Monthly archives: October, 2015

Sustainable Chili Cook-Off

October 22 is the day the Office of Sustainability’s building has their annual chili cook-off. There are rules, judging, blood, sweat and tears. It is intense! This year, the office decided to form a team to try to be queens of the chili. And what better timing to submit a sustainable chili for the competition- October is Campus Sustainability Month and October 24 is Food Day.

We decided to follow our own Sustainable Recipe Checklist to make sure our chili both tastes awesome and is inherently awesome! So let’s check!


1. Is your recipe healthy?

Definitely! We don’t add unnecessarily large amounts of salt (we made our own veggie stock) and we don’t add fats (except a wee bit of sautéing olive oil) or sugar. Sure, we could’ve added brown sugar to get you addicted and ensure we’d win, but… really? No. This chili is awesome enough.

We also put amazing nutrient-packed veggies in like black & white beans, summer squash, carrots, kale, tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños.  (3 points!)

2. Is your recipe vegetarian or vegan?

Totally vegan! Not using animals or animal by-products is more sustainable because vegetables require less energy to produce than animal products (since you have to grow more food to feed the animals, not to mention the crazy amount of greenhouse gases certain livestock produces). (3 points!)

3. If your recipe contains meat or dairy products, were the animals raised without artificial growth hormones or antibiotics?

Not applicable, my recipe is vegan. (3 points!)

4. Is your recipe made with ingredients from an organic farm and does not use pesticides?

Yes! We made sure to source our ingredients from farms and gardens we trust that don’t spray their produce with toxics pesticides. The tomatoes are from Cindy’s garden, the jalapeños are from Sarah’s garden, the squash, carrots, beans are all organic and from the Green Grocer Chicago, the Kale from Kate’s produce share, the oregano and cilantro from the UIC Heritage Garden (I asked for them- please do not pick plants from the Heritage Garden) (3 points!)

5. Does your recipe use local/seasonal ingredients?

You betcha! You can’t get anymore local than your backyard garden and most of the other ingredients came from farms like Genesis Growers, Montalbano Farms, Seedling Fruit, Mick Klug Farm in Illinois and Michigan. (3 points!)

6. Does your recipe use non-heavily processed foods with minimal packaging?

We are very proud that we used the freshest veggies. Even the beans didn’t have much packaging- we bought them in bulk and brought own own container to take them home (no cans necessary!) Also, using fresh veggies means no weirdo ingredients like “propylene glycol” in our chili! (3 points!)

7. Does your recipe avoid using GMO foods?

This is a hard question, because really- how do you know? Well, Sarah’s and Cindy’s peppers and tomatoes most likely aren’t GMO, but what about everything else? Usually organic means non-GMO, but Monsanto’s seeds are so pervasive in our agriculture system, all we can do is hope that it’s not GMO… and tell our elected officials to label our food! (2 points)

8. Were the ingredients sourced using fair trade practices?

Well, certainly the garden ingredients are sourced sustainably, and the other veggies from the Green Grocer? They work with their farmers directly and visit them frequently so we can be assured than no funny business is happening with the workers who handle our food. (3 points!)

9. Does your recipe require minimal serving ware?

Even though we can’t serve our chili with just a toothpick and napkin, we are going to try to get compostable spoons and bowls! Or… just pour it directly in my mouth… (2 points)

10. Are you serving your recipe with items that can be composted or recycled?

See above.  (2 points

total points: 27/30 Woo Hoo!

and now… FINALLY… on to the good stuff

Fire-Roasted Garden Chili


Fire Roasted Garden Chili

Fire Roasted Garden Chili

1 yellow onion, cut into quarters

3 red (ripened) jalapeños

25 cherry tomatoes

1 small summer squash, cut into 1/2″ dice

1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped finely and leaves chopped into small pieces

3 carrots, sliced 1/2″ thick

2 cups white beans- soaked overnight

3 cups black beans- soaked overnight

4-6 cups vegetable stock

1 small bunch cilantro, handful fresh oregano

cumin, salt & pepper to taste

1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the onions, tomatoes and jalapeños in a single layer. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and roast for 30 minutes at 425. When cool to the touch, remove tough skin from the pepper and add peppers (without stems), onions and tomatoes to a food processor and puree until smooth and set aside.

