Green Era Digester
Project: Green Era Digester Facility | Location: Chicago, IL | Owner: Green Era Sustainability, LLC | MBE JV Partner: UJAMAA Construction I Architect: McBride Kelley Baurer Architects/Planners
Planting seeds for a hopeful harvest
Nutritious food is one of our basic needs, and yet it’s not available to everyone. Urban Growers Collective (UGC) and their partners operate 8 urban farms in Chicago, creating community-based food systems where produce is grown, prepared and distributed within neighborhoods.
That’s where the idea for the Green Era Digester Facility and Urban Campus was born, with the goal of supporting local food production through better management of organic, biodegradable waste and access to nutrient dense soil.
Located on vacant brownfield sites on Chicago's South Side, these urban farms require a lot of nutrient rich soil, which is a scarce resource in a landscape consisting of concrete pavement and buildings.
What is an anaerobic digester?
Though uncommon in the Midwest, digesters are not a new concept. They can be found on farms in the United States where animal waste is converted to energy, and they have been widely used in Europe for several years to manage organic waste and to produce energy. The diagram [below] explains how it works.
A prized initiative
The project has received $2 million in grants from the State of Illinois. It also benefited from the inaugural Chicago Prize competition, which is aimed at identifying a compelling community investment for residents of the city’s South and West sides.
Pulling something like this together is not easy. It's been years in the making, and creativity and patience were critical in bringing our vision to life. Pepper took a leap of faith in supporting us before we had funding with no certainty it would happen. We are absolutely grateful for that.
- Jason Feldman, Founder, Green Era Sustainability
With inclusion as a top priority, Pepper brought Ujamaa on board as our MBE joint-venture partner, and established M/WBE participation goals for both trade contractor partners and the workforce. The project is projected to create 300 jobs, and the hope is that as many as possible will be filled by those in the surrounding neighborhood.
@GovPritzker & DCEO announce state support for @GreenEraChicago Urban Farm Campus. The $32M project made w/ $2M in Rebuild Illinois capital funds, spurring sustainable development, fresh food, renewable energy, & jobs. https://t.co/59Y8IS9BtA #Rebuildillinois @ILEPA @mnegron01 pic.twitter.com/RTbWTWc5ws— Illinois Dept. of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (@IllinoisDCEO) August 7, 2020
Food for thought-and action
Projects like this, now more than ever are critical to our supply chains. The pandemic spotlights the need to strengthen our infrastructure and shore up our food sources. In addition to meeting the basic needs of hunger, urban gardens have the potential to help address other societal problems, like combating climate change and making our streets safer. The Green Era Digester brings hope to the most disadvantaged and signifies that ability to spur change is within our control.
The Green Era Digester project is just beginning. There are opportunities to get involved through fundraising, education, corporate involvement and events.
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Project: Roo Valley and African Penguin Exhibits | Location: Cincinnati, OH | Owner: Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden | Architect: Brinker Gates Architect LLC
Celebrating accessibility - it's only natural
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden (CZBG) sees the connection between sustainability and the community. They believe their actions directly affect their neighbors and that sustainability benefits everyone.
“We are committed to making Cincinnati Zoo a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone, no matter who they are or what challenges – physical, economic or social – they face.”
- Thane Maynard, director, cincinnati zoo and botanical garden
That’s why, despite being the greenest zoo in America, the CZBG is on a mission to become the first net zero energy, waste and water zoo in the world by their 150th anniversary in 2025. Pepper was excited to partner on two recently completed projects that enhance the animals’ habitats, while making them more sustainable and accessible for all: Roo Valley and African Penguin Point.
About the Zoo's Net Zero Commitment
So far the zoo has completed 16 projects and transformed 10 different habitats. Their efforts have reduced water consumption by 80%, saving more than 1.5 billion gallons of water, which also impacts energy usage. In addition to cost and energy savings, controlling rainwater runoff keeps water and sewage out of the neighbors’ houses and the Ohio River located close by.