Bezos Earth Fund Announces $10.1 Million for Urban Green Spaces in Underserved Chicago Communities

Chicago Projects Selected for New $400 Million Greening America’s Cities Initiative
Press Release

CHICAGO, Ill. — July 17, 2023: The Bezos Earth Fund announces today $10.1 million to fund Chicago urban greening projects as part of its new Greening America’s Cities initiative, a $400 million commitment through 2030 to create more equitable access to urban green spaces with more parks, trees, and community gardens. Additional funding will be provided for technical support needs identified by the community.

"Green spaces are critical for people and the planet. The Bezos Earth Fund is proud to partner with local communities and government to expand urban green spaces," said Andrew Steer, President & CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund. "In partnership, this new initiative will support historically underserved communities, supporting their health and well-being."

The Chicago-based nonprofits receiving funding include:

  • Grow Greater Englewood receives $3.8 million to develop the country’s first agricultural-eco district, a project that will transform more than 10 acres of polluted land into a thriving natural site for recreation, exercise, and regenerative agriculture. The funding helps begin construction on a 1.75-mile nature trail along a former rail corridor, a project almost two decades in the making. The trail will be one component of the larger Agro-Eco District initiative.

  • The Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living receives $1.75 million to restore an additional 500 acres of land for farming; provide technical support and supplies to 25 additional brown- and Black-owned farms; train community residents in regenerative agriculture, renewable energy, climate-resilience, and sustainable building techniques; add 250 acres to a community land trust that will be managed by local farmers and build food distribution networks into the City of Chicago.

  • Blacks in Green (BIG) receives $1.5 million to scale their primary initiative, Sustainable Square Mile, by further developing green spaces, purchasing vacant neighborhood properties, hiring full-time staff from the neighborhood, acquiring vehicles and equipment, and evolving our sustainable green infrastructure plan as part of BIG’s 8 Principles of Green Village Building.

Additional organizations funded to work in Chicago include the Great Lakes Climate Adaptation Network, Green Latinos, PolicyLink, ReGenesis, Trust for Public Land, and Urban Sustainability Directors Network. The Chicago Community Trust will host an Earth Fund community fellow to network with peer organizations and liaise with state, local, and federal government officials.

Other inaugural Greening America’s Cities include Albuquerque, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Wilmington, Delaware. The grantees are integral in leading these groundbreaking projects to advance green spaces in their communities. Their work includes community engagement, land acquisition, project design and construction, local training, and long-term maintenance.

"It is vital that Black communities like Englewood globally maintain their cultural identity, uplift and hold the legacy of the stewarding of the Earth and providing food, as part of a response that continues to focus on protecting residents most harmed by failed or misaligned policies," said Anton Seals, Jr., lead steward of Grow Greater Englewood.

“Blacks in Green (BIG) is honored to be one of the Chicago-based non-profits selected to receive funding as part of the Greening America’s Cities initiative. We’ve been seeding, weeding, and watering in West Woodlawn since 2010 as we began building our Sustainable Square Mile pilot. Having resources to scale BIG’s Sustainable Square Mile system means the West Woodlawn Botanic Garden, Village Farm & Arboretum can soon begin feeding households, training neighbors, launching businesses, and managing stormwater at village scale - building a horticulture economy along the way. Over time, here in the age of climate crisis, system outcomes will include increased household income and buffers of resilience,” said Naomi Davis, founder and CEO of Blacks in Green and creator of the Sustainable Square Mile.

There is clear evidence that "greening" U.S. cities with more — and better — parks, trees, and community gardens can improve physical and mental health, increase local resilience to climate impacts like extreme heat and reduce energy consumption. Health benefits come from improved air quality, more physical activity, reduced heat, the stress reduction effect of green spaces, and the opportunities green spaces create for social interaction.

Historic systems of segregation, exclusion, and land dispossession have led to many communities living in nature-deprived areas. Consequently, these communities often do not benefit from nature’s benefits, like air and water purification, climate mitigation, or biodiversity.

The Greening America’s Cities initiative builds on the Earth Fund’s earlier $300 million in funding to climate and environmental justice groups in the U.S. Find more information on each city’s projects and a complete list of the grantees here.

About the Bezos Earth Fund

The Bezos Earth Fund is transforming the fight against climate change with the largest ever philanthropic commitment to climate and nature protection. We’re investing $10 billion in this decisive decade to protect nature and drive systems-level change, creating a just transition to a low-carbon economy. By providing funding and expertise, we partner with organizations to accelerate innovation, break down barriers to success and create a more equitable and sustainable world. Join us in our mission to create a world where people prosper in harmony with nature.

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