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Questions or comments? Contact Kristin Ihnchak.

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To achieve a more vibrant and livable future, a community's plans and policies should consider short- and long-term impacts on the "three Es" of sustainability: environment, economy, and equity. Since these three elements are inherently interconnected, sustainability planning encompasses a wide variety of topics in practice.

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CMAP has many programs and initiatives relating to sustainability and planning, including water resource protection and conservation, open space, climate change adaptation, and  local food systems. CMAP also helps communities plan for sustainability more broadly by aiding in the creation of sustainability plans through the CMAP Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program.


One of CMAP's major goals is to promote an integrated approach to water resource planning, which involves actions that protect and enhance water quality and quantity in all parts of the water cycle. CMAP facilitated and now leads implementation of Water 2050 in a variety of ways, including regional coordination on water supply issues, as well as promoting strategies to reduce water loss and increase water conservation. As the designated water quality planning agency for the region, CMAP works with local governments and stakeholders to restore the region's water resources through watershed and wastewater planning. In addition, CMAP is responding to the growing need to address stormwater management and flood prevention by promoting the integration of better stormwater management decisions into local plans and policies.

Open Space

Fewer than half of the residents of the CMAP region have access to adequate park and recreation areas near their homes. Metropolitan Chicago must preserve, maintain, and expand our system of parks and open space. In 2012, Chicago Wilderness and The Conservation Fund refined and updated the Green Infrastructure Vision (GIV), which identifies the most important areas to protect in the region. The GIV data package, available on the CMAP's Data Sharing Hub, contains a variety of spatial information about type and quality of ecosystems that make up the regional green infrastructure network. It is accompanied by two studies that classify ecosystems by landscape characteristics and estimate the value of ecosystem services provided by the GIV.

Climate Change 

Proactively addressing the impacts of climate change is integral to achieving long-term sustainability. Improving the resilience of existing built and natural environments ensures that communities are better prepared to deal with more frequent extreme weather events, increased heat waves, and other expected climate impacts.

The CMAP Climate Adaptation Guidebook provides municipal governments with strategies for adapting public infrastructure and services in light of anticipated climate changes in the region. The guidebook includes strategies for updating codes to account for changes in temperature and precipitation, as well as recommendations for managing air quality and open spaces.

CMAP is also working with government partners and many non-profit and community-based organizations to build regional resilience through the Northeastern Illinois Resilience Partnership. As part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC), the City of Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, and the State of Illinois are coordinating efforts to develop a regional approach to  preparing for and recovering from natural disasters. This effort will support innovative pilot projects across the state and promote long-term policy changes that better prepare communities to face extreme weather and climate change. 

Local Food

Local food systems increase the economic vitality and livability of communities. A CMAP microsite explores how local food travels from farm to table within metropolitan Chicago and how local governments can strengthen local food systems.

Sustainability Planning

The LTA program assists communities around the region, including DuPage County, Park ForestNiles, and Lake County, to create plans to guide future decision-making in a manner that is consistent with sustainable practices. A sustainability plan contains goals, policies and/or strategies, indicators, and implementation direction on key related topic areas, which are chosen by the community. Key topic areas typically include land use and development, transportation, open space, natural resources, waste, water, energy, greenhouse gases, climate change, local food, municipal policies, and education. 

CMAP has also develped resources for communities interested in developing sustainability plans. The Sustainability Planning White Paper provides a step-by-step overview of the planning process, highlighting the aspects that make sustainability planning unique from comprehensive planning. The accompanying Sustainability Indicators Guide provides a blueprint for selecting sustainability indicators and measuring progress on sustainability goals over time.


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