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CNT celebrates 30 years

Thirty years ago, while most environmentalists focused on preserving natural areas, a small group of young people opened an office on the West Side, where they started working with community organizations to promote community gardens.

Thirty years later the Center for Neighborhood Technology has compiled an impressive record of achievement as a “think-and-do” tank which combines research and practical innovation aimed at making cities sustainable.

The group will celebrate its 30th anniversary Wednesday, September 17 at the Garfield Park Conservatory (300 N. Central Park, 6 to 10 p.m.)

CNT “started out small with some crazy ideas, and now those crazy ideas are what everyone is talking about,” said Nicole Gotthelf.

In its early days, CNT worked to scale back the Deep Tunnel project, saving taxpayers billions of dollars — today it’s working with public agencies on stormwater management, a topic of growing concern.

In the 1980s CNT built greenhouses in low-income neighborhoods, won a ban on landfill expansion, joined the community fight against the Chicago World’s Fair, helped 170 local nonprofits increase their energy efficiency, and improved energy conservation in thousands of units of multifamily and single family homes. The group worked on local networks to prevent housing abandonment and job loss.

In the 1990s CNT helped lead the fight to turn the Federal Highway Bill into a comprehensive transportation appropriation, with money for mass transit and other transportation alternatives. Locally it organized citizen involvement in regional transportation planning.

Recent accomlishments include CTA’s U-Pass for students at 23 local institutions; the Local Efficient Mortgage and the Housing and Transportation Affordability Index; the Community Energy Cooperative (now CNT Energy); and the I-Go car-sharing program, which now has 10,000 members.

CNT has worked with the City of Chicago on its Climate Action Plan and is now working with the Clinton Foundation helping cities around the world reduce their carbon footprint.

The key concept which CNT pioneered was sustainability, combining environmental and economic concerns to promote efficiency and equity in resource use and improve urban quality of life — while lowering the cost of living.

“Our work is demonstrating that cities can be the solution to the challenge of climate change and economic inequality because of their often hidden assets of density and social networks,” Gotthelf said.

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Category: community gardens, economy, energy, environment, nonprofits

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  1. […] of “Crazy Ideas” Breed Sustainability for Chicago Chicago Talks – September 16, 2008 CNT Celebrates 30 Years Newstips – September 16, 2008 Bike Commuters Find Employers that Smooth Path Crain’s Chicago […]


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