<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Chicago Green News - Energy Saving Tips, Environmental News]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/green http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.comen-usFri, 23 Jun 2017 16:40:18 -0500Fri, 23 Jun 2017 16:40:18 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Macron Targets 'Make Our Planet Great Again' Site at US]]> Fri, 09 Jun 2017 19:18:13 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-683370816-Macron.jpg

In the wake of the United States' withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, French President Emmanuel Macron fired back on Thursday with the launch of a new website titled "Make Our Planet Great Again."

On the site’s homepage, Macron calls President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the agreement "unfortunate" but adds that the decision “only reinforced our determination.” He calls for those working on climate issues to do so in France. 

"To all the scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the President of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland," Macron said in a video address on the site’s homepage. "I call on them, come and work here with us to work on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment."

The site includes information for researchers, educators and students on applying for a four-year grant to study in France, according to Business Insider. Businesses and NGOs can also apply to receive funding from the French government.

"You will be able to stay in France at least for the duration of the grant, and longer if you are granted a permanent position," the site explains.

The site cost €22,000 (approximately $24,637) to build is produced and managed by Business France, according to Politico.eu.

By clicking on the "I Want to Make Our Planet Great Again" button on the homepage of the website, users can describe why they are fighting climate change. They can also detail current projects and "dreams" of carrying out the fight against climate change.

"The planet needs your innovative skills. So are you IN to change (literally!) our daily lives and make our planet great again?" the site reads.

The title, a play on President Trump's signature campaign slogan "Make America Great Again," reflects the increased efforts to combat climate change by France and other signatories of the Paris agreement. Macron first used the modified slogan in an address from the Elysée Palace on June 1, after Trump announced the withdrawal.

You can visit the Make Our Planet Great Again site by clicking here.



Photo Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Build It Green: TreeHouse to Open World's 1st Net-Zero Energy Store]]> Thu, 01 Jun 2017 09:52:56 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/treehouse-store.jpg

Home improvement has long been synonymous with Home Depot and Lowe's. But a Texas-based green conscience start-up is aiming to make sustainable home improvement appeal to more than just environmentalists.

TreeHouse will open the world's first energy-positive home improvement store in Dallas Friday. Through the use of 539 rooftop solar panels and two Tesla Powerwalls the store will actually generate energy well in excess of its needs.

“This store runs on 100 percent sunshine,” Treehouse's Ben Kusin said, adding that the excess renewable energy that the store generates will be put back onto the power grid and made available for others to use.

The company is the first retailer authorized to sell Tesla's home energy storage battery.

"A home battery could make energy bills an archaic relic of a past system," said TreeHouse co-founder and CEO Jason Ballard, speaking at Tesla’s energy storage event in California. "You can now own your own production and storage of the energy you need. This takes us one step closer to completely powering homes without fossil fuels."

The store will be the retailer’s second location. It's flagship store opened in Austin in 2011. An additional store, planned for the Plano area, is due to open this fall. Dubbed the Whole Foods of home improvement, TreeHouse's expansion highlights a demand for eco-friendly products and a desire to reduce carbon footprint. 

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Yet, President Donald Trump is expected to announce Thursday whether the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. White House sources tell NBC News that the president is leaning toward an exit. 

The 2015 agreement, which is not a binding treaty, was spurred by the overwhelming global scientific consensus that rising global temperatures over the last several decades are caused by man-made activity. The accord's goal is aimed at preventing the planet from warming by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which scientists warn could have damaging consequences.

The agreement calls on countries to make voluntary national pledges to reduce emissions. Despite Trump's decision, businesses like TreeHouse will forge ahead with eco-friendly alternatives.

"The home consumes the highest amount of our natural resources, such as water and energy, produces the largest amount of landfill waste, and is where we will be exposed to the greatest number of toxins in our lifetime," the company said. "By working to solve these problems, TreeHouse finds new routes to dramatically change the quality of our lives. We can build better shelters for ourselves, our communities, and our planet."

TreeHouse offers a carefully curated selection of products and services that promote healthful and sustainable living spaces, with an emphasis on performance and design. Every product is scored based on health, performance, corporate responsibility and sustainability.

