“Lagniappe” is a concept from my Southern Louisiana childhood — it translates roughly as “a little something extra,” and refers to things a merchant might toss in with a purchase (think a baker’s dozen). This week, I thought I’d give you a little lagniappe on some of our previous Greener Consumption themes. So if you’re looking for new reuse projects, green items for the kids or more indoor gardening ideas, we’ve got ‘em.
Your garden not doing so well? Neither is mine — this heat and drought have been brutal. Rather than bitching, though, those of us with yards might want to take a look at the practices and products used by people without them (or with really limited space) for growing ornamental plants and vegetables.
One of the most memorable sections of Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller The Tipping Point covers New York City’s reduction of violent crime by addressing petty offenses. Painting over graffiti immediately, cracking down on turnstile jumping, and beautifying run-down neighborhoods treated crime like an infection: focus on the conditions that caused an infection to take root initially, and, often, you don’t have to deal with any full-blown manifestations.
Remember the story from last year about a Michigan woman who was actually facing jail time for turning her front yard into a food garden? Or the Los Angeles man who had a legal tussle with city government over growing food in the parkway in front of his home? Those cases have been settled, but new ones continue to pop up as individuals decide that they want to get rid of their front lawns, and replace them with gardens.
After reading a short description of indie documentary THE GARDEN SUMMER – five young suburbanites move to a farm to live sustainably off of the land – you may well jump to the characterization of “The Real World Goes to Arkansas,” or “The Simple Life Sans Celebs.” It certainly sounds like a set up for your typical youth-focused reality series, doesn’t it?
If you’ve ever gardened (or even if you haven’t), you understand that worms are great for your soil: they gobble up organic matter, and poop out nitrogen-rich “castings” that feed your plants. They’re also a great composting solution if you’re low on space: a small bin and some red wiggler worms can take care of the organic matter for most small households (and, once again, you’ve got plant food).
Thinking about gardening this weekend for Earth Day? Or disposing of that old computer responsibly? We’ve got information you’ll want as you celebrate the planet this week.
Need to relocate your garden into a sunny spot?: Or have an older relative who loves to garden, but has trouble bending over to dig in the dirt? The Garden on Wheels (above) works in both of these situations – it’s also a great solution for the urbanite with limited gardening space. (via Treehugger)
Developing green technology isn’t child’s play, but children’s games can certainly inspire new ideas. Playground equipment made from old wind turbines, and a solar powered night light are just two of this week’s green tech finds.
While the Occupy movement has made a lasting impression on American (and even global) political discourse, its had a pretty limited impact on the permanent physical environments in which it operates: activists have focused more on building community in the abstract sense vs. the built, physical sense. That could change somewhat this Spring as Occupy Wall Street’s Sustainability Working Group moves from the business of providing energy for encampments to addressing food poverty in New York City. The group, in partnership with EcoStation:NY, has launched a fundraising campaign for a rooftop farm project in Brooklyn.
Dead leaves? Grass clippings? Fruit and vegetable peels? Sure, you could compost them, or you could turn them into robot fuel or solar cells. Plus, a gadget for harvesting the power you generate while walking, and an app for showing off your gas and carbon savings from driving a plug-in vehicle.
Potholes and sidewalk cracks are an ugly reality of urban living – but they don’t necessarily have to be ugly! East London guerrilla gardener Steve Wheen sees such blemishes as opportunities “to put smiles on peoples faces and alert them to potholes” (as well as show authorities “how shit our roads are”). As the video above shows, Wheen goes beyond just sticking a plant into a hole in the pavement: he creates very small themed gardens in the crevices he finds in his part of the city.
Food gardening seems like a pretty innocuous activity. Even “radical” acts like guerrilla gardening are pretty tame in the overall scheme of things. But we’ve already seen one instance in which a gardener faced jail time – simply for gardening (and, no, there weren’t any illegal plants involved).
You might be tempted to argue “Oh, but that was small town Michigan. Of course they’re going to respond negatively to something different.” But before you hang your hat on that argument, consider the case of Ron Finley, a fashion designer and Los Angeles resident. After taking a gardening course at the Natural History Museum, Ron decided to turn the 10 x 150-foot parkway in front of his home – the whole thing – into a food garden. Living in the Crenshaw neighborhood, Ron had taken his instructor’s words about edible food gardens in urban “food deserts” to heart, and began to share produce with his neighbors once it began to ripen.
Gardens get kind of a bad rap in Abrahamic mythology: just think Eden or Gethsemene. Despite those narratives, Catholic and Jewish congregations in Columbia, Missouri (the college town in the state) have found that gardening together allows them to not only demonstrate their commitments to creation, care and serving the needy, but to also build bridges between people of different faiths.
The Interfaith Care for Creation Garden Project traces its roots back to 2006, when an interfaith couple new to the area who wanted to get their children involved in volunteer projects. Fallow farmland behind Congregation Beth Shalom provided the perfect space for the effort; When founder Mary Beth Litofsky injured her back in 2009, the new Interfaith Care for Creation group (a project of the Columbia Climate Change Coalition) took over. The St. Thomas More Newman Center organized volunteers, and, all together, the effort produced 550 pounds of food – all of which went to local food pantries and kitchens that feed the needy.
