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March 2017

Park District Technology Goes Green!

By: Rebecca Grill, Natural Areas Manager & Dan Johnson, Information Technology Manager

Make today a copy free day! The Park District of Highland Park recently launched a green technology program with anticipated savings of more than $60,000 a year in printing costs and at the same time decreasing the number of trees needed to offset CO2 emissions from more than 1,100 per month to 148 per month.
With the existing print management contract set to expire at the end of 2016, the District’s Information Technology Department (IT) put into practice the agency’s longstanding Environmental Policy which calls for an evaluation of green options in purchasing. The department took a unique holistic view of the printing and document copying system and found several significant ways to go green.

Based on a usage analysis, the District went from 38 individual printers scattered throughout 10 locations to 14 machines that are more centrally located for all users. This initial step saved more than $34,000 in leasing costs and gave staff the added benefit of a bit of exercise on their way to the printer. Then it was time to get down to details.

First, there was the issue of copier toner cartridges. Used cartridges are complex to recycle because they consist of a combination of materials including ink. Widely used, they contribute significantly to the problem of electronic waste in our nation. In 2016, the District’s Green Committee started a program to recycle used toner cartridges. Used cartridges were collected in a pre-paid box and shipped for recycling. To ease the administrative burden, the IT Department jumped at the opportunity to require the copy vendor to provide recycling as a service in the new contract. The District estimates that a typical machine uses 5 cartridges a year, so that is a significant reduction in materials going to landfill.

The Department also sought out integrated systems to make it easy for staff to cut down on paper use. Waste reduction is one of the District’s four Green Initiative focus areas, along with Using Resources Wisely, Protecting the Environment and Sharing What We Know. The District promotes waste reduction as the most important of the three Rs (Reduce Reuse and Recycle) because it provides the path to reducing overall volume of resources used—volume which is significant in the case of paper products.

According to, on average, Americans use more than 700 pounds of paper every year. And, paper represents one of the biggest components of solid waste in landfills — 26 million tons in 2009!

Though double-sided printing has always been encouraged at the Park District, it is now the system wide default. The same is true of color vs black and white copies which is not only a financial consideration, color copies cost $.049 to print versus $.005 for B/W, but also an environmental one that reduces the use of chemical inks.
“If you just stop to think that double-sided copying literally cuts paper use in half, you can imagine the possibilities for paper savings if we all started that practice regularly,” said Leah Holloway a member of the District’s Green Committee.

In the belief that you can’t save what you don’t measure, the new copiers came with software (PaperCut) that provides instant feedback and summary reports on the cost of making a copy or printing a document. With the new cloud based system, staff members log in to retrieve their output. This is convenient because print jobs can be sent and printed at any of the District’s locations. It also creates an opportunity to give individual feedback on the cost of the copies made. The District plans to use the aggregate information to encourage overall savings on paper costs.
“It is just as much about the number of pages used as it is the cost of the copy,” notes IT manager Dan Johnson. “We hope we will see a great reduction in the amount of paper we are using as a District, along with cost and natural resource savings.”

Think Before You Print
Going a step beyond the mechanical, making strides in paper use is really about an office lifestyle change. The district also encourages to staff to make use of products such as One Note which allows individuals to capture ideas, meeting agendas, to do lists and notes in an electronic format. With a new district-wide heightened awareness in the race to reduce, staff can steer away from printing documents on the copier and instead create an electronic copy that can be saved on shared drives, emailed or sent to One Note for reference. Interested in learning on how to save paper in your home or office? The District has some suggestions:

The Park District of Highland Park hopes to make saving paper a fun endeavor. After all, reducing reliance on paper copies is asking people to make a change in long standing habits. And just like any habit, it can take time to change. In addition to reporting aggregate numbers of copies made/saved, friendly reminders to “Make Today a Copy Free Day” will appear as part of the District’s green communication efforts.
In the near future, the District is also looking to implement electronic data interchange technologies. These new technologies can be used to eliminate printing and storage of paper forms.
Since its founding in 1909, the Park District of Highland Park has been a steward of the environment. In 1992, it was among the first Park Districts in Illinois to adopt an Environmental Policy to increase awareness of environmental issues that affect the quality of life in the community. Through this program, the District initiated a recycling program for facilities and parks, developed an integrated pest management program aimed at reducing use of pesticides and herbicides on playing fields and lawns, later banned smoking in District buildings and vehicles before that practice became state law, and continued to protect our natural areas through local leadership.

August 2016

Park District of Highland Park’s Mitch Carr, One of Two Americans Chosen to Officiate
Wheelchair Rugby at 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro
It isn’t just the energy from the tens of thousands of spectators, or the opportunity to travel, or even the personal sense of accomplishment that keeps Mitch Carr in the Wheelchair Rugby officiating game. It is the athleticism and determination of the participants that inspire him. For the past 17 years, Carr has moved up the ranks to become one of an elite few international Wheelchair Rugby officials. This past month, he was one of only two Americans, eight from across the world, that were chosen to officiate at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Paralympic Games. This was the second Paralympics Carr has officiated; he was also part of the officials team in the 2012 London games as well as a number of World Championships and the sports’ prestigious Canadian Cup.
“I have to say, the Rio games were the best and the Brazilians came out in record numbers to support the teams,” said Carr. “I officiated the Great Britain/Canada game which was the medal qualifier. It went into overtime and with .7 seconds left on the clock, Canada won the game. The cheering from the sold out crowd and the energy in the stadium during those last seconds is something I will never forget.”
The unassuming Carr is no stranger to success. For the 3 years he has been the general manager for the Recreation Center of Highland Park. During his time at the Rec Center, membership has seen a double digit increases and facility utilization is at an all-time high. It is his passion for helping people overcome obstacles in life that really hits home for Carr.
“I have learned so much from the Wheelchair Rugby athletes,” says Carr. “Sports can play such a life-transforming role in people’s lives, especially those who are recovering from devastating injuries and these athletes have tremendous strength, endurance and speed – I am truly humbled by them.”
Carr began officiating in 1999 when he volunteered to referee a Wheelchair Rugby game while working at the Rehabilitation Center of Chicago. After that experience he was asked to referee other tournaments. Over the years, Carr has officiated over 1,000 games and gone through the arduous process of advancing up the officiating levels to A-Level national certification and then onto International Certification in 2008. Each level requires two years’ experience at that level as well as written and floor testing.
The game has changed a lot over the years according to Carr. The players are faster and the equipment is better. “For those seeing the sport the first time I think they are amazed at the design of the chairs, it’s like something out of Mad Max,” says Carr. “As an official you have to be in really good condition to keep up with them.”
Though the travel and officiating takes precious time from family and friends, Carr hopes to stay in the Wheelchair Rugby officiating game to make it to the 2020 Summer Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. “Being involved in this sport has changed my life for the better,” adds Carr. “I have made lifelong friends from all over the world and have learned valuable lessons from the amazing athletes who have overcome incredible obstacles.”