Chicago Conservation Corps

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Spark Lasting Change in Chicago.

The Chicago Conservation Corps (C3) collaborates with partners across the city to inspire and fund lasting change through grassroots community organization and climate action.

C3 acts as a force multiplier for communities and individuals who want to make a difference. By training everyday Chicagoans to launch their own sustainability projects in their own communities, we ensure that our projects have the grassroots support they need to be successful.

We educate our members with the support of established organizations already doing sustainability work through our C3 Expert partnerships.These partnerships allow our leaders to gain hands-on experience during their training.

We empower our members to take action to create data-driven solutions with their communities and build hope for a sustainable future.

We fund unlimited sustainability projects from our leaders. C3 Leaders become sustainability champions in their communities and C3 removes barriers to action by providing funds and individualized museum staff support for every project.

Get Involved with C3

Become part of a community sparking change in Chicago since 2006.

C3 Explorers have free access to online and in person classes and workshops led by community leaders and professionals working in sustainability fields covering topics like urban composting, weatherization, native plant gardening, and much more.

C3 Explorers can also sign up to participate in volunteer days for organizations making a difference in the city. We work to remove barriers to volunteering with these organizations by covering the logistics like transportation, needed tools, and refreshments. Not to mention adding the supportive C3 Explorer community to have fun with us while we work.

Ready to do something?

Become a C3 Explorer today! Join by filling out a simple online form. You will receive access to the online C3 community and get notices about all upcoming events and opportunities.

Get the tools, resources, and connections you need to bring sustainability projects to your community.

C3 Leaders are activists, environmentalists, community organizers, naturalists, volunteers, and professionals who believe grassroots sustainability initiatives can improve the quality of life for all Chicagoans.

As a Leader, you’ll receive unmatched training and support through the Nature Museum and our partners. Participants attend a series of classes that explore big picture issues and local solutions, network with peers and sustainability thought-leaders, and practice community organizing skills that empower Chicagoans to make difference.

Ready to do something?

Become a C3 Leader! C3’s Sustainability Leadership Training is your way to spark change in your community. You will receive training from C3 Experts representing established organizations already doing sustainability work. After completing the Sustainability Leadership Training, C3 Leaders become sustainability champions in their communities and receive funds and individualized museum staff support for an unlimited number of sustainability projects.

The application period for our Spring 2024 Leadership Training cohort has ended. Check back soon for information on our Fall 2024 Sustainability Leadership Training cohort.

Check back for more details as we introduce this new level of involvement!

Additional Resources

Alliance for the Great Lakes
Learn more about the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ efforts to protect and conserve this important natural resource through their research (you can read their reports!), advocacy, and education efforts. Learn about things like the Great Lakes Compact, invasive species, microbeads, and other forms of pollution and how we can take action on these issues.

Before the Faucet, After the Flush
Want to learn more about where our drinking water comes from and where our wastewater goes? Watch this short film produced through the Chicago Department of Water Management and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

Lou Chicago’s Rainy Day
Watch this entertaining YouTube video (featuring puppets!) that explains combined sewer overflows in Chicago and how water conservation can help address this problem. This video was proudly made by a C3 Leader!

This Center for Neighborhood Technology program helps people manage flooding and drought in their communities. They do this through home assessments, community organizing, and policy and advocacy work.

Urban Rivers
Our friends at Urban Rivers are leading the way of rewilding and restoring our urban waterways. They’re creating nature sanctuaries along our rivers to support plants, animals, and people.

Friends of Chicago River
Since 1979, Friends has been working to improve the health of the Chicago River system for the benefit of people and wildlife and by doing so, has laid the foundation for the river to be a beautiful, continuous, easily accessible corridor of open space in the Chicago region.

City of Chicago Water Resources
Find information on installing a rain barrel, water conservation tips, Chicago’s green stormwater strategy, rain gardens, and more

Chicago Department of Water Management
Search water quality reports, water conservation tips, and information on lead service line replacements.

Seven Techniques for Capturing Rainwater on Your Property

Maintaining Your Rain Garden

Chicago Recycling Guide
Learn about the City of Chicago’s recycling program (for residences with 4 units or fewer), including what can be recycled (the guide).

Circular Economy
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation offers this resource to explain a new approach to how we use resources, turning the cradle-to-grave mentality on its head and treating things that were formerly considered waste as valuable resources. This theory connects with work being done at Chicago with the ReBuilding Exchange and the Plant Chicago.

Composting Brochure by the Garfield Park Conservatory
The Garfield Park Conservatory has a great downloadable brochure to help you get started composting at home.

Waste Characterization and Diversion Studies
In 2021, the City of Chicago performed a Waste Characterization Study and a Waste Diversion Study. The Waste Characterization Study details the quantity, sources and composition of the city’s waste stream. They also released a progress update in September of 2023.

Food Scrap Drop Off
The City of Chicago has launched its first-ever citywide Food Scrap Drop-Off Program. Chicago residents are welcome to drop off their household food scraps for composting at one of 15 locations across the city for free!

Community Glue
Community Glue offers free monthly repair clinics to divert repairable items from the waste stream. If you can’t make it to them, look for “repair cafes” in your area.

Let’s Shedd Plastic
The Shedd Aquarium has some great resources to help tackle plastic pollution long term.

