In 2013, Delta Institute partnered with Enterprise Community Partners, Hispanic Housing Development Corporation, and the City of Chicago on the Challenge to implement a 6-month pilot competition called the Chicago Neighborhood Energy Challenge. The Challenge was implemented to explore new strategies to encourage energy reductions in low income residential housing. By leading monthly resident trainings and activities that gave participants easy-to-use, practical solutions, the Challenge was able to affect a 5% reduction in electricity consumption, a nearly 10% reduction in gas usage, and a reduction of more than 45% in water usage, resulting in a total of $54,000 in overall savings, with each family seeing savings of up to nearly $110 on their energy bills.
With funding from The Chicago Community Trust, Delta Institute is conducting a regional study on waste management practices and identifying strategies for maximizing environmental and economic benefit to the region through better practices. Beyond the positive environmental and economic impacts, this project is a necessary first step toward bringing the Chicagoland region in line with national best practices around waste management.
In partnership with Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), Delta Institute is working to redevelop vacant buildings and lots, known as brownfields, in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. In this two-year project, the organizations will inventory the community's brownfields, engage the local community to prioritize sites for redevelopment, and support the creation of a community-driven redevelopment strategy. This project will pave the way for new economic development opportunities in Little Village, a historic industrial corridor that has suffered from industrial disinvestment for years.
In 2013, Delta Institute began work with Southwest Housing Solutions to deconstruct 8 homes in Wayne County, Michigan. This project created 25 jobs for the 3-5 week deconstruction period and yielded 45,000 board feet of reclaimed lumber, returning an estimated value of $100,000 of material into the regional materials reuse market. Through this project, Delta demonstrated the local value of deconstruction as a means of reducing the amount of material sent to landfill, generating local economic benefits through employment and increased market activity, reducing consumption of new resources through reuse, and creating new opportunities for these properties moving forward.
From 2013 to 2015, Delta Institute implemented Rounds 3 and 4 of the City of Chicago’s Green Office Challenge, a sustainability challenge for commercial office tenants. Delta expanded citywide engagement, bringing participation from both rounds to over 400 teams, and brought a new, gamified approach that is being replicated across the country.
As the Emerald Ash Borer infestation works its way through the Great Lakes region, it is estimated that millions of trees will need to be removed through 2020 and beyond. With support from Grand Victoria Foundation, Delta Institute supported a sustainable market for wood from felled urban trees. During the two-year project Delta Institute created an economic framework for urban wood; built the market for urban wood by advancing an industry-wide standard for harvesting it and stimulating local demand; and connected wood users to 115,000 board feet of urban wood. For practical guidance on urban wood utilization for homeowners, municipal foresters, tree care companies and wood users, read the Urban Wood Utilization Best Management Practices. For guidance on achieving LEED certification with urban wood, reclaimed wood, and other responsible woods, see our StoryWood Toolkit. Delta continues its urban wood market facilitation work, as we seek new, viable uses for our supply of urban wood.
In 2013, Delta Institute began a three-year pilot effort with partners Winrock International and Sand County Foundation to work with farmers in the Milwaukee River watershed on implementation of a new model of agricultural conservation. This innovative pilot offered payments to participating farmers according to the demonstrated environmental outcomes of their conservation activities, marking a shift from the pay-for-activities model to the more cost-effective approach that pays for environmental results. This approach provides economic benefits for the farmer, but it also provides measurable environmental improvements for water quality. See how it works.
In 2010, Delta worked with Public Sector Consultants to create this loan program that finances energy efficiency improvements for single family residences and businesses in Michigan, and Delta continues to staff the growing program through 2014. Since its inception, this program has exceeded 3,000 loans totaling over $26 million in energy improvements, helped 10,390 homes and 211 businesses save $3.6 million dollars, and reduced over 15 million tons of greenhouse gases. Additionally, the structure of the program has been replicated across the country. Learn more about this program at www.michigansaves.org.
In 2004 Delta launched their carbon program to engage Illinois and Michigan farmers and forest owners, helping them create and sell their carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange. By identifying strategic solutions for carbon dioxide emission reductions, as well as enabling landowners to quantify their reductions, Delta was able to compile a portfolio of high quality, verified offsets from Great Lakes farmers and forest owners. In 2005, Delta launched the P2E2 center, which functioned as a platform facilitating the trading of carbon credits. From 2005-2010, the program expanded to 18 states and retuned over $2 million to landowners as a result of Delta trading over 650,000 tons of carbon emissions stored in soil and trees.
