As Earth Month comes to a close, it is important to remember that protecting our planet is not just a one-day or one-month event. Erika Allen, co-founder and CEO of Operations for Urban Growers Collective, is a leader, advocate and a luminous example of how advocating for sustainable agriculture and building community-led food systems can make a difference.

For over two decades, Allen has been a champion for urban agriculture, job training and community development in Chicago. She's also the President of Green ERA Educational NFP, and the Co-Owner of Green Era Sustainability Partners.

At the core of her work is the belief that access to healthy food is a basic human right. Her dedication to this belief is evident in the work of Urban Growers Collective, which cultivates 8 urban farms on 11 acres of land, predominantly located on Chicago's South Side. These farms provide hands-on job training and create economic opportunities for youth and beginner BIPOC farmers, while also working to mitigate food insecurity and limited access to healthy food options in communities of color.

By advocating for sustainable agriculture and building community-led food systems, Allen is protecting our planet and creating a more just and equitable food system. Allen's work demonstrates that visionary leaders and committed communities need to build a healthier, more equitable future. As individuals, we can contribute to a more sustainable food system by incorporating earth-friendly practices into our daily lives. Erika Allen shares a few simple ways to get started.

Grow Your Own Food

Growing our own food is not only cost-effective, it reduces food miles. Food miles account for the additional carbon and non-renewable energy it takes to move our food from long distances to where we eat it. Having a small raised bed with your favorite vegetables or fruit is a delicious way to contribute to sustainability. 

Plus, gardening and spending time outdoors is also good for the soul. Taking time to decompress from the day to harvest a few herbs, cherry tomatoes and cut greens for a dinner salad is also a great way to shift our mindset from the day and slow down to enjoy what the good earth has to offer us all. 

Compost Your Food Scraps

Separate your food waste from other recyclables it decreases what goes into our landfills and the compost can be used to grow other food "Collect your food scraps and either establish a compost bin at home or connect with a community garden nearby or a pickup service. Every bit counts," shares Allen.

Buy Local

Support your community famers by frequenting local farmers markets. There are urban farms everywhere. Consider signing up for a subscription service to a Community or Collective Supported Agriculture (CSA).

"I focus my work on community food systems, but really anything that is a local is more sustainable. This does lower your carbon footprint, which is the amount of greenhouse gasses, carbon dioxide and methane, that are released by transporting and growing our food. The more local, the less fossil fuel used to transport it the better for our environment and nothing better than freshly harvested food," explains Allen.