“TreeHouse is reinventing home improvement with the twin goals of ecological and human health,” the company explains on its web site. “Our core principles are applied to everything in the store. From thoughtful and innovative products to comprehensive, high-quality services -- every element is designed to build a better home.”



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[Green Initiatives of Top Companies ]]> Wed, 19 Apr 2017 20:00:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/DIT+Earth+Week+Companies+THUMB.jpg

In honor of Earth Week, NBC looked at 5 of the most valuable companies to see what kind of green initiatives they are engaged in.

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<![CDATA[From Your Recycle Bin to China: 360 Recycling Plant Tour]]> Tue, 18 Apr 2017 20:26:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/360+Recycling+THUMB.jpg

What really happens to your recycling? Take a 360 video tour of the Burbank Recycle Center to see what happens to your recyclable waste and learn how you can be a more eco-friendly consumer.


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<![CDATA[Badlands National Park's Climate Change Tweets Deleted]]> Tue, 24 Jan 2017 21:04:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Badlands+park.jpg

The Twitter account for the Badlands National Park in South Dakota published a series of tweets Tuesday on climate change. A few hours later, the tweets were deleted.

The first tweet, posted an hour after President Donald Trump signed executive orders advancing the construction of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, said: “The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2016, 404.93 ppm.”

Just moments later, the account posted another tweet: “Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years” — with the hashtag “#climate” added for good measure.

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The next tweet said: “Flipside of the atmosphere; ocean acidity has increased 30% since the Industrial Revolution. ‘Ocean Acidification’ #climate #carboncycle” 

The last tweet said: "Burning one gallon of gasoline puts nearly 20lbs of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere." 

According to a National Park Service spokesman, the tweets were posted by a former employee who is not authorized to use the park's account. Tom Crosson, NPS's chief of public affairs, told NBC the park was not told to remove the tweets but "chose to do so when they realized that their account had been compromised."

"At this time, National Park Service social media managers are encouraged to continue the use of Twitter to post information relating to public safety and park information, with the exception of content related to national policy issues," Crosson added.

Tweeting about climate change isn't out of character for Badlands. The park's Twitter account feed addresses the national security implications of climate change, rising water temperatures and the decline of species driven by global warming. But it does contradict President Trump's stance on the issue. He has repeatedly claimed climate change is a hoax.

In response to the tweets being deleted, DNC national press secretary Adrienne Watson released the following statement: “Vladimir Putin would be proud.”

Tuesday's tweets followed a brief suspension Friday of the National Park Service’s Twitter account, as well as those of all its bureaus, over retweets the Department of the Interior deemed "inconsistent with the agency’s mission."

The prohibition came after the National Park Service’s official Twitter account, a bureau of the department, retweeted a pair of posts to its 315,000 followers. One of the tweets was a photo that compared the crowd gathered on the National Mall for Trump to the much-larger gathering that stood in the same spot eight years earlier for President Barack Obama's first swearing-in. The tweets were later removed from the feed, and the National Park Service apologized for sharing them.

A day later, Crosson said the agencies could resume tweeting “Now that social media guidance has been clarified.” It was not immediately clear what information was in the guidance. 



Photo Credit: Badlands National Park
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<![CDATA[Greenhouse Gases Biggest Threat to Polar Bears: Study]]> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:55:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-77960094polarbears71151.jpg Greenhouse gas emissions remain the "primary threat" to polar bears, according to a study released Tuesday by the U.S. Geological Survey. Polar bear populations will decline even if emissions are stabilized by the end of the century, the study said. Polar bears have been categorized as a "globally threatened species" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 2008. The two main threats to polar bears are melting sea ice and disappearing prey. The study concluded that polar bears would suffer whether carbon emissions grew at their current pace or peaked in 2040 and then declined. The only optimistic scenario would involve "immediate and aggressive" cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, researchers said.
Get More at NBC News

