RESEARCH + CIRCULAR ECONOMY PROJECTS
We partner with academics, small businesses, and citizen scientists on a variety of projects on economizing "waste".
Aquaculture and hydroponics combined allows us to raise fish and grow produce without soil. The fish "waste" fertilizes the plants. Our current systems, which feature tilapia and perch, are primarily for educational use and can been seen on site at The Firehouse.
An efficient method for processing waste, our bioreactor produced Spirulina, a brightly colored, fast-growing and nutritious algae—perfect for homemade fish food. Nutrients produced by the tilapia from the aquaponics farm were used as an input to this system. We also explored the potential for algae to scrub C02 from brewing operations. Read the report.
Composting with fungi + worms
More businesses are shifting to so called "compostable" plastics made from renewable resources. We tested the various decomposition rates in some common and uncommon forms of home composting systems, from worm bins to fungus beds. Read the report.
There are many different methods for growing plants for food indoors, and over the years we have experimented with quite a few, including the Kratky method. We are now piloting the first indoor shared use growing space: the Indoor Victory Garden.
Explore academic posters that highlight the industrial ecology research from some of our partner institutions, University of Illinois at Chicago and Illinois Institute of Technology. Ranging from food waste and circular agriculture to thought experiments and systems thinking, there's something to intrigue everyone! See an example project.
We work with businesses onsite to conduct waste audits. Waste audits are a useful tool for quantifying, classifying, and managing waste. The type and amount of waste being generated by an organization is quantified, which helps to inform decision-making and is an opportunity for both us and an organization to learn more about waste!
See an example here.
To spark conversations about waste, we created a "museum" of various types of waste from small businesses. By being able to look at all these materials together, we can look for new ways to close waste streams through another lens! Stop by to view all these materials and help us brainstorm new opportunities.
These fungi do not form mushrooms, but partner with the roots of most vascular plants to create ecosystem-building symbioses. Plants that are myceliated by mycorrhizal fungi are more drought and heat resilient, and produce more abundance. We are searching for these fungi and exploring their impact on plant growth. Read the blog.
Utilizing coffee chaff from 4 Letter Word coffee, as well as binders such as beeswax from Bike a Bee, Plant Chicago experimented with the creation of a compostable alternative to paper plates. Since these plates are made entirely with food ingredients, they're also edible! Take 'zero waste' to the next level by eating your plate! Read the report.
Plant Chicago experimented with various "waste" materials from Whiner Brewery and 4 Letter Word Coffee and turning it into a combustible fuel source. We also experimented with using the briquettes to offset wood consumption in Pleasant House's wood fired oven. Waste is an opportunity! Read the report.
Sustainable Fish Feed
Growing your own fish feed is an effective way to reduce both the expense of feeding fish, and the environmental impact that standard commercial feeds impose. We've experimented with the cultivation of mealworms and duckweed. We’ve experimented with homemade fish food recipes and using biomaterials such as spent brewers grain to increase nutrition while lowering costs.
Textiles from SCOBYs
We worked with Arize Kombucha and Kombuchade to create a vegan alternative to leather. Using the Symbiotic Community Of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY) used to make kombucha, we were able to create a durable, flexible, and appealing leather-like product! Read the report.