2. In a large stock pot, heat olive oil and add squash, carrots, and kale stems and sauté for a few minutes. Add beans, tomato puree, kale leaves, cumin, and enough stock to cover plus a little extra.  Bring to a boil, then cover and on low heat, simmer until beans are tender- 60 minutes or so. To thicken the chili, add a mixture of masa harina and water.


UPDATE! The black beans totally took over the color of the chili and after it sat for a day, it became this very unappealing gray blob. So guess what? It didn’t win. But it does make THE BEST bean dip! All I did was throw about 75% of it into a food processor, and… MAGIC! Chili is saved!




UIC plants oak trees, helps beautify our university

By Karima Patel

Karima Patel Biological Sciences, 2018

Karima Patel
Biological Sciences, 2018

On a drizzly, cold Saturday morning, one hundred Swamp White Oak sapling were planted around UIC’s parking lots by the UIC Grounds crew, UIC Parking Services, the Office of Sustainability, and many eager UIC student volunteers. The planting of the saplings, which were generously donated to University of Illinois at Chicago by Bartlett Tree Experts, will help alleviate the heat island effect – a major contributor of softened asphalt. In addition, the saplings will help the campus become more aesthetically pleasing according to Wanda Perry, the director of UIC Campus Parking.

As a large urban University, UIC has many industrial and concrete infrastructures; therefore the addition of a hundred trees around campus will allow for an addition of natural character that helps soften the architecture of the campus. The University’s current canopy is a more mature one that unfortunately does have a life span. The addition of the new oak saplings will keep the canopy current and continually growing, according to Carly Rizor, Superintendent of Grounds at UIC. Many factors were taken into consideration when selecting the saplings that would be placed around the campus, one of them being whether or not the tree species is urban tolerant. Harsh Chicago winters introduce large amounts of salt which are not found in the environment naturally, and the selection of tree species must take into that into consideration. According to the Morton Arboretum, Swamp White Oak trees are fairly salt tolerant, making them a perfect selection for our campus.

Chavelle, Neuroscience, helps plant one of many Swamp White Oak Saplings during UIC's tree planting event on October 3.

Chevelle, Neuroscience, helps plant one of many Swamp White Oak Saplings during UIC’s tree planting event on October 3.

This event, which was partially sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation, brought out many eager students who were able to plant sapling of their own. Vikas, an MBA student at UIC came out to plant a sapling because of the importance of trees in our environment, “Without trees, how would we breathe?” He asked as he got down and muddy while planting his sapling. Angelica, a Psychology student at UIC, got to experience something new, “Today I learned how to plant a tree!” This event was truly an educational one that taught the students many things they didn’t know before, Chevelle, a volunteer and Neuroscience major at UIC learned that UIC is an Official TREE CAMPUS USA University, and have been since 2011. This event was also an official National NeighborWoods Month event, and an official OAKtober: Oak Awareness month event in Illinois! The planting of the Oak trees was a huge success thanks to the volunteers that came out at 8:30 am on a Saturday! See all the pictures posted to social media at

Planting trees on my college campus brought me great joy in knowing that UIC cares about helping the campus become more green and sustainable, something that is very important to me as a person. It’s nice to know that I can do something to help the environment while being a student that is part of a University that cares a great deal about our world.

Sustainability Days… Success!

sustainability days

Third Chicagoland Bike2Campus Week Features Fun and Prizes


Colleges and universities unite to encourage cycling on and off campus

Chicago, IL- October 1, 2015 – In a shift from two previous spring events, the third Chicagoland Bike2Campus Week takes place October 9-16. College students, faculty and staff from eleven institutions are encouraged to ride bikes on and off campus as part of a competition that emphasizes bicycle safety, healthy lifestyles, low carbon transit, saving money and having fun.

