WomanCraft: Chicago’s Green Social Enterprise


By Dayna Reggero for Chicago Green Fest

WomanCraft, a social enterprise of Heartland Human Care Services, uses recycled office paper and reclaimed flowers to create unique, sustainable, handmade paper products, such as wildflower seed note cards, memory books, gift tags, frames and custom wedding invitations.

“WomanCraft is a green social enterprise that works specifically with women who are overcoming employment barriers.” says Nancy Phillips, director of WomanCraft. “These women may be coming from homelessness, substance abuse issues, re-entering the community from jail or prison, leaving an abuse relationship or have no previous work experience.”

Artisan positions and transitional jobs are connected to women facing barriers to employment, so that they may earn income, improve job skills, build a work history and increase economic self-sufficiency. “Long time artisan positions also provide access to medical and dental benefits,” Phillips adds.

“As we serve more people and increase our sales, we see the art of the transformation in these women’s self esteem. It is their hand-craft and labor that brings value to these products,” Phillips says.

“We recycle used, shredded office paper to make our handcrafted items. Additionally, we conserve by beating our own remnant paper into a pulp and using it to form new sheets. Then, we store the pulp left over from sheet formation in a refrigerator and rehydrate it to form new sheets,” Phillips says.

The women recycle flowers and leaves to decorate their handmade paper items. Expired floral bouquets and plants are donated by individuals and two Chicago retailers.

“Another way we recycle botanic elements is our Bring Us Your Bouquet service offering through which WomanCraft will put flowers from a special event into custom handmade paper to make memory books, thank you notes or other custom items. We estimate that we divert about 52 30-gallon bags of botanic elements a year from the landfill, for a total of 160 gallons in volume,” Phillips says.

“I like to think of us as revitalizing on two fronts:  by recycling paper and by redesigning the course of women’s lives,” shares Carmelita Tiu, who serves on the WomanCraft Advisory Board.

WomanCraft is exhibiting its products at Chicago Green Festival, May 22-23. “Green Festival is a really big event for us. It is an opportunity for us to connect to an audience who might not know about WomanCraft, but already have an affinity for our social and environmental mission,” Phillips says.

WomanCraft is a winner of Mayor Daley’s GreenWorks Award and the 2009 Illinois Recycling Association Award.


Chicago Green Festival features renowned authors, leaders, educators, eco-friendly businesses, workshops, social justice films and kids’ activities to celebrate sustainable topics and ideas at Chicago’s Navy Pier the weekend of May 22-23. The nation’s premier green living event, a project of Global Exchange and Green America, attracts over 300 exhibitors who model their products, services, and practices on an ethical responsibility of sustainability, minimal environmental impact, and fair trade. Green Festivals also provides 150 speakers with a platform for education, debate, and conversation, featuring many presentations on living a healthier, more impactful and sustainable life and making a difference in one’s community.

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