Pilsen couple transformed home into butterfly sanctuary, and now they want to pay green efforts forward


CHICAGO (CBS) — A Pilsen couple are using their green thumbs for a cause.

As CBS 2’s Marybel González reported Monday night, the couple have already transformed their entire home into a butterfly sanctuary. Now, they are hoping their initiative will plant the seed for more gardens all over Chicago.

Colorful butterflies are painted all over the exterior walls of the home of Claudia Galeno-Sanchez and her husband, Leone Jose Bicchieri, in Pilsen. That is because Galeno-Sanchez and Bicchieri want people to stop and learn about the green initiative that they’re growing.

“We’ve got to take care of the pollinators,” said Galeno-Sanchez, coordinator of Women for Green Spaces. “We have to plant more native plants.”

“Part of that fight for equitable development is also fight for access, or equal access, to green spaces – so be it raising healthy foods, having a place for kids to play, or defending pollinators who are about to be extinct – environmental justice,” said Bicchieri, executive director of Working Family Solidarity.

About three years ago, Galeno-Sanchez’s children gave her the idea of helping butterfly colonies grow by planting the plants butterflies like – something they learned in school. And what started as a few plants here and there has blossomed into several gardens in her home.

Her entire house is now a sanctuary.

The initiative has now grown into Women for Green Spaces, where Galeno-Sanchez teachers others the importance of creating open gardens where insects and butterflies can thrive – especially as the International Union for Conservation of Nature just last week declared the monarch butterfly as an endangered species.

“I knew that the numbers were coming down – expect to happen, not this quickly,” Galeno-Sanchez said. “It’s very painful and very sad, because we’re destroying our own planet.”

But she is hoping to change that, one butterfly at a time. Galeno-Sanchez has teamed up with local universities and the Chicago Botanic Garden to host workshops where people can come into her home and learn how to create gardens like hers in their communities.

This Tuesday morning, Galeno-Sanchez and Bicchieri will be handing out a specific kind of plant to anyone who stops by their home. The plants are what caterpillars feed on to become chrysalids – the last step before they become butterflies.

Throughout the summer, Galeno-Sanchez will cultivate plants and care for the hatching butterfly eggs.

“We got asked for more green spaces, but the way to ask is by starting to do it so people see what you are doing and start following you,” she said.

And when the butterflies are grown, Galeno-Sanchez will release them into the wild.

“It feels like you are giving life to the world,” she said.

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