Talk of The Town: April 2024

Towards A Cleaner, Greener World

Since the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, this annual event has grown to include more than 1 billion people in 193 countries who come together to drive positive action for our planet. From climate education to conserving our planet’s biodiversity, you can learn more about their wide-ranging initiatives at

As we look ahead to Earth Day 2024, Talk of the Town is focusing on some simple ways to be a little bit more Earth-friendly in our daily lives, from where we shop to how we consume. Plus, we’ll check out some lesser known parks and green spaces where you can reconnect with nature.

Planet Vs. Plastics…

That’s the theme of Earth Day 2024. Indeed, plastic pollution poses a critical danger to our planet, our wildlife and our health. A recent Smithsonian Magazine article reported that of the 40 million tons of plastic waste generated in the United States in 2021, only 5-6% was recycled—about 85% went to landfills and 10% was incinerated.

The problem may seem overwhelming, but we can still be a part of the solution. Although each of these actions alone may seem negligible, if we all do them collectively, they can have an impact:

  • Wean yourself off of disposable, single-use plastics like cutlery and straws that can’t be recycled.
  • Replace shampoos and shower gels that come in plastic bottles with ones that come as bars.
  • Shop at zero waste and bulk stores that avoid plastic packaging. The Eco Flamingo in Lincoln Square, The Refilleri in Humboldt Park and The Unwaste Shop in the West Loop are just three in this growing market.
  • Learn the recycling guidelines in your community and recycle responsibly! Common mistakes like bubble wrap, plastic bags and potato chip bags can damage equipment—shutting down the system and making recycling more expensive.
  • If you like a product but the packaging is wasteful or not recyclable, make your voice heard via the company’s website or social media.

Green Chic: Eco-Friendly Brands & Secondhand Style

One way to become a more mindful, eco-friendly consumer is to support green companies and brands that have demonstrated a commitment to sustainable practices.

Check out any list of eco-friendly companies, and it’s likely that outdoor clothing company Patagonia is near the top. From the materials they use in production to how they operate their stores, offices and distribution center, the company’s goals include 100% reusable, compostable or easily recyclable packaging by next year and reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

Best known for their protein bars and snacks, Clif runs its business based on ecological principles. By the numbers, 79% of their ingredients are organic and/or certified sustainable, 90% of their waste is diverted from landfills and incinerators, and 100% of the electricity used at Clif facilities is green powered.

Known for their stylish, uber-comfortable shoes, Allbirds unveiled their “Flight Plan” in 2021—a commitment to cut their carbon footprint in half by the end of 2025 and to near zero by 2030. At the end of last year, just two years into their plan, they were more than halfway towards their goals.

Shopping secondhand or consignment stores is another simple way to reduce your carbon footprint. Going vintage not only diverts items from landfills, it also decreases demand for new resources for production, packaging and shipping. Here are some of our favorite secondhand shops around Chicago:

Modern Vibe | 611 Dempster St, Evanston
With a longtime passion for Mid-Century and Danish Modern design, owner Bill Ramsey offers a meticulously curated collection of home furnishings – all beautifully staged at his bright and airy store.

Acosta’s Home Consignment | 901 E. Roosevelt Rd, Wheaton
With two other showrooms in Lake Zurich and South Elgin, this family-owned consignment business features an ever-changing assortment of new and previously owned items including furniture, artwork, home accessories, and lighting.

District | 4835 N. Damen Ave, Chicago
What started in 2010 as a garage-based refinishing business for run-down pieces of furniture has since grown into one of the city’s go-to destinations for mid-century design.

Hidden Parks & Gardens

With nearly 80,000 acres of green space managed by the Chicago Park District and Forest Preserves of Cook County, there are plenty of places to go where you can immerse in nature. Here are some lesser-known places to add to your list.

Hurley Gardens
Creekside Dr, Wheaton:
Set on a former turn-of-the-century, 160-acre estate that was later developed as the Adare Farms Subdivision, Hurley Gardens is now a diminutive 2-acre gem featuring a loggia, fountain and reflecting pool, pergola, and lovely flower-lined walkways amidst green lawns and mature trees.

Garden of the Phoenix
6300 S. Cornell Ave, Chicago:
This lovely spot on Wooded Island in Jackson Park traces its history to the World’s Columbian Exposition when the Japanese Government built the now-restored temple as its pavilion. Late April to early May is an especially lovely time to visit when the cherry trees are blossoming.

Butterfly Garden in Dwyer Park
521 Birch St, Winnetka:
At the north end of Dwyer Park, you’ll find dozens of unique plants that serve as nurseries for caterpillars and nectar sources for butterflies. Botanical markers will help you to identify them, including two species of milkweed that are critical for the lifecycle of monarch butterflies.

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