Environmental Defenders of McHenry County

Citizens working for a healthy environment

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Mission Statement 

The Environmental Defenders of McHenry County is a citizen organization dedicated to the preservation and improvement of the environment. We are committed to building sound ecological relationships between people and the natural world that supports all life.

To achieve the aim of environmental preservation and improvement, we provide the community with educational programs and volunteer action on pollution prevention, sustainable land use and energy and natural resource conservation.

We advocate policies which protect drinking water supplies and conserve land for open space and agriculture. We demonstrate waste reduction through recycling drives and reuse centers. We encourage natural resource protection through native landscaping and stream protection programs.

BYOBag McHenry County


The BYOBag McHenry County committee is an advocacy group of the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County and currently has ten Defenders members. 


The BYOBag Committee was organized in the fall of 2013 with the purpose of reducing the number of single use plastic bags in our county and asking McHenry County residents to bring their own, reusable bags when shopping anytime, anywhere.  


The committee represents the whole of beautiful McHenry County, IL, home to the newly established Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge; acres of open space; old growth oak forests; farmland and prairies; rivers and wetlands. We understand environmental issues know no borders and encourage neighboring counties to mirror our efforts as we join the many cities and counties across the United States that have already done their part to reduce the use of plastic bags. 


We are working right now, reaching out to businesses, schools and towns to bring about change.  This is a team effort that can have lasting, positive effects for our communities in many ways.


There are certain things we need in life and there are certain things that we can simply live without.  When the latter (i.e. plastic bags) have also proven to cause long-lasting degradation to our environment, polluting waterways, overflowing landfills, and harming wildlife, it is time to make a culture shift from our “convenience” lifestyle toward a more responsible, sustainable and globally minded one.  Reflecting on the THREE Rs, it is “REDUCE” that comes first.  REDUCE, REUSE & then RECYCLE. If one person can shop without using plastic (or paper!) bags, we all can. 


The committee strongly supports a teamwork approach to helping shape the future of a plastic bag-free McHenry County, working with local governing bodies, businesses, and schools. Our goal is to encourage a dialogue in all towns in McHenry County.  Common language and logo representing our efforts will unite the movement toward reducing our use of plastic bag, as well as paper bags.  

Towns in our county may consider new regulations, rules or ordinances for deeper change leading to the sustainability of this program into our future and for future generations. Such change could reflect the complete absence of plastic bags at checkout and a charge for paper bags.  Other options might be a charge for both plastic and paper, a practice already incorporated into Aldi stores today, for example. There are many examples and lessons from which to draw from around the country, including from our neighbor to the east, Chicago. 

Near-term plans for continued committee work include finalizing language for a consistent educational outreach message that can be adopted by all towns in McHenry County and communicated to residents through village/city Web sites and newsletters; addressing the McHenry County Council of Governors; launching a school-based reusable bag poster contest; continued outreach to area businesses; and, very importantly, helping towns move toward legislation in the not too distant future that will help bring about lasting change.

“Bring Your Own Bag” McHenry County! 

Join our committee and work to help your town become plastic bag free.

Contact information:

Cynthia W. Kanner

Chair, BYOBag McHenry County Committee

Environmental Defenders of McHenry County


What have we been up to lately?


·     Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge – served as fiscal agent for friends’ group

·     Farmland Preservation – served on Local Foods Taskforce to increase viability of small farms and promote local foods; advocated successfully for increased agritourism opportunities for small farmers in the County’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO)

·     Water Resources Preservation - Created Silver and Sleepy Hollow Creeks Watershed Plan; formed and facilitate SSHCW Coalition; facilitate the McHenry County Watershed Roundtable; member of FREP, KREP, Fox River Study Group; advocated successfully for watershed protection in County’s UDO

·     Green Infrastructure – helped with effort to create Green Infrastructure Plan for McHenry County; advocated successfully for inclusion of green infrastructure protection in County’s UDO



·     River clean-ups – collaborate with Sierra Club and SSHCW Coalition to conduct two or three river clean-ups each year around the county; conduct It’s Our River Day annually in Algonquin in collaboration with the village

·     Recycling - hold monthly recycling drives to collect items that are not collected curbside; annual Earth Day Recycling Drive; collaborate with County Health Department for annual Spring recycling drive; recycle at special events – Mozart Festival, Nippersink Music Festival, Wasted Plains Festival, Pickle Palooza, etc.; collaborating with County Fair Board and Ecossential Solutions, Inc. to begin recycling program at County Fair; small-business cardboard recycling project; electronics restoration project; serve on Lou Marchi Total Recycling Institute planning group

·     Native Habitat Protection – collaborate with MCCD, CL Park District, and SSHCW Coalition for multiple habitat restoration workdays each year in Silver & Sleepy Hollow Creeks Watersheds; reestablishing habitat restoration work on two roadside prairies – Triangle Prairie in Woodstock and O’Brian Prairie north of Greenwood; conduct annual workdays on Defenders’ and Soil and Water Conservation District’s properties in Woodstock

·     Transportation Planning – advocated for “complete streets” planning in County’s 2040 Transportation Plan; collaborated with McHenry County Bicycle Advocates to collect hundreds of signatures for bicycle lanes/paths in the Plan; met with IDOT representatives to preserve oaks and Sleepy Hollow Creek in Hwy. 31 widening project

·     Miscellaneous – served on taskforces to create McHenry County’s Wind Energy Ordinance, Solid Waste Reduction Plan, Water Resources Action Plan

·     Proposed Oakwood Hills power plant: The Water Resources committee met to formulate questions and concerns about this proposal, and presented them to the Oakwood Hills zoning board on Thursday, July 24. We continue to monitor this development due to our concerns about the water usage. You can read the Defenders' comments HERE, and the Silver Sleepy Hollow Creeks Watershed Coalition comments HERE.