Composting with Worms Guide

Chicago Complete Streets
The City of Chicago is committed to building Complete Streets to ensure that everyone — pedestrians, transit users, bicyclists and motorists — can travel safely and comfortably along and across a street. Complete Streets give Chicagoans of all ages and abilities safer, cheaper, and healthier travel options. They support economic development and can incorporate environmental services and placemaking, which helps to create sustainable infrastructure and communities. Learn more about the City’s plans and projects here.

Citizens Utility Board
This consumer advocacy organization does a great job of raising awareness of rebates and programs that can help us save energy in partnership with utilities and other non-profits.

National Climate Assessment
This interactive website shares a detailed look at the impacts of climate change on different regions of the United States and different business sectors. A team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced this report, which was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.

Chicago Wilderness Priority Species
This initiative highlights 12 priority species in the region: native animals that are threatened and need our support.

Friends of the Forest Preserves
Learn about the history of the Cook County Forest Preserves, as well as principles of ecological restoration and opportunities for stewardship.

This partner leads endeavors to protect the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives. Visit their website to learn more about how to get involved in their efforts to engage people with nature, including TreeKeepers, Birds In My Neighborhood, and Building School Gardens. You can also learn about their conservation projects including the Lakeshore Preserve, work with Chicago’s rivers, local food systems and more.

The Chicago Academy of Sciences Conservation Research
Learn about what happens beyond the Museum’s walls! Our scientists lead conservation programs for turtles, snakes, and butterflies.

The Chicago Academy of Sciences Community Science Programs
Learn how to you can contribute to science! Our scientists teach anyone who is interested (no advanced degree required!) how to help collect data about local species to support several important research projects.

Asset Mapping
Connect, a project led by the Chicago Botanic Garden and featuring dozens of partners, developed a worksheet to help you identify great resources in your community upon which you can build projects and networks.

Chicago Community Climate Action Toolkit
The Field Museum offers specific tools and activities to help you engage your community in action around climate change issues.

Ideo’s Design Kit
Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem solving. It’s a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating tons of ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for; and eventually putting your innovative new solution out in the world.

Field Guide to Human Centered Design

Our Impact

Unmatched training and support for leaders across Chicago.

We are C3: activists, environmentalists, community organizers, naturalists, volunteers, and professionals starting a movement. We believe that through grassroots sustainability initiatives we can improve the quality of life for all Chicagoans and spark a lasting change.

Since 2006, C3 has trained and supported 900 sustainability leaders in communities across the City of Chicago. Together, those leaders have completed 835+ projects with categories ranging from waste and composting to nature and food/products. In total, those leaders have dedicated 27,982 hours and have recruited 5,627 team members to bring these projects to life and make measurable impact.


Community Members Impact


Projects Completed Since 2006


Project Leaders Since 2006


Project Team Members

C3 Leaders and projects can be found in neighborhoods across the city.

Although no two C3 projects are exactly the same, every project is rooted in the environmental principles and skills based in five subject areas: water, energy, green space, waste, and community organizing. From sleeping mats to composting workshops, every project has made a difference.

  • Rohany Nayan UIC Near West Side

    Rohany N.

    UIC/Near West Side

    Upcycled plastic bags into plarn sleeping mats which were donated to houseless neighbors

  • C33

    Josh B.

    old irving Park

    Wrote an article on recycling that was published in neighborhood newsletter to 690 people

  • C35

    Amanda S.

    logan square

    Co-created the Letters from the Future Event

  • C36

    Andres L.

    Lincoln park

    Hosted a waste-free potluck

  • C318

    Stephanie C.

    humboldt park

    Diverted 27 pounds of beauty product waste from landfills

  • C38

    Eya L.

    maple park

    Has completed 10 C3 projects

  • C39

    Hannah B.

    north center

    Cleaned up 24 pounds of litter

  • C310

    Jon S.


    Helped 15 neighbors complete a home energy assessment & educated them on weatherization

Support C3

Since 2006, C3 has provided unmatched training and support to Chicagoans looking to make a positive impact on the environment and their communities.

With 2.5x support, we can have 5x the impact.

By conducting a data-driven analysis of the potential of C3, we are building an exciting future for the program.

By 2028, We Will:
  • Increase our reach to 1,044 C3 participants and 52,200 community members
  • Increase equitable access to program resources matching the demographic makeup of the city
  • Build a robust community of C3 Leaders to act as force multipliers for each effort and other Chicago sustainability organizations
  • Generate more positive impact of C3 programs for the environment and for the people
C3 2028 goals pt2 v2

We all want to do something. You can help.

Your support goes directly to community sustainability projects, not just an education program.

  • Removes barriers to action
  • Supports experts already working in the sustainability field
  • Uplifts future community leaders

We can’t do it alone – your funds support the Nature Museum, build a robust volunteer base, and ensure museum staff can provide individualized, hands-on support for every project.

Ensure C3 continues to reach passionate leaders and ambassadors throughout Chicago. Contact us about sponsorship and funder opportunities at

Support for C3 is provided by:

PNNM C3 Sponsor John Edelman 1024x424
PNNM C3 Sponsor Wintrust 1024x424
PNNM C3 Sponsor Com Ed 1024x424
PNNM C3 Sponsor USFS 1024x424
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