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Want to Save Coral Reefs? First, Save the Fish: Study]]> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 19:04:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP080816183919.jpg A new study has found that more fish may be the answer to saving coral reefs, NBC News reported. Overfishing on reefs and other threats like pollution can lead to a collapse of underwater ecosystems, so keeping fish on the reefs is crucial to their health, according to the study of 832 reefs. "The methods used to estimate reef health in this study are simple enough that most fishers and managers can take the weight and pulse of their reef and keep it in the healthy range," Tim McClanahan, WCS senior conservationist and study co-author, said in a release. "Fishers and managers now have the ability to map out a plan for recovery of reef health that will give them the best chance to adapt to climate change."
Get More at NBC News

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Stunning Historic Photos of Air Pollution ]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 11:36:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/air-pollution-AP7004221649_7.jpg Click to see some fascinating images of air pollution throughout the US from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Green Car Wash Sanitizes Without Soap]]> Mon, 05 Aug 2013 12:37:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/128401773.jpg A car wash in Arizona installed a water filtration tank allowing high levels of oxygen to sanitize the water they use to clean customers' cars — all without soap. An environmental engineer at Arizona State University is skeptical about the car wash's filtration system.]]> <![CDATA[Energy for Sale: Is It Worth It?]]> Wed, 17 Jul 2013 12:58:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000003170932_722x406_37270083593.jpg Door-to-door salesmen, telephone calls and direct mail, all trying to sell you electricity or natural gas. The pitches promise to save you money. They are called alternative energy suppliers. There have been more than 1,000 consumer complaints about them to Maryland and D.C. authorities so far this year, and we've been receiving emails asking whether these companies are real and are the deals worth it. CLICK HERE for a list of legitimate suppliers.]]> <![CDATA[Giant Head Sculptures Pop up on Michigan Avenue]]> Tue, 02 Jul 2013 19:30:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000003595469_722x406_35825219986.jpg New sculptures are turning heads on Michigan Avenue and getting people to think green. LeeAnn Trotter reports.]]> <![CDATA[State-of-the-Art Green Workplace Provides Lunch, Games and Slides]]> Wed, 01 May 2013 14:13:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Slide_aweber.jpg AWeber Communications headquarters in Chalfont, Bucks County, Pa. isn't your average workplace as it features video games, a pool table and even slides. NBC10's Jesse Gary reports ahead of the ribbon cutting.
Click here for information on jobs

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Junkyard Trash Turns to Art]]> Thu, 25 Apr 2013 12:42:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/ben+in+trash.JPG With his castoff treasures rattling in the cart, Ben Cowden wheeled back toward his art studio in San Francisco's Recology Recycling Plant to continue work. Joe Rosato Jr. reports on a man who turns others trash into treasure. Read the full story here.

Photo Credit: Joe Rosato Jr.]]>
<![CDATA[Cemetery for Green-Friendly Burials]]> Tue, 23 Apr 2013 10:17:32 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/meadow.jpg A cemetery in Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia, has become environmentally friendly for burials.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Baxter Brewing Company Goes Green]]> Wed, 24 Apr 2013 13:49:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/baxter-brewing.jpg Luke Livingston, president and founder of Baxter Brewing Company, talks about ways in which he is expanding his business sustainably, with the help of John Rooks, president of The SOAP Group.]]> <![CDATA[D.C. Has The Worst Traffic]]> Tue, 05 Feb 2013 10:49:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/traffic-4.jpg Washington, D.C. has the worst traffic congestion in the nation, according to a new report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.]]> <![CDATA[Mayor Lays Out Environmental Roadmap]]> Tue, 25 Sep 2012 22:44:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Rahm-Emanuel-Sierra-Club.jpg

Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to make Chicago the greenest city in the world and says that doesn't have to have a negative impact on jobs.

In fact, he said the two goals can be achieved together.

"I do believe this is going to be the century of the city. And to have a city that grows and prospers both economically and for families, you have to  have an environmental policy and a jobs/economic growth policy that work together," Emanuel said Tuesday at a Sierra Club luncheon. "I think from everything from mass transit to water policy to open parks to recycling to closing two coal-fire power plants, it's all part of one integrated strategy."

Emanuel said his administration's plan -- dubbed "Sustainable Chicago" -- set clear environmental goals the city hopes to achieve by 2015.

