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Three-part Series Teaches Sustainability Techniques

Photo for: Three-part Series Teaches Sustainability Techniques

Photo by Chris Cheng

If you’ve been wanting to do more to help planet Earth, or you’ve been trying your best but need more inspiration going forward, consider signing up for the Forest Preserve District’s three-part “Leap into Sustainability” program. 

This new, free program is designed to help beginners as well as veteran sustainability fans, said Angela Rafac, an interpretive naturalist at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center, where the program will be held. 

“The program is for anyone who wants to make a difference in their personal or professional lives,” she said. “And it’s also for people who want to get a refresher or find new ways to stay motivated.” 

The workshops will take place from 9-11 a.m. on three Saturdays, February 1, 15 and 29. Registration is required by the Thursday before each session; call 815-722-9470. Each session is an independent offering, and people can sign up for one, two or all three.

Rafac said she named the program “Leap into Sustainability” because the third session of the program is offered on Leap Day, and that means we have one extra day in 2020 to make our “green” resolutions come true. 

“We all need to be more conscious of how our daily actions affect nature,” she said. “What we need to realize is that our lifestyles impact the forest and the water. We need people to take action and want to take action. We need eco-warriors.”


February 1: “Part 1: An Introduction” will help people get a better understanding of what sustainability is and how everything is connected.

“If you look at nature, it’s sustainable,” Rafac said. “A tree’s waste is the oxygen that we all breathe. There really is no waste. It’s completely sustainable the way natural living systems work. So, we can model off that and think how we can be sustainable in all aspects of the environment and economy.” 

Attendees will look at living systems to see how all things are connected, Rafac said. For instance, links will be shown that illustrate how turning a light off when you leave a room helps protect water. 

“Our energy systems use water to keep cool,” she said. “So, if you are not using electricity, you’re saving water was well.”

February 15: “Part 2: Sustainable Ideas to Sustainable Action” is designed to reimagine our future and rethink how we can act in a sustainable way using behavior ladders.

“We’ll look at practical ways to reach lofty goals,” she said. “We can take baby steps to get there because no one is going to make a big drastic change.” 

There are so many things we all can do in our personal and professional lives to make the planet healthier, Rafac said. 

“We’ll be looking at ways more products can be reused instead of ending up in landfills,” she said.

The program also will tackle recycling, which isn’t always successful in some places, Rafac said. 

“So, reducing waste is the better option or using a reusable container over single-use plastic,” she explained.

Another example of sustainability is not letting your vehicle idle unnecessarily, which causes extra pollutants to be released into the atmosphere, Rafac said. Some cities are even banning drive-thru restaurants to reduce this type of pollution. 

“That’s a simple thing I do,” she said. “I don’t go through drive-thrus, not at the bank and not at a fast-food place. I turn off my car and walk in.” 

February 29 (Leap Day): “Part 3: Sustainability for the Soul” is all about staying motivated and positive. 

“Seeing the news about the wildfires in Australia, it’s easy to just feel hopeless sometimes,” Rafac said. “But you want to stay positive and fight the good fight. So, this program will help you find ways to stay inspired.”

The workshops also will allow attendees to compare notes with others. 

“Sometimes we get stuck in our ways and it’s nice to see perspectives from other people,” she explained. 

The free, three-part program is being offered because it fits with the District’s mission of protecting the environment. 

“We organize cleanup days and we see firsthand the waste that collects in our preserves,” she said. 
“We already practice a lot of the sustainability methods, so this program is the perfect fit for the Forest Preserve as a way to help the forests, prairies, savannas and wetlands.” 

Part 1 will be co-taught Joliet Junior College’s sustainability coordinator, Maria Anna Rafac, who is Angela Rafac’s sister. 

“We’re so excited to work together,” Angela Rafac said. 


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