More open spaces, more little parks, gardens, squares, community food gardens, better river access to all citizens, rather than just condo owners. Use of native plants in city landscaping. Lots of plants going to waste in each season. This also can save water, for many of our native plants, especially some of the prairie ones are very drought tolerant.
think Chicago has enough parks; the city has a very enviable park system. Chicago needs more
, not less density. However, the city can benefit greatly from creating new public spaces [which are not necessarily parks] in the form of squares
similar to what you see in European cities...a very old yet very smart urban design concept that's largely absent from American cities.
You hit the nail on the head with native vegetation. This is important anywhere in the world, because non-native plants require far too much maintenance. Particularly if the non-native plants are indigenous to a rainier climate than your own, and/or if you're trying to sustain a plant's green color year round (through excessive use of water), when that plant is supposed
to dry up during specific parts of the year when left alone in nature. This is why lawns
are such an anti-environmental gardening practice particularly in dry areas of the United States (such as most of the West), but even in the Northeast and Midwest which receive regular summer rain. In the Midwest, what happens when it doesn't rain for a few weeks? In the wild, it just dries up until it rains again, but on our manicured lawns, we can't let that happen. Let alone that lawns require mowing, which releases both a greenhouse gas (CO2) and
toxic pollutants into the atmosphere. One thing that the city needs to do, to complement its environmental policies, is to reduce the amount of park space that's dedicated to lawns (I mean, I know some of it is necessary, so that people can picnic and play sports, but a lot
of it is meant as purely aesthetic), and to encourage homeowners to do the same. I've seen a few homes here in Chicago and in Los Angeles (which has a dry Mediterranean climate, and where lawns are a much bigger strain on water resources), where some sort of native vine (instead of grass) covered a small front lawn. Looked very nice, and the homeowner doesn't have to spend time and money maintaining it.
I think Chicago's recycling program is a complete disaster, although thankfully many suburbs are doing a decent job. Let's make one thing clear: people are not going to go out of their way to recycle. If you expect people to buy
blue bags at the supermarket, already you're asking them to do too much. ManokAnak mentioned the recycling bins on each block that they have in some Italian cities (and quite a few European cities have this, actually). That's a great idea. But I think a more fitting policy for Chicago would be along the lines of what the suburbs already do: give each housing unit a recycling bin. Make it easier for people to recycle; you can't get everybody to do it, but those who are passive
environmentalists (as are a lot of people) will recycle when it's easy to do so.
Most most most importantly is that Chicago (and other big cities) cannot be very green without regional, state, and national support. Chicago is -more or less- an artificial division within a greater metropolitan area that has grown organically, and without regional, state-level, and even federal support, its green initiatives won't go far. As long as county, state, and federal governments continue to allow new suburban subdivisions and exurban developments on the edges of the metropolitan area, at the expense of the main city and the older suburbs, there's not much the city can do to create a more robust economic, social, and green environment for itself. Part of the reason that people fled cities after WWII, is because the federal government was complicit
in building vast expanses of suburbia...it wasn't the private sector and private citizens acting alone. It was a short-sighted policy intended to house people, but it was a massive failure and unfortunately, regional and state governments still have this careless attitude for regional planning issues.
On so-called "clean coal"..I find it interesting that Illinois
-which is more dependent on and accustomed to nuclear energy than any other state in the country- is going ahead with this plant, instead of building a new nuclear facility. Not that nuclear doesn't come with its own environmental hazards, but it has
been improved drastically in recent decades, and I haven't heard any public debate in Illinois against nuclear energy, unless there's something I'm missing?