Stewardship of our Natural Resources

Posted on: July 20, 2018

By definition, stewardship means to care for, manage, shepherd or protect something or someone. Stewardship of natural resources relates to the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land we inhabit, the lakes and oceans we swim in, the mountains we climb, and the forests we stroll through. Caring for these resources requires effort by all of us – we share this space and so will future families for years to come.

On a local level, we are fortunate to have access to clean drinking water. We give little thought to all the processes required that ensure water appears at the twist of a handle and that it is safe. However, our local waterways are another story. While rivers may not catch on fire like they did in the 50’s and 60’s, most lakes, rivers, and streams still contain many pollutants such as oils, fertilizers, herbicides, road salt, debris, to dangerous viruses and bacteria.

It is no different with our air – it could be better. While most of us don’t live next to an oil refinery, chemical plant, or coal-fired power plant, we do live in proximity to Chicago. The American Lung Association gave the city an “F” grade in its 2018 State of the Air Report, due to ground level ozone pollution. Transportation emissions are a large culprit affecting air quality and our roadways, airways and railways are non-stop traffic. Perhaps it is time to rethink how much we drive and what we drive.

As far as land goes, much of DuPage County is developed – covered by transportation corridors, businesses, homes, schools, parking lots and more. Back in 2009, approximately 20% of the county was undeveloped. Attempts to search for more recent stats came up empty, but one can assume that over the past nine years, more land has been built upon, rather than abandoned and restored into natural areas. Those open areas help mitigate the impacts of the developed zones, however much of the undeveloped land is severely degraded.

Protecting nature resources is vital to our own wellbeing. We know that our actions are taking their toll on this planet, yet many of us continue to live as though everything will be alright. We cannot see into the future, so the repetitive assaults on the land, water, and air continue. We leave it up to the regulators, the engineers, the researchers and the scientists to solve the problems. Very few of us internalize that maybe, just maybe, we can solve some of the issues ourselves. If we all take small steps, collectively, we can make big changes. We can make better choices to be better stewards of the resources that cannot defend themselves.


  • The Glen Ellyn Park District is working to enhance local natural areas within parks through ecological restoration efforts. When ecosystems are healthy, they function better. A diverse wetland system is much better at filtering and absorbing toxins and pollutants.
  • We plant trees. A robust tree canopy helps absorb air pollutants, cool the immediate temperature, prevents erosion that could impact water quality, and helps remove toxins from the soils.
  • We utilize more native plants in our landscapes that require less water.
  • We’ve upgraded many of our building systems and lighting to be more energy efficient. The Lake Ellyn Boathouse improvements were awarded with a Gold-level LEED certification (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design).
  • Most parks and facilities have recycling cans to help offset the amount of waste destined for landfills.
  • We have a staff environmental committee and citizen’s environmental committee that work to identify ways to make our parks, programs and facilities greener.
  • We also offer a variety of nature and environmental programs that showcase many of our natural resources.


Take small ‘green’ steps. When traveling locally, consider walking or bicycling if you are able – you’ll lessen your air impact. Many parks, businesses, churches and libraries have bike racks. Send the kids to their sports and activities with reusable water bottles. Many of our fountains now have the ‘bottle filler’ option. Help improve local green spaces by joining us for an ecological work day, held on the second Saturday of each month from 9 – 11 AM in different parks. Take a nature class, we offer several each season.

Here are five more easy ways to be a better natural resource steward:

  1. Use reusable shopping bags – the world needs less plastic bags.
  2. Shut off your car when waiting for a train – idling causes air pollution.
  3. Buy locally grown food – tomatoes from the backyard taste far better than ones that were picked weeks earlier and shipped from hundreds if not thousands of miles away.
  4. Take the Pick-Up 5 challenge – pick up five pieces of trash during a walk.
  5. Recycle – all that you can.