Friday, September 28, 2012 10:02 AM
This post originally appeared at EcoSalon.
Big city, smaller footprint:
blurring the line between landscape design and modern architecture.
The trend of vertical gardening is up, as is the rise of the jolly green skyscraper. Easy on the eyes and easier on the planet, upward greenery is transforming our concrete jungles into ivied oases.
The Musee du Quai Branly in Paris (top) is one such example, with some 8,600 vertical square footage dedicated to more than 170 different species of plants.
London’s Athenaeum, its tendrils and blossoms looming high over Piccadilly Circus, is another.
To read the rest of this article, visit EcoSalon.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012 3:27 PM
You’ve heard of farm to table. Coming soon: park to table. This spring, in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle, seven acres of underused land will be transformed into the nation’s largest urban “food forest”—a community park planted with a cornucopia of produce that visitors are encouraged to harvest and eat, for free.
According to Crosscut reporter Robert Mellinger, the Beacon Food Forest will be “an urban oasis of public food” offering a variety of edibles: apples and blueberries, herbs and vegetables, chestnuts and walnuts, persimmons and Asian pears.
The sprawling project, while ambitious, draws strength from volunteer groups like Friends of the Beacon Food Forest and from simply letting nature take its course. Built around the concept of permaculture, it will be a perennial, self-sustaining landscape, much like a woodland ecosystem in the wild. Companion plants included for natural soil-enhancement and pest-control will help lower the amount of maintenance needed.
“The idea of planting perennials as part of a self-sustaining, holistic system is old hat to many accomplished gardeners,” writes Claire Thompson for Grist, and groups like San Francisco’s Guerrilla Grafters have already dazzled us with novel ways to promote urban agriculture. “But,” continues Thompson, “creating a system on public land that combines the concepts of urban farms, orchards, and natural forest, and depending on collaborative community effort to keep it going, represents uncharted territory for the now-flourishing urban-farming movement.”
In addition to contributing to your family picnic, the bounteous Beacon Food Forest will feature traditional amenities like playing fields, community gardens, a kids’ area, and public gathering spaces. Check out the full site plan below:
Sources: Crosscut, Grist
Image by Liz West, licensed under Creative Commons.
Margret Aldrich is an associate editor at Utne Reader. Follow her on Twitter at @mmaldrich.
Thursday, December 29, 2011 10:12 AM
What do you get if you cross an apple tree with a littleleaf linden? The Guerrilla Grafters—a renegade urban gardening group in San Francisco—hope the result is a metropolitan food forest. The volunteer activists splice branches from fruit trees onto the non–fruit bearing trees that line their city streets in an effort to grow cherries, Asian pears, and other fresh produce for local residents, free of charge.
“We have tens of thousands of trees in San Francisco,” says Guerrilla Grafter Tara Hui, in a video shot by *faircompanies, “so that’s a huge resource that we could tap into to provide food.”
Not everyone is a fan of the project, reports Yi Chen on psfk: “In some states, it’s illegal to have fruit bearing trees on pedestrian footpaths as fallen fruits become a health and safety hazard, [and are] also believed to attract insects and rodents.” The Guerrilla Grafters, however, believe that enlisting community stewards to monitor the trees will prevent such problems.
To learn more about the project, and find out how you can replicate it in your city, visit the Guerrilla Grafters website and watch this video of Hui and Booka Alon as they lovingly check their grafts and seek out new fruit:
Sources: *faircompanies, psfk
Image by Muffet, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, September 22, 2011 4:46 PM
Whatever you call it—“agricultural urbanism,” “new ruralism,” or one of the dozen other alternate labels—the concept of carefully planned agrarian suburbs sounds like utopia. Protecting land while permitting growth, “agriburbia” is a farm-friendly antidote to the eat-it-up philosophy of consumerist suburban sprawl.
When populations encroach into the countryside, we sacrifice more than pastoral vistas, says Jonathan Lerner in Miller-McCune.“The steady loss of farmland and natural habitat to sprawl-pattern development endangers food supplies and other resources, as well as the health, wealth and survival prospects of individuals and even whole communities,” he explains.
