For almost two decades Chicago has championed the green cause and, in doing so, has become one of the most environmentally conscious major cities in the nation. With over seven-million-square-feet of green roof space, hundreds of parks and a commitment to wildlife preserves, it's no wonder Chicago was ranked as the "No. 1 Green City" by Business Facilities magazine.
In the 1830s, Chicago's developing government body adopted the city nickname "Urbs in horto," which translates from Latin to "City in a Garden." Chicago was born from a marshy swamp and, as an emerging trade hub, grew into a powerful city, rooted in nature.
Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago advocated public outdoor space. And, for over a century, Chicagoans have been able to preserve its environmental landscape. Over the years the scenery, artwork and ever changing seasons have impacted the look of spaces like Grant Park, but they've remained, "forever open, clear and free." In fact, Grant Park has gone on to adopt the nickname "Chicago's front yard," an homage not only to the inviting green space, but also to the City's resistance in building up to the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Today, the Chicago Park District resides over more than 8,100 acres of green space, making it the largest municipal park manager in the country. In addition to parks and beaches, the CPD offers athletic facilities, sports leagues and dog-friendly beaches.
Green roofs support energy efficiency and urban sustainability through the installation of plants on a building's rooftop. Chicago's long been a national leader in this innovative green practice, which reduces greenhouse gases and help to moderate temperature.
City Hall Rooftop Garden
As part of the Urban Heat Island Initiative, the city of Chicago planted a 20,300-square-foot green roof atop City Hall. In dense urban environments, heat is trapped and given off by pavement, buildings, and asphalt. When compared to the roof tops of other nearby buildings, City Hall's plant-heavy capstone was nearly 100 degrees cooler. In addition to improving air quality, the green roof atop City Hall purportedly lowers annual energy costs by more than $5,000.
Millennium Park and Soldier Field
Built above an underground parking lot is Millennium Park, one of the state's most popular tourist attractions and - at close to 25 acres in size - one of the world's largest green roofs. In the same mold, the home of the Chicago Bears is constructed above an underground parking garage. Soldier Field - in addition to having an award-winning green roof - has achieved LEED certification, the first stadium in the NFL to receive the eco-friendly distinction.
Chicago boasts more than 500 green rooftops, covering more than seven-million square feet of space. Restaurants like Uncommon Ground and Homestead use cedar planted boxes on their rooftops to grow fresh ingredients, while the PepsiCo office encourages employees to eat and exercise on their state-of-the-art green roof.
Chicago is one of the most bike friendly cities in the country with over 315 miles of path, thousands of bike racks and dedicated street lanes for our City's cyclists. Millennium Park hosts an indoor bike storage facility and repair shop. Also, the B-cycle program allows locals and visitors a unique opportunity to explore the city with a bike sharing/rental program.
With the nation's second largest public transportation network, taking the CTA's elevated train system or bus line is convenient and eco-friendly. The CTA runs a fleet of hybrid buses that use cleaner fuels that lower harmful emissions.
Chicago has multiple car sharing services for those moments when you need four wheels. According to iGo, one share car replaces 17 cars on the road and over 25% of share care users report that they've "increased their walking."