John Edel is the owner and developer of the Chicago Sustainable Manufacturing Center, a green business incubator in the Stockyards Industrial Corridor. As General Contractor, Edel took the facility from a burnt-out shell to 100% occupancy while using a mixture of waste-stream recycled materials and leading edge technology to make the building exceptionally energy efficient and pleasantly non-toxic.
AE: Filled up or fed up, John?
JE: I’m filled up with the generosity of people.
AE: What do you mean?
JE: As the Director of Plant Chicago, I am overseeing the rehabbing of a former meatpacking plant (the building we now call “The Plant”) into a vertical farm and artisanal food business incubator, as well as research and education center. Notably, the whole building will be off the grid, using food waste to create its own electricity and heat. Most of our deconstruction and re-construction of the building relies on volunteers, which means people give up their free time – time they could be spending with their families or friends – to help us reach our goal.
AE: I think you bring up a good point about the human element in sustainability. It’s not just about the environment, but also how human beings feel and are treated within the environment.
JE: Yes, the Plant has moved along at a remarkable pace since we bought the building a year ago and we’re glad to have so much community interest and involvement.
AE: So you are filled up by community! Me too. It’s exciting to see more and more people caring and attracted to “green” ideas.
JE: Another great thing about working with such a wide range of people is that they also give us their ideas. Many of those ideas have produced great collaborations, morphing and tweaking and improving the project along the way. Through these collaborations, The Plant is becoming a new and replicable model for growing food and creating jobs in cities while avoiding the usual increase in carbon that comes from those activities. Without the gift of good ideas, The Plant might not be possible in its current form. Working together with a common, greater goal allows us to see beyond our own noses and into the broader world.
AE: That fills me up!