The Big Questions

Redefining Stewardship

Stewardship is usually defined as the act of taking responsibility for the well-being of the natural environment.

We might want to think of our concept of stewardship as taking responsibility to minimize the stress of human activities upon the well-being of the environment. We do not control or have authority over nature, but are a part of nature, with which we have a reciprocal relationship.

Our concept of stewardship is predicated upon seeing the ecosystem as a living entity in which we can have a positive of negative impact. We respect the inherent intelligence and integrity of the natural world. We are adopting naturalized knowledge systems principles are compatible with the natural cycles of the ecosystem.

What is an Environmental Steward?

(From Illinois Environmental protection Agency website)
Environmental stewards strive to sustain natural resources and our environment for future generations. People depend on natural resources for their livelihood. However, pressures on the environment resulting from development are steadily increasing. Therefore, it is necessary for citizens and the business community to ensure that their activities and operations are environmentally responsible.
Small businesses play a large role in protecting and preserving the environment in many communities. Small businesses can fulfill this role while still maintaining their competitiveness. As a member of a community, a small business can assume a leadership role by becoming more environmentally friendly and volunteering to work on local environmental projects. Becoming an environmental steward in your community may improve your image, lower costs, and result in a safer workplace.

What Environmental Stewardship Activities Can My Business Participate In?

Maintain environmental compliance – Ensure that your business is in compliance with all applicable environmental regulations. Conduct a self-assessment to determine any deficiencies.
Use natural resources responsibly – Conserve resources such as water, minerals and wood by using them efficiently and recycling when appropriate. Protect any wildlife habitats around your business.
Reduce waste generation – Use less toxic materials to limit the amount of hazardous wastes produced, and improve the efficiency of your operations to reduce the amount of waste generated.
Become involved in your community – Participate in local environmental projects such as neighborhood recycling, abandoned lot cleanups, community gardens and watershed restoration projects. Encourage employees to become involved.
Let the community know what you are doing – Send out press releases of successful environmental projects implemented by your business.

What are Some Volunteer Environmental Stewardship Programs in Illinois?

The following programs represent just a few of the environmental stewardship activities going on in Illinois. Contact your local conservation agencies for more information on these and other opportunities.

Partners for Clean Air, sponsored by the Illinois EPA, is a coalition of regional businesses, transportation organizations, health advocacy groups and local governments committed to cleaning our air. Its goal is to improve overall air quality and public health by advocating voluntary actions in metropolitan Chicago and northwestern Indiana. Partners for Clean Air administers a voluntary ozone reduction program called “Ozone Action Days.” Businesses, industries, local governments and other organizations can become Partners for Clean Air by signing the Partners’ Pledge and voluntarily taking actions to reduce ozone. You can receive information about joining by calling toll-free at (800) 451-5983.

The Resource Watch Program is sponsored by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to protect Illinois natural resources and promote environmental stewardship. The volunteer program encourages citizens and businesses to adopt and monitor wildlife and conservation areas in the state. Resource Watch program participants can assist in certain wildlife management efforts and in the monitoring of specific areas at least twice a month to report any activity that threatens wildlife and the environment. For more information, contact your local conservation police officer or IDNR at (217)782-6431.

The EcoWatch Network is a statewide network of volunteer monitoring programs coordinated through IDNR. Adult volunteers and high school science teachers and students monitor rivers, forests, prairies, wetlands and other environments through programs such as the Illinois RiverWatch, ForestWatch, PrairieWatch, WetlandWatch and UrbanWatch. The programs goals are high-quality environmental data collection, increased public awareness and environmental stewardship. For more information, contact IDNR at (217)782-6431.