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?

At the facility scale, a circular economy can be described as conventional waste streams from one process being re-purposed as inputs for another, creating a circular, closed-loop model of material reuse.

At the local scale, it can be described as a collaborative economic practice sustained by local circulation of materials, nutrients, knowledge, and money. It’s empowered by transparency, diversity, and inclusion. Read more here.

What We Do

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

    Elizabeth Lyon Small Business and Circular Economy Manager

    After volunteering with various entities around The Plant for over a year, Liz joined Plant Chicago’s staff in 2015 to start the current iteration of our year-round farmers market.  She is excited to work with market vendors and small businesses at The Plant and in the Back of the Yards community to build people-powered, collaborative circular economy systems.

  • Eric Weber, Technology Coordinator

    Eric Weber Circular Economy Research 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 Program Coordinator

    Stef is a Southside Chicago native who has worked with local schools and museums all over the city to expand their STEM curriculum. While earning her degree in Environmental Science from Clark University, she completed her thesis on the effect functional diversity has on above and below ground carbon sequestration to inform climate mitigation policy. She is interested in expanding knowledge on how urban infrastructure interacts with surrounding ecosystems and how that relates to food and resource sovereignty.

  • Izzy Garcia Education Associate

    Izzy originally hails from the city of Kankakee, and has spent the last three years working towards her BA at UIC. She is currently concentrating her studies on gender, womxn, and social justice. Working all over the city, she has collaborated alongside youth developing reproductive justice programming and campaigning, as well as facilitated “Know Your Rights” workshops for impacted communities. She serves as an ESL instructor for adult students in southwest Chicago. She is eager to engage with local communities in imagining, and creating a more environmentally just world.

Board of Directors

  • Chad Flores President

    Chad is the Product 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 Liefer Secretary

    Allison Liefer is Development Director for the Parkinson’s Foundation, Greater Illinois Chapter. Allison has held nonprofit management roles with organizations including Common Threads, the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Girls in the Game. She’s a Northwestern Wildcat and a Michigan Wolverine, and in her spare time enjoys traveling, cooking, reading, running and walking her old dog.

  • 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.

  • Phil Fry Vice President

    Phil is a veteran business management and IT consultant with a focus in advanced analytics.  In his consulting roles with Diamond Technology Partners and Slalom, he has helped major organizations transform how they store, analyze, and benefit from their data assets.  Phil holds a A.B. in Mathematics from Harvard and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.  Having grown up on a family farm in Ohio, Phil is passionate about urban farming and bringing a sense of stewardship of our natural resources to the local community.  He sees the creation of circular economies as an exciting path forward.

  • 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

    Twania Brewster leads the Marketing, Communications and Guest Operations of Chicago Children’s Museum. She leverages the museum’s 30 years in the early childhood space to develop content and engagement strategies to build caregiver communities on its digital platforms and within the museum.

    Beginning her professional life in the publicly-traded sector before leading the marketing and public relations departments of the City Colleges of Chicago and United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, Twania has maintained an interest in marrying the best practice and efficiencies of for- profit enterprises to mission-driven operations of nonprofit and governmental organizations.

    Living in Chicago with her husband and three children, Twania is always within arm’s reach of a cup a coffee, her cellphone, and the next big idea.

  • Kristie Conklin

    Kristie Conklin is the employment program officer at the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation. Previously, she worked for the University of Chicago and oversaw initiatives designed to increase the economic opportunity for job seekers surrounding the University’s campus. Kristie was on the original launch team of UChicago Local, the University of Chicago’s buy, live, and hire local initiatives which spurred the creation of Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE) and co-launched the Civic Leadership Academy at the University of Chicago, an interdisciplinary leadership development program for nonprofit and government leaders. Kristie is excited to support Plant Chicago’s mission of creating circular economies that reduce waste and generate economic equity for all.

  • 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.

  • Adam Rodriguez

    Adam is a corporate counsel for Alden Management Services, Inc., where he advises long-term care providers on complex litigation and regulatory matters. He is a member of the Chicago Bar Association and Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois.  Adam cares deeply about social justice issues and has previously served as a supervising attorney for Micah Legal Aid Clinic.  He holds a B.A. in Literature from Bucknell University and a J.D. from University of Iowa College of Law. Adam is excited to contribute to Plant Chicago’s Board of Directors.

  • Inez Suen

    Inez Suen is an international art and design specialist working collaboratively with specialized teams to build art collections, produce exhibitions and experiential events. She owns and operates ISCA (Inez Suen Creative Agency) a boutique full service consulting company based in New York and Chicago. Inez went to the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign for her undergraduate degree in Industrial Design followed by graduate studies in New York City at the Parsons School of Design. She is currently completing a certification in Sustainable Urban Agriculture. Inez is passionate about building neighborhoods and community development through art and culture.

  • 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.

  • Ryan Wilson Director Emeritus

Advisory Committees

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

Our Circular Economy Advisory Committee is a diverse group of academic and industry professionals who guide our research projects in circular systems. CEAC members include:

Weslynne Ashton, Ph.D., Associate 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, Visiting Scientist
Harvard T.H. Chan school of Public Health

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 Auxiliary Board organizes fundraising and community outreach events throughout the year.

Rohit Agarwal, West Monroe Partners
Kristie Conklin, Fry Foundation 
Mark Doose, West Monroe Partners
Andre Gordillo, Freight Broker Logistics
Judy Li, Energy Foundry
Melissa Pavelack, Advocate Children’s Hospital
Eric Pearson, Xylem
Eric Pudil, American Airlines
Erica Ruggiero, McGuire Igleski & Associates 
Emily Rhea, Eco Achievers
Tommy Straus, Circular Economy Academic
Justin Tringl, Illinois Institute of Technology

Want to learn more? Email us with any inquiries.

Sponsors + Partners

With many thanks to our current sponsors, in-kind donors, and foundation partners:

  • Albert Pick, Jr. Fund
  • Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg LLP
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield IL
  • Coleman Foundation
  • Conagra Brands Foundation
  • Convergence Energy
  • Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation
  • Dart Foundation
  • GEMS Academy
  • Martha Struthers Farley and Donald C. Farley, Jr. Family Foundation
  • Patagonia
  • Robert and Toni Bader Foundation
  • Walter S. Mander Foundation
  • West Monroe Partners
  • USDA

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.

  • 15th Ward
  • Bubbly Dynamics
  • Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council
  • Back of the Yards Peace and Education Coalition
  • Chicago Commons
  • Experimental Station
  • Holy Cross Church
  • Illinois Institute of Technology Stuart School of Business
  • Illinois Institute of Technology Institute of Design
  • JF Dolton Tax Services
  • Port Ministries
  • Rheaply