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New Green City Guide to Chicago!!!

Coffee to brew, lunch dates to make, rush hour to avoid and weekend getaways to plan, birthday presents to buy and water heaters to fix, “dry-clean only” labels and new bars of soap, cake mixes to consider and maybe even an affordable bottle of wine!…  Not always a lot of time to stop and ponder our impact on the world when we’re just trying to get through our day.

Not to worry,  Natroplis is here to help.

With so many different products and services claiming to be “green” these days, it can be a lot to dig through. But good choices can make a world of difference!  As Carolyn Merchant puts it, consumers these days must assume their role as “active participants in the destiny of the webs which they are a part.”  Ecological Revoutions: Nature Gender and Science in New England. University of North Carolina Press, 1989, p. 270.  Looking globally, carbon dioxide emissions were 35% higher in 2006 than in 1990, and rising. Observed environmental changes, including loss of glaciers, rise of sea levels and shifts in plant and animal ranges will certainly lead to some pretty terrible losses in ecological diversity. ­Droughts will only exacerbate already unstable political regions (the U.S. not withstanding) and the fight for dwindling petroleum products will prove only a preview of the nastier fight to come for clean water rights.  The global economy has tanked due to precisely our love for borrowing against the future, and after everything, you still might find yourself standing in a grocery store wondering if there isn’t a better way to wash your clothes that doesn’t involve neon pink, carcinogenic goo packaged in a container that will never decompose.

We have here a tool for navigating a much needed revolution in each of our lives.  Natropolis is a means for exploring our role in this exciting transformation and an open forum to discuss and understand the what’s being done around you. Through a focus on environmental, personal and community programs and services, the Natropolis network highlights local approaches which address the larger issue of sustainability.

Natropolis is primarily a green city guide, focused on activities, services and products around Chicago, with an emphasis on environmental sustainability.  But if we have learned anything in recent years, it’s that tackling merely one aspect of the sustainability dilemma will not do.  As highlighted by the 2005 World Summit on Sustainable Development in New York, to be effective, action on sustainability must integrate a focus on the environment, society and economy.

Although it is critical that there is cooperation between these realms, in practice this often entails negotiation between competing interests.  It can be challenging, but each choice we do face can make a difference.  Each feature of the website, from the Restaurant Guide to our Webinar Series and Calendar of Events includes content that is relevant to each of these cornerstones.  The key is educate oneself and “recognize interdependence,” a universal concept highlighted as one of the Hannover Principles for sustainable design. It’s about having the right tools at hand to act accordingly.  It’s about helping Chicago to develop as a city of conscious consumers and make this community, and our world, a little bit better where ever we can.

Environmental

Green Building and Landscaping – Exciting Times for the City on the Lakespring chicago

The city of big shoulders has always been a hotbed of architectural innovation, and Green Building in Chicago is taking off.  The Chicago Green Building Council (LEED) and the Center for Green Technology are involved in more and more projects each week, as businesses and individuals are swept up in the beauty and efficiency of sustainable design.  The construction of an average home (2,000 square feet) usually results in 8,000 pounds of construction waste and every year in the United States, 136 million tons of construction and demolition waste are tossed into landfills. This debris amounts to more than half of all trash in landfills!  Add to this the energy and resources squandered through inefficient building technologies (heating, cooling, water, etc.) and it’s clear there’s plenty of room for improvement. Keep an eye out for deals at the constantly evolving selection at the Rebuilding Exchange for some great recycled building components!

Families and business are building green all over the Midwest and supply stores like GreenMaker, http://www.greenmakersupply.com/ GreenWerks http://www.greenwerkspro.com/ and the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) http://www.cnt.org/ are popping up to meet their need for materials and fresh ideas in eco-friendly construction and remodeling options.  Architecture firms like Doug Farr Associates  http://www.farrside.com/, Nathan Kipnis Architects and Zoka Zola http://www.zokazola.com/ are putting the Windy City on the map for progressive design.  And green real estate is a blossoming trade with almost every major broker in the city insistent that a portion of their agents undergo licensing through such programs as LEED. Some offices, such as LivingRoom Realty http://www.livingroomrealty.com/ focus directly on eco-friendly properties and are equipped with a full staff of certified agents.

With the array of shops like Green Home Chicago http://www.ghcdesigncenter.com/to furnish the inside of your home, you can live healthy and super mod.  Natural interiors by design firms like Wolfson Earth Finishes have become hugely popular for their organic components and stunning sophistication.  And how’s about a sweet sustainable urban garden for your Midwestern abode? Chicago Specialty Gardens is there to ensure yours neighbors grow adore your responsible plantings, be they in the front yard or rooftop! http://www.chicagogardens.com/ In fact, with the growing collection of sustainable landscaper resources, such as the Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association http://www.melaweb.org/, Safer Pest Control Project http://spcpweb.org/, and Pure Prairie Organics, http://www.pure-prairie-organics.com/ the savvy Chicagoan can create quite a piece of sustainable paradise right here on the “Third Coast!”

Green Business- The Triple Bottom Line: Making the Moola, Making a Difference

Chicago knows business.  We are, and have been for generations, at the cross roads of commerce for the nation and world.  Once the hog-butcher of the world, and today a city with still many farm kids running around in suits, this city knows its agriculture, and it certainly knows the power of trade.  It boasts a myriad of colleges, institutions and universities, lending recognition the world over for its innovation.  It’s a city of straightforward values and a champion for the value of hard work.  And in 2008, we sent a local hero to the Whitehouse.  Chicago is showing the globe what business looks like done right.

