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.

  • 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.

  • Stef Funk Education Associate

    Stef is a Southside Chicago native who has worked with various non profits and farmers markets all around the city. After receiving her degree in Environmental Science from Clark University, she has helped design environmental education programs for all ages. She is extremely interested in how urbanized areas interact with their surrounding ecosystems and food security in Chicago. She is excited to involve Chicago youth in different environmental stewardship programs and teach them how 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.

  • 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!

Board of Directors

  • 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.

  • 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 is an experienced sustainability professional currently working at Cushman and Wakefield. She has a passion for urban farming, gardening, local food and circular economy, which came to fruition during her time as the Principle of The Salty Prawn. She currently serves on the Board of Directors at Plant Chicago, Young Friends Council of the Missouri Botanical Gardens and United States Green Building Council Emerging Professionals. She has a BS in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from the University of Illinois and is working on her MBA from Washington 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.

  • Chad Flores

    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

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