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Funding for environmental group faces hurdles

SCARCE, located at 799 Roosevelt Road in Glen Ellyn, could lose its funding from DuPage County this summer. (Michelle Manchir/TribLocal)

SCARCE, located at 799 Roosevelt Road in Glen Ellyn, could lose its funding from DuPage County this summer. (Michelle Manchir/TribLocal)

DuPage County could find a way to continue funding and keep afloat a popular environmental advocacy group based in Glen Ellyn, some county board members said Tuesday.

The county’s current $155,750 contract with School & Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education, or SCARCE, ends June 30, and the county board has not set aside funding for the group beyond that date.

Discussion about the issue moved to the forefront at the county environmental committee’s meeting Tuesday morning, when more than a dozen SCARCE advocates spoke to board members about the ways the group has saved money for businesses and schools and implemented composting and recycling programs throughout the county.

Board member Dick Enger, of Winfield, said the county could use cash from its reserves to move some dollars and continue its contract with SCARCE beyond June.

“We have the money,” Enger said. “It’s can we justify the program and I think they more than justified the program.”

Among its activities, the group teaches area schools and businesses how to be environmentally responsible, often saving money on electric bills, and presenting them with Earth flags, said Kay McKeen, the group’s founder. Other projects include school and teacher workshops about composting, recycling, pollution and water conservation.  The county funding makes up the majority of the group budget, which pays for its three full-time staff members, its lease at a Glen Ellyn office park and its many training sessions and workshops in schools and businesses. Programs would be cut dramatically and staff would be laid off without the county funding, McKeen has said.

Jeff Redick, chairman of the environmental committee, said Tuesday the money typically used to fund SCARCE’s contract is decreasing as development in the county wanes. Funding for the SCARCE contract came from permit fees and tipping fees, he said.

“We’re trying to do more with less and dealing with this program is just one of the things that we’re taking a look at,” Redick said.

Board member Bill Bedrossian, of Wheaton, said the group may want to consider alternative ways to fund  programs.

“The funding is not going to continue forever from a government source,” he said.

The comments from board members came after SCARCE advocates addressed them during the meeting’s public comment period.

Mike Richard, an assistant to the president for NOW Foods in Bloomingdale, told the board the company has felt the positive economic impact SCARCE’s green and waste audits can have on a private business. NOW was among SCARCE’s first for-profit companies to earn an Earth flag, and since working with the group the company has cut in half the amount of waste it produces, Richard said.

“We’re recycling so much,” he said, adding that some customers are drawn to NOW Foods because of their environmentally friendly efforts.

“There is a social consciousness now for people that are buying,” he said. “It’s the quality of the product that you’re buying but also what that company stands for.”

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