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

Our mission is to cultivate local circular economies.

We envision a future where the shift in production, consumption and waste is driven at the local level, generating equity and economic opportunity for all residents.

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.


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 collaborative community of food businesses in Chicago’s Back of the Yards.

Staff: Details


  • Jonathan Pereira, Executive Director

    Jonathan Pereira Executive Director

    Previous to Plant Chicago, Pereira worked in informal science education for over 15 years. 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 developed numerous innovative programs such as Greencorps Youth Program (Chicago), and the Greentrack at Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School (New York). He holds a BS in Geology and Spanish from Bates College and a MEd in Science Education from UIC.

    As the Executive Director of Plant Chicago, he’s working to bring the circular economy to life in Chicago. He sees a future where businesses work together to ensure that both local economies and environments are thriving.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Stef Funk Education Associate

    Stef is a Southside Chicago native who has worked with local schools and museums to improve their environmental education programs. After receiving her degree in Environmental Science from Clark University, she conducted climate change research abroad and has worked as a community organizer on several environmental campaigns. She is primarily interested in how urban areas interact with their surrounding ecosystems and how that relates to food sovereignty. She is excited to involve Chicago youth in different environmental stewardship programs and urge them to contribute to Plant Chicago’s mission of creating circular economies!

  • Damiane Nickles Market Coordinator

    Coming from Brooklyn, NY, Damiane has been involved with The Plant and Plant Chicago since October 2017. Damiane received a B.F.A. from Syracuse University in Illustration and Commercial Arts and then went on to work in branding and graphic design in New York City. After moving to Chicago in 2017 to pursue a career in culinary arts, Damiane arrived at Plant Chicago through his work at Closed Loop Farms and his interest in working in the sustainable food space. He is passionate about providing access to sustainable and responsible food systems and building brands in the food space.

  • André Nogueira 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.

  • Annie Brinkman Graphic Design Intern

    Annie is a rising senior at Dayton University studying Graphic Design, and simultaneously earning her graduate certificate in Nonprofit and Community Leadership. She is interested in the ways in which design interacts with public and urban spaces. Her personal research and honors thesis focuses on how environmental, historical, social and cultural landscapes affect ones perception of place, and how design can then be a means to actively change perception or promote a better understanding of such spaces. After graduation she hopes to continue research on applying design in the context of social innovation, sustainability, and international development, especially within refugee reintegration.

  • Clarisel Cantarero Research Intern

    Clarisel is born and raised in Chicago’s Logan Square area and has had a chance to experience the farmer’s market culture. Her interests align with engineering, botany, and 3-D visual arts. Currently attending Northern Illinois University for a Mechanical Engineering degree, she hopes to pursue a career in the food industry relating to food production. As a means of learning aquaponics in depth, she hopes to find room for change and improvement in system design as a means to inspire future projects. She will be working with malabar spinach berries, a plant that is grown in the aquaponic farm, to create sustainable paints.

  • Charlie Cole Research Intern

    Charlie is originally from Oak Park, however currently attends Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. He is studying civil/environmental engineering with a potential minor in gender and sexuality studies. He has a specific interest in sustainability especially how it relates to food production systems and hopes one day to work finding engineering solutions to problems relating to climate change. Outside of academics Charlie plays for the Swarthmore Ultimate Frisbee team and hosts a radio show on campus.
    For his summer with Plant Chicago, Charlie will be constructing a system to breed mealworms to feed the tilapia in the aquaponic farm.

  • Sam Evers Research Intern

    Sam grew up in a town in northeast Pennsylvania called Milford and is currently attending Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  He is pursuing an integrated degree combining Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Development.  His passion for the circular economy revolves around creating a resilient food system that conserves ecosystem services, empowers people with job opportunities and skills training, and gives people ownership over the production and distribution of their food. In his spare time, he enjoys singing in his university’s choir, musical theater, he is involved in interfaith work, and he likes to knit. For his summer with Plant Chicago, he will be experimenting with various waste materials from within the building to manufacture compostable plates.

  • Dana Greene Materials Management Intern

    Dana began her journey with Plant Chicago in January 2018 as a Materials Management Intern. Upon graduating from Arizona State University with a BS in Sustainability and a Certificate in Food Systems, she gratefully extended her role on Plant Chicago’s team. She is interested in further defining what a sustainable food system should look like and is currently researching ways to further divert waste, particularly at Plant Chicago’s farmers markets. Dana is thrilled to be working on creating local, circular economies and couldn’t imagine a better place to do so than with Plant Chicago!

  • Alina Gutierrez Development Intern

    Alina is a native Chicagoan from the southwest side. She is a rising third year at the University of Chicago where she plans to double major in public policy and comparative race and ethnic studies. Her interests lie in bringing education and the necessary resources to underserved and majority minority communities. On campus Alina helps run Mural Magazine, a bilingual piece, and over the summer is a member of a Mexican folklore dance ensemble. She is excited for the opportunity to be working with Plant Chicago and being a part of its involvement with the community.

Board of Directors

  • Chad Flores President

    Chad is the Technical Project Manager at Previously, he was on the founding team at national environmental literacy and work readiness nonprofit Roots of Success, 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.

  • Allison Leifer, Board Member

    Allison Liefer Secretary

    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.

  • 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.

  • Anneli Alers

    Anneli is a structured finance professional at Invenergy LLC, a developer, owner, and operator of power plants, primarily in the renewable energy space. In her role, she leads capital raising transactions to fund utility scale wind and solar projects around the world. Born and raised in Germany, Anneli is passionate about sustainability and waste reduction efforts and is very enthusiastic about Plant Chicago’s vision for promoting circular economies. Anneli holds a B.S. in General Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

  • Twania Brewster

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Julie Williams

    Julie is a Chicago real estate professional with New Urban Property Services. She holds a BA in American History from the University of Chicago and a JD from DePaul University College of Law. Julie has a wide range of professional experience as an attorney, baker, farmers market vendor, specialty cookie decorator, DJ, event planner, and real estate broker. She is passionate about Plant Chicago’s mission and is excited to serve as Chair of its Development Committee. Prior to joining the Board of Directors, Julie was the VP of Fundraising for Plant Chicago’s auxiliary board and has been a member of Plant Chicago’s volunteer community since 2012.

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 Nogueira, 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
Dori Darras, Valdes Engineering Company
Mark Doose, West Monroe Partners
Andre Gordillo, Freight Broker Logistics
Judy Li, Energy Foundry
Nick Lucas, Advocates for Urban Agriculture
Leann Ngo, Environmental Law and Policy Center 
Melissa Pavelack, Advocate Children’s Hospital
Eric Pearson, Xylem
Jenya Polozova, Food and Water Watch 
Eric Pudil, American Airlines
Erica Ruggiero, McGuire Igleski & Associates 
Emily Rhea, Eco Achievers
Tommy Straus, Circular Economy Academic
Justin Tringl, Illinois Institute of Technology
Jackie Wiese, Elevate Energy

Want to learn more? Email us with any inquiries.

Sponsors + Partners

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