One of the long-term goals is to get homeowners to use water meters so they can be charged based on the amount of water they use rather than an estimate. But he said the city isn't ready to make those water meters mandatory.

The mayor was honored by the Sierra Club for what the organization said were impressive signs of progress toward a healthier, greener city.

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<![CDATA[Emanuel Deflects Questions About Solyndra]]> Fri, 03 Aug 2012 23:31:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/188*120/AP100524019427.jpg

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday deflected questions about his role in a loan guarantee for Solyndra, a green energy company that ultimately went bankrupt.

“It’s simple, you just talk to the White House counsel," the former White House Chief of Staff said during an appearance on WLS-AM. "They are answering all the questions and they will answer any questions you have on the matter."

Those questions come in response to a House Energy and Commerce Committee report, released Thursday, that shows Emanuel was a driving force behind the deal.

Included in the report is information -- previously reported -- contained in an Aug. 19, 2009 email sent from Aditya Kumar, the Deputy Assistant to Vice President Joe Biden and a senior advisor to Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain, to Jacob Levine with the Office of Energy and Climate Change:

"Ron [Klain] wants to have this move through the process and NOT be in a ‘holding pattern.’ He has talked to Rahm about this, and feels like Rahm wants this too (barring any concerns) -- POTUS involvement was Rahm’s idea."

Last September, Emanuel denied any knowledge of the Solyndra loan.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and House Republicans have been critical of the Obama Administration deal.

Emanuel has said he's not concerned about the matter.

At a west side event outlining the expansion and overhaul of Early Childhood Education programs, Emanuel touted his progress locally in job creation, the housing market and education when asked about Solyndra.

"I'll leave Solyndra to you. I'm going to focus on the children of the city of Chicago," he said before walking away from the podium.

Solyndra was given more than $500 million in taxpayer dollars. It filed for bankruptcy in September 2011.



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago's Top 14 "Eco-preneurs"]]> Thu, 05 Jul 2012 16:09:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/earthdaygallery.jpg Though some have called the "green" movement a passing fad or accused green-goers of being "trendy," some of those green-goers have a lot invested in sustainability: business. Of the many businesses with a primary interest in providing sustainable products or services in a sustainable way, there are a few that stand out. These fourteen entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial teams have set a high standard for green business ventures.]]> <![CDATA[Lincoln Park Offers Green Home Tours]]> Fri, 29 Jun 2012 16:17:43 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/lincoln-park-green-home.jpg Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) wants to put Lincoln Park on the path to being a completely sustainable community. On June 25, the ward hosted a "Green Homes Tour" of several neighborhood spaces. Alicia Roman reports.]]> <![CDATA[Children Learn At A "Green School"]]> Thu, 21 Jun 2012 16:39:36 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/ACADEMYOFGLOBALCITZENSHIP.png Alicia Roman reports on the efforts of The Academy of Global Citizenship. It is a unique Chicago Public Charter school in that it incorporates green learning into their curriculum. ]]> <![CDATA[Chicago School Wins $50k Makeover]]> Tue, 05 Jun 2012 23:14:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/st.-cornelius-recycle.jpg

After months of counting, sorting, and collecting beverage containers in what St. Cornelius School's principal called a "dungeon" in the convent basement, the school has won a $50,000 grand prize for green improvements.

That money is part of almost $250,000 in prizes to schools for participation in PepsiCo's "Dream Machine School Makeover."

The Dream Machine Recycle Rally is a program to raise awareness for students in kindergarten through 12th grades.

Through the program, PepsiCo donates based on the number of cans collected to the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, which offers education in small business management for post-9/11 veterans with disabilities, according to PepsiCo.

St. Cornelius beat out about 900 schools by collecting 885,000 beverage containers to be recycled, which averages out to 5,270 containers per student.

With that number, along with the containers out of the "dungeon" and into the open, the school took time for an assembly to celebrate the recycling they had done and the big money prize.

"When I came to St. Cornelius School two years ago, I was told this was the best-kept secret on the northwest side. I have to say, I think the secret is out," principal Christina Bowman said.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel came to the celebration and credited the school's teamwork for its success.

"The lesson is what happens when you work as a team, when focused on a goal, working together, rather than competing against each other, but what you can do achieving something as a team."

