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Environmental Sustainability

Unparalleled Sustainable Innovation

Cultivate Communities are regenerative and self-sustaining.  Cultivate Chicago is on track to become the first project in the Midwest to meet the most ambitious environmental standards in the world—the Living Building Challenge—by producing its own food, achieving energy and water net-positivity, and establishing a world class, comprehensive model for community revitalization. The six-acre sustainability hub will also incorporate a week’s worth of battery storage to showcase climate resiliency strategies. Solar energy learning labs, experiential STEM immersion opportunities, and sustainable technologies will enable hands-on learning avenues for cultivating the next generation of sustainable leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs.


Among the Living Building Challenge’s performance criterion are net-positive energy and water usage. The Cultivate demonstration site will employ 550kW of solar arrays, geothermal wells, a wind turbine, and storm water techniques that will allow our campus to generate more energy and water (105%) than we utilize. Students and community members will have the ability to track our energy usage in real time through our automation and energy monitoring systems which will provide experiential learning opportunities in sustainability and renewable energy.

Regenerative Agriculture, Sustainable Nutrition & Food Security

On-site food production and regenerative agriculture is fundamental to the Cultivate Community framework. The demonstration site’s three acres of farming and food production, wellness facilities, teaching kitchens and nature-based playscapes will provide educational experiences and learning for the whole community and a projected 10,000 policymakers, educators and leaders who visit annually.  Year-round education is provided via greenhouses, tech-enabled hydroponic growing operations, community gardens, a learning barn, food forests, orchards, and edible landscapes.  Six teaching kitchens support culinary arts and nutrition for all ages, and all student meals will be prepared on-site using organic foods grown on the farm.  Produce grown above and beyond will be sold at affordable prices to the community through the Community Fresh Foods Store and Farm Café, a neighborhood-run social enterprise, as a means of generating additional revenue to support programming. Regional farmers and local business owners will also have opportunities to sell their produce and products onsite, providing economic opportunity.

Advancing Climate Justice

The Cultivate Collective is directly addressing the climate crisis and significant inequities of educational access, health care disparities, and environmental justice throughout the United States, and is developing a best-practice framework for advancing climate justice and environmental literacy that can be scaled to other national and international communities. Our net-positive energy national demonstration site is located within a 96% minority public housing project in an industrial corridor near an international airport where children and families have been impacted by decades of environmental injustice and disinvestment. Identified as a food desert, with high pollution and medically underserved, our low-income and BIPOC community is precisely representative of the growing inequalities embedded within the climate crisis.

A Financially Sustainable Model

Cultivate Communities are designed to be financially self-sustaining and cost-replicable.  The Cultivate Chicago demonstration site will serve as a replicable model for communities and schools across the globe.  This prototype will ultimately give back to our city and state communities in the form of cost savings on energy, healthy food grown on-site, and an efficient design that enables ongoing adaptation to the latest sustainable technologies and research on best practices.  Solar panel arrays and geothermal wells will offset the bulk of our utility expenses, and on-site food production and a community produce market will generate revenue to fund programs. Battery storage will showcase climate resiliency.  The six-acre hub will be self-sustaining by year three of operations.

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