Who We Are

The CSLN connects grassroots leaders from communities across Chicago to share resources, support each other’s work, collaborate, build a stronger collective voice, and nurture equitable and impactful relationships with policy makers.

Our Vision Of Sustainability

We envision inclusive and just communities of civically engaged residents working together to address social disparities and promote environmental health, human well-being, and community vitality for present and future generations.

Current Working Groups

Policy Group

Collaborative Activities

CSLN Storytelling

Our Members – Full List

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Simone Alexander

Simone is active on CSLN’s policy team and formerly served as a CSLN Shared Leader. She is passionate about working with community leaders and stakeholders to create strong, sustainable communities through community-driven planning and development.

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Richard Alton

Dick has been a part of the green movement for over five years, bringing his passion to the One Earth Film Festival. He sees the festival’s expansion throughout Chicago as a lever for strengthening communities through network and collaborative efforts. Prior to working with One Earth Film Festival and Green Community Connections, Dick was actively involved in community development and supporting local non-governmental organizations internationally.

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Toni Anderson

Founder and Executive Director, Southside CSLN Liaison

Toni is Founding Executive Director of Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab. Toni is passionate about the “outdoor divide” and promoting climate change education as a tool to create cohesive community classrooms for our youth and communities to learn and grow. She facilitates environmental workshops on sustainability, consumer economy, monarch and urban ecology.

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Susan Ask


Susan is an ecologist, educator, and founder of Animalia Project. The Project is a new endeavor that bridges science, action, and education to create a better environment for all of us in the animal kingdom, with a focus on climate change and urban habitats. She has migrated between research and education—working as a conservation land manager, field ecologist and university extension agent— since receiving an M.E.S.

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Brock Auerbach-Lynn

Senior Associate

Brock is a Senior Associate with Mission Measurement, a Chicago-based consulting firm that helps governments, corporations, foundations, and nonprofits to develop the measurement and strategy to grow their impact. Brock previously managed energy assessment and technical assistance for the State of Illinois, as well as sustainability programs at IIT. On his own time, Brock channels his inner design strategist and environmental guru to develop sustainable practices, behaviors, and technologies.

Bethany Barratt

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Pam Bergdall

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Terry Bergdall

Faculty Member

Terry first worked with the ICA as a university intern and returned in 2009 with extensive international experience in community development, organizational change, project design, and evaluation. He lived and worked in Africa for 18 years where his focus was village development. He worked with the Swedish Cooperative Center as coordinator of an action-research project in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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Diane Burnham

Executive Director

Diane was recently named the new Executive Director of SECC. She brings a wealth of experience to her new role, having become a familiar face in the mid-South region of Chicago over the past four years with the organization. SECC’s sustainability programs include the Neighborhood Enhancement Grant Program, supporting the One Earth Film Festival, and recently completed work on the Green Healthy Neighborhoods Land Use Plan to educate communities on vacant land and sustainability practices.

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Matt Cardoni


Matt runs Green Lightning Marketing, a vehicle for teaching and consulting on digital marketing. He aims to bring environmental awareness and activism to a wider audience through optimistic and engaging messages, with a particular interest in the intersection of art and environmentalism. He has helped many environmental nonprofit organizations develop their digital marketing platforms, including Climate Cycle, where he volunteered for four and a half years and served as a board member for two of these years.

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Romina N. Castillo

Community Planner

Romina graduated from UIC Master of Urban Planning and Policy. Her goal as a planner and organizer is to contribute to the creation of healthy, sustainable, and resilient communities through the implementation of asset-based community-driven initiatives, best practices, and through efficient public and private funding leverage strategies. Romina loves being a member of a network with individuals so passionate and committed to improving our communities through collaboration and active participation.

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Chicago Creative Reuse Exchange

CCRX solicits donations of surplus materials, equipment and supplies for teachers and non-profit organizations. CCRX promotes creativity and environmental stewardship. Their goal is to educate and empower the public to reduce waste, rethink surplus, and share. CCRX does this through creative reuse programming, events and workshops. CCRX believes that “trash is just a failure of imagination.”

