The Green City Series: Chicago, Illinois

While some recognize Chicago as the gritty backdrop for some of TV’s most popular dramas, from SHOWTime’s Shameless to HBO’s The Chi, most might not know of the city’s staunch commitment to being “an environmentally-friendly destination.”

For nearly 20 years, Chicago has worked hard to go green. Over 7 million square feet of green roof space, hundreds of community parks, and a dedication to preserving its natural wildlife have earned Chicago the title of “No. 1 Green City” by media outlets such as Business Facilities Magazine.

WHERE TO STAY: With six LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and seven Green Seal certified hotels from which to choose, visitors will have no problem planning a sustainable stay. These eco-friendly lodging options adhere to strict standards of energy efficiency, water conservation, recycling, and waste reduction.  

Look for hotels with LEED or Green Seal certifications.

WHERE TO EAT: Chicago’s unique “Guaranteed Green” distinction offers visitors a wide array of eco-friendly dining experiences. In order to achieve this certification from the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition, restaurants must have achieved certification from national non-profits the Green Restaurant Association or Green Seal, recognizing their high standards for conserving energy, water, and waste; making an effort to source environmentally preferable food; and using eco-friendly disposables, cleaning products, and furnishings.

“Guaranteed Green” restaurants focus on sustainable sourcing and waste management.

GETTING AROUND: One of the top bike-friendly cities in the U.S., Chicago features over 315 miles of designated pathways, thousands of bike racks, and dedicated street lanes. Cyclists can store their bikes or get a quick repair at Millennium Park, and B-Cycle enables visitors to rent or share cycles. Visitors can also utilize the nation’s second-largest public transportation network, using the CTA’s elevated train system or one of its clean energy hybrid buses. For die-hard Uber fans, the city also offers a wide variety of car-sharing services.

Rent or share a bike from B-Cycle to cruise over 315 miles of designated pathways.

THINGS TO DO: Visit the City Hall Rooftop Garden. Part of the Urban Heat Island Initiative, this garden features 20,300 square feet of green space. Designed to improve air quality and avoid the heat-trapping effect of pavement and asphalt, the garden lowers City Hall’s annual energy costs by more than $5,000.

Chicago’s City Hall features over 20,000 square feet of energy-conserving green space.

Millennium Park (pictured at top) and Soldier Field. Hands-down the most popular tourist attraction, 25-acre Millennium Park is one of the world’s largest green roofs. Soldier Field, which also features an award-winning green roof, is the first NFL stadium to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

Soldier Field is the only NFL stadium to achieve LEED certification.