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Helping Teens Help the Environment

September 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

By Matt Baker

There are about a dozen teenagers in the room chattering excitedly, with more filtering in. Their voices echo off the walls since the space is still sparsely decorated; there are some plantings by the window, crafts along a ledge, and large sheets of paper up on the walls with the group’s goals. Be safe. Be social. Step out of your comfort zone. Take initiative.

This is the Green Creation Crew, a program funded in partnership by the YMCA of Metro Chicago and After School Matters. For six weeks this summer, teens from all around the city took part in this STEM program with a focus on energy and sustainability. They worked in teams to develop and execute environmental efficiency plans—pitching sustainable improvements to “clients,” actually making those improvements and then assessing their work afterward.
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The Business Case for Urban Agriculture

June 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

By Matt Baker

Five years ago, the world of commercial urban agriculture was nearly barren in Chicago. Not for a lack of need; large populations in the city live in food deserts without access to fresh food and the food that is available is mostly shipped over thousands of miles, racking up huge carbon debts.

But much has changed over the last few years. Chicago amended the Zoning Ordinance in 2011 to include more urban agriculture, drawing a distinction between urban farms and community gardens. The ordinance also sorted different uses into three categories—indoor, outdoor and rooftop—and allowed them in commercially oriented districts. The stormwater management ordinance was later amended, which has huge impacts on agricultural operations, and regulations around composting were relaxed.
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That Land’s Not Vacant, it’s Fallow: Creating More Community Gardens in Chicago’s Food Deserts

March 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

By Linda Seggelke

New_crops-Chicago_urban_farmFood deserts—areas where access to groceries and fresh food has been replaced by convenience stores and fast food restaurants—have plagued Chicago for years, particularly in the west and south neighborhoods. A recent report has shown that these areas are shrinking, with the number of Chicagoans living in a food desert reduced by 40% over the last five years.
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