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Citizens’ Climate Lobby Chicago

Citizens’ Climate Lobby is an international non-partisan non-profit dedicated to solving the climate crisis by creating the necessary political will. Their mission is twofold: to educate the public about climate science and policy, and to lobby members of the U.S. Congress and Senate to enact legislation that puts an effective price on fossil carbon.

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Climate Reality Project Chicago

CRP is a nonpartisan group of local climate activists, composed of trained Climate Reality Leaders and the public, working to support the international nonprofit’s mission of catalyzing a global solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity across every level of society. To CRP, the top sustainability issue is climate change. CRP combats climate change by working to make the transition to a clean energy economy a priority on the federal, state and local level and rallies around Climate Reality’s organizational priorities.

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Richard Dobbins Jr.

Principal and Founder

Richard founded South Side Roots, a sustainable horticulture and landscaping service firm. He has served as a landscape garden judge for the City of Chicago’s Community Gardening and Landscape Award program. He has also held instructor roles with Openlands’ Community Garden Training program, GreenCorps Chicago, and the Chicago Botanic Garden. He is most passionate about horticulture and its relationship to urban communities, particularly the rich conversation around the concept of “sustainability”.

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Melanie Eckner

Northside CSLN Liaison

Melanie is an editor, communications strategist, and consultant who specializes in community-based sustainability initiatives, multilingual publications, and communications coaching. She is an active volunteer with the Clarendon Park Advisory Council and was a co-founder of the Uptown Coastal Initiative, a 3-year educational and planning effort funded by Illinois Coastal Management Program grants and designed to raise awareness of and engagement in assets for sustainability in the Uptown neighborhood.

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Steve Ediger

Steve works in facilitation, strategic management, information technology management, civic tech, and development of a commons-based economy. A veteran of sustainability efforts since the first Earth Day in 1972, he has expanded his concept of the word to encompass personal, community, and economic aspects, and understands that sustainability cannot exist without justice for race, gender, ethnicity and culture.

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Terry Edlin


Terry’s passion for joyful community living and shared housing has evolved since 2008, when she founded New Community Vision and launched its website and blog. She believes that safe, secure, affordable housing is ground zero for sustainability. No one can do their important work unless they are securely housed. Terry has been involved in the National Association of Housing Cooperatives, the National Housing Conference, the Center for Cooperative Housing Development, the Chicago Fair Housing Alliance, and more.

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Nurul Eusufzai

Nurul is a program, project, and change management practitioner with extensive business process design and improvement experience in the private sector. He is also a leader within Net Impact Chicago, a local chapter of the global network that brings together professionals from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Nurul is invested in creating a positive environmental, social, and economic impact across local, regional, and global communities by volunteering and building alliances.

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Field Museum

The Field Museum has been practicing sustainable building operations for over 20 years, pursuing energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, green cleaning and purchasing initiatives as a part of its normal operations.

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Stef Funk

Stef is a South Chicago native who has worked with various nonprofits and farmers markets all around the city. After receiving her degree in Environmental Science from Clark University, she has been a strong advocate for environmental justice, sustainable policy, and food and water security in Chicago. She is extremely interested in learning more about how urbanized areas interact with their surrounding ecosystems.

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Seva Gandhi

Seva earned her Master’s in Social Work from University of Michigan with a focus on community organizing within the international context. Throughout the years she has worked on various rural community development initiatives in other countries. In recent years, Seva’s interest had come back to her native Chicago, and more specifically, focusing on access to local, organic, and affordable food within an urban context.

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Timothy Heppner

Executive Director

Tim is the Executive Director of Ecotelligent Design, where he expands knowledge, develops skills, changes attitudes, and transforms habits which inspire people to become more sustainable. He is an international consultant specializing in sustainable performance metrics that identify opportunities for capturing and reducing energy, purifying and managing water, and cleaning and improving air. Tim is the designer, builder and curator of Charles Heppner Artist Studio, one of the most environmentally friendly homes in Chicago. 

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Grant Kessler

Board President

Grant is a Steering Committee member at Chicago Market, an organizing food co-op on Chicago’s North Side. Grant believes that change in our food system toward local and regional networks with an emphasis on diversified, sustainable farming methods can make a large impact on both human and environmental health. Grant is also a freelance food photographer and the Marketing and Outreach Manager for FamilyFarmed and their Good Food Festival & Conference.

