The Plant-Chicago

Alex Narrajos

The Plant is a place located in the the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago. It is an old meatpacking facility which has been transformed into a project whose mission is to create a circular economy, a model which transforms waste into energy-closing the loop.The space is an incubator for small businesses, houses an aquaponic system, and the city’s first vertical farm. The goal of a ‘Circular Economy’ is the best scenario for a sustainable city. According to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, a circular economy is defined as “a continuous positive development cycle that preserves and enhances natural capital, optimises resource yields, and minimises system risks by managing finite stocks and renewable flows. It works effectively at every scale” (Macarthur Foundation). Specifically to The Plant, they are aiming to create a system which directly used the waste from the commercial kitchens, breweries, and agriculture to power the building itself, as well as creating compost. The goal is that no waste leaves the building. Not only does the building sustain itself, they also offer community building opportunities to businesses and empowers people of all backgrounds to make their neighborhood and community more energy efficient and clean.

This project certainly fulfills the 5 pillars of sustainability.

Environment: The closed loop system makes the plant a “green factory”, promoting and fulfilling a business which creates virtually no waste. It is a self contained facility in which all waste become the raw material for other uses. This leads to lower carbon rates as there is no need to transport garbage, among other things.

Economics: The Plant’s circular economy is a method which can be applied to other businesses, even if wasn’t the same kind of food-producing business. This kind of economic method would allow companies and businesses to run for cheaper-as their costs would decrease

Social Equity: The Plant is located in an area which would otherwise be a food desert. Their weekly farmers markets allows community members to access healthy food they otherwise would not be able to.

Energy: The use of an anaerobic digester in the heart of The Plant means that not only are waste from projects going directly to other projects, but the waste that might not be able to be used is put into a big piece of equipment which powers the building.

Health: The plant houses the first vertical farm which grows vegetables for the community as well as an aquaponic system which produces a ton of food in a small area. This is vital, for as the population grows, cities are going need to figure out ways to grow food without destroying the natural landscape and utilizing small space.


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One thought on “The Plant-Chicago

  1. I remember we spoke about this in class, and I think this is an amazing turn out that should definitely be replicated in other communities. The fact that there is no waste is environmentally positive for the community, and the fact that all the departments interlink is what makes this such a great system. Another aspect that I like is that this all takes place in Back of the Yards neighborhood in a warehouse that was abandoned. The abandoned warehouse found a better purpose that eventfully even helped give back to the community by needing employment to work here. This Plant is environmentally positive, and should be expanded to other communities and be started in buildings that no longer have a purpose.


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