After the schools reopened and our staff were returning to the office on a more regular basis, it was clear that most of the world had a new attitude about the balance of working from home, commuting, and what they wanted “work” to feel like. We’ve always worked hard to maintain a humane, comfortable environment for people to work in. Of course that means things like ergonomics and free drinks and snacks, and yes, we are an IT company with an arcade cabinet and music pumped throughout the office most days. But how can we go farther? The farmstand was one of these ideas.
We planted our first seedlings in 2021, and since then we’ve gone through countless heads of lettuce, sugar snap peas, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, beans, bok choy, and this summer we produced more cucumbers than we could eat! Everything is grown hydroponically right inside our office on Prospect. Our Operations Manager and I take turns maintaining the water levels and checking the pH and nutrients, and then the staff help themselves to anything that looks tasty. Lunch food and snacks are the most common, but sometimes someone will harvest the ingredients for a salad to go with that night’s dinner at home. We’ve been drying our excess herbs and sneaking them into packages when we need to send things to our remote staff too. Even Penzey’s would be jealous of our dried basil.
At this scale, we aren’t providing all the produce for our staff by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s super fun, the produce is excellent, and you can’t get any more “local” than “grown down the hall”. We don’t currently have plans to setup additional farmstands, but we have moved toward starting our own seedlings in a germination station.
We’ve also started doing more 3D printing around the office for producing some of the parts we need with less waste and no shipping. Any scraps or failed prints or parts we don’t need anymore are all recycled back into fresh filament to use in future jobs. Not every green step you take is going to change the world, but each time we make something ourselves out of recyclable materials instead of shipping it from half way around the world, it helps.
Lincoln Middle School librarian, Denise Reeder, has been shepherding the Lincoln Seed Library for a number of years since founder, Lauren Maloney, left her position at the library for a new job. The library “checks out” seeds to the community and asks for seeds in return when harvest comes in. They also grow dozens of varieties of seedlings to give out to the community for free.
This job is not in the librarian’s job description but Denise finds time to take on the many tasks associated with running the program as a service to the community. She does it all—from ordering, packaging and potting seeds, to updating the website, growing seedlings, distributing orders to the community, and receiving contributions.
Unfortunately for us (but fortunately for her), Denise will be retiring at the end of this year. We are thankful that this program has had passionate overseers since 2014. We hope it finds another home when Denise leaves.
Thank you for your generosity in taking on this project, Denise. Happy Retirement and keep growing!!!
Kim Miller (pictured above in the dark green tee shirt) has been a volunteer and leader in Park Ridge’s green efforts for several years. She was an integral part of the Mayor’s Sustainability Task Force which developed a Sustainability Plan which was adopted by the City of Park Ridge. The Task Force led to the formation of a permanent Sustainability Commission to further green efforts in the City.
In the last few months, Kim has provided her home as a permanent drop off point for EcoShip Chicago, a new start-up and soon to be non-profit which collects used packing materials such as padded mailer envelopes, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, poly bags, and other materials which vary monthly depending on need. EcoShip provides the shipping materials free to small businesses to reuse for the shipping needs, saving the small businesses money as well as keeping the shipping materials out of landfills! Kim has used social media groups for Park Ridge and her neighborhood to spread the word and has had a huge positive response to EcoShip’s efforts within her Maine Park neighborhood as well as Buy Nothing Park Ridge (south).
Kim’s house is regularly a top dropoff location for EcoShip, as we’re able to provide a full SUV-load every 3 to 4 weeks! She is looking forward to continuing to grow EcoShips’s reach for both collections and reuse. Please follow EcoShip Chicago on Facebook and Instagram, and check out their website at https://ecoship.org for up-to-date collection needs, pop up events, and volunteer opportunities (volunteers are always needed to sort the collections and fill orders).
If you have shipping materials to contribute to EcoShip, please contact Kim at 773-294-4072 or email@example.com for drop off instructions and information.
Congratulations, Meghan O'Neill, owner of Sweet & Tart Restaurant located at 112 South Prospect, Park Ridge. Meghan shared with GGPR the following message:
"We see the connections with our role in the community and the future of our planet. It starts with the small things, such as using compostable straws and packages. We recently have begun our journey in composting, as well. For us, it is all about ensuring that our children will continue to have a habitable planet.
We strive to limit our food waste as much as possible. If there is anything that needs to be tossed, it goes into our composting bin. The amazing teenagers who work at the restaurant are always giving us new ways to be environmentally conscious. They inspire us to be better. Our hope is that other businesses and people will be inspired to make changes. Small changes can lead to big ones.
Sweet & Tart is thrilled to be honored for being recognized as a GGPR Community Changemaker! Thank you to all. Come and see us soon."
I am Holly Gansz, a retired District 64 teacher. I garden and have been living in Park Ridge forever! I have been eco-friendly and green for many years. We recycle, reuse, and repurpose. I have used some large things, a wood burning stove, as garden art. But I would like to focus on three areas of my garden: 1) straw bale gardening, 2) dressing up my garden and 3) overhauling a garden.