Ben Lau

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Belinda Li

Founder and CEO

Belinda is the Founder & CEO of CiTTA Partnership, a Chicago-based firm that helps socially-minded companies and organizations become more sustainable and create greater social impact. Belinda believes that we can collectively create a smarter world in which we can thrive economically while achieving positive environmental and social impact, which is her vision of sustainability.

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Lorena Lopez

Community Engagement Specialist

In addition to working at The Field Museum, Lorena also serves on the Advisory Council of Environmentalists of Color. Her past work experience includes Faith in Place and Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), where she led community mapping to demand a new, clean, safe park in Little Village. She and her team won major victories, including the clean-up of 171 homes from cancer-causing toxic chemicals and the addition of new infrastructure around a park site.

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Deloris Lucas


Deloris is the Founder of We Keep You Rollin’, and is also involved in F.R.E.S.H., South Side Trail Blazers, Calumet Underground Railroad Monument Committee, Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council, and Equiticity. “Sustainability, to me, means lasting forever or as long as it’s feasible. And as you know, things change and I believe change is good! You just have to adapt to change, and adaptability complements sustainability!” She appreciates CSLN because she believes in the “if you care, do something” approach, and therefore helps to educate the community—especially youth—to make better life choices.

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Lurie Garden

Lurie Garden, located in Millennium Park, is designed to combine naturalistic plantings and ecologically sensitive maintenance practices to create an urban oasis for city dwellers and wildlife alike. An urban model of responsible horticulture, Lurie Garden provides a healthy habitat for a wide variety of plants, animals, and insects. Lurie Garden is a leader in landscape architecture, garden design, responsible maintenance practices and dynamic public programming in an urban environment.

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Nicole Machuca

Director of Environmental Education and Neighborhood Parks

Nicole is Director of Environmental Education and Neighborhood Parks with Friends of the Parks, where she delivers youth education programming and builds capacity within adults to support their open spaces. As a native Chicagoan and the product of diverse households, she is deeply connected to communities around the city and is invested in improving the quality of life of all residents.

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Kenny Newman

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Founded in 1963 as a program of the Welfare Council of Metropolitan Chicago, Openlands is one of the oldest metropolitan conservation organizations in the nation and the only such group with a regional scope in the greater Chicago region. Openlands has helped protect more than 55,000 acres of land for public parks and forest preserves, wildlife refuges, land and water greenway corridors, urban farms, and community gardens.

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Johnnie Owens

Johnnie works with the Bronzeville Alliance and Bronzeville Urban Farm, establishing an urban garden and organizing corner stores. He serves on the steering committee of Place Matters and as a chairperson for the Planning and Zoning Commission of Hazel Crest. Johnnie holds an MA in Urban Geography from Chicago State University, where he periodically teaches classes in Urban Planning, Environmental Geography, and Psychology of Urban Youth.

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Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum & Chicago Conservation Corps

Chicago Conservation Corps is a sustainability leadership training program specializing in community engagement best practices, sustainability content and skills, growing networks between engaged Chicagoans and organizations wishing to share their resources and expertise, and supporting community-based service projects.  As of spring 2018, C3 has provided over 20 hours of training to more than 750 Chicagoans and funded sustainability service projects in every ward, city-wide.

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Burrell Poe

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Jamie Ponce

Director of Strategic Partnerships

As Director of Strategic Partnerships with the City Tech Collaborative at UI Labs, Jamie works to make urban technology and infrastructure more relevant, useful, equitable, and sustainable. His previous Chicago-based roles with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, and A.T. Kearney focused on clean energy, environmental innovation, corporate strategy, and economic development.

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Olatunji Oboi Reed

President and CEO

Oboi is the President and CEO of Equiticity, a racial equity and mobility movement that seeks to normalize, prioritize, and operationalize racial equity to make our neighborhoods and cities more liveable for people of color. Oboi was previously the Co-Founder and President of Slow Roll Chicago. Oboi works at the intersection of community, advocacy, economics, health, and technology, with an extensive background in both nonprofit management and corporate social responsibility.

