’ll find the latest news and information about programs, as well as the tiered commitments residents can undertake to help Galena reach its commitment to making green, sustainable choices.
The commitments range from easy to challenging, and each of the three tiers allows you to understand the benefit of your actions by providing statistical information about the sustainable effort. For example, the website tells you that by adjusting your thermostat to 78 degrees or higher in the summer and 68 degrees during the winter, the average Galena resident can save up to $180 in energy costs.