Thank you for nominating me for the Changemaker recognition!
This is a form of urban gardening. Bales can be placed anywhere, on patios, driveways, existing gardens, or grass. There is a science for treating the bales in the spring to prepare them for planting. It is a process of feed and water to start decomposition. Then you just place your seedling with a small scoop of soil and get ready to enjoy the harvest. Bales need very little water and then only to the top of the bale. (I watered twice in 2021). Our garden delivered eggplant, beans, kale, spinach, lettuce, red and green cabbage, green and wax beans, acorn butternut and mystery squash, tomatoes (finished my last tomato 12/7) rhubarb, zucchini, potatoes, onions and cukes. This is my second year using straw. I look around my neighborhood for homeowners with Halloween decoration using bales and invite them to let me recycle those straw bales. I have been very successful at gathering them free. I am hoping to reuse 9 bales and added seven new already.
Dressing Up My Garden
Although I plan to have something in bloom every day, sometimes my garden is not colorful. So to dress it up, I hang colorful pretty dresses in the trees and bushes. I have use a theme or I am spontaneous and fanciful with my choice of dresses. Maybe a wedding theme in ’22? I visit Goodwill, Salvation Army, or resale shops for deals. Several friends have contributed dresses. It’s just for fun and it’s interesting! Come by 909 S. Prospect (kitty corner from Roosevelt School) for a peek at the dresses next summer.
Overhauling A Garden
My large perennial area was looking shabby, weedy, and tired. In the process I read an article in the Trib about a plant rescue in an abandoned lot in Chicago using plastic grocery bags. In the fall, I dug up each plant, with a shovel of dirt to protect the root structure, placed it in a plastic sack, doubled the bag, moved the bagged plants to my vegetable garden and buried the bags for the winter. I had about fifty bags and only lost two. I cleaned up the old garden, rototilled, fertilized, and planned before winter took hold. Come spring, I dug up my sacks, replanted the flowers and enjoyed a well-earned colorful summer garden. I’m probably the only one to swipe bags from the Jewel recycle box! This was about 12 years ago, and I am thinking about a repeat. I did 2 other areas to complete restoring the beds.
Other Go Green ideas
2L pop bottle greenhouses
Reclaimed chair gardens
Planted 12 trees
We had the idea of turning our yard into a community garden once our kids were grown and gone. Chris had the bright idea of creating a rain garden in a low spot, using the dirt from digging out our patio, to create a berm. And so, the Hodges Park Community Garden and Sustainable Yard began.
There are four 8 X 20 feet gardens, divided in half; so each gardener has a 8 X 10 plot. Chris and our first gardeners built fences out of buckthorn and chicken wire to keep bunnies, dogs and little children out of the gardens; and Chris built cute gates for each garden. The gardens are raised and filled with good soil and mushroom compost.
Our own large in-ground garden is along our back fence. This year we’re going to plant “the three sisters” back there—corn in mounds, climbing beans around the corn and summer squash around the beans. Indigenous Peoples knew that “the three sisters” nurture each other and humans with all they and we need to survive. The corn gives us starch. The beans give us protein and the squashes give us nutrients to keep us healthy.
By catching rainwater in our 4 rain barrels, creating a rain garden and building sedge rows we do our best to keep all of the rain that falls on our property out of the sewer pipes. We use no commercial pesticides or herbicides and have a large open compost bin for food and yard waste. Chris has a seed garden along our front hedge. He grows native plants that were given to him by the Forest Preserve. He collects the seeds from these plants each year. They are sorted and sent to various Forest Preserve sites to restore the woods and prairies to their pre-settlement glory.
One of the most important results of all of these activities, especially the gardens in our yard, is the community building that happens. We have loved getting to know our neighbors better. It’s delightful to see them teaching their children to garden, seeing them chewing on a green bean, tomato or cucumber fresh from the garden. Of course, the main result of gardening is that we eat healthy, fresh food that we’ve grown ourselves. We hope that our small efforts to live sustainably and grow our own food will influence others to do the same.
What started out as our own hobby has turned into a community effort that benefits more than just ourselves. We give and we receive. Thanks for recognizing us as “Changemakers”. It’s an honor. Nan and Chris
Thank you for this honor, GGPR! Nan and Chris Parson (along with my environmentally conscious children) were our inspiration!
The choices we make today have a direct and immediate effect on the planet! A native plant landscape and community garden restores the soil, reduces pollution, attracts pollinators, creates beauty, grows tasty food, and enhances our personal and social lives. We are all stewards of the planet and if we, one by one, make better choices with our time and our land we can insure it will be here and be productive for future generations.
