Planning for Conservation and Quality of Life in the Kankakee Sands

Some fascinating regional sustainability news from one of the SUST Program’s great partners, the Field Museum: the Chicago Region conservation team in the Museum’s Keller Science Action Center drew on the Quality of Life planning process used in South America by their Andes-Amazon counterparts to bring together disparate and sometimes contentious stakeholders around conservation land use in the globally rare black-oak savannas of the Kankakee Sands.

Kankakee-sands-bi-state-map TNCA team of Action Center scientists has been working since March on a process that will ensure that the community’s voice will be reflected in local conservation land use decisions. After sustained negotiations, representatives from the Museum, the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, Kankakee County Regional Planning Commission, Kankakee Country Farm Bureau, Pembroke Township, Pembroke Consolidated School District #259, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Village of Hopkins Park signed a resolution to work together to develop a “Sustainability Plan” for Hopkins Park and Pembroke Township. The resolution was announced at a press conference on May 19, 2016.

The plan “provides the ways and means to preserve and sustain the community history, culture, and natural environments in addition to land preservation for current residents and future generations.” The stakes heightened when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans for a Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, which the service intends to be a local community asset and a conservation area of national importance: USFWS announced that it will not purchase land in Pembroke Township until the Quality of Life plan is completed.

Read more here from the Kankakee Daily-Journal:

Posted in community, conservation, Illinois, museums, news, planning

Join RU’s Team for the Bike Commuter Challenge!

Roosevelt University Green Campus

RU is gearing up to participate in and win this year’s 25th annual Bike Commuter Challenge, hosted by the Active Transportation Alliance!  Please join the group ‘Roosevelt U. Bikes’ to help us accrue mileage!  Anyone who will be riding even a single bike commute trip during the week of the challenge is encouraged to participate.  Whether you’ve been bike commuting for years, or are a complete novice, you can join the ‘Roosevelt U. Bikes’ team.  A trip can even include biking to/from the bus, train, or alternative transportation that is taking you to/from RU.

Why?  Biking is a great way to stay healthy, and reduce your carbon footprint.  Plus, it feels great!  For those of you who’ve thought about bike commuting, this is the right time to start.  Active Transportation Alliance has arranged morning pit stops throughout the city to help you on your way.  They’ve also compiled…

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Social Sustainability Conference (INSS 2016) in Chicago This Week, June 8-10

This week, the national Integrated Network for Social Sustainability Conference will be hosted here in Chicago by the Institute of Cultural Affairs in the Uptown neighborhood. SUST professor Mike Bryson, SUST alum Troy Withers (BPS ’13), and environmental educator and community activist Michael Howard will be discussing community/youth development, sustainability education, and social justice on Thursday 6/9 at 2:45pm in the Education & Culture session.

Mr. Withers works as a counselor and mentor in the BAM Program for African-American boys here in Chicago through the Youth Guidance organization. He’s also a leader with the Gahn Institute for Sustainable Solutions and a longtime mainstay at Soul Vegan. Mr. Howard is the executive director and co-founder of the Eden Place Nature Center located in the Fuller Park neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.

To see an interactive agenda, register, and attend the conference, check out this link. Hope to see you there! An overview is also available here (pdf) and registration fee waivers are available for students and those with limited means. The ICA’s Greenrise building is readily accessible by public transit (Red Line, 3 blocks east of the Lawrence stop).

Education and Culture INSS logo

Posted in activities, alumni, cities, community, conferences, education, faculty, social justice

Microcosm Heads to Alaska this June

This summer the adventure into the oceanic microscopic universe continues as filmmaker, marine biologist, and Roosevelt University SUST Adjunct Professor Michele Hoffman Trotter and her colleagues set out for Alaska on the exciting field expedition yet for her upcoming documentary Microcosm. Without further ado, we’ll let Michele tell you about this remarkable new chapter in the Microcosm story in her own words.

Healy research vessel

The USGS Healy research vessel (photo: USGS)

After three years of intense research, filming, fundraising, and lab/field research, the film project Microcosm will officially transition into production during a six-week research cruise in the Arctic circle at the invitation of University of Alaska.  The Microcosm crew will join scientists from the University of Alaska and other research institutions on board the USGS Healy, a state of the art Coast Guard vessel with 4,000 square feet of lab space and even a gym!

SUST prof Michele Hoffman Trotter in her natural element: filming underwater!

SUST prof Michele Hoffman Trotter in her natural element: filming underwater!

The purpose of the cruise is to perform a biodiversity assessment and chronicle as many species as possible that inhabit the Canada basin. Only when we chronicle the residents of these remote places can we begin to understand how ocean communities are changing or in science lingo, assess changing baselines.

As ice cover continues to retreat, new areas open up to research potential and it is likely that there will be exciting discoveries this summer. Michele and her team are particularly interested in microscopic life, and are focused on demonstrating how it fuels the economy of the entire ocean food web.