Bike2Campus Week, facilitated by the Chicagoland Bike 2 Campus Coalition (CB2CC), is an alternative transit event designed to get Chicagoland college students and employees riding. CB2CC focusses on educating campus communities about the multiple benefits of cycling as a mode of transit. During Bike2Campus Week, participants can track their rides and share progress via social media platforms. At the event’s end, those who log the most trips for their institution, or post photos using the hashtag #ChiBike2Campus will be selected as winners. Top riders win prizes as determined by CB2CC and participation prizes are by randomized selection. Schools win trophies for most rides and most participants.

Throughout the week, campuses will plan safe, fun and engaging events around the city. These campus-centric events will be listed on our website at

CB2CC’s professional representatives focus on campus sustainability for their respective institutions, addressing multi-tiered components such as behavior change, infrastructure and academics. And on-campus bike education has significant impact due to the large audiences at colleges and universities. Participating Bike2Campus institutions include City Colleges of Chicago, Dominican University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, Northwestern University, Roosevelt University, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Triton College, The University of Chicago, and The University of Illinois at Chicago.

This program has received generous support from sponsors DIVVY Bikes, Chipotle, Planet Bike, Abus Locks, Kryptonite, Bern, Intelligentsia Coffee, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Kozie Prery, Working Bikes, Pret a Manger, Freeman Kevenides Law Firm, Pedal to the People, MB Financial Bike the Drive, Active Transportation Alliance, and the Chicago Department of Transportation.


For more information visit Contact: Adrian Fisher, Sustainability Coordinator, Triton College / Phone: 708-456-0300 Ext. 3578 / Email:

UIC Celebrates Oaktober and National NeighborWoods® Month!

The University of Illinois at Chicago Celebrated National NeighborWoods® Month and Oak Awareness Month in Illinois.

Chicago, IL (October 3, 2015) – UIC’s Parking Services, Department of Grounds, the Office of Sustainability and 15 amazing volunteers  came together to plant trees in Parking Lot 1 during UIC’s Open House. This event is one of hundreds of re-greening efforts throughout the country being promoted during October, which has been declared National NeighborWoods® Month by Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees), a program of the Arbor Day Foundation. UIC is a recognized Tree Campus USA and a member of ACTrees’ network of local green organizations.

“It’s great to be working on an important re-greening effort at a time when other organizations are doing so as well,” said Associate Director of Sustainability Cindy Klein-Banai. “Part of our goal is to draw attention to the good work being done at the grassroots level all across the country to improve urban and community forests.”

“Having local organizations like UIC participate in National NeighborWoods Month shows that people all across the country care deeply about living in green, tree-filled communities,” said Arbor Day Foundation president Dan Lambe.

This event is also aligns with Gov.  Rauner’s declaration that October is officially “Oaktober”: Oak Awareness Month in Illinois. The Chicago Region Trees Initiative (CRTI), a coalition of environmentally-focused area organizations, is raising awareness of the beauty, utility, and needs of oak trees during Oak Awareness Month, with its OAK-tober campaign. The campaign includes oak-focused events throughout the state, including oaks and wine tastings, oak woodland walks, oak woodland restoration camping events, and oak planting among others. See more about the declining number of Oaks at

Founded in 1993, Alliance for Community Trees is a national network of more than 200 organizations engaged in urban and community forestry. ACTrees member organizations are dedicated to grassroots community greening, public education, policymaking, job training, environmental design and other activities that create cleaner, greener, healthier communities.

National NeighborWoods Month began in 2005. During the month of October, local organizations nationwide engage tens of thousands of volunteers to green up their neighborhoods. Together, Alliance for Community Trees organizations have planted and cared for more than 15 million trees with help from more than 5 million volunteers. Trees have a remarkable economic, environmental, and health benefits for our communities including decreasing utility bills, increasing property values, and reducing carbon emissions.


Learn more about National NeigbhorWoods Month at and follow us on Twitter @NeighborWoods. 



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