The Alliance for the Great Lakes Chicago Young Professional Council awarded their first ever grants in 2017. The grants were awarded to four organizations in the Chicago metropolitan area with cutting-edge clean water projects. Read about the organizations and their projects here:

Bubbly Dynamics – Water Revitalization at The Plant: A Technical Demonstration and Educational Tool

2017 Grant Cycle
Organization: Bubbly Dynamics LLC

Established in 2002, Bubbly Dynamics, LLC is dedicated to incubating small businesses in formerly vacant, industrial buildings located in disinvested communities.  The company was named in honor of nearby Bubbly Creek, the branch of the Chicago River into which the stockyards once dumped their offal. Their inspirational projects close loops to create circular economies and encourage the stability of small businesses and the neighborhoods in which they are located.

In 2010, Bubbly Dynamics acquired the former Peer Foods meatpacking plant in the Back of the Yards neighborhood of Chicago.  Seeing tremendous value in this USDA-grade facility, they envisioned reusing the structure to incubate food and farming businesses and bringing much-needed jobs back to a disinvested community in the middle of a “food desert” lacking healthy food options.  Now called The Plant, this 93,500-sq. ft. facility is a collaborative community of over a dozen small food businesses, all focused on growing, producing, and/or sourcing a variety of food products.  Current tenants include indoor and outdoor farms, aquaponics operations, kombucha and beer breweries, a bakery, a cheese distributor, a coffee roaster, and other emerging food producers and distributors.

Bubbly Dynamics received an inaugural Alliance for the Great Lakes Young Professional Council (YPC) Grant to implement a Water Revitalization project at The Plant.  This project is an opportunity to design and demonstrate creative graywater/stormwater reclamation and improvement techniques and educate the public about the benefits of reclaiming water that is conventionally released to the sewer system. Project highlights include:

  • Reuse of a 9,000-gallon tank, which was formerly used to hold brine for pickling pork products, as a cistern that collects rooftop runoff.
  • Collected stormwater will preliminarily undergo testing, and based on the results will be made available for internal reuse by interested tenants of The Plant.
  • Installation of a booster pump to provide city-supply water pressure to outdoor farm tenants, allowing growers to increase crop yields and save on tap water bills.
  • Buildout of stormwater “wetland” system in the lobby of The Plant to demonstrate graywater remediation.
  • Water flow will be metered at each point of use to determine how much rainwater has been diverted from the roof in total, and also how much tap water each user has conserved by employing this system.

As part of their business model, Bubbly Dynamics reimagines what is conventionally considered “waste” as a valuable asset, and this YPC Grant-funded project is a natural extension of their work already underway at The Plant. It will serve as a technical demonstration and educational tool to the well over 10,000 visitors to The Plant every year- highlighting the significant opportunities of water reuse and bringing awareness to the value of both fresh water and recycled storm/gray water.  Implementation is well underway and estimated completion date is early 2018.

Chicago Eco House – Flower Farm Rain Water Irrigation System

2017 grant cycle
Organization: Chicago Eco House

Based in Englewood, Chicago Eco House opened in 2014 with the mission to use sustainability in poor communities to alleviate poverty. To date, Eco House trains 45 youth ages 5 to 12 in emerging sustainability fields like urban farming, 3D printing, and off-grid solar. These efforts are designed to help youth develop viable skills and contribute to the economic redevelopment of the neighborhood.

Its urban farming projects take the form of flower farms. These farms are created through the acquisition and conversion of vacant city land into sustainable flower beds—managed by trained at-risk youth—that then contribute to the Chicago flower market. In 2017, the Young Professional Council (YPC) granted Chicago Eco House a grant for a rain water catchment and 500-foot irrigation system at the Stewart Street Farm, located in the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. The project also included the installation of a 300-watt solar panel system to power the water pumps that supply the irrigation system. Eco House’s flower farm project provides stipends to 16 Englewood high school students to learn about urban agriculture.

Chicago Eco House has received a number of awards, further supporting the strength of the organization’s activities. Awards won since June 2017:

  • UL Innovation Education Award Winner. This international award recognizes the top E-STEM nonprofits in North America.
  • South Side Pitch Finalist. Hosted by the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Law School, South Side Pitch is a celebration of innovation happening on the South Side.
  • Delta BOOST Pitch Winner. A live, crowd-funded pitch fest in support of energy, ecosystem, and waste innovations in Chicago hosted by the Delta Institute’s Emerging Leaders board.

JustDesign & P.E.R.R.O. — Clean Water Now! Community Controlled Clean Water Solutions

2017 Grant Cycle
Organization: Just Design, Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization

The Social Justice Design Cooperative (#JustDesign) is a network of design professionals who collaborate on impact-driven projects in the public interest, particularly on challenges not currently met by the design industry’s private-sector firms, such as environmental justice and water quality monitoring. Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (P.E.R.R.O.) is a grassroots community group of Pilsen residents working to fight the disproportionate amount of pollution in the Pilsen neighborhood. Its mission is to spread awareness about the concept of environmental justice and make Pilsen a healthier place to live, work, and raise children.

Clean water defines the Great Lakes, but the water supply is at risk from a variety of contaminants. This project seeks to address lead in drinking water. Although Chicago has taken steps to rectify the historic injustice of lead poisoning in low-income communities, lead in the water remains a significant area of concern. The goal of this collaboration is to distribute lead-rated water filters to Chicago residents, specifically targeting children at an elevated risk of lead poisoning due to the recent water main replacement on Morgan Street in Pilsen. To date, JustDesign and P.E.R.R.O. have hosted three clean water expos in the Pilsen neighborhood, focusing on clean drinking water and health, and offering free lead filters, water quality testing, installation help, and education sessions.

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