Ahead of America Recycles Day Wednesday, Hey Chicago talked to Barbara Koenen, the executive director of the Chicago Creative Reuse & Exchange. The Auburn Gresham organization is committed to reducing waste and finding ways to upcycle materials.
Why does the city need Chicago Creative Reuse & Exchange?
“[Illinois is] gonna run out of landfill. … So if we keep throwing away stuff the way we're doing it, we're gonna be full. But the other reason — that is in my mind more important than that — is we just shouldn't throw away things that are still good. … That's a habit that our society has gotten into relatively recently, and I'm hoping we can break it.”
Creative reuse projects. (Courtesy of Chicago Creative Reuse & Exchange)
How does it work?
“[We] get donations of surplus from individuals and businesses all around Chicagoland, and then we redistribute it for free or low cost to almost anyone, but we target teachers, artists, nonprofits, and community groups. … We have a warehouse on the Southwest Side, and we're open three days a week by appointment to donate, shop, or volunteer. … We also started doing creative reuse workshops in the parks.”
What are the strangest materials in stock?
- This giant floating caterpillar
- Old science equipment
- Heart-shaped campaign buttons
- Cupcake toppers from a bakery that went out of business
🎁 Head to the Chicago Creative Reuse & Exchange for a holiday make-and-take event Dec. 9.