News & Events

Green Cities Challenge Champions

Author: Jean Ponzi, Green Resources Manager at the Missouri Botanical Garden's Earthways Center


Granite City Solar for All site – Granite City was chosen for funding for siting, construction, and operation of a solar farm to serve income-qualified subscribers. Granite City Cool Cities leaders Linda and Ken Aud are pictured at the site. (Photo credit: Jean Ponzi)


Since 2010, the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, a program of the Missouri Botanical Garden, has helped businesses improve their “triple bottom line” (fiscal, social, and environmental). The Green Cities Challenge is an extension of the Green Business Challenge tailored for municipalities, allowing municipalities to share ‘green’ success stories and learn from each other. In December of 2023, Green Cities Challenge participants were recognized for the groundbreaking achievements below. (Please note, registration for the 2024 Challenge opens on February 1. The Green Cities Challenge participation fee is $400, which includes two seminars, a site visit with customized coaching, ongoing phone and email support, and multiple networking and learning events and opportunities. Visit to register and learn more.)


In the City of Alton, Illinois, plans to proliferate equitable solar power are transforming a landfill site. Alton’s Cool Cities Committee is also restructuring as the Climate Protection and Energy Efficiency Committee.

The City of Brentwood, Missouri adopted a Sustainability Plan, began a Parks & Recreation Master Planning process with sustainability as a guiding force, and approved an MOU with Missouri Botanical Garden to start design for an Urban Wetland.

The City of Clayton, Missouri continues a long commitment to sustainability leadership, this year repurposing sediment from Oak Knoll Pond renovation for new landscaping in Anderson Park - and completing a Street & Parks Tree Inventory to implement Best Management Practices for City Trees.  

In the City of Collinsville, Illinois, a Parks & Recreation educational “Sustainability Series” promoted ecological practices for residents of all ages. Two years into action from Collinsville’s Sustainability Plan, staff and citizen leaders completed a Progress Report Card.

Leadership from the Cool Cities Advisory Committee continued inthe City of Edwardsville, Illinois, through new events promoting Bike to Breakfast and composting, and passage of a sales tax to purchase Green Space - and support pensions.

Green Planning is strong in the Village of Glen Carbon, Illinois, including completing a first phase Master Trail and Park Plan, pursuing an Energy Master Plan for village buildings and operations, and re-drafting the Landscape Ordinance to specify tree species and green space requirements.

Sustainability Commission leaders in the Village of Godfrey, Illinois are using a grant from the Illinois Forestry Department to educate residents and municipal workers to identify and manage invasive plants. Godfrey’s Widman Trail Extension is providing a native plant project template to guide planning and construction of new trails.

The Cool Cities Committee powers on in Granite City, Illinois! A Tree Ordinance and Tree Board are in the works, toward becoming a Tree City USA. Their completed Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan will connect Granite City to Madison County Transit trails.

Highland, Illinois, the northernmost community in Green Cities Challenge, upgraded all streetlights with LED fixtures and updated city software to reduce paper use and staff time, and streamline processes for citizens. Volunteers helped city staff redirect the Silver Lake Nature trail and install water bars to reduce sediment entering Silver Lake.

Recycling education in the City of Maplewood, Missouri used the city’s website, social media and newsletters to circulate the regional message Recycle Responsibly – Stick with the Six!”The Sustainability Commission completed a feasibility study on installing solar lighting for residential streets, and the city updated street and City Hall lighting with LEDs.

With a grant from our St. Louis-Jefferson Solid Waste District,the City of Webster Groves, Missouri hired a Sustainability Coordinator – who is overseeing a Greenhouse Gas Inventory, as directed by the city’s Sustainability Plan. Landscaping campaigns No Mow April and Leave the Leaves proved even more popular than expected – they are being picked up by neighboring communities!

Sustainability efforts in the City of Wentzville, Missouri, are led by the stormwater staff. This year theypartnered with Missouri Stream Team to convene employees from area municipalities and counties for training in water quality data collection and stream quality protection. This model will be used throughout the state!

The St. Louis Green Business Challenge thanks many who have supported the challenge, including Madison County Planning and Zoning for sponsoring Green Cities Challenge participation for their county communities; Dan Jay, who was the personal force launching the Green Cities Challenge during his tenure as CFO of Christner, Inc.; and OneSTL.