Image: Metropolitan Farms

By Zach Deitz

On July 21, Life Creative hosted Food: A Chicago Sustainability Series Dialogue. This symposium attracted different influencers hailing from the world of sustainability to come in and have a platform where they could educate the community on what they do, while hopefully inspiring others to follow suit in the process.

The main concepts of the event were the ideas of:

  • Urban sustainability
  • How integral it is to our existence to give back to the earth

As we continue to consume, but choose not to care for the resources that we do have, we are slowly running out of them. Becoming aware of how sustainability can play a role in the way we treat what we eat — and how we operate daily — is incredibly important.

The flier for the event.

The flier for the event.

Every step we can take as humans to improve the quality of the earth from an environmental standpoint is much needed.

This ideology has to stop in order to turn around the current trend of our environment. Every speaker touched on ways they have found to do their part.

Using the Unused

One of the speakers was Ben Kant, the founder of Metropolitan Farms. This is a group of individuals who are trying to achieve the goal of being able to grow fresh food in the same city where it’s consumed — almost bringing the farm-to-fork style of eating to Chicago.

Kant speaks about converting unused areas of the city, especially Humboldt Park, into green space areas. Those areas, he argues, can be used for urban development, instead of remaining an eye-sore with no general benefit for the public.

Adding green space provides ways for the community to come together, as gardening is a very communal and peaceful activity. It is also a way for the community to grow and source their own produce in an otherwise food-stricken area. This is integral in helping a community with very little access fresh produce to have something fresh to eat.

Efficient Composting

Another member of the talk providing insight into the ideas of urban sustainability was Jon Scheffel, the founder of the Healthy Soil Compost. What Healthy Soil Compost aims to do is use bicycles to power the proper procedures of disposing of food scraps and organic waste. That initiative, coupled with their partnership with a commercial earthworm farm, ultimately processes local waste into energy that can be used for bolstering the health of local soils.

Image: Healthy Soil Compost, LLC

Image: Healthy Soil Compost, LLC

Essentially, Scheffel aims to turn organic waste, which is anything that was once living, into nutrient rich soil, known as compost. That compost is then used to grow food, and renew the cycle of energy, remaining completely efficient and healthy for the environment.

He services more than 21 different neighborhoods in Chicago and is leading the charge in creating a fully renewable energy cycle.

Meat Sustainability

Lastly, Costa Lapaseotes of Harrison Quality Meats spoke about the idea of “meat sustainability,” such as using the entire animal, and having product relations with co-ops and local farms.

There was talk about how using the entire animal, and not letting any go to waste, is critical when consuming meat. Everything has a use and an ultimate purpose, and not benefiting from this is a shame to both the animal and the chef himself. For instance, the cowhide can be used for leather and all parts of the animal, even the vital organs, are edible, and are sometimes even viewed as a delicacy.

Also, it was discussed how sourcing local meat is important because if you don’t know where your product is coming from you are honestly just playing yourself. Harrison Quality Meats gets their meat from Slagel Family Farms in Fairbury, Ill., which has earned itself a reputation amongst some of Chicago’s best chefs.

Maintaining this local connection not only ensures the best possible quality for the product, but also encourages the stimulation of local economies and benefits all parties involved.

In all, it’s made clear that the movement of sustainability within urban areas has been increasing, as people have steepened their awareness of what it means to give back to the earth.

Growing vegetables locally and using all natural processes when performing all functions can prove tough, but more and more, people have begun to latch on to the idea of environmental awareness because the benefits clearly outweigh the negatives.