Planet, People, Profit – It’s THE simple recipe for doing business in the modern world.  Efforts to improve the condition of all three define what a successful business looks like in a progressive economy.  As author Andrew Savitz puts it, “Sustainability respects the interdependence of living beings on one another and on their natural environment. Sustainability means operating a business in a way that causes minimal harm to living creatures and does not deplete but rather restores and enriches the environment.”  (The Triple Bottom Line ) Increasingly, companies doing business in Chicago are coming around to this full understanding of effectiveness, and the groundwork for green business is being broadened by owners of large and small operations alike.

The Chicago Sustainable Business Alliance http://csba.foresightdesign.org/ lists over 100 local members with numbers climbing every month.  Meanwhile, Foresight Design http://www.foresightdesign.org/ hosts networking opportunities and workshops weekly, with more curious and enthusiastic guests at each event.  Demands for professional services among members of such an active and environmentally responsible business community have been fielded by firms like TerraCom communication specialists http://www.terracompr.com/ for years and the demand just keeps getting greater.

In fact, Green and socially responsible MBA’s are popping up all over the national academic scene, and Chicago institutions are developing their programs to retain their stake in the business world of tomorrow. Take a look at programs and events being developed at IIT-Stuart School of Business in Chicago (www.stuart.iit.edu) and Northwestern MSLOC (http://www.acteva.com/booking.cfm?bevaid=152088). Across Chicago, professionals are acknowledging that Healthy Employees= Healthy Profits= Healthy Community= Healthy Environment!

Sustainable Agriculture- Keep an eye out for Organic, Local and Delicious!

Chicago is a city surrounded by some of the most fertile land in the nation, and we’re a city that knows how to eat well.  Just because we live in a metropolis doesn’t mean we can’t find incredible fruits and veggies pulled from the earth- often within a short ride from home! CSAs have allowed us city dwellers to have a stake in, and reap the delicious rewards of nearby organic farms.  For a lead on exploring Community Supported Agriculture, check out Local Harvest. http://www.localharvest.org/csa/.  And remember, there are community gardens throughout the city thanks to neighborhood organizations and non-profit groups.  http://www.greennetchicago.org/community_gardens.html#Community%20Gardens

Another fine example of someone helping put great food in the hands of Chicagoans is Growing Power, a non-profit that helps to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities.  http://growingpower.org/Index.htm

Local Eateries

Beyond the farms, this city is full of incredible dining spots from just about every corner of the world, open just about every hour of the day.  Organic and exciting, try Crust for delicious pizza http://www.crustchicago.com/ , Frontera for tacos http://www.rickbayless.com/restaurants/grill.html/ or Handlebar http://handlebarchicago.com/ for some ragin’ organic Huevos Rancheros.  Maybe Uncommon Ground http://www.uncommonground.com/ for greens grown on the rooftop garden or Lula Café http://www.lulacafe.com/ for incredible butternut squash or blackened tilapia.  Toss in a trip to Chicago Diner http://www.veggiediner.com/ or Green Zebra http://www.greenzebrachicago.com/ and you’ve got everything from full feasts to fancy drinks.  Looking for a new spin on Chicago’s official dish?  Try Drew’s Eatery, http://drewseatery.com/ in Lincoln Square for an organic, grass-fed (read: REAL) beef hotdog, and maybe one of their delicious and organic vegetarian alternatives (like spinach, feta and turkey OMG!)  And of course there’s always room for desert!  Head over to the Bleeding Heart Bakery http://www.thebleedingheartbakery.com/ for some of the best organic cookies, cupcakes, and ice cream you may ever find!

Energy/Resource Initiatives

Resource management in general is finally coming into its own here in the Midwest, and Chicago is becoming an incredible example of how one of the world’s largest urban centers can remake itself as a conservation-oriented metropolis.  For decades now, non-profits such as The Chicago Recycling Coalition http://www.chicagorecycling.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=24&Itemid=61 and The Resource Center http://www.resourcecenterchicago.org/ have enabled Chicagoans to make better decisions about how they control their consumption, and how they handle their waste.  Add to this the leaps Chicagoans are making in energy efficiency through such technologies as locally designed wind-turbines http://www.aerotecture.com/ and geo-thermal systems such as Indie Energy http://www.indieenergy.com/ and Optimal Energy http://www.geo-thermo.com/ and we see a city becoming closer and closer to independence and sustainability every season.

Personal – Whole Mind & Body, for Everybody!

Progress in tackling the issues of sustainability often begin at home, and where better to begin than with your own health and wellness?  It has often been said that the more connected we are to our sense of identity and inner self, the more aware we are of our environment and our relation to it. Holistic approaches to health and well-being have blossomed in Chicago over the past several years, including exciting new options for nutrition and bodywork.  Herbs, supplements and tools for aromatherapy are readily available and a growing community of practitioners offer sessions and seminars in acupuncture, massage, meditation across the city.  All in all, Chicago is city ripe with possibilities for exploring and nourishing the Whole mind and body!

A healthy lifestyle includes challenging and enriching activities, and Chicagoans know how to live it up!  Yoga has taken off in the city, and you can often see folks taking advantage of the nice weather and beautiful parks we have here to practice their tai chi and chi gong.  The path along Lake Shore Drive is a blast all year round, but definitely comes alive in the summer.  It’s no secret Chicagoans enjoy their jogging and biking!  But the city and it’s surrounding area is full of options for the more adventurous of us- including many miles of trails for hiking and biking, as well as great spots for kayaking, windsurfing, rock climbing, fishing, sailing! Outdoor adventure and responsible options abound in the greater Chicagoland area, and Natropolis is there to share will you some of the finer spots for exciting outings, cultural exploration local travel adventures.

Posted in Chicago, Sustainable Business.

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