Between our dedicated staff and ever-growing legion of extraordinary volunteers, we have centuries of experience building, teaching and revitalizing urban communities. Together, we’re working to change the way we, as a city, think about our food and our environment.

Our Mission

To develop circular economies of food production, energy conservation and material reuse, while empowering people of all backgrounds to make their cities healthier and more efficient.

What is a Circular Economy?

In a circular economy, conventional waste streams from one process are repurposed as inputs for another, creating a circular, closed-loop model of material reuse.

What We Do

We equip people and businesses with the tools to live more sustainably through community-driven, hands-on programs and innovative tech demonstration projects.

History

Plant Chicago is a non-profit organization established in 2011 by John Edel. His company, Bubbly Dynamics, LLC, is also owner and operator of our home, The Plant, a groundbreaking food production space designed to be a net-zero, closed loop system in Chicago’s Back of the Yards.

Staff: Details

Staff

  • Jonathan Pereira, Executive Director

    Jonathan Pereira Executive Director

    Jonathan has over 15 years of experience in science and arts education, primarily in informal and non-traditional learning environments. Specializing in environmental education and youth development programs in urban areas, he has worked with youth in projects ranging from renewable energy to natural resource conservation. He most recently served as Youth Program Manager for Greencorps Chicago, which engaged 800 Chicago Public School students in bike maintenance and horticulture projects across the city.

  • Kassandra Hinrichsen, Education and Outreach Manager

    Kassandra Hinrichsen Education and Outreach Manager

    Kassie has been involved with The Plant and Plant Chicago since December 2013. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Global Studies and Environmental Science, she continued her education while traveling through South America, working on permaculture farms in Ecuador and Colombia. Upon returning to the States, Kassie coordinated an after school farming program at a bilingual elementary school in Tucson, AZ. She is extremely excited to increase Plant Chicago’s engagement with the students and families living in the Back of the Yards community.

  • Liz Lyon, Market Manager

    Liz Lyon Market Manager

    Liz officially joined the Plant Chicago team in April 2015 after volunteering as a tour guide and general painter/deconstruction-helper at The Plant for over a year. She has previously served in outreach roles for several Chicago non-profits and worked with various farms and farmers markets on the South Side. As Market Manager, she’s thrilled to address health, food access and sustainability issues through Plant Chicago’s Farmers Market and Farmstand project.

  • Eric Weber, Technology Coordinator

    Eric Weber Technology Coordinator

    Eric has been with Plant Chicago since 2012, when he started as an Aquaponic Systems Intern. He now leads Plant Chicago’s Technology Demonstration projects, working closely with staff, other building tenants and outside professionals to investigate the latest in food and energy reuse. Previous to Plant Chicago, Eric worked for seven years in the ornamental aquarium industry. After earning a BA in Industrial Design from the University of Illinois at Chicago, he spent five of those years designing, installing and maintaining marine aquariums. He applies his knowledge and experience with living creatures and controlled environment life support technology to explore ways of reusing energy and waste created at The Plant.

  • IMG_8151

    Charles Espedido Development Intern

    Charles is a recent graduate of Loyola University Chicago with a B.S. in Environmental Science: Public Health. His senior capstone focused on concepts of the circular economy and after taking a tour of The Plant, he immediately contacted Plant Chicago for any opportunities to get involved. Now serving as a volunteer and the development intern, Charles wants to further his interests and passions for sustainability, the circular economy, and public health concepts to get the people to participate in healthy behaviors for human and environmental health. He is excited to assist Plant Chicago in organizational development through grant writing, research, and editing.

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    André Nogeira PhD Candidate - Institute of Design

    André Nogueira is an Adjunct faculty and PhD Candidate at the IIT-Institute of Design (ID), Chicago. Before ID, André received a Master of Science’s degree in Urban Planning, Master’s degree in Geography, Cities and Architecture, and a dual major bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Urban Design, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

    André is interested in complex spaces of innovation, multi-systems integration, and sustainable solutions. He has collaborated in the intersection between design and complex problems in the food industry both in Brazil and in the United States. His recent contributions are related to food insecurity among seniors, and systems shift at city scale. Previously he worked on projects related to organization design, business development, sustainable development, urban planning and design, and architecture, in Brazil, Mexico and United States.

Board of Directors

  • ryan

    Ryan Wilson President

    Ryan is a landscape architect working in the fields of infrastructure, community development and innovation at Elevate Energy. He is leading development of new water services that will help affordable housing providers reduce waste and lower costs for providing safe and healthy housing to those who need it most. He has served as faculty at Archeworks and adjunct faculty at the IIT School of Architecture. Ryan is a founding director of Plant Chicago.

  • DarrenMattinson

    Darren Mattinson Treasurer

    Darren is a trader for Gelber Group in global capital markets with experience in finance operations at an education non-profit. He is enthusiastic about the practical demonstration of sustainable systems and is excited to bring his experience to bear in serving as Plant Chicago’s Treasurer. He holds a B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University.

  • Sia Xeros, Secretary

    Sia Xeros Secretary

    Sia is working on making the Chicagoland area a more sustainable, greener place. She serves on the Board of Directors at Plant Chicago and United States Green Building Council Emerging Professionals. Sia also co-founded The Salty Prawn, a sustainable saltwater shrimp aquaponics farms located at The Plant. She has a BS in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from the University of Illinois.

