Recently, the City of Peoria conducted Green Plays in Peoria, a public meeting held to initiate a dialogue among community leaders, design firms and construction organizations. The subject, as the name would imply, was sustainability. Upon introducing varied ideas, examples and general concepts about sustainability, the audience separated into groups to brainstorm broad ideas about how Peoria might be a greener community. A few observations can be offered regarding the lists created during these break-outs.

First and to no surprise, Peorians possess a thorough and broad awareness and knowledge of sustainability, and, in some cases, had experience with successful green practices. The lists of green ideas produced by the audience were entirely consistent with ideas that might be found anywhere in the country. Clearly, our leaders in the community and in business are paying attention and thinking about sustainability in a variety of different ways.

A second overall characteristic was the clear implication that sustainability could also be a matter of practicality. There was no mention of global warming, saving whales, or any lofty, coercive, or debatable science/opinions. Everything mentioned had some tangible and eminently doable attribute. Moreover, their ideas all carried some implicit metric—the ability to measure the success of a sustainable action both in terms of protection to our environment and to financial impacts.

Given the number of ideas and broad knowledge of sustainability, Peoria now faces the same challenge facing every other community and organization considering a move toward greenness: How does one pursue sustainability? To address this question during the Green Peoria meeting, Farnsworth Group’s Brian Davie used the analogy of planning a trip to Chicago.

There are any number of ways to get from Peoria to Chicago. You can hire a private jet or take a commercial airline. You could take the train, or drive your car. Or, you could bicycle, walk or even swim upstream in the Illinois River. The point is, there are many ways to get to Chicago, some prohibitively expensive and some much too cumbersome and slow. Depending on who you are, your resources and abilities, you must strike a balance of efforts, expenses and efficiencies making it the most comfortable trip for you.

Likewise, with sustainability: Whatever the plan to get to green, first one must have a target and then understand what steps are most palatable for getting there.

The Green Plays in Peoria brainstorming session was the first step toward determining our route. We’ve made a great first step in laying out a number of places we’d like to go and various itineraries. Now, we start the task of charting our specific destination and charting our course on how to get there.

Peoria is off to a great start in becoming a leading sustainable community, with considerable knowledge, expertise and commitment. With this initial Green Peoria meeting, the Mayor’s new Sustainability Commission—headed by Bradley University’s Dr. Amir Al-Khafaji—and numerous local organizations and citizens pursing sustainability, the future is indeed…well…green. IBI