2021: A Year in Review

With just a few days of 2021 left, we thought we’d highlight just a few moments from this past year that stood out to us here at Delta. Of course, we can’t capture it all in one blog post: every community workshop, every tree planted, every soil health test …

What we can share, however, is our gratitude for all our donors and partners who have supported this work throughout this past year–let alone those who have been supporting us for longer throughout Delta’s 23-year history of collaborating to solve complex environmental challenges!

I thank all of you once again for your support and generosity as this year comes to a close and we look toward new beginnings in 2022. And of course, if you haven’t donated this year yet, please donate by December 31 and your gift–including all gifts received up to $20,000–will be eligible to be matched by our Board of Directors, doubling the impact of your gift! As a reminder, Delta Institute is a 501c3 nonprofit, and your donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

Thank you for an impactful 2021!

Bill Schleizer
CEO, Delta Institute

The Great Lakes region continues to experience dramatic changes in precipitation and storm patterns, creating higher flood risks for many communities throughout the region. In partnership with RISC Solutions and with support from the Great Lakes Protection Fund, we at Delta Institute have been working to develop tools and resources that advance community goals, develop green infrastructure, and increase climate resilience.

In 2021, our partnership published A Design Guide for Green Stormwater Infrastructure Best Management Practices. This is a toolkit which contains guidance for a variety of practices like bioswales, rain gardens, stormwater planters, green roofs, permeable pavements, and more. Click here to download the toolkit for your community.

Delta Institute can only be successful in its mission if we direct our capacities, power, and collaborations toward creating greater equity and reversing institutional racism. This means that we must be authentic and inclusive at our fundamental core, ensuring that we do not contribute to legacy injustices that the 501c3 sector has indirectly/directly perpetuated.

Earlier this year, we published our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Executive Summary online and an updated Statement of Commitment to DEI. These are the products of Delta’s DEI Committee completing an 18-month process of assessing Delta’s current practices and making recommendations moving forward. Our work in this area, however, is ongoing. Our DEI activities and goals have informed our current strategic plan refinement underway.

Earlier this summer, in partnership with the City of Chicago, we released the 2021 Chicago Waste Strategy. This strategy proposes over 60 strategic recommendations to reduce waste; increase diversion through reuse, recycling, and composting; and increasing economic and environmental justice opportunities. If you are interested in learning more about the strategy, check out any of the following:

And just this month, the City has released a progress update also summarizing their short-term priorities. Click here to read the update.

For the second year in a row, GuideStar recognized Delta Institute with a Platinum Seal of Transparency! This certification means that Delta ranks among the top 1% of all 1.7 million nonprofits nationally regarding transparency.

This commitment represents publicly and voluntarily sharing a comprehensive overview of our organization, including:

  • Clearly defined programmatic goals and strategy;
  • How we measure our results on a yearly basis;
  • Our alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals;
  • A financial report of our revenue and expenses;
  • Disclosure of board leadership practices such as ethics and transparency; and,
  • Demographic information about our board and senior staff.

We welcome everyone to learn more by visiting our GuideStar profile by clicking the button below.

This past summer, Delta published new findings that will conservation activities and priorities in Illinois. In partnership with Environmental Working Group and with support from the Walton Family Foundation, we published several resources that analyze conservation hot spots statewide. The results of the analysis suggest that future strategies should be modified to focus on local conditions and concerns, avoiding a state-wide or uniform program design that fails to consider local factors.

Interested in learning more? In addition to the webinar recording available on our YouTube channel, you can visit our project page to learn more, download the full report, and explore an interactive map.

We have been happy to be a community partner of United Airlines throughout 2021! Their support helps advance sustainability initiatives and environmental justice work throughout the Chicago area. Additionally, we are particularly proud of our partnership given the airline’s commitment to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 100% by 2050.

As part of our community partnership, United also sponsored Delta Institute’s annual BOOST event by presenting the United Airlines BOOST Award to Tinyshop (see next section, below). When asked why they decided to support an event devoted to sustainability and innovation, they shared, “The pathway for United to decarbonize is through innovation, beyond today’s sustainable fuels and carbon capture technologies—to the future aircraft and further evolution of cleantech. As leaders in sustainable aviation, we are thoughtfully looking for ways to help companies that are developing emissions reduction technologies to grow.”

Through our 10th annual BOOST event, we awarded two grants to emerging entrepreneurs developing sustainable solutions for the Chicago region!

We awarded the Audience Favorite Award, sponsored by the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, to Chicago Tool Library. The Chicago Tool Library is like a book library – but for tools! They lend you tools for home repairs, gardening, sewing, cooking, and more so you don’t have to buy them. Why buy when you can borrow? It’s better for the planet, better for your budget, and better for the community. We’re happy to see that they are continuing to grow so quickly that they will soon be moving into a new space!

We were also happy to award the United Airlines BOOST Award to Tinyshop this year. Tinyshop is an organic, zero waste grocer with 100% returnable packaging. This circular system offers Chicagoans a convenient, low impact shopping experience to shift away from our current disposable culture. Tinyshop is also quickly growing and gaining more attention for how they are trying to support their local community.

Cannabis is a rapidly evolving industry nationwide, and especially in Illinois since the Cannabis Regulation in Tax Act went into effect in 2020. However, there are still many considerations that need attention and dialogue to ensure that the industry grows in an environmentally sustainable way and through a lens of promoting equity. Furthermore, cannabis is the most energy-intensive agricultural crop in the United States, requiring both heavy water consumption and energy.

Earlier this year, we invited a panel of experts to discuss sustainability and equity considerations surrounding cannabis. You can watch the entirety of the event on Delta’s YouTube channel to learn more. This event was presented by the Delta Emerging Leaders associate board as our annual Green Soap Box event.

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