In Fresno County, California—where the majority of farms are small, family-run enterprises and half are minority operated—the threat to the agrarian landscape that produces everything from plums to almonds is undeniable. “The American Farmland Trust has estimated that if conventional growth patterns continue, by 2040 the county could lose another 135,000 acres of farmland, out of a total of about 2.25 million acres,” Lerner writes. He continues:
[A] new approach to regional planning could help turn that pattern around in Fresno and elsewhere. At scales ranging from a few hundred to many thousands of acres, the approach aims to protect unspoiled and working landscapes while allowing development to accommodate expanding populations….
Forget large-lot, single-family, cul-de-sac subdivisions accessed by traffic arteries lined with fast-food and big-box outlets. Future development would be densely clustered or channeled into towns and villages on sites less valuable for farming and conservation or where infrastructure already exists. Besides homes, these growth centers would include shops, workplaces, schools, pedestrian amenities and transit.
This kind of development, known as new urbanism, is already increasingly familiar. What’s new is its integration with efforts to protect working and natural landscapes.
The agriburban plan being considered for Fresno, called the Southeast Growth Area (SEGA), would combine a vibrant residential community with agriculture in a 9,000-acre belt of land at the edge of the city. Gardens and orchards would grow throughout, and small commercial farms would border the eastern perimeter.
Agriculturally oriented subdivisions are springing up in other parts of the country, too: There’s Hampstead near Montgomery, Alabama; The Farmstead, outside Charlotte, North Carolina; and Pingree Grove, less than an hour from Chicago. With amenities including elaborate community gardens, local food farmers markets, farm-to-table restaurants, and active community involvement, there are plenty of reasons to live there beyond land preservation.
“Though the particulars differ, they all share the basic approach of building compact towns or villages as a way to avoid consuming undeveloped land,” Lerner writes. “New-urbanist thinking is essential because it provides the tools for creating places for growth that are not only dense but desirable.”
Image by Thomas Hawk, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 10:45 AM
Feministing hipped me to this amazing video from Utrecht, a city of about 300,000 in the Netherlands, where one-third of all trips are made by bicycle. The video shows a busy—but never too gummed-up!—intersection during rush hour. Utne’s hometown of Minneapolis is a great city for cycling, but this bike-happy glimpse of Utrecht made me drool:
Friday, January 09, 2009 3:37 PM
Philosophers, poets, and writers have long known the dangers of city life. Now scientists know why. Neuroscience writer extraordinaire Jonah Lehrer writes for the Boston Globe that the simple act of being in a city “impairs our basic mental processes.”
Human minds struggle to keep up with the mental over-stimulation that’s ubiquitous in most cities. This can lead to mental and emotional fatigue in city dwellers.
The solution, according to Lehrer, is to spend more time in nature. Forests and sunsets don’t require the same neurological effort as the busy concrete jungle of cities. Spending time in nature, having an apartment that overlooks green spaces, or even looking at photographs of natural settings have all been found to have neurological benefits.
“Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily available, and could improve your cognitive functions at zero cost,” Marc G. Berman, John Jonides, and Stephen Kaplan wrote for Psychological Science. Spending time in nature has all these benefits, according to the study’s authors. The theory is called attention restoration theory, or ART, stating that mentally exhausted people can actually be rejuvenated by spending time in nature.
And if nature’s not readily available, you can try out the advice from Common Ground on beating “urban angst,” that Utne blogger Rachel Levitt pointed to.
, licensed under
Friday, April 25, 2008 5:25 AM
Finding sources of bureaucratic waste to keep your job sounds like a lifetime employment guarantee. For sustainability directors like John Coleman in Fayetteville, Arkansas, reports Governing, curtailing that waste requires little more than parroting the advice of any penny-pinching parent. Turn off the lights when you leave the room; turn down the heat at night.
More than 800 mayors of American cities pledged to slash urban emissions, and about three dozen of those cities have sustainability directors, sometimes with entire staffs, to turn those pledges into action. At this early stage, the work is simple for sustainability directors, who can target inefficient government facilities for instant savings. In addition, sustainability directors “serve as both a liaison and a beacon to businesses and citizens who want to limit their own carbon output” and facilitate sustainability networking. “There are people with ideas, and there are people with money. But it still takes someone such as Coleman to make the introductions.”
As simple savings become harder to come by, solutions will require more innovation, as well as the political savvy to pitch changes like retrofitting buildings to tight-budgeted cities, Governing suggests, even if such changes will save money in the long run.
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