Under the sea . . .

Under the sea . . .

The official invitation to join the expedition came in February, leaving Hoffman Trotter a short window in which to find BIG funding.  A combination of crowd sourced money from a GoFundMe campaign, bake sales (yes, bake sales, as in cupcakes!), and last minute sponsorship provided just enough to get the three person team the resources needed to make the expedition work. Canon USA, Zacuto, and Columbia College tipped the proverbial iceberg by arranging state of the art 4k cinematography kits to loan the team for the expedition.  In addition to Hoffman Trotter, the Microcosm film crew will include Michael Caplan of Columbia College and Montrose Pictures, who is Co-Directing the film; and Mathew Broughton of MatieB Productions, who will serve as Director of Photography.

The excitement of it all was elevated to a new level when it was learned that the expedition will also be sailing under the famed Explorers Club flag, the same flag that accompanied the first visit to the moon, the first trip to the ocean floor, and the original conquering of Everest!

The Microcosm GoFundMe is still active and collecting funds for this and the next expedition; and there is also a limited edition collection of expedition gear being sold through Booster. Michele will blog about the expedition’s progress over the course of the summer, so be sure to check it out on the official Microcosm Film page!

The SUST community at Roosevelt wishes Professor Hoffman Trotter and her colleagues all this best on this exciting research/filming expedition that truly embodies the best of the sciences, humanities, and arts working on behalf of environmental education and the sustainability of our oceans.

Posted in arts, biodiversity, climate change, conservation, ecology, education, faculty, research, Roosevelt, science, water

Three Plots Still Available in RU Community Garden at Schaumburg Campus

RUrbanPioneers Community Garden at Roosevelt’s Schaumburg Campus, Summer 2013 (M. Radeck)

Roosevelt’s Schaumburg Campus Community Garden is one of the origin sites for our university’s sustainability movement, and is a thriving hub of gardening innovation and community building. Right now, three 5×5 plots are still available for this year’s growing season. The only cost associated with joining the Community Garden would be for the materials that you personally purchase for your garden plot (seeds, soil amendment, etc.).

With the gardening season now moving into high gear, the time is ripe to claim a plot! If you are interested, please reach out to Rebecca Quesnell, Sustainable Operations Coordinator, Dept. of Physical Resources ( Plots will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Posted in activities, agriculture, news, Roosevelt, suburbs

SUST 320 Walking Tour of the Cabrini-Green/Near North Neighborhood

Post by Maria Cancilla, SUST major

On April 14, 2016, Professor Pickren led his SUST 320 – Sprawl, Transport and Planning students through the Cabrini-Green/Near North Neighborhood on a walking tour. We did some reading about the infamous housing projects, located a stone’s throw from Chicago’s wealthy Gold Coast neighborhood. So we wanted to see, up close, what’s become of the 70 acres upon which this housing development once stood.

In the Shadows of the Gold Coast

In the shadows of the Gold Coast

We knew that all of the high-rise buildings (Also known as “The Reds” and “The Whites”) were torn down between the mid-1990’s and 2011. Only the original Frances Cabrini row houses remain today – some still inhabited; some fenced-off with an un-known fate.

Cabrini Row Houses2.jpg

Most of the Francis Cabrini rowhouses are boarded up

We started our tour on Hudson at Chicago Avenue, where Chicago Lights Urban Farm is located, and worked our way north to North Avenue and Clybourn.

Chicago Lights Urban Farm2

From this student’s point of view, our visit to this storied neighborhood was a bit surreal. I have been programmed to not walk through this neighborhood. I remember a time when you wouldn’t dare to even drive through this neighborhood – In the late 1980s and early 1990s when I worked in the Gold Coast; in the late 1990s when I took dance classes in both the Gold Coast and Old Town; in 2010-11 when I worked for Groupon; in 2012 when I visited and worked on the Chicago Lights Urban Farm with RU’s SUST 350 Service Learning course (Professor Bryson, spring, 2012) – In ALL of these instances, I would skirt this neighborhood. Never. Not once. Did I walk through it. Until that warm day in April, when our class walked through it together. It was somehow even more surreal on such a bright and beautiful spring day. It seemed so calm.

Cabrini Open Row Houses

Homes along Cambridge Avenue are the only remaining active portion of the Francis Cabrini rowhomes

One of our SUST 350 – Service Learning class activities was to take a driving tour through this neighborhood. Natasha Holbert, the farm director at Chicago Lights Urban Farm, explained some of the challenges of living in the neighborhood since the last towers came down. These are things that you can’t see when just passing through. She said that the Division Street gang divide was still very real in 2012. It was creating food deserts for people who were able to stay in the neighborhood, but still had family members with gang affiliations – even if the ties were a generation or two removed. At that time, both of the neighborhood’s large grocery stores were on the north side of Division, and some families did not feel safe crossing that street to shop for food. Holbert also mentioned that the neighborhood’s school, Edward Jenner Elementary Academy of the Arts presented similar problems of gang line crossings, which either kept kids from attending school, or kept parents from walking their young children to school. About the school specifically, Holbert noted that Jenner was touted as a performing arts school, yet it had no auditorium. Was this due to lack of funds? Lack of planning? Lack of caring? Hard to say. But it doesn’t make much sense. These are some of the issues that were on my mind as we walked through this neighborhood. I was wondering if these were still concerns four years later.

