UIC UPP 575 
Backyard Sustainability in Blue Island

In September of 2013, a new Graduate Urban Planning studio course at the University of Illinois at Chicago began working with the City of Blue Island, Illinois.  The course explores the interaction between local policies and the adoption of sustainable practices by residents and homeowners within a city or town. During the 15 weeks of the course, students explore backyard sustainability practices, policy contexts and best practices from across the country in order to provide specific policy recommendations for the City of Blue Island that can pragmatically advance overall sustainability objectives.  

The students provide two significant outputs to the City of Blue Island, a facilitated public meeting and a final report.

Public Meeting
With oversight from city staff and City administration the students held a public meeting about sustainability policy in Blue Island.  The meeting was held on October 23rd, 2013 at Evangelical Community Church on 121st St. and Irving Av.  After a brief introduction from city officials and the instructors, the meeting went into an "open house" format where citizens can speak one-on-one to students about different types of sustainability practices (alternative energy, vegetable gardening, storm-water management and so on).   

You can see the students' posters by clicking on the links below:

Final Report
At the conclusion of the course, students prepared white papers on their selected sustainability practice, providing specific policy recommendations for the city of Blue Island. All of the memos, on different sustainability topics, were organized into the Blue Island Backyard Sustainability Policy Recommendations, for the city's use as it considers ways to advance various citizen-supported sustainability practices.  This 173 page policy guide was completed in June of 2014.  The policy guide covers the following items:
  • Identifies and describes 14 different sustainability practices that can be undertaken by a typical household in Blue Island.
  • Identifies and describes the impacts (both negative and positive) that may result from residents engaging in those sustainability practices.
  • Compares Blue Island's local policies to those of other cities and suburbs
  • Recommends and evaluates policy amendments that can effectively and responsibly promote backyard sustainability practice, while mitigating any negative impacts and in consideration of local context issues, such as citizen concerns (from the public meeting), urgent environmental issues (like flooding), lot size and population density considerations, and so on.