The congratulations for St. Cornelius come on the same day Emanuel announced he is teaming up with 14 commercial buildings for green improvements as part of the Retrofit Chicago's Commercial Buildings initiative.

But the initiative by adults did not stop the mayor from adding a few words of encouragement to the kids before he left.

"Don't ever bet against the kids of the city of Chicago," he said. They're the best kids in the world.

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<![CDATA[14 Commercial Buildings Sign on to Retrofit Project]]> Tue, 05 Jun 2012 23:13:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/NBC-Tower_640x480.jpg

In an effort to make the city more energy efficient and attractive to business, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday announced that 14 commercial buildings had signed on to his Retrofit Chicago's Commercial Buildings Initiative.

The projects, his office said, will create more than 1,000 jobs and will eventually save the buildings more than $5 million annually in energy costs.

"Today is a major step forward for the City of Chicago, as we create a private sector complement for the work we are doing to ensure energy efficiency in our municipal buildings and infrastructure," he said in a statement.

The buildings, totaling 14 million square feet, range in age from 7 to 117 years old, the mayor's office said.

The mayor touted the effort during a visit to St. Cornelius School, in Jefferson Park on the city's northwest side. PepsiCo on Tuesday named the school its grand prize winner in the Dream Machine Recycle Rally "Dream Green School Makeover" contest. The school was awarded $50,000 to help fund green improvements.

"The private sector is joining the kids at St. Cornelius in a new energy and environmental policy for the whole city," he said. "Obviously you guys won [the PepsiCo challenge], but 899 other schools learned something also, about environmental policy, about working together, about setting a goal and about achieving something."

The buildings set to undergo retrofit projects include:

  • 224 South Michigan Avenue (Santa Fe Building), 224 South Michigan Avenue
  • 333 North Michigan Avenue, 333 North Michigan Avenue
  • 515 North State Street, 515 North State Street
  • The AT&T Building, 225 West Randolph Street
  • CNA Headquarters, 333 South Wabash Avenue
  • Fifth Third Center, 222 South Riverside Plaza
  • Franklin Center, 227 West Monroe Street & 222 West Adams Street
  • Hyatt Center, 71 South Wacker Drive
  • InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, 505 North Michigan Avenue
  • The Marquette Building, 140 South Dearborn Street
  • NBC Tower, 454 North Columbus Drive
  • One Financial Place, 440 South LaSalle Street
  • Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, 301 East North Water Street
  • The Wrigley Building, 400-410 North Michigan Avenue

The projects will not be funded through the "Retrofit Chicago" program unveiled in March.

"[Building owners and managers are] going to do it from their own self-interests and their own capital," Emanuel said.

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<![CDATA[Emanuel Urged To Save Chicago's Trees]]> Mon, 04 Jun 2012 18:30:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/l_emearld-ash-borer_600x400.jpg

The City Council’s Finance Committee approved a $1.4 million resolution plan Monday urging Mayor Rahm Emanuel to protect ash trees and save the city’s parkway nature.

Removal of Chicago’s ash trees, one of the most common trees in Chicago, estimated to comprise nearly 20 percent of the city’s tree population, will cost $70 million to $100 million within the next decade if treatment from the harmful and invasive emerald ash borer beetle is not ramped up, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The Bureau of Forestry announced the harmful beetle’s arrival in Chicago in June 2008. The bureau set out to treat more than 70,000 ash trees in four years, but budget cuts have hindered the processing, keeping the treated trees at around 18,000.

The emerald ash borer is responsible for destroying over 20 million trees in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, and Canada.

Once tree infestations reach a tipping point, saving the city’s landscape could become nearly impossible, said Rob Gorden, the director of Urban Forestry for Aborjet, the company which supplies treatment injections for ash trees.

The possibility of these degrading trees falling on pedestrians and commuters could pose serious financial setbacks for the city, Gorden said.

The city’s ash trees have not yet reach their tipping point, though many face death by chainsaw, but if measures are not taken Chicago’s green could get ugly.



