Go Green LaGrange Is Making It Simpler for Residents to Do Right by the Environment

Press Release from Go Green LaGrange

Go Green LaGrange, Freelance Writer

Come Farmers Market season, many area residents flock to downtown La Grange on Thursday mornings, enticed by fresh peaches, tomatoes—and the opportunity to recycle or donate their wine corks, LEGOS, old bras, cosmetics, and a variety of other household items.

Since 2021, volunteers with Go Green LaGrange have staffed a table at the La Grange Farmers Market to collect items for recycling and donation. The local nonprofit works to facilitate individual and community efforts to preserve the planet for future generations.

“Our mission is to help get Mother Nature out of intensive care,” said David Bryant, board chair and CEO, Go Green LaGrange.  

In addition to the Farmers Market collections, Go Green LaGrange hosts educational and outreach events throughout the year. The nonprofit is also collaborating with Lyons Township to launch a repair café where residents will be able get clothes, appliances, and other items fixed.  The café is currently slated to launch in late 2023.

Go Green LaGrange is a 501c3 charitable organization. In addition to Bryant, Todd Rapp, Larry Adkison, Aakruti Liva, and Alexandria Zuck serve on the nonprofit’s board.

Finding Homes for Discarded Items

One of Go Green LaGrange’s key goals is to reduce the amount of trash that people toss in regular garbage, which ends up in the solid waste stream and typically in a landfill. Collecting items that cannot be recycled through traditional curbside recycling services is one way Go Green LaGrange is accomplishing this goal.

Every week at the Farmers Market, people can drop off plastic bread tags, shoes and boots, old fabric or textiles, natural corks, and pop tops from aluminum cans at Go Green LaGrange’s booth. All of these items are then either recycled, repurposed, or donated. For example, volunteers ship donated footwear to Soles4Souls, a nonprofit that reconditions and shares shoes of all kinds with people around the world who are experiencing hardships. Shoes that are in bad shape (or missing their pairs) are ground up and used to make rubber playground surfaces.

Most weeks at the Farmers Market, Go Green LaGrange also has a special collection. For instance, one week every summer, soccer equipment is collected and donated to a local American Youth Soccer Organization club. Another week, flower vases may be collected, which are donated to Interfaith Community Partners. The local nonprofit, which provides transportation to older residents, fill the vases with flowers as gifts for their clients. Other items collected once a season include household batteries, LEGOS, old bras, and metal hangers.  

“It’s not easy to figure out by yourself how to recycle or donate all these items,” Liva said. “We want to make it easier for people to make these green choices. You can drop off items with us at the Farmers Market that you may not otherwise know what to do with.”

The nonprofit’s website (gogreenlagrange.org) also shares local and not-so-local resources for recycling and donating household items, as well as repairing, renting, and buying used items.

“Most people want to help the environment, but it’s hard to know what to do,” Rapp said. “There’s so much conflicting information out there on environmental topics.”  

The website aims to help residents find answers easily. Residents can find tips on a variety of topics, from where to take bikes for repair, where to buy gently used children’s clothes, and how to compost.

Driven by Residents

Go Green LaGrange was the brainchild of two La Grange residents, Rose Naseef and Linda Christianson. Both were involved in an environmental initiative sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the La Grange Area to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the community. To help build more awareness in the La Grange area about climate change and other environmental issues, Naseef and Christianson launched Go Green LaGrange.

The first meeting was held in Christianson’s living room in 2008. In the early years, the group focused on educating local residents about a variety of environmental issues, including recycling, waste reduction, pollution prevention, stormwater management, and climate change.

“A healthy planet requires everyone to reduce waste, prevent pollution, and conserve energy and water,” Naseef said. “Protecting our environment requires the participation of everyone and is most effective when we work together.”

In 2021, Bryant took over the reins of Go Green LaGrange. A “guilt trip” inspired him to get involved. “I felt that, as long as I was retired and didn’t have too much to do, I would try and make up for the sins of my past of ruining the environment while a younger person,” he said.

In recent years, Bryant and other board members have worked to increase visibility for Go Green LaGrange, setting up the regular table at the Farmers Market, recruiting a cadre of loyal volunteers, and partnering with a variety of businesses, groups, and organizations to donate, recycle, or repurpose various household and commercial items.

The nonprofit has also hosted educational events. For example, in January, Go Green LaGrange arranged a tour of the School of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola University Chicago’s lakeshore campus. Attendees got to see the university’s working biodiesel lab, a geothermal system, a greenhouse lab.

Getting Residents Together

The Go Green LaGrange table at the Farmers Market has become a popular spot to greet neighbors and swap eco-friendly ideas. The nonprofit also hosted its first fundraiser in February at Milk Money Brewing, La Grange, which provided an opportunity for residents to socialize, discuss environmental issues, and raise money for Go Green LaGrange.

“The social aspect of Go Green LaGrange is very important,” Rapp said. “Good things tend to happen when people talk.”  

Another important aspect of Go Green LaGrange’s work is getting local children and teenagers involved. Many young children who visit the Farmers Market regularly stop at the Go Green LaGrange booth to play “Put a Cork in It,” which involves placing corks into a tall chimney-like tube. Children also get a lesson in how natural corks (not plastic ones) can be recycled or repurposed into other products. Go Green LaGrange ships the natural corks it collects to  

ReCork, which grinds down corks to be used for cork shoe soles and other products.

I think the existence of Go Green LaGrange is fundamental in helping show the next generation the work that they can start implementing in their own lives to help the environment,” Zuck said.  “Small people, small changes. And even the smallest actions matter.”

Go Green LaGrange also participates in local events aimed at children and partners with environmental clubs at local schools. For instance, at Cossitt Avenue Elementary School’s Family Fun Night in January, Go Green LaGrange volunteers invited children to draw pictures that answered the question “What does green mean to you?” The pictures were then hung for everyone at the event to admire.

Assisting the Region Go Green

Go Green LaGrange’s mission aligns well with the environmental goals of the Village of La Grange, said Naseef, who chairs La Grange’s Environmental Quality Commission. La Grange and other nearby communities have formally adopted the Chicago region’s Greenest Region Compact, which includes a variety of environmental goals, such as diverting waste from landfills and practicing stewardship of water resources.  

“Achieving these goals requires collaboration between organizations, businesses, and residents in the community,” said Naseef. “Go Green LaGrange’s collection of household items for reuse and recycling reduces the quantity of materials sent to landfills. Also, by providing information at community events about wide-ranging topics, like composting and rain barrels, Go Green LaGrange meets other objectives of the compact.” 

Go Green LaGrange also belongs to the “Vibrant” La Grange Business Association division of not-for-profit groups. Board members regularly meet with not-for-profit members to exchange ideas and information, such as potential events and ways to recruit volunteers and donors.

Go Green LaGrange invites all residents, businesses, and groups from La Grange and nearby communities to get involved in the nonprofit’s mission. “We’d love input on ways that we can be more helpful, including ideas about what we should be collecting at the Farmers Market,” Liva said. “We want it to be easy in your day-to-day life to choose to be green, and we are open to ideas on how we can help everyone do that.”

Other towns can also start their own Go Green group. Go Green LaGrange is a member of Go Green Illinois, which is an umbrella organization for a loose conglomeration of more than 25 Go Green groups throughout Illinois. Go Green Illinois offers assistance to residents interested in starting groups in their town or area.