Jenner School

Jenner Elementary Academy of the Arts

I was also hearing the harmonies of the musical group, “The Impressions” in my head as we walked by the honorary Curtis Mayfield street signs:

“It’s Alright”

“People Get Ready”

“Keep on Pushing”

“Meeting Over Yonder”


Mayfield Sign

Of course, Mayfield had some harsher songs like “Freddie’s Dead” and “Pusher Man” later on. But I was thinking mostly of hope, inspiration and inclusivity on this bright spring day.

Finally, I keep thinking about what a neighborhood feels like, and how it didn’t feel like a neighborhood as we walked. To me, a neighborhood has special or interesting places to meet or congregate. Or just places to sit and watch the world go by. I don’t remember any front stoops, porches or benches. We saw so much development happening in the Near North, but all of the development looks to be towers. Is this by design? It seems that this is supposed to be a place to live – but only to stay inside – or just pass through. Where are the gathering places?

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Following Our Waste and Water Streams: SUST Senior Cassidy Avent Reflects on Her Summer 2015 Internship with SCARCE

This guest post is by RU senior Cassidy Avent, a SUST major who interned during the Summer 2015 semester at the non-profit organization, SCARCE (School & Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education), based in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.  Here is the last of Cassidy’s essays this spring, as she reflects back on her work as an environmental educator to young people across the DuPage County area

Making Super Crayons at SCARCE

Repurposing school supplies at SCARCE

Over the summer of 2015, I worked as an intern at the non-profit organization, School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education (SCARCE), which was founded by Kay McKeen 25 years ago in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The SCARCE team has a mission to spread environmental awareness through education to the community members of DuPage County and to people around the world.

As an intern, my responsibilities varied with the changing months. Much of my time was spent inside the SCARCE office, where I would do research for Kay or help prepare for community and school events. Other days we would give on-site presentations at local schools and at community events. Also, there were two weeks during my internship at SCARCE in which Kay McKeen and Steve Kenny taught two different teacher workshops.

A city garbage truck makes collection. Changes are coming to Chicago's waste management system.

A city garbage truck makes collection.

In the first workshop, called “Where is Away?”, Kay and Steve discussed what happens to our waste when we dispose of it. Every day that week we went to various facilities in the DuPage County area where we learned about what happens to our refuse, recyclables, and sewage waste. One of the most interesting places we toured was a landfill, which definitely smells worse than one would imagine! Regardless of the sour air at the drop off location, I found it very important to actually see that when we throw away something, it does not just disappear.

This workshop made me realize that even though the waste produced by residential communities is far less than that of industrial or commercial institutions, consumers are still responsible for understanding that a lot of our waste is composed of resources that can be used again or recycled into another form. As for the waste that cannot be reused or recycled, it is important that we know this will all end up in a landfill and remain there for a very, very long time.

The second workshop Kay and Steve taught, “Living Water”, discussed the importance of keeping our water clean and healthy because there will never be “new” water. Like the previous week, we travelled to various places that showed us how our water is cleaned, treated, and maintained. One of the most impactful visits I experienced was at the Jardine Water Treatment Center. This facility is the world’s largest water treatment plant and can treat up to one million gallons of water per minute!

Visiting JWTC helped me to realize how much engineering and technology is involved in making clean drinking water a possibility for our communities. During this week, we also travelled to the Woodridge – Green Valley Wastewater Treatment Facility. Instead of cleaning water for people to drink, this plant cleans wastewater that will be reintroduced to the nearby DuPage River. On the tour we were able to see, hear, and smell all of the waste being cleaned at the facility. I was amazed at how much trash was being filtered out of the water that comes in from the drains of the surrounding community.

Both of these workshops taught me so much about what happens to our waste and water after we are done with it. The technology behind these processes is truly amazing. I am so glad to have been able to experience this through interning at SCARCE.

If you live in or near DuPage County, I strongly encourage you to visit SCARCE this summer! They are open 9AM-4:30PM Monday-Friday and are located at 799 Roosevelt Rd. Building 2, Suite 108 in Glen Ellyn, IL. For more information, visit

Wall art inside SCARCE office.

Wall art inside SCARCE office.

Submitted 5 May 2016 by Cassidy Avent

Posted in community, education, internships, recycling, students, suburbs, waste, water