Second city my butt. Though California and all the other leftie states are what come to peoples’ minds when talking about green initiatives, the greening of the windy city — aka Chicago — is more than just hot air. (Disclaimer: Readers should note that my affinity for Chi-town may be because I formerly resided there, but I maintain that it’s simply because the city is awesome.)

Chicago’s greenness was made all the more apparent after Mayor Richard Daley unveiled his multi-pronged plan to curb carbon emissions. And not by just a little bit, either. Daley’s 26-member Climate Task Force calls for a 25 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 levels within 12 years. Chicago leaders plan to accomplish this green feat by focusing on 29 possibilities for mitigating greenhouse gases in the four sectors most responsible for carbon emissions: buildings, transportation, energy and waste pollution. The Plan also identifies nine actions that could help the city adapt to changes brought on by climate change that are already occurring. According to the press release, though other “cities have set similar goals, Chicago’s plan is the first to both identify emission sources and anticipated impacts, and propose ideas that specifically respond to that research.”

So, is Daley for real, or is he just trying to push Chicago in the green limelight by announcing lofty greenhouse gas reduction goals? Many Debbie Downers skeptical of the plan point to Daley’s failed attempts to bring a successful city-wide recycling operation to Chicago. Okay sure, they have a point: The Blue Bag program, which brought curb recycling to the city in cute, blue bags, was a bunch of garbage for many reasons, but that’s certainly no reason to toss this new idea in the trash. (As a side note, the Blue Bag program will officially be bagged in 2011 for a more sensible Blue Cart program that keeps recyclables separate from waste right from the start).

Despite the Blue Bag embarrassment, Daley is no green thumb when it comes to making Chicago more eco-friendly. A quick Google search reveals that Daley already has a whole host of environmental directives behind his blue-collar belt. For one, Chicago leads the nation in the number of LEED-registered projects. And, since Daley has committed funds to greening the city, Chicago has planted more than half a million trees in the industry-heavy city. It also has more than four million square feet of green roof projects either completed or underway. Oh right, and Chicago is home of the Chicago Climate Exchange, the first voluntary pilot program for carbon trading. Should I go on? 

These initiatives make clear that Daley, at least for now, is walking the walk when it comes to making Chicago the most environmentally friendly city in the nation. And that’s good news for everybody, no matter what city you hail from. With any luck, green initiatives will soon be sitting alongside deep dish pizza and 1920s gangsters as Chicago’s biggest claims to fame.

Story by Jessica Knoblauch. This article originally appeared in Plenty in September 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2008