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Chicago’s Navy Pier reflects on recent green initiatives ahead of Earth Day

The ongoing efforts to renovate the popular tourist destination have yielded many eco-friendly changes


A new ferris wheel, planned hotel, scenic lookout, and expanded Chicago Shakespeare Theater aren’t the only changes expected in the process of transforming the Windy City’s popular Navy Pier attraction. In honor of this weekend’s Earth Day—and planned ‘March for Science’ mass protest—the Pier’s leadership have announced a number of perhaps less noticeable but no less important sustainability improvements for the lakefront tourist destination.

As part of the multi-phase Centennial Vision master plan to reimagine the Pier as a contemporary, more efficient, and better-programmed urban park space, these green initiatives include expanded park space, comprehensive conservation measures, improved storm water management, the use of recycled local materials, and better bike and pedestrian access.

According to a release from Navy Pier’s management, recent green practices have yielded the following encouraging results:

- Expansion and development of a 13-acre green space, now known as Polk Bros Park

- Planting of approximately 200 hundred new native and appropriately adapted trees

- Potential annual water savings of nearly 370,000 gallons due to water conservation efforts

- 1.5 tons of storm water sediment kept out of Lake Michigan per year

- 43,000 square feet of permeable pavement installed throughout the Pier to help divert rain water to planter irrigation

- 80 percent lighting energy reduction in Festival Hall as a result of switching to LED lights

- 60 percent reduction of overall energy consumption Pier-wide through the selection of efficient lighting, sensors, pumps, aerators and more

- Landfill diversion of 16 percent in 2016 due to concentrated recycling initiatives

- Solar-powered recycling receptacles throughout its campus

The culmination of these efforts recently earned Navy Pier Gold level certification under the Sustainable SITES Initiative rating system. “We are honored to receive SITES certification from such a prestigious and highly regarded organization,” said Marilynn Gardner, President and CEO of Navy Pier Inc. via official release.

A rendering of the new play fountain at Polk Bros Park which now serves as Navy Pier’s western “front lawn.”
Navy Pier

“Creating a model of sustainability for not only Chicago, but institutions around the world, was at the forefront of our minds as we embarked on the re-imagination of the Pier’s public space,” continued Gardner.

Future improvements include a landscaped "wildflower hill" slated for the northern portion of Polk Bros and the installation of LED fixtures in the Aon Grand Ballroom, Lakeview Terrace, Pier Park, and loading dock. Navy Pier has also entered into a five-year “Green-e certified” renewable energy credit contract to cover 100 percent of its energy usage.

The Pier’s announcement comes on the heels of a recent pledge by the City of Chicago to transition all of its buildings to use 100% renewable energy by 2025.