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Emily Rhea

Assistant Project Manager

Emily’s life passion is to help merge the built and natural environment and to uplift communities through sustainable design. While her main focus is currently on the consulting and performance-testing work she does with high performance buildings, she aspires to expand her efforts to incorporate more biophilic design aspects. She sees great value and importance in community and imagines all of Chicago as one community that works together to strengthen all of its parts.

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Elvia Rodriguez Ochoa

Neighborhood Programs Director

Elvia is a multi-disciplinary artist, educator, and administrator, active for over twenty years. Steeped in community based practices, Elvia has helped foster the creative community in Chicago by collaborating with a variety of groups and individual artists.

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Samantha Sainsbury

Program Coordinator

Samantha is the Program Coordinator at ICA, where she facilitates the collaborative projects and events working group of CSLN.  She is an alumnus of the Public Allies Chicago AmeriCorps program and Northwestern University. She was drawn to the ICA as an intern after learning about the participatory ways of engaging grassroots organizations in the accelerate77 project, and continues to value the realization of holistic, collaborative sustainability through the CSLN.

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Caitlin Sarro

Program Manager

Caitlin is the Program Manager with the Institute of Cultural Affairs. She has been working on the accelerate77 project since in 2012, and currently facilitates the CSLN Policy Working Group. In addition to valuing the project’s participatory process, she is most drawn to its inclusive definition of sustainability. Believing that community-led planning leads to more meaningful action, Caitlin is proud to work on a project that requires the collaboration of different approaches to make sustainable communities.

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Lesley Showers

Property Manager

Lesley is the Property Manager at the Institute of Cultural Affairs, where she oversees the transformation of the organization’s ICA GreenRise building into an energy efficient demonstration of a mixed-used landmark building. She is also a resident of the GreenRise community, where she is working towards a local solution to waste water management that will make the GreenRise even more sustainable.

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Angela Spinazze

Principal and Founder

Angela is a facilitator, change agent, project manager, curator, and information architect. Her gift is organizing around technology, agility, capacity building, working with stakeholders at all levels to collaborate and realize collective change. Angela is a CSLN ally because of her desire to learn from others, to be more in touch with the earth, and to share her energy and skills to make our city more humane and natural.

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Mike Strode

Founder and Exchange Coordinator

Mike is Founder and Exchange Coordinator of the Kola Nut Collaborative, a Chicago based timebanking initiative aimed to promote and sustain a robust timebanking infrastructure which supports non-monetary transactions among individuals and organizations. Mike’s previous work has included leadership positions with the Chicago chapter of Red, Bike & Green, Fultonia, and Art Is Bonfire. He draws on these experiences to interrogate the intersection of timebanking, social economy, and community resiliency with skill based asset mapping as an essential tool for understanding neighborhood infrastructure.

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Jospeh Taylor

Farmers Market Lead

Joseph currently works with the Urban Canopy, which was a natural progression from years spent years coordinating urban agriculture projects, including the aquaponic and hydroponic systems, the rooftop garden, and the compost system at the ICA GreenRise. He first became passionate about sustainability as an intern with ICA’s Summer Youth Program in 2011, when he began to learn about the delicious potential of fresh, local foods.

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Alvyn Walker

Property Team Leader

Alvyn is a Property Team Leader and member of Windsor Park Lutheran Church in South Shore. He is involved in a number of projects that make the church a community hub, including a partnership with Leave No Veteran Behind and Cambium Networks that installed an antenna on the church to enhance wi-fi access for the neighborhood.

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Orrin Williams

Food Systems Coordinator

Orrin is the Food Systems Coordinator for the Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood Partnerships and Chicago Partnership for Health Promotion at UIC. Orrin is a Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Urban Transformation, and works in advisory roles with the Sweet Water Foundation, the THEN Center, and the Teamwork Englewood Health and Wellness Task Force.

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Ted Wysocki


Ted Wysocki is the CEO of ICA, whose mission is to “build a just and equitable society in harmony with planet Earth.” Based on his more than 40 years of community development experience, Ted launched his blog u2cando in 2014. Previously, he was CEO of the Local Economic & Employment Development Council, now called North Branch Works, and CEO of the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations (CANDO).