Few phrases get my blood boiling like “homeowners association.” Perhaps it’s because I’ve never lived in a neighborhood with one of these organizations, but I have this image of a handful of people snooping around the community looking for any deviation from the norm (like, say, solar panels), and hiding their lack of imagination under the guise of property values. I’ve told my wife many times that if we ever move into one of those neighborhoods, I’m going shopping for a flock of plastic pink flamingos.
Off the top of my head, I can only think of one way that growing plants will get you arrested… but Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan, doesn’t have any illegal substances growing in her front yard. The raised beds and vegetable plants she does have, however, have earned her a misdemeanor citation from the city… and a potential punishment of 93 days in jail!
The Hebrew phrase Tikkun olam translates as “repair the world,” and has come to represent the notion of “human responsibility for fixing what is wrong with the world” in the Jewish faith. The Helen Diller Family Foundation and The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco borrowed this phrase for their awards program that recognizes Jewish teens in California for work that embodies Tikkun olam. This year’s winners, which each receive $36,000 for college, or for supporting their philanthropic work, have just been announced, and include young people working on issues ranging from the refugee crisis in Darfur to access to textbooks in Liberia to providing school supplies for disadvantaged youth in Los Angeles.
Urbanites with no yard space can get pretty creative in finding places to start a garden: from fire escapes to vacant lots. A new concept, Urbio, allows you to stop searching for space and start gardening: if you’ve got a wall, you’re good to go.
Gardening apps, high-speed rail, and electric vehicles made from electronic waste… this week’s green tech finds.
Finnish culture meets green building: Traditional Finnish building involves a lot of wood, and the Luukku House design combines this tradition with solar energy, high-efficiency windows, and other “green” features. The design has won awards from both the Finnish Timber Council and Solar Decathlon Europe. (via Good News from Finland)
Onsite composting for restaurants: GaiaRecycle’s new G-30H provides onsite composting for restaurants and schools… no need to have those food scraps hauled away (or — shudders — throw them in the trash).
Yep, today is America Recycles Day, so if you spend any time at all in the green blogosphere, you’ll be seeing lots of recycling stories and tips. Much of that will focus on the typical household materials — paper, plastic, and aluminum — along with electronics (since e-waste has become such a huge issue).
My own browsing around this weekend brought me to another item that probably won’t get as much attention: the wooden shipping pallet. If you’ve spent any time at all around any kind of warehouse operation or shipping/receiving docks, you’ve seen these… and know they generally go straight in the dumpster. You may not know, though, that these humble items represent a massive waste of wood.
From reselling used building materials through its Restores to contributing to the development of Biotown USA, Habitat for Humanity has a definite green streak… if you have doubts, just check out the international organization’s efforts on sustainable building and energy efficiency. The Inland Valley chapter in Southern California has taken this green focus to heart: not only has it incorporated solar power into many of its projects through a partnership with GRID Alternatives (like many California chapters), but it also now includes an organic garden with every “new” home.
Having grown up a couple of hours from Houston, Texas, I have pretty set associations of the city… and they mostly involve the oil and petrochemical industries (and the smell that comes with them), and ugly traffic resulting from massive suburban sprawl. Still, the city has its bright points — Hermann Park, for instance, is a gorgeous hub of green space and cultural institutions — and, now, a partnership between the city government and local non-profits has added another: container gardens around the 25-story Bob Lanier Public Works Building in the city’s downtown.
When my wife and I decided to buy a house in St. Louis, we wanted something older, with a little character… and easy access to the Missouri Botanical Garden. We found what we wanted… a mere two blocks from the US’ oldest continuously operated garden. MOBOT isn’t just a great place to escape the urban environment… it’s also become St. Louis’ premiere institution for promoting sustainability and green living. Now, I’m just as likely to spend my time in the Kemper Gardening Center for tips on better maintaining my little organic garden as I am enjoying the view in the Japanese garden.
It turns out colleges aren’t the only ones jumping into the community garden craze: according to yesterday’s New York Times, companies from PepsiCo to Best Buy to Kohl’s are putting in gardening spaces for employees to use.
So, what’s driving this movement towards corporate gardens? A push from employees? Sometimes. A desire for fresh food for the company cafeteria? Occasionally. But the big motivator? “As companies have less to spend on raises, health benefits and passes to the water park, a fashionable new perk is emerging: all the carrots and zucchini employees can grow.”
You may be old enough to remember when pizza day was kind of a big deal in the school cafeteria. Now, it seems to be the norm. While kids definitely need more active time outside, many worry that school lunches may be the main culprit in the current childhood obesity epidemic.
You can call Annie Haven a “tea bagger” if you’d like, but keep in mind the title doesn’t necessarily reflect her politics (or any other preferences); rather, it’s a professional title. Haven is the founder of Authentic Haven Brand soil conditioner tea, which takes manure from her family’s cattle farm, puts it in 3×5 teabags, and sells it to homeowners looking for something akin to an energy drink for their house plants.