Plant Chicago is piloting the first local circular economy network for small businesses. If your small business is looking to engage in the circular economy, read on!

About the network

A support network for small businesses interested in working with and learning from each other to co-create and cultivate a local circular economy* in Chicago.

The network will provide a diverse array of support to small business members to achieve shared economic success while ensuring that business activities benefit the natural environment and surrounding communities.

Membership in the network will include:

  • Free workshops on “Business 101” and circular economy-specific topics
  • Access to shared resources and information
  • Includes cost-sharing and revenue generating opportunities through shared asset network platform
  • Guided peer-to-peer knowledge sharing activities
  • Technical support from the network
  • Includes one-on-one support from Plant Chicago staff on circular economy-specific projects
  • Mentorship opportunities
  • Direct-to-consumer market opportunities
  • Access to shared spaces for R&D, teaching, and administration
  • Access to low-cost services

*What is a local circular economy? 

A local circular economy is a collaborative practice sustained by the local circulation of materials, nutrients, knowledge, and economic value. Values of equity, transparency, diversity, and inclusion define its success.

In a local circular economy, business activities should regenerate natural ecosystems, address the needs and aspirations of local community stakeholders, and increase human knowledge and capacity to sustain this new economy into the future.

Looking for more details on how businesses can participate in a local circular economy? See a more comprehensive list of circular economy-aligned business practices here.

Who should apply?


We are currently looking for a cohort of up to 20 small businesses (fewer than 20 employees) working in the food production, farming, food retail, food service, food recovery, or composting industries to join us for the inaugural year of our circular economy network. Businesses must be located in Chicago and priority will be given to businesses located on the city’s southwest side.

Small businesses focused on serving their local communities and businesses owned by women and/or people of color are especially encouraged to apply!


Plant Chicago believes in the power of local circular economies to bring economic success to small businesses while also ensuring that business activities benefit the natural environment and surrounding communities. We also believe that a local circular economy must be a collaborative practice; no business can cultivate a local circular economy alone. Lastly, we know that owners and employees of small businesses have a lot on their plates. This network will allow us to supplement current efforts with knowledge, resources, and Plant Chicago staff time to ensure that the implementation of circular economy practices adds to business operations instead of becoming a burden.


October – December 2019: informational interviews with interested businesses to understand needs and plan programming
Early 2020: membership events and full roster of support services will begin


If you’re interested in joining the network, please email Liz Lyon, Plant Chicago’s Small Business and Circular Economy Manager, at to set up an informational interview.