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Our 2023 Annual Report is here!

Executive Director's Statement

There were a few big wins for local circularity in 2023: Plant Chicago served on the working group that helped to develop the Chicago Building Decarbonization Plan and our food scrap drop off model was an inspiration for a much larger program rolled out by the city. The cherry on top was that Plant Chicago was honored at the first Climate Infrastructure Fund award ceremony which will support decarbonization projects across the city.

Plant Chicago’s work is a highly localized part of a broader transition to circularity. There are certainly other amazing organizations working to advance circular economies in the city, but Plant Chicago is the only one that is explicit about changing an entire economic system. To some, the idea of changing a system is overwhelming. Or absurd. For me, it is inspiring.

I have the benefit of getting to eavesdrop on a diverse set of workshops at Plant Chicago. Some of my favorites are about fungi, which the more I learn of them the more they amaze me. Fungi are the ecological equivalent of circular economy facilitators. They are traders, exchanging nutrients with plants in exchange for sugars. They take matter that is at its end of life, use that matter for their energy, and repurpose that matter into forms that other life can use. Their “waste” is just another life forms’ opportunity. Fungi are also the hallmark of healthy and diverse ecosystems.

Much like fungi, Plant Chicago is made up of an incredible community of facilitators and connectors. By offering opportunities to divert materials from landfills, our building is serving as a hub for circular economy practices. A visitor recently told me “There should be a Plant Chicago in every city”. And I thought what if there was an organization like Plant Chicago in every neighborhood? Jonathan Pereira A place where you can find locally and sustainably grown produce on a sliding scale and farmers markets with opportunities to swap and not just shop. 

A place where students have a chance to learn how to harvest greens or grow mushrooms in February or where you can sign up for a workshop with an experienced local farmer for free. A place where can you drop off batteries and food scraps, pick up compost, swap some clothes, and connect with local small businesses that are reducing waste.  On any given day at Plant Chicago I might see a school group making salad from lettuce just harvested, a local farmer teaching neighbors how to process honey, and a neighbor picking up a box of local produce on a sliding scale at a price that they determine they can afford.

2024 will be the year that we take our role as facilitators even further as we finally move forward on our big plans to renovate and decarbonizing our firehouse. We anticipate making some big upgrades to the building to improve accessibility, aesthetics, functionality, and sustainability so that our programs and events can reach even more people.

I can hardly wait for what this coming year will bring. 


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