Photo Credit: Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources]]>
<![CDATA[The Plant's Melanie Hoekstra on Reducing Your Company's Waste]]> Wed, 30 May 2012 14:03:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/173*120/ThePlantDiagram_mini.jpeg

"Going green" isn't just an empty, catchy slogan, and The Plant at 1400 W. 46th St. is proof of that. In July of 2010, Bubbly Dynamics LLC snatched up the former Peer Foods meat-processing plant at that address and have been converting into what's called a "vertical farm and food business incubator." Basically, as Director of Operations Melanie Hoekstra explains it, they specialize on closing the loop of inputs and outputs. In other words, they're looking to use all the potential waste from the meat plant and turn it into energy. It's fascinating, albeit slightly sci-fi stuff, since The Plant is now home to a kombucha brewery, a mushroom farm, a beer brewery, a bakery and also a shared kitchen. To find out more about this, I gave Hoekstra a call.

For our readers who aren't familiar, can you give a bit of background on The Plant?

Melanie Hoekstra: The Plant is a vertical farm and food business incubator. We're going to have 30,000 square feet of aquaponic farm estates. Aquaponic is when you have fish and also plants and the waste from the fish actually feeds the plants and then the plants filter the water for the fish. And then the rest of the space, because we're in an old meat-packing plant, it's actually going to be mostly kitchen spaces. The reason we can do this is because we have all this food-grade material throughout the building. When you are packing meat, a building has to be up to USDA code, and it's about as high of a regulatory level as you can get. So, we have all this food-grade material and we're building new kitchens, mostly for small- and medium-sized businesses and also for a beer brewery. That, plus, we're going to do research and educational programming on farming: everything from gardening to aquaponics for small businesses.

You mentioned inputs and outputs for a company in our emails. What does that mean?

Melanie Hoekstra: If I wanted to make a piece of bacon on the stove, the input would be the pan and the bacon and the heat and the output would be the bacon and the grease and the dirty pan, let's say. At The Plant, on the website, there's a really neat diagram that shows all the things that will go into the building and all the things that will come out of the building. So, the things that go are the inputs and the things that come out are the outputs. The idea is, for us at least, to make the most of all of the inputs and the outputs. We are in a building that really was slated to be torn down. The sellers of the buildings, the old meat-packing company had no expectation that anyone was going to buy this building.

Most of what you put out is waste when you're done doing whatever you do. So, for instance, back to my bacon example. If you can find someone to take the grease and make biodiesel out of it -- and I have no idea if that's actually possible with bacon grease -- but in our situation we are using the waste from beer brewing and from other food and manufacturing processes including things like fat rendering and also produce waste from produce distributors and making energy out of them. Then we consume that energy onsite. So, it's modeled after nature and how there is no waste there because everything that one organism puts out another organism uses.

Is there one type of industry that's harder to make these closed loops of inputs and outputs?

Melanie Hoekstra: I can't say that I would know, honestly. Sorry, I'm a lawyer and this is my first job out of law school. [Laughs.] I think that largely it comes from knowing your business really well and being able to know exactly what people need and how much of it you'll need and where you can get it from and if there are places you can get it from where it's a waste product to somebody else. For instance, manufacturing generally involves a lot of chemicals, right? I do know there are certain solvents that you can make in different ways. That's how chemical reactions work. You put in a certain amount of three ingredients and then you get this one ingredient. Well, if one of your ingredients is benzene because that's what it takes to catalyze the process of creating this solvent, maybe you can do it in a completely different way where it's maybe slightly longer but doesn't introduce benzene into the process. Then you can avoid using benzene and then that's great thing for the environment, it's probably cheaper. I think it's just a matter of knowing your business well and what you're trying to do.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.



Photo Credit: Matt Bergstrom]]>
<![CDATA[How Chicago Fashionista Brands are Going Green]]> Sat, 19 May 2012 04:36:08 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*160/ecoglasses.jpg

Green really is the new black, and Chicago's fashion scene is embracing this new trend. From eyewear to boots, our city has sustainable retail to thrill even the most hardcore style pros: Gone are the days where those who wanted apparel that was kinder to the earth were immediately steered toward boxy offerings made of hemp. Plus, retailers who have made the switch to eco-friendly have discovered the marketplace loves stores that offer greener products -- it fosters consumer loyalty, increases profits and attracts new clients. And, as a nice bonus, the staff feels great about working for an earth-conscious brand.

