When people think of Chicago, one of the first things they think of is the Chicago River – after deep dish pizza, the Sears Tower, and the Cubs. The first time my family visited me in Chicago, I took them to the river to introduce them to the city’s history aboard an architecture boat tour. Each year, thousands of people flood the streets to see the green-dyed river for St. Patrick’s Day. One thing I’ve learned about Chicagoans is they are proud of their city, and they will go to bat for it. For the Friends of the Chicago River, they do so by organizing an annual volunteer event to beautify the river, Chicago River Day.
The 25th annual event was held on Saturday, March 13, 2017. West Monroe employees and volunteers from all over the city of Chicago gathered at over 60 locations along the Chicago River to clean up trash, remove invasive plants, plant seedlings, and improve the health of the river.
The half-mile stretch of river where we helped was relatively healthy – few invasive plants and a little loose soil. Despite this, we still found plenty of trash and debris – clothes, bottles, cans, a motor, batteries, a television, tires, and furniture. Debris like this can have chemical or biological impacts on the river ecosystem. Debris can affect water flow or increase turbidity which impedes natural UV sterilization and inhibits sunlight from reaching submerged aquatic plants. Luckily, it only took a few hours with all the volunteers to remove most of the trash and debris.
At West Monroe Partners, we aspire to provide social and environmental leadership. Through our 1+1+1 program, we donate 1% of our work hours to community service, 1% of our project-based time to pro-bono work, and 1% of our annual profit to community or human services organizations. Chicago River Day is one of many ways we can give back to the city we love, but to two groups within the firm – our water practice within energy and utilities and our sustainability practice – to which the cause is especially important. At West Monroe, we are proud of the city we live in so we give back to ensure it continues to be a place people can enjoy for years to come. This is the basic principal of sustainability – meeting the needs of the present without impacting the ability of future generations to meet their needs – so this event was the perfect way to show we care for the city.