By Lara Jackson
Many Chicago shelters are making eco-friendly efforts to benefit the Earth, the animals, and the people who work and visit animal shelters. Here’s a look at some shelters doing good by going green:
Located at 2914 North Elston Avenue, Harmony House opened its new cageless, no-kill, green shelter in July. Designed to be Net-Zero Energy, the shelter is currently seeking United States Green Building (USGB) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification, making it the first Net-Zero commercial building in Chicago.
This green building was made possible by an anonymous donor, whose only stipulation was to make the facility as green as possible.
The hallmark of the new shelter is the heating and cooling system, which is powered by fourteen geothermal walls, solar thermal panels, and a solar photovoltaic system of ninety-six panels. A central courtyard provides daylighting for the cats, employees, and visitors.
“The cats just line up along the windows and enjoy the fabulous view,” says Dieter.
Other green features include low-flow toilets, cabinetry made from sustainable product, and zero use of glues or harmful chemicals and LED lighting. The miniature staircases for the cats throughout the shelter were crafted by a local Lake In the Hills company—The Vertical Cat—so there was a low carbon footprint.
“This is a huge leap forward and beyond our wildest dreams,” explains Ann Dieter, president of the board of directors at Harmony House.
The largest no-kill shelter in the second city, PAWS Chicago found “forever homes” for 4,268 animals in 2011, a 5.6 percent increase over 2010, and an example of PAWS’ undying mission toward reducing overpopulation and eliminating euthanasia. The Pet Food Bank and Crisis Care Programs were established to help pet parents during the economic downturn and help keep pets in their homes. For those who are losing their homes and will not be able to keep their pet, PAWS provides two alternatives:
“We use biodegradable waste bags for our dogs. All of the towels and bedding used throughout the shelter are completely donated. We’re also piloting a new, biodegradable, corn-based cat litter,” explains PAWS Executive Director Rochelle Michalek.
Tree House Humane Society
Currently, Tree House’s eco-friendly efforts include use of all donated bedding and towels and an impressive electronic recycling program. The staff has even made efforts to increase their use of green cleaning supplies and reduce harmful chemicals.
Tree House is a no-kill shelter that focuses on finding homes for stray cats with special physical and emotional needs. The shelter also has several special programs to save lives, including a pet food pantry, a wellness clinic (which provides medical care for dogs and cats of low-income families), and a TNR program. Most impressive, howevefr, is the Cat Sit, Cats At Work Program, which relocates feral cats in areas with a rat infestation—thereby giving the cats a second chance and reducing the rate population.
“This is truly a win/win situation and has just been amazing. It’s more the cats’ presence that scares the rats rather than the cats hunting them,” explains Tree House Development Director and Feral Friends TNR Program Manager, Jenny Schlueter.
Tree House hopes to break ground on a new green facility located at a donated lot near Touhy Avenue and Western Avenue by the end of next year.
“We plan on incorporating as much LEED traits in the new building as possible. We’re still in the planning stages, but our goal is Net-Zero energy—some of our ideas include a rain garden, a green roof, a sustainable HVAC system, and light reduction,” says Schlueter.
But, no matter the installation of the latest and greatest green technology, or the use of recycled items, the greenest gift of it all is giving animals a second chance at love and saving them from euthanasia.
Lara Jackson is a freelance writer and editor. Click here to visit her website.