The Climate Food Fight: Victory Gardens for a Warming World

The Climate Food Fight: Victory Gardens for a Warming World

Can we fight climate change with a tomato? We’ve fought with food once before. . . and we’re not talking about in the cafeteria.

Today, a new round of Climate Victory Gardens are popping up across the country to address our climate crisis, according to Jillian Semaan, food campaigns director at Green America, a national nonprofit that is leading the charge.

Remembering Sally Stovall

Remembering Sally Stovall

When most people retire, they kick back, take cruises, and visit the grandchildren. Sally Stovall was not most people. She did, indeed, relish visiting her grandchildren, but after she retired from a career in organizational development, Sally embarked on a new, vibrant career as climate activist and community organizer.

In September 2010, Sally and her partner, Dick Alton, were worried about global warming and decided to hold a community meeting to see if others felt the same way. Out of the woodwork poured a cohort of people with the same concerns --no real surprise in progressive Oak Park.

Park District Will Get $100,000 IF 1,000 Residents Take Sustainability Pledge

Park District Will Get $100,000 IF 1,000 Residents Take Sustainability Pledge

Green Mountain Energy (GME) Sun Club is partnering with the Park District of Oak Park to provide $100,000 for solar panels, rain harvesting, tea composting and bees at the Oak Park Conservatory.

To secure these funds, the Park District needs your help. Click on the link below to identify actions you and your family will take to help make our community more sustainable and contribute to the overall health of Mother Earth.

Green Your Block Party!

Green Your Block Party!

Go green at your next block party! Demonstrations on butterfly gardening, edible gardening, organic lawn care, and composting are among the activities offered by Green Community Connections and PlanItGreen to help bring a sustainability focus to your neighborhood event. More info on how to schedule a green event is available at

Add Green to Your Block Party

Add Green to Your Block Party

Green Events for your block party help build stronger relationships between the people and nature on your block!

Host a presentation with Q&A and Show&Tell:

  • Composting & Vermicomposting

  • Butterfly Gardening

  • Edible Gardening

  • Organic Lawn Care

Do It Your Way with DIY Green Block Parties

Do It Your Way with DIY Green Block Parties

Summer is upon us and with it the annual block party season. Block parties are a special part of celebrating community and our wonderful outdoor spaces. It’s also a great way of recognizing and celebrating the many sustainability initiatives and resources in our community – whether it’s native or edible gardens, backyard or curbside composting (offered through the villages of Oak Park and River Forest), solar panels or learning about the awesome trees on your block. By shining a light on these important community assets, we encourage one another and help to build a more resilient future for our children.

Green Living: Host a Green Block Party


With Spring finally "sprung," and the last day of school soon approaching -- neighbors' minds and hearts turn to that annual homage to communal grilling, sidewalk chalk, water fights, and big-and-little-people tricycle races. The Block Party is a sacred thing in many places across the country -- not least in Oak Park and River Forest. Here, block party fun is serious business. And to some local citizens, greening their block parties is seriously cool and important business.  The great news is that the villages of Oak Park and River Forest are both supporting GREEN BLOCK PARTIES this year! Why? Read on for the why's, who's, what's, and how's of green block parties.

Our Green Block Party Guide will give you everything you need to know in order to host your own Green Block Party! Click here for the complete article.

Community Profile: Justin Vrany, a Chicago restauranteur who takes zero-waste literally


Justin Vrany knows about the power of publicity, and the strength of the “green” movement. He opened his Chicago restaurant, Sandwich Me In, two years ago with a commitment to zero waste and to sourcing local, organic food. Despite a loyal customer base and favorable reaction to his delicious offerings, business was so slow that he found himself unable to pay employees and running the restaurant single-handedly for nearly six months last year. Then NationSwell produced a short documentary about the restaurant  recently (click "continue reading" below to see video). The documentary shows how Sandwich Me In is truly a zero waste restaurant. It has been widely viewed—over 130,000 views within the first several weeks—and has also sparked a series of articles in prestigious on-line and print publications (CBS News, the Huffington Post, Chicago Tonight and others).

And with the publicity have come customers! Now the restaurant is thriving and Justin is finding the time to start other initiatives, such as a local composting program where customers can bring their own compostables to the restaurant, and live music at the restaurant most evenings. He’s also been approached by other restaurants wanting to know how he does it, and is considering starting a consulting business to teach other restaurants how to incorporate zero waste principles.

Many of us use the term “zero waste” to mean reducing our landfill waste, but at Vrany’s restaurant zero really means zero. While most restaurants discard dozens of gallons of waste per day, or even per hour, in its two years of existence, Sandwich Me In has recycled or composted all but eight gallons of its waste—which is itself largely plastic-lined coffee cups and the like brought into the restaurant by its customers (photo at right). And even these eight gallons have been taken by a local artist to turn into a sculpture! Vrany tried to cancel garbage pickup, but the city wouldn’t let him, insisting that the restaurant pay at least the minimum $40 a month for trash pickup it doesn’t use.


Sandwich Me In is a proud member of the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition, and its commitment to sustainability doesn’t end with eliminating waste. Vrany refuses to buy overly processed or transported foods for the restaurant. Instead, nearly all of the food served by the restaurant is made in-house from scratch, using organic meats, dairy and produce from local farmers. (This year, Alex Poltorak’s The Urban Canopy will grow fresh produce for the restaurant in a dedicated Englewood plot so that food picked that day will be on the menu.) The restaurant also uses 100% renewable energy and is committed to water-conserving techniques. The restaurant’s furnishings and equipment are nearly all reused or refurbished—Vrany even ingeniously used the pallets from an appliance delivery to build out the restaurant’s behind-the-counter area!

Vrany began working in the restaurant industry at a young age, for powerhouses such as The Ritz and Nick’s Fish Market. He later attended the business and culinary arts program at Kendall College, where he learned about sustainability. Vrany credits a French teacher’s Food Politics course for changing his life, opening his eyes to what the U.S. is doing to its food and the planet. Vrany says that one of the many inspirational quotes painted on the restaurant’s walls sums up the way in which he lives his life: “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want” (Anna Lappé, Small Planet Institute).

Justin Vrany, Sandwich Me In, 3037 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657, (773) 348-3037