We no longer use a gas or electric lawn mower. We no longer use pesticides or insecticides or put any toxic chemicals into the ground. Any materials we used were repurposed and thus diverted from a landfill. Our mulch and wood chips were all donated or sourced from ecologically responsible sources. We have met many fellow gardeners (and non-gardeners). We share ideas, plants, and food and drink with others. It has been a big positive for us physically, mentally, aesthetically and spiritually. We see and enjoy the fruit of our labor and native plants let the planet heal itself. We are constantly learning and trying new things too. Most of all it has been fun to do!
Covid-19 slowed down our Community Garden plan in 2020. We had twelve raised beds and attracted three neighbors to join us. There will be more people involved this year. Even the act of starting the garden last year led to meeting others and starting friendships. Thank you, GGPR. Sue & Mike
Do you see important connections with the role you play in our community and our future on this planet?
Tim: I have studied the relationships between collective and individual actions at local, state, federal and global levels related to climate mitigation and adaptation needs, and how change unfolds. What I have learned is action is needed at all levels and every action can make a difference. I have been active locally and at the State level, focusing on energy and transportation sustainability and can tangibly see positive changes. It boils down to understanding the technical, political, social and economic issues and helping as one can with one’s voice, vote and wallet to help – no matter the size or type of the contribution. We are in this together.
Melissa: Yes. So many decisions that impact the environment and greenhouse gas emissions are made at the local level—most notably, decisions regarding transportation and land use. Local governments and organizations also have an important role to play to communicate with people about how their day-to-day actions affect the environment and the easy ways they can lessen their impact. Given that change at the federal level can be slow and frustrating, it’s been really rewarding to see my efforts help drive positive change in a relatively short period of time.
Meet Ms Corsello: Emerson Middle school changemaker! LONg overdue recognition towards #SLURP and more!
GGPR: Do you see important connections with the role you play in our community and our future on this planet?
Ms Corsello: As a technology elective teacher at Emerson Middle School, I teach over 400 6th, 7th, and 8th graders a year. In two of my classes, Multimedia Magic and Broadcasting, students are able to choose from a variety of short video project assignments. I’ve found great value in providing my students with an authentic audience by publishing their video projects on my teacher YouTube channel, https://youtube.com/MsCorsello. Many of the videos also make it onto our live video announcements, which airs on Fridays during homeroom.
My goal is to engage and empower learners by providing student choice (see the learning menu and choice board linked above). One of the projects that students can choose to create is an environmental public service announcement. There are over 30 videos ranging from recycling misconceptions to deforestation in the Environmental PSA playlist. These videos serve as a tool to inform the community about environmental issues and persuade them to take action.
My students and I have teamed up with Go Green Park Ridge to spread the word about various initiatives. In the spring 2019, Amy Bartucci visited my classroom to inform us about GGPR’s Straws Literally Upon Request Policy (#SLURP) initiative. Students worked in groups to create promotional videos to be shown during D64’s Go Green Week April 15-19th. In the fall, a broadcasting class news team filmed an interview with GGPR’s mother and daughter team, Catherine and Annie McDonough, in our digital media lab on the essential question, “What impact would a ban on plastic straws have on the ecosystem?”. We look forward to continuing our relationship with GGPR - when we work together we can have a greater impact!
Go Green Park Ridge YouTube Videos
Meet Reese RaNTA: administrator for the Buy Nothing Project Park Ridge (South) - OUR JANUARY 2020 CHANGEMAKER
GGPR: Do you see important connections with the role you play in our community and our future on this planet?
Reese: I am so excited to share information about the Buy Nothing Project Park Ridge (South). The Buy Nothing Project is a grass-roots-volunteer driven project started by two Washington State residents in July 2013 and has reached over 30 nations. The rules of the Facebook-based group are simple, “Post anything you’d like to give away, lend, or share amongst neighbors. Ask for anything you’d like to receive for free or borrow. Keep it legal. Keep it civil. No buying or selling, no trades or bartering, we’re strictly a gift economy.”
I am so fortunate to be the administrator for the Buy Nothing Project Park Ridge (South). By leading this group, I’m hoping to encourage community, recycling/repurposing, and rethinking the need to buy new. I want to facilitate the building of close friendships in the small neighborhood of the Buy Nothing community. The type of neighbor friendship where you would go knock on the door if you need an egg to make the cake you already started.
I believe we will see two major outcomes of this group: 1. A cleaner planet because we are reusing, recycling and reducing our waste and members are more aware of creating a greener community. 2. A stronger community and friendship among neighbors in a small local area who will continue to support the mission of the Buy Nothing Project.
The Buy Nothing Project creates small hyperlocal gift giving economies and so Park Ridge is split into two different groups, North and South. The boundaries of the South group are Busse Hwy and Touhy Ave on the North, Canfield Ave and S Merrill St on the East, Higgins on the south and Des Plaines River and North Talcott on the west.
Currently, there is still opportunity for someone to create and administer a Buy Nothing Project Park Ridge (North) group!
If you are interested, please see more information about the project at the website below!
You will also find a button to link you to Facebook if interested in the South group.
Take a look at what your neighbors are doing for Park Ridge sustainability!