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May 18

Batavia Environmental Commission: 10+ years of greening up community

Posted on May 18, 2017 at 2:58 PM by Christopher Cudworth

 Carolyn Gentry Burnham of the Batavia Environmental Commission discusses the history, progress and plans of the organization. 

What are some of the key issues the BEC addresses and would like to communicate to the citizens of Batavia?

IMG_0393For eleven years the Batavia Environmental Commission has been working to make Batavia a more sustainable city by educating its citizens on different ways that we, as individuals, can make changes that will impact the environment.  

For example our Change One Campaign has placed WalkBatavia signs throughout the city, to encourage people to walk more when you have short trips. 

We are also continually trying to better educate the community how to recycle better.  We have been told by Mayor Schielke that this is a major concern to the city of Batavia and we would like to make Batavia a shining example of a community that can recycle well.  We invite all our citizens to visit BEC’s Facebook Page for more information.  We are constantly updating our page to provide valuable information to residents of Batavia. 

       How can people get involved working with the BEC?

IMG_6250We meet on the 2nd Wednesday of Each month in City Hall Council Chambers and welcome more volunteers. We are taking part in the river cleanup on May 20 so people can show up and help clean our riverbanks.  

The BEC is also involved in the WellBatavia event that is being held June 3rd.  Volunteers are also welcome to help with that event, where we expect to see quite a few people.  

As we organize events such as Green Drinks, Green Night Out at the Movies and other educational events throughout the year we welcome people who can help plan or participate in these fun events.   

We’re also active on social media, and would love to have a dedicated resource to help manage our Facebook page and perhaps add other social media platforms to our outreach. We can always use additional help, no matter how little that can be.  Finding volunteers from all walks of life gives us ideas on our initiatives for the future. There are many great young people committed to the environment, and we could perhaps provide support and connections to help them get reach and awareness for their goals and ideas. 

We would also love to have people that are long-time residents to get involved.  Their wealth of knowledge about the community, it’s history and its environment, are an invaluable addition to the BEC.  Anyone can email or call me if they want more information.

 WhWhat would you like people to know about the BEC’s history and where it is headed now?

The BEC was created about 10 years ago, and we’re entering a new phase of activity. I would like to give a shout out to the great work of newer members Abby Ernzen Beck and Andrew Greenhagen.  We are also looking forward to the appointments of Emma Cole and Anna Baker Nussbaum to the commission soon. They are generating some great ideas for future projects for the BEC. We are also looking at partnering more with other regional eco groups to promote more involvement in our community and environment.  Of course, we will continue to do educational programming throughout the year.

What are some of the successes the BEC has produced over the years of its existence?

Our Green Business Certification program produced results in which a local business– VWR, achieved platinum certification.  The Batavia Community Garden started with the BEC and was a great asset for the community for many years.  For anyone that was involved the Batavia Green Walk or Green Fair on the Fox, those were outstanding events that brought people from the Fox Valley to learn more about eco issues and solutions. 

Recently we held our 9
th Green Night Out at the Movies in March and showed to a nearly standing room crowd of people wanting to know more about what they can do to make a positive change to our environment!  Look for another movie event to take place this fall and Green Night Out at the Movies to come back next winter!

    FroFrom what source does your own interest in the environment come--was there a moment or event that ‘got you green?’

This may sound corny, but back in 1992I ready Al Gore’s book, “Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit.”  He methodically and effectively made the argument that the actions of humans have are factors that continue to negatively impact the environment. We do need to make changes to mitigate the problem.

IMG_6205I was a few years out of college, but had never really thought of things in that light before.  I joined the Sierra Club and started reading more about the subject.  When I got married and had kids,  that reality became more important.  We need to live our lives in such a way that we creative a safe environment for our children and our childrens’ children.  I became concerned with the chemical we brought in our home  and applied to our landscapes.  We tried to make our homes as energy efficient as possible.  We continue try as a family to live more sustainably.  We are not perfect though!  Joining the BEC gave me an opportunity to help our community make those positive changes.

        What would be on your ‘wish list’ of things the world should consider?

Wow, that is a big question.  I am not sure I can speak for the what the world should do, but only individuals.  We need to all understand as our population grows, so does our impact on the world around us.  Whether or not you believe in Climate Change.  I hope we can all agree that air, water and ground pollution is a public health problem.  We as a community, need to become more engaged and talk to our elected leaders about our concerns.  The biggest changes will come at the government and industrial levels. We as a community, need to become more engaged and talk to our elected leaders about our concerns.  Get the contact information for them and email or call.  They do listen.

People in the United States consume everything at a higher rate per capita than anyone else in the world!  I would like people to rethink their consumer behavior.   Business gives us what we demand.  If we keep demanding things l

like single use water bottles, and other single use items (plates, cups, paper towels, K-Cups, napkins, single use cleaning supplies and more) that get thrown in our garbage, the problem will continue to grow. 

Personally, I believe it is critical that we continue to grow and develop our use of alternative energy and wean ourselves from oil, coal and natural gas.    In other counties around the world they are moving more quickly than we are to reach this goal.  We pride ourselves in being the country of innovators but we are dragging our feet to make these changes!!!  As a city, we are a part of the Prairie State Coal contract for years to come.   People, however can still install solar to their homes and make changes to make their homes more energy efficient.  Our family still decided to by a hybrid electric vehicle.   While we use energy mostly derived from coal,  the emissions from our car are significantly less that other cars and we hope that helps make a difference.

Batavia Environmental Commission Members
The Commission was officially formed in November, 2006 and is comprised of 5 appointed Batavia residents and 2 City staff members.

  • Carolyn Burnham
  • Abby Beck
  • Andrew Greenhagen
  • Byron Ritchason, City Staff
  • Andrea Podraza, City Staff
The mission of the Batavia Environmental Commission is to fulfill the role of environmental advisor, educator and motivator to City Government and the community at large. Specifically, the Commission shall act as a resource and advocate to:
  • City Government in developing internal policies and practices in an environmentally sensitive manner.
  • City Government as it approves and evaluates policies for standards for construction, waste disposal, business and industrial operations and other private sector activities consistent with the purpose of the Commission.
  • The community at large to help develop educational and informational programs to promote environmental awareness and behavior.
  • It is the work of the Environmental Commission to aide in fulfilling the city’s overall vision of claiming environmental stewardship as a cornerstone to our community’s way of life.
  • Ultimately, the Commission shall strive to establish a path that places Batavia as a regional leader in the protection, preservation, enhancement and restoration of our natural biodiversity and landscape.


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