Bringing together a wide range of energy, sustainability and environmental professionals, the U.S. Green Building Council Illinois Emerging Professionals Committee hosted its third annual On The Table discussion from 6-8 p.m. May 10 at Beermiscuous in Chicago.

On The Table was started in 2014 by the non-profit Chicago Community Trust as a way to bring together Chicagoans of all backgrounds to discuss solutions to pressing issues in their communities and the broader Chicagoland region.

Organized by EP Committee member Allison Dill, LEED GA and Chicago showroom manager at National Office Furniture, this year’s discussion focused on the committee’s three goals: responsible production and consumption, sustainable cities and communities and quality education, and were linked to the Trust’s suggested topic of racial equity. Eleven people participated, including Dill and fellow committee members Jeremy Manion (co-chair) and Andy Stein.

“It was an exceptional experience to lead the group and weave in diverse topics to come to an actionable goal at the end of the discussion,” Dill said. “I felt proud of the group for staying on track and especially for the involved participation from everyone.”

EP Committee member Andy Stein (far left) talks during the large-group discussion

Dill invited three experts to provide unique insight into the discussion, including Ning Ai, PhD and assistant professor at The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Urban Planning and Policy; Douglas Chien, advocates’ network manager at Friends of the Forest Preserves; and Rachel Ward, grant writer at South Suburban Family Shelter.

“What I enjoyed most about moderating the discussion was the research I put in upfront to learn about the topics so I could connect the dots between different speakers’ topics and subjects when necessary,” Dill said. “I had a set of ‘starter questions’ to prepare both myself and the speakers, but the conversation flowed very naturally. The group was eager to discuss and brainstorm solutions based off our goals.”

The most focused brainstorming came during a planned breakout session, in which the three experts lead groups of three-to-four people in discussion of three questions prepared by Dill and based on EP Committee’s goals.

The three experts, from left to right: Rachel Ward, Douglas Chein and Ning Ai

When the group came together and shared answers participants settled on an actionable goal: develop a project that promotes LEED for neighborhood development. The goal tied Ward’s work of enhancing the well-being of families in urban communities and the Trust’s goal of improving racial equity in the Chicago region with the EP Committee’s broader three-pronged mission.

“We decided that we wanted to organize a series of events that would promote, educate and market sustainable habits and energy efficient utilities to the building managers, owners and tenants of multi-family homes,” Dill said. “We wanted to focus specifically on adherence to recycling laws, promoting energy efficient appliances in multi-unit buildings and creating or promoting a transportation sharing system that could be shared between tenants via social media.”

To help fund the future project, Dill submitted an application with a short video for the Trust’s Acting Up Awards, in which 50 On The Table discussion groups will receive a $1,000 microgrant to achieve the actionable goal or goals that emerged from their discussion by Dec. 31. Award winners will be announced June 28.

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