Lisa Gerhold-Dirks is an advocate for the environment and, as such, has become an advocate for all of Elmhurst.
As Chair of Elmhurst Cool Cities Coalition (2011-present), Lisa was the driving force behind Building a Sustainable City: Environmental Accomplishments in the Elmhurst Community (2013), documenting the sustainability efforts of community organizations throughout Elmhurst. It is the first time these efforts have been compiled in one document, which serves as a showpiece to recognize the collective sustainability efforts of, as well as bring new environmentally-conscious residents and businesses to, the Elmhurst community.
In 2013, Lisa brought the idea of a Sustainability Task Force to the City of Elmhurst’s Development, Planning and Zoning Committee. Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley announced the formation of the City’s Task Force in May 2014, and appointed Lisa as Chair. Under Lisa’s direction, the Task Force will set sustainability goals, and create a sustainability plan focusing on water, land use, energy conservation, waste reduction, and transportation.
Through seminars, presentations and media, Lisa works to educate the community on home energy efficiency, which improves the comfort of one’s home, saves money, and reduces a homeowner’s carbon footprint. In 2012, Lisa partnered Cool Cities with the League of Women Voters to educate voters on electricity aggregation, and urged city leaders to offset Elmhurst’s purchase with renewable energy credits (RECs). During the 2014 electricity aggregation negotiations, Lisa educated city leaders on the benefits of a cleaner energy mix which resulted in a negotiated contract that improved Elmhurst’s energy mix from 44% coal to 14% coal, reducing carbon emissions.
In addition to energy efficiency and electricity aggregation, Lisa has expanded Cool Cities’ programming to cover genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), bee keeping, organic lawn care, fracking, composting and more.
Lisa’s environmental work goes beyond Cool Cities in tirelessly efforts to educate Hawthorne Elementary School students, staff and parents on conservation issues. As the former Hawthorne PTA Go Green Committee Chair, Lisa planned Earth Week celebrations, waste free lunch, a lunchroom waste audit, the Great Donation Day, recycled art projects, eco poetry contest, vehicle idling awareness, shoe drives, holiday lights collections, and year-round collections of books, batteries, broken crayons, worn out markers, empty glue bottles and sticks, and more. She was the driving force behind Hawthorne earning the Earth Flag from SCARCE.
Since 2011, Lisa has played a leading role in the creation of Hawthorne Elementary School’s Outdoor Classroom. After two years of planning, hundreds of hours of work, writing grant applications, obtaining donations, and preparing learning materials, Hawthorne dedicated its Outdoor Classroom in May 2013. The learning space allows students to study earth sciences, native Illinois prairie plants, weather, plant life cycle, and insects and butterflies. Lisa was instrumental throughout the process, and part of a team (teachers and PTA Green Space parents) to earn the 2012 Thiems Grant Award of $1,000 to continue construction of the outdoor space.
Under Lisa’s direction, Hawthorne Elementary applied for and won a prestigious Chicago Wilderness Conservation and Native Landscaping Award for its Outdoor Classroom. The award acknowledges Hawthorne for its leadership in restoring biodiversity to its Outdoor Classroom. Even after the Outdoor Classroom had been constructed and the awards had been won, Lisa continues to work
to ensure the Outdoor Classroom continues to provide educational opportunities for students. As part of her ongoing efforts, each Spring, students harvest vegetables from the vertical garden and include them in a lunchroom salad bar. She has also organized a daily classroom snack fruit and vegetable scraps collection for composting on-site at Hawthorne.
In her spare time, Lisa is a freelance graphic designer. She is married (Eric) with two sons (Kendall and Spencer).