Our team is so excited to share Plant Chicago's annual report with you! In addition to testimonials that make us proud to work here and some testimonials that make us laugh, you'll find programmatic impacts in education, small business support, food access, waste diversion, and more. The accomplishments outlined in the document below would not have been possible without support (of all kinds) from our community. Thank you for being part of the Plant Chicago story!
Executive Director's Statement:
It’s hard to believe that when the year began, we were still in pandemic-mode, spending the first few months working with local partners to host vaccination events. By the end of the year, our home at The Firehouse was vibrant again and filled with a wide range of people and activities. Throughout the pandemic, time seems to have stretched in a way where events from last year somehow feel both like forever ago and like they happened yesterday. That sense is even greater as I reflect upon just how much our Plant Chicago community accomplished in 2022.
For years, Plant Chicago has offered workshops and educational programs to a diverse range of communities; in our 12-year history, we’ve hosted groups from every continent except Antarctica! It was neat to see that kind of geographic diversity return to our programming this past year. We led circular economy programming for people from Africa, Europe, and Oceania, including professional athletes representing Sail Grand Prix!
Even more exciting was the return of local school groups. Our education team hosted over 1,500 youth, from Altgeld Gardens to Rogers Park. It is hard not to smile hearing the squeals of 5th graders from the neighborhood touching worms and fungi in our labs or when local high school students figure out how to assemble demonstration aquaponic systems faster than the adults. A group of high schoolers might enter our building looking skeptical but I see them leaving energized, excited to bring what they learned back to their schools and communities.
In April, the Mayor of Chicago visited Plant Chicago to release the City’s Climate Action Plan. We had the opportunity to host the Mayor and her team, along with a bevy of reporters and local climate leaders. The fact that the Mayor’s team selected our Firehouse as the location to release the plan is a testament to the inspired efforts of our incredible staff and partners.
While it is hard to know for certain, it is my belief that what draws such a diverse set of people to work with Plant Chicago is our people. There is a visible integrity, joy, and friendliness that our staff, volunteers, and partners bring to our shared work. Plant Chicago’s mission to cultivate local circular economies is not just about reducing waste, pollution, and carbon emissions, it’s the commitment to doing so in partnership with so many deeply dedicated peer organizations. Last year, we worked with over a dozen different local organizations to provide services at The Firehouse that ranged from vaccine clinics and health fairs, to clothing drives, and cultural celebrations for all ages. These types of events are not explicitly a part of our mission, but they are integral to the health and happiness of our local community.
Ultimately, cultivating local circular economies must involve much more than materials and money; this is why Plant Chicago prioritizes work with a diverse set of stakeholders including small businesses, farmers, local schools, Southwest Side residents, volunteers, and low-income families.
What good is diverting materials from landfills if the most vulnerable of us are left out?
What good is fighting the climate crisis if our economy only benefits the few?
I hope you keep these thoughts in mind as you read through our collective accomplishments from 2022.