18th Annual Emerald Awards for Green Building in Illinois Announced

2023 Awardees Highlight the Impact of Net Zero Action on Communities

Chicago, IL — Illinois Green Alliance announced the recipients of this year’s Emerald Awards, dubbed the 2023 Path to Zero Trailblazers, for their ongoing efforts to mainstream net zero
buildings in Illinois.

The Illinois Green Alliance Emerald Awards were launched in 2008 to celebrate outstanding
green building achievements in Illinois by providing recognition to organizations, people,
buildings, and technologies. This year, one individual and one organization are being honored
for their continued commitment and advocacy in advancing high performance, cutting-edge
existing and new construction buildings.

These awards reflect Illinois Green Alliance’s five-year strategic plan centered on creating healthy buildings and spaces to live and work in through best practices for energy efficiency and
zero carbon design.

“This year’s Net Zero Heroes demonstrate Illinois’ leadership in leveraging high performance buildings and climate action that improve the health and resiliency of our communities. Their commitment, leadership, and contributions to the sustainability industry serve as a national model."

Brian Imus

Executive Director, Illinois Green Alliance

Illinois Green’s 2023 Emerald Award for Individual Achievement is Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, Founder and Executive Director of the Academy for Global Citizenship, and CEO of Cultivate Collective.

Her uncompromising 20-year commitment to sustainable communities is reflected as a leader in the education and community revitalization fields. While the recently completed Cultivate Collective hub that houses the Academy for Global Citizenship on Chicago’s Southwest side, championed by Ippel, serves as a first-of-its kind net zero project, it is just the most recent example of her long-standing commitment to reflect the environmental values of the school in the physical design of the building. Throughout her career she has leveraged her experience from one project to the next, each time raising the bar for what can be accomplished.

“I am inspired by the way she brings the sustainability components of the buildings as an opportunity to influence the educational curriculum, improve the health and wellness of the
community and engage the community in the process,” said John Mlade, Illinois Green Alliance’s Board Chair.

For her work, Ippel was named one of Monocle’s Top 20 International Pioneers in Education and visited the White House to receive a national award from the Obama administration in 2011. Forbes named her one of the nation's “top five game changers in education” and was the recipient of the GOOD 100 list of “people pushing the world forward through doing.” In June
2022, Crain's Chicago Business recognized Ippel as one of their “notable leaders in sustainability.”

Cook County Clean Energy Plan Goals.
Cook County Clean Energy Plan Goals.

Recognized this year with the Emerald Award for organizational achievement is Cook County.

Their leadership on an ambitious goal for carbon neutrality by 2050 is driven by a commitment to improve the health and resiliency of the county’s most disadvantaged communities. For
example, Cook County’s recent purchase power agreement includes support private investment in local solar and energy job training programs, environmental biodiversity and habitat
protection for the solar site, and local economic development through job creation. The full project will provide jobs for approximately 450 tradespeople during construction.

Cook County has also allocated over $130m in American Rescue Plan Act funds to making its communities, especially under-resourced communities, more sustainable and resilient in the face of climate change.

Solar Panels on the Cook County Domestic Violence Courthouse.
Solar Panels on the Cook County Domestic Violence Courthouse.

They aren’t just setting climate goals and a net zero pledge — they have a plan for how to get there – and for how to bring communities in the county along with them,” said John Mlade, Illinois Green Alliance’s 2023 Board Chair. “Cook County is measuring their progress not just in carbon reductions, but in the community impacts that result from those reductions, like jobs created and the health improvements of residents.”

Projects include green infrastructure for community flood mitigation, assistance with municipal
climate resiliency planning, helping for moderate income households to go solar, new recycling
services in the south suburbs, providing electric vehicle infrastructure in south and west
suburban areas where it’s lacking, brownfield cleanup, pollution prevention assistance for
businesses, and many others.

Before, During and After Brownfield Remediation in Bellwood
Before, During and After Brownfield Remediation in Bellwood
Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability staff at the CHaRM Center (Center for Hard to Recycle Materials) in South Holland, opened Earth Day of 2023.
Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability staff at the CHaRM Center (Center for Hard to Recycle Materials) in South Holland, opened Earth Day of 2023.

Net zero building projects in Illinois will also be recognized at the Emerald Awards Ceremony.
Seven buildings will be added to Illinois Green Alliance’s Net Zero Honor Roll, celebrating certified net zero buildings in Illinois, making for a total of 10. This initiative to raise awarenessto the buildings achieving the highest level of green building certifications around net zero energy, carbon, water, and waste.

The public is invited to celebrate these sustainability achievements at Illinois Green’s annual
Limelight Reception on November 14 at The Old Post Office on 433 W. Van Buren. Tickets to the event and presentation of the Emerald Awards are available online. For more information regarding Limelight, contact Maggie Olson at 312-245-8300 x.205 or visit www.illinoisgreenalliance.org


About Illinois Green Alliance 

Illinois Green Alliance is a membership directed nonprofit organization working to transform the region’s built environment to become ecologically sustainable, profitable, and healthy. To do so, we engage community leaders and utilize member expertise in education and community outreach through targeted programs and initiatives focused around green homes, communities, schools and existing buildings. With hundreds of passionate members and volunteers who lend their time and expertise, Illinois Green provides nearly 75 educational programs, community engagement events, tours and advocacy initiatives each year.