  • John Edel, Founder

    John Edel

    John is the founder of Plant Chicago and owner of Bubbly Dynamics, LLC. After purchasing the building now known as The Plant in July 2010, he immediately began deconstruction and renovation with a vision of intentional reuse, economic development and truly sustainable food. John’s first foray into building redevelopment was the Chicago Sustainable Manufacturing Center, an affordable, energy-efficient space for small and emerging manufacturers, product assemblers and other businesses committed to sustainability. In previous careers, John taught computer graphics, designed sets for broadcast television, art directed video games and worked as a chef on private railroad cars. He has a lifelong dream of combining industrial preservation and plants in a productive, conservatory-like project.

  • ChadFlores

    Chad Flores

    Chad is a social entrepreneur and Deputy Director of Roots of Success, a nonprofit that provides environmental literacy and work readiness curriculum tools to programs across the U.S. Previously, he worked at online fundraising startup Network for Good and social innovation incubator Impact Hub. He holds an MS in Public Service Management from DePaul University and a BS in Biomedical Sciences from Marquette University. Chad is deeply committed to sustainability, social justice, and supporting innovative, high impact projects that serve diverse populations. He is proud to contribute to the movement toward a healthy, environmentally responsible Chicago.

  • Allison Leifer, Board Member

    Allison Liefer

    Allison is Director of Foundation Relationships for the non-profit Common Threads. She holds a BS in Communication from Northwestern University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. Between 2011–2014, Allison served as Manager of Community Initiatives for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and as Programs Director for Girls in the Game. Allison has worked as a writing teacher and editor, and as a pastry cook in two Chicago kitchens. She is thrilled to contribute to the Plant Chicago board, helping build sustainable change in the heart of her home city.

  • Joseph Lopez, Board Member

    Joseph Lopez

    Joe founded Envisage Strategies in 2010 and has over 13 years of knowledge and experience in economic and community development, community engagement and public administration. He has held positions in the State of Illinois and City of Chicago governments, as well as in the public finance/capital markets industry. Joe has extensive experience in public policy development, public health and education, financial/budget analysis and management, community and economic development, performance management, sustainability planning, coalition building, contracts and grants development, management and compliance.

  • Irina Marinescu, Board Member

    Irina Marinescu

    Irina is a finance lawyer focused on helping middle market businesses grow, largely through acquisition finance. Raised in Romania and inspired by a later stint in California, Irina is accustomed to eating local, cares deeply about putting more local greens on the table and feels blessed to have the opportunity to help realize that goal by serving on our Board of Directors.

  • lupe

    Lupe Phillips

    Lupe is an independent meeting/marketing consultant.  She brings 10+ years of experience with the city and state tourism offices.  Lupe enjoys eating organic and locally produced foods and is inspired by Plant Chicago’s mission to provide healthy and nutritious food to the community.  She feels fortunate to work with professionals at Plant Chicago to educate and promote a wholesome way to live and eat.

Advisory Committees

Plant Chicago sub-committees include leaders and professionals from many fields who volunteer their expertise and networks to support our mission.

Our Research Steering Committee is a diverse group of academic and industry professionals who meet twice a year to guide our research projects in circular systems. RSC members include:

Weslynne Ashton, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainability
Stuart School of Business, Illinois Institute of Technology

Nancy Landrum, Ph.D., Professor, Sustainable Business Management
Quinlan School of Business, Loyola University

John Mulrow, Ph.D. candidate, NSF Research Fellow
University of Illinois 

Andre Nogeira, Ph.D candidate
Institute of Design

Shantanu Pai, Sustainability Researcher
Illinois Sustainable Technology Center

Sabina L. Shaikh, Ph.D., Director, Program on Global Environment
Senior Lecturer, Environmental Studies and Public Policy Studies
University of Chicago

Zach Waickman, Biodiesel Lab Manager, Sustainable Business Management
Loyola University

 

Plant Chicago’s Education Advisory Committee brings together educators to help develop our educational programming for the coming school year. Our EAC is typically composed of educators from our local partners schools. In 2016-17, these included Chavez Elementary, Sawyer Elementary, Hamline Elementary, and Hedges Elementary.

Plant Chicago’s Auxiliary Board organizes fundraising and community outreach events throughout the year.

Rohit Agarwal, West Monroe Partners
Gene Beil, Independent project creator
Dominique Edwards, Medical Home Network
Kate Even, KMI Software
Rebecca Geissler, United Airlines
Ian Goller, Academic Approach
Andre Gordillo, Freight Broker Logistics
Judy Li, Energy Foundry
Nick Lucas, Advocates for Urban Agriculture
Tracy Meyer, Oracle
Melissa Pavelack, Advocate Children’s Hospital
Eric Pearson, Xylem
Eric Pudil, American Airlines
Emily Rhea, Eco Achievers
Justin Tringl, Illinois Institute of Technology
Jackie Wiese, Elevate Energy
Julie Williams, SchoolSparrow

 

Want to learn more? Email us with any inquiries.

Sponsors + Partners

We work with organizations and institutions across Chicago and the world who share our commitment to sustainable food and energy production, and economic development.

  • Advocates for Urban Agriculture
  • Bubbly Dynamics
  • Experimental Station
  • Back of the Yards Library
  • Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council
  • Back of the Yards Peace and Education Coalition
  • 15th Ward Alderman Raymond Lopez
  • Rebuilding Exchange
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Dominican University