For those who are eco-curious and have been hankering to provide a socially conscious fashion experience for your customers, here's is a delicious peek at the sustainable stock of five Chicagoland retailers as well as some insight into how and why they went green.

Takara

123 N. Marion St. Oak Park, 708-445-7511

Why we went green: "I am in love with eco-friendly accessories, clothes and furniture," says Owner Takara Beathea-Gudell.

Going green tip: Extend the green shopping experience beyond clothing and accessories. Further solidify your brand by paying attention to the little things, like offering recycled shopping bags.

Planet Access Company Store

4727 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-754-8176

Why we went green: “We launched the store with a vision of selling socially responsible brands and eco-friendly clothing," says store manager Drew Lambert.

Going green tip: Consider extending your efforts to include supporting your community. It can be as simple as donating a portion of proceeds to a non-profit of your choice. Planet Access Company Store’s parent company, Search Inc., has been helping people with disabilities, live, learn, work and play in the Chicago area for over 40 years.

Essential Elements

1640 E. 87th St., 773-978-1200

Why they went green: "It's great to see and sell the artistry that designers come up with using sustainable materials and fabrications, and it makes us socially conscious," shared owner Melanie Whaley.

Going green tip: “My advice to other fashion retailers is to look for fun and stylish sustainable clothing and accessories that makes going green appealing. Also, make sure your staff is able to inform customers about inventory that does support the green movement, such as our Mosey bags made from recycled water bottles, [that] the customer would never know unless they read the fine print on the tags.”

Silver Room

1442 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-278-7130

Why they went green: Owner Eric Williams noticed people looking for environmentally friendly alternatives. His artists were also being hit with the rising costs of precious metals which resulted in products made with alternative materials like rubber, wood, and vintage fabrics (perfect for eco-aware clients.)

Going eco-tip: "Find what works in your industry and the latest technologies and trends in the field. Being a leader, innovator and at the forefront of the true meaning of green is always great. For example, try using alternative green methods that have not been used before.”

Labrabbit Optics

1104 N. Ashland Ave., 773-957-4733

Why they went green: Even though the vintage frames I stock at the shop are unused dead stock, they would otherwise go to waste because 95 percent of opticians are unwilling to outfit them with lenses," explains owner and optician Coyote DeGroot. "I combine my experienced skill set with the opportunity to give new life to an object from the past."

Going green tip: “It's essential to consider every object and process outside of its intended and traditional context, without cheapening the brand or compromising quality. I've seen a number of businesses use reclaimed materials that reflect their intended destination, like the landfill, a little too directly. It takes an innovative intelligence to find elegance in the ordinary.”

Mayu

shopmayu.com, 847-363-7186

Why they went green: “I went 'green' as a direct result of my time in the Peace Corps in Peru,” shared founder Kate Robertson. “I met a group of artisans while working in the rural Andes Mountains, and together we developed the products that Mayu sells.” She noticed the artisans, who are indigenous people, were poorly treated and under compensated, so she partnered with them and pays them a living wage.

Client reaction: “Make sure the aspect of being green is well defined and explained. As more and more green businesses are popping up, it is important to differentiate yourself in a meaningful and credible way. This will enable consumers to sift through all the clutter and green jargon -- they want a reason to connect to your company, so make it easy for them.”

Jetta Bates-Vasilatos is founder of Twist Communications and a life stylist with 10+ years of award-winning consumer engagement/strategic planning experience for luxury and global brands like BMW and Coca-Cola. She also serves as an on-air correspondent and writer with a focus on luxury and experiential tourism, lifestyle, sustainability, and personal finance (how to be chic yet savvy). Jetta has appeared on stations such as WCIU-TV, KBS-TV(Korea), ABC-7, CLTV and KBC-TV (Kenya), writes for national print publications such as Essence, Recommend, Ebony and HomeStyle Design and is the host of the Jettasetting segment on WVON radio.

Visit her website jettasetting.com, find real-time tips on her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter: @jettaset.

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