·     Earth Day Celebration – annual event at Prairieview Education Center in collaboration with MCCD – multiple committees’ activities

·     It’s Our River Day – annual event on Fox River in collaboration with Village of Algonquin – presentations and educational materials

·     Tabling at events – environmental information provided at Algonquin Conservation Day, Natural Landscaping Seminar, Garden Fest, Green Living Expo, McHenry County Fair, music festivals, and at our documentary showings

·     Environmental Documentaries – show several documentaries annually at MCC in collaboration with Lou Marchi Total Recycling Institute and the MCC Sustainability Center – examples:  Gasland, Bag It!, Sun Come Up, Queen of the Sun, Chasing Ice, The Price of Sand, etc.

·     BYO Bag McHenry County – beginning educational campaign to reduce plastic bag use in County

·     Green Drinks – in 5th year of serving on planning group and facilitating monthly Green Drinks events at Dukes

·     State & Regional Environmental Issues – collaborate with Illinois Environmental Council and Environmental Law and Policy Center to educate and advocate about broader issues that affect our county


Fundraising Efforts, including our Green Spot Used Book Store, used books sales, Eco-friendly Food and Beer Fest at Duke's, Pioneer Tree Farm Christmas tree sales, County Fair ticket sales, Use-It-Again Garage Sales





Upcoming Events and Announcements:

(also see Calendar link above)

Office Hours: Monday through Thursday, 10 am - 4:30 pm

Book Store Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 11 am - 4 pm. Saturday 11am - 3pm

Defenders' McHenry & Woodstock Recycling Drives

We hold a monthly recycling drive on the second Saturday of each month, alternating between McHenry & Woodstock, McHenry in odd-numbered months and Woodstock in even-numbered months.

***the Defender WOODSTOCK recycling drives have moved! At the old location, we had a problem with incoming cars being backed up onto the street - not a safe situation! The new location has a circular drive which will allow folks bringing materials to line up off the road. Click HERE for more info.***

Our next collection of fluorescent tubes, batteries (household, rechargeable, car, and button), and clean polystyrene foam (AKA Styrofoam) will be in McHenry on Saturday, September 13th, from 9 am until noon. Click the link below for the address and more information. A donation will be requested for fluorescent bulbs, batteries, monitors and televisions brought in.

We also collect packing peanuts, re-useable bubble wrap, and electronics such as computers, phones, printers, electronic toys, etc. A donation is requested to recycle TVs and computer monitors (suggested donation is $10 - $35 depending on size) We can also take VHS tapes, CDs, DVDs, etc.

Now you can donate aluminum cans at both the McHenry and Woodstock drives, but we will no longer be paying for them. The donation will help fund our educational and advocacy programs.

USAgain Clothes Collection System will be providing a truck at each drive to accept any kind of cloth items—clothing, linens, or just plain rags, clean and preferably put into a bag.  They will also accept shoes, tied together by their laces and placed in the bag.

Become a new member of the Defenders at the recycling drive, at the $50 level or higher, and get two coupons to recycle a television or monitor for FREE!

Home Depot & Ace Hardware will take your compact fluorescent bulbs for recycling at no charge.

read more here...

The Green Spot Used Books Store

110 S Johnson Street, Suite 104

Woodstock IL 60098


Visit the Defenders' Green Spot used book store, across the hall from the office. We have a continually rotating supply of good used books and gift items, all at incredible prices, and all proceeds help the Defenders.


Book donations are welcome. You can drop them off anytime we're open, or you can use our book bin, located on Johnson Street just to the left of the building, day or night!


Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11am - 4pm and Saturday 11am - 3pm.


Volunteer Opportunities 

  • Phone person wanted. Anytime we need volunteers for an event, we do a lot of calling, and can use help. You can do this from your home or at the Defenders' office - we'll provide a script with all the information you'll need. Let us know if this is something you'd like to help us with.
  • Help at our monthly recycling drives is always appreciated.
  • Big Fall Book Sale help - September 14 through October 5. We are going to be VERY ambitious this year, and run two sales at once - one at Algonquin Township in Crystal Lake, and one at the Soil & Water District in Woodstock, so we'll need LOTS of help! You can see when we need help and sign up by clicking HERE!
  • Green Spot Resale – We can always use volunteers to help sort and price book donations, Mondays - Saturdays, anytime between 11am-4pm.
  • Speakers Bureau - we often get calls from groups looking for someone to do a presentation for them. If you enjoy public speaking, let us know the topics you can cover, and we'll add you to our list.

Volunteers needs for specific events, such as book sales, are often listed here:

Click to View Volunteer Opportunities on VolunteerSpot

Contact the office at mcdef@owc.net or call 815-338-0393. Thanks!


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Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, 110 South Johnson Street, Suite 106, Woodstock, Illinois 60098
815-338-0393  mcdef@owc.net