Resulting from solutions developed by the Regional Dialogue on Clean Air and Redevelopment, Clean Air Counts was a voluntary, public-private initiative to reduce smog-forming pollutants and energy consumption in the greater Chicago, six-county region. It was a collaborative effort between the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, City of Chicago, US Environmental Protection Agency – Region 5 and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. By tracking the success of individual participants in reducing emissions, Clean Air Counts was able to monitor the region’s progress towards achieving attainment and thus build public and private sector participation. In terms of measurable reductions to pollutant levels in Chicago’s air, Clean Air Counts exceeded its original goal by more than 200%.
In 2011, Delta was tasked with preparing a Solid Waste Plan update for Cook County. Delta identified key strategic changes that could be implemented to improve efficiency and sustainability across the county. The project consisted of data collection in county facilities, selection of new waste management practices that can positively impact the county, and the development of new goals for the county over the next five years. These changes were implemented in hopes of achieving the long term goals set out in the county’s waste management plan, with a vision of achieving a zero-waste system.
From 2008-2012, Delta embarked on a four-year EPA-supported brownfield redevelopment project that included technical assessment, cleanup and redevelopment; green business start-up assistance; and green jobs training, design and implementation in communities in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan. The effort was focused on examining new reuse opportunities in weak market communities. Through the advancement of existing research on greener cleanups, how greener cleanups impact the economy, and the production of educational material for local stakeholders, Delta helped to build capacity and vision for redevelopment of brownfields in a diverse assortment of communities.
In 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Delta to facilitate a multi-sector task force that forged a consensus on guiding principles for redevelopment of the recently decommissioned Fisk & Crawford coal-fired power plants. Engaging in formalized community outreach, the task force delivered valuable insight into community needs to the city and potential developers. Resulting from the dialogue of diverse interest groups, the Reuse Task Force brokered a consensus agreement, between various stakeholders, that outlined key elements of a successful remediation. Thanks to this process the plants are now poised for redevelopment, and have a clear long-term vision for reuse. For more information, read the detailed report here.
Delta was awarded a multi-year grant to organize and facilitate the Lake Erie Binational Public Forum. Together with FOCALErie, the Canadian co-facilitator of the Lake Erie Forum, Delta convened the forum in an effort to develop a public participation program for the Lake Erie Lakewide Management Plan (LaMP), a US EPA coordinated effort. Running from 1999-2005, The Forum consisted of a working group of concerned, involved residents of the Lake Erie basin. The Forum provided input on the planning and implementation of the Lake Erie LaMP and worked to foster effective two-way communication with the broader population of the Lake Erie basin.
In 2013-2014, Delta partnered with local governments, the Lake County Municipal League, ComEd, the Morten Arboretum, Chicago Wilderness, and Openlands to help the City of Waukegan and surrounding areas manage ash trees infected by the emerald ash borer (EAB). As a result of Delta’s outreach and education efforts, seven local governments completed inventories to inform EAB management plans. These plans led to the removal of 934 low-quality ash trees and the planting of 634 new trees, which, over their lifetime, are projected to sequester over 340 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and intercept 313,830 gallons of rainfall, reducing the damaging runoff from streets, parking lots, and lawns.
Resiliency planning takes many forms, one of which is the formal hazard mitigation planning required by FEMA for every municipality. Tuscola County and Delta have recently updated the county’s Hazard Mitigation Plan to meet current FEMA requirements and reflect climate change resiliency measures. Delta contributed expertise on environmental alternatives to natural disasters, agricultural hazards, and urban hazards. The plan was approved by the county and is waiting for approval from FEMA.
Delta has assisted the Green Lake Association in developing an effective long-term approach to reducing phosphorus loading into the Green Lake watershed by leveraging existing research and tools. In collaboration with Green Lake Association and its partners, Delta conducted a phosphorus loading analysis, developed a funding model, and a coordinated implementation. Green Lake Association is waiting for funding to implement this plan.