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Who We Are

Green Community Connections provides a place to tap into conversations about sustainability issues and to identify concrete steps you can take. We believe change is both necessary and possible and the best way to get there is together. Learn more About Us.

Happy News! Together We are Making a Difference for Monarchs!

Monarch by William Warby/Wikimedia Commons.

Oak Park resident, Gina Orlando, recently shared the happy news that she saw at least 10 monarchs at the same time on a patch of the swamp/rose milkweed at Mills Park.

“Their playfulness and beauty are a joy,” Orlando said. “It was wonderful to see!  And it’s hopeful. They are coming back.”

After the monarch population decreased by 90 percent in the last 20 years, due to climate change, pesticides, and habitat loss, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service set a goal that 225 million monarchs will be back by 2020.

Within the past year, the mayors of Oak Park and River Forest both signed the Mayors for Monarchs pledge through the National Wildlife Federation, which is a commitment to provide a healthy habitat for monarch butterflies and to encourage citizens to do the same. The Village of Oak Park planted 260 milkweed and nectar plants in the spring at Village Hall, Public Works, the Central Fire Station, and various traffic diverters and cul-de-sacs, said Rob Sproule, superintendent of forestry. Monarch caterpillars can only eat milkweed, and nectar plants are needed so that monarchs have the energy to migrate to Mexico and the weight to get through hibernation.

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Montel the Sea Turtle Survives Hurricane Irma

A black cloud seemed to hover over Montel until Hurricane Irma blew away his hard luck.

You may remember a story we told you in May, about a 170-pound green sea turtle named Montel. He was the victim of a series of accidents involving a fishing line, a shark, and boat before he was rescued by The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida. Missing his front left flipper, part of his front right flipper, and his right eye, Montel soldiered on after treatment but was never released because his chance of survival in the ocean was minimal.

Our interest in Montel started when Jaxon and Miles Toppen of Roosevelt Middle School in River Forest won the elementary/middle school prize in our 2017 Young Filmmakers Contest. Their film, “Shells in Need of Saving,” detailed The Turtle Hospital’s rescue and rehabilitation of two different turtles, Thurston and Agape, with whom they became acquainted while on vacation in the Florida Keys last winter.

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Youth Learn Leadership via Gardening

“I Can Fly” summer youth cohort with mentors in the Harambee Garden.

This summer a new youth leadership program gave a cohort of Chicago teens a safe and nurturing environment to learn lessons that enriched their lives, as well as the neighborhood where they live. During July, teens in the “I Can Fly” Youth Leadership Program focused on the richness of the soil, not the economic poverty around them; the sweet fruits of labor, not the bitterness of systematic discrimination. They learned art — culinary and fine – as well as the art of negotiation, compromise and hard work. They learned to trust in their own leadership power as well as a higher power. The program was punctuated by a rich Speaker Series and four engaging field trips, but mainly the teens learned about these issues while building butterfly habitat, staking tomato plants, and pulling herbs and greens for alfresco lunches in the garden.

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‘The Genius of Birds’ Book Discussion at Austin Gardens

“The Genius of Birds” book cover.

Recent research shows that birds are far more capable than we once thought. They have keen visual intelligence, navigation skills, and empathy. They solve problems, make tools, and even innovate.

“The Genius of Birds” by Jennifer Ackerman, which observes this first-hand, will be the subject of the next four meetings of the Austin Gardens Book Club. All are welcome to this free book discussion.

Meetings will go from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays Sept. 19, Oct. 17, Nov. 21, and Dec.19, at Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center, 167 Forest, in Oak Park.

“The Genius of Birds” was a New York Times national bestseller and named one of the 10 best nonfiction books of 2016 by the Wall Street Journal. Jennifer Ackerman’s website reads, “This book explores the new view of birds as ‘thinkers’—cunning, playful, witty, greedy, cranky, joyful, competitive.”

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Native Shrub & Tree Sale: Order by end of day Sunday, 9/24

We have many trees and shrubs that are hard to find. Most nurseries and garden centers do not carry these plants.

Order online by end of day on Sunday, Sep 24th at wild-ones-west-cook.myshopify.com

Pick-up is September 30th at Euclid Methodist Church’s parking lot, 405 S Euclid Ave, Oak Park, 9am-1pm.

Note: if you are unable to pick up your plant order on Sep 30 due to Yom Kippur celebration (or other conflict) please contact sally@greencommunityconnections.org or 773-315-1109

We put together our top picks for your gardening interests:


Top 3 Picks to Attract Birds:

  • Sumac
  • Pagoda Dogwood
  • Red-stemmed Dogwood


Top 3 Picks to Attract Butterflies:

  • New Jersey Tea
  • Buttonbush
  • Spicebush


Top 3 Picks for Other Pollinators:

  • Black Cherry
  • Red Chokeberry
  • Prairie Willow


Top 3 Picks for Human Edibles

  • Elderberry
  • American Filbert
  • Paw Paw


Top 3 Coolest Plants (they’re all cool to us, but these are hard to find, unknown, have something exceptionally interesting about them, and should be planted more):

  • Bladdernut
  • Wafer Ash
  • Blue Beech

Many of these plants also offer incredible fall color.

We will have some native flowering plants available for sale on pick-up day: Butterfly Weed, Rose Milkweed, Cardinal Flower, Prairie Coreopsis, Prairie Smoke, Purple Coneflower, Foxglove Beardtongue, Wild Ginger, Dropseed, Common Oak (Pen) Sedge, Columbine, Wild Petunia and Geranium, Showy Goldenrod, and Sky Blue Aster. We are unable to pre-order or hold them. Please arrive early for best selection.



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Thank you to our Presenting Sponsors from the One Earth Film Festival.