CHAMPAIGN — City officials have organized an expo this month at the Champaign Public Library to showcase the community's green-minded non-profits and to gather feedback on a plan that will lead the city to be more environmentally friendly in the future.
The motivation behind the April 23 event from 4 to 8 p.m. is to get public input on a Champaign Growing Greener plan that officials have been composing to guide the city's environmental decisions in the future. City planner Lacey Rains said that sometimes it's a struggle to get residents to attend a traditional public meeting, so they have organized a more interactive expo to encourage participation.
"The real point here is to get people and resources together and help people go green," Rains said.
The scheduled vendors include the Illinois Green Business Association, Champaign County Bikes, the Prairie Rivers Network, Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, Ameren Illinois Act On Energy, the John Street Watershed group, Fresh Press, The IDEA Store, the Smart Energy Design Assistance Center and Urbana's Landscape Recycling Center.
Attendees of the meeting can enter to win a free rain barrel.
City officials also will be there with information on the Champaign Growing Greener plan and to conduct an informal survey, Rains said.
"We're kind of just trying to get them to know what we've been doing behind the scenes this whole time," she said.
Officials have already gathered information about the city's existing energy use "so we could build the plan on facts and not myths," Rains said.
The next phase is to raise public awareness and later compose a formal plan with recommendations for environmentally friendly ideas for the future.
Rains said officials are not trying to inhibit economic growth in any way, but there are ways for the community as a whole to reduce its environmental footprint — and maybe save a little money at the same time. One example of that, she said, is a recent city effort to replace more than 100 old traffic signals with new LED lights.
That cut the city's energy cost for traffic signals by 90 percent, from $180,000 annually to $18,000, she said. The project pays for itself in three years.
The research phase alone turned up a few interesting facts, Rains said. For example, officials did not know that street lights alone account for 44 percent of the city's energy use.
"We learned a lot," Rains said.
On the Web: To learn more about the Champaign Growing Greener plan, visit GreenChampaign.com