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Sustainability in Cities

 
pollinator
Posts: 51
Location: Topeka, KS, Zone 6a
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My wife is on a local sustainability board that is looking in ways to increase sustainability in Topeka, KS. I'm on a Community Development Committee that explores ways to grow small business in the community, especially agriculture and horticulture related businesses. The local extension office is currently hosting a program that promotes people learning to grow vegetables and supports community gardens as well. Farmers Markets, CSA's and local Co-ops seem to be increasing, not as fast as we would like to see, but there is forward progress. Personally we keep gardening and increasing our produce production every year. What are some other things people are doing to create sustainability in their local communities? We're very interested other things that are going on in other areas.
 
pollinator
Posts: 11790
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I'm impressed by what people are doing in Tucson, AZ to reduce flooding and improve the street environment.

https://www.harvestingrainwater.com/street-runoff-harvesting/tucson-arizona-green-streets-policy/

 
pollinator
Posts: 204
Location: Gulf Islands, Canada
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100% of potable water where I live comes ultimately from rainfall and we lose a lot due to runoff (small rocky island) as well as having a summer seasonal drought most years. Our local government offers subsidized rain barrels and lots of education on how to effectively collect water, build drought-tolerant and rain-collecting gardens, etc.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3559
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Farming enterpreneurs in Toronto have taken to advertising for people's unused gardens to grow food, in exchange for some produce as rent. Perhaps there's room for the municipality to act as a facilitator.

Looking at the waste stream might yield some answers. What happens to food waste, both household and commercial? Could it be upgraded to feed through use of insect digestion? Could it be fed to crickets to feed the pet food or burgeoning entomophagy industry? Could some combination be used in a staged setup, contained within a shipping container or parked trailer behind a grocery store, that turns daily food waste into several types of insect for chicken/pig feed, with worms at the end of it, for worm castings as a final saleable end-product?

In an ideal world, the chickens and pigs would live behind the grocery store, rotated daily in paddocks and fed food scraps directly, but insects take up less space, make less of a mess, and are easier to dispose of at harvest. All that is needed is a section of compartment where adults would be encouraged to congregate that just so happens to freeze at need, killing the occupants for easy bagging.

-CK
 
pollinator
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Your biggest asset right now is that you can manage the Farmers Markets, CSA's and Co-Ops before they get out of hand.

This seems odd, until you realize that here in Maine, we almost have too much of a good thing. With so many areas having farmers markets, and so many small farms trying to get into them, the market has been saturated.

You are in a good position now to plan and control growth in these markets so that the food available is diverse for customers. It does no one any good to have 6 farms producing eggs at the same farmers market, and lowering prices so that their eggs sell over the next farm. And likewise with egg plant and any other food sold at these venues.

Here, when farmers could not get into a farmers market in one town on say Thursday, or were told they had to only bring this or that produce to the farmers market to eliminate the price lowering I mentioned before, they would just go to the next town and start a new farmer's market on Wednesday. If you can control that nonsense, and let farmers see they are just self-defeating themselves by doing that sort of thing, it will go a long way so that farmers, the farmers market itself, and customers; all make out better.

Another thing you should plan and try and implment, if they are not available now, is winter farmers markets. By bringing in those with greenhouses, you can get a year long system of fresh food to consumers if you can manage it right.
 
Posts: 73
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Travis Johnson wrote:

Another thing you should plan and try and implment, if they are not available now, is winter farmers markets. By bringing in those with greenhouses, you can get a year long system of fresh food to consumers if you can manage it right.



Bumping this old thread because yes, winter CSAs are amazing. Ours barely relies on greenhouses: it's mostly root vegetables, microgreens, apples and winter squashes, dried legumes, etc. So very sustainable.

Another very healthy thing in our community is an healthy bartering/used goods market. What started as a "mother's group" on Facebook has grown into a huge sharing place where things get shared, given away, or sold. That's where meal trains get organized for struggling families, impromptu food co-ops get formed ("I'm getting a side of beef ordered. Who would like to share it with me?"), equipment gets loaned ("my basement has flooded. Does anyone have a ShopVac I could borrow).

This makes me more confident in the resilience of our community to major changes. It's not something you can force, but you can support such community initiatives by recognizing the validity of informal networks and making community spaces available at no cost for "clothing swaps" or "mommy support groups" for instance.

You can also advocate for mixed neighbourhoods, local businesses and good public schools. I think the reason our community works is that there is a very healthy mix of economical, political and cultural backgrounds, united by the desire of raising healthy families. We all truly LIVE in our small neighbourhood; many of us even work within it.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 1428
Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
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Travis Johnson wrote:Your biggest asset right now is that you can manage the Farmers Markets, CSA's and Co-Ops before they get out of hand.
...


I wish it were like that here ... I live in a small, fairly rural town in the eastern part of the Netherlands. The closest-by market which has some stands of organic products is in a larger town 25 kilometers from here. That is about one-and-a-half hour by bicycle, or a quarter hour by train and then another quarter hour walking from the train station to the market. It looks like a 'farmer's market', but in fact the people selling products there are buying  from the farmers, they aren't the farmers themselves. And as I said: it's a small corner of an ordinary market. I would love it to have a farmer's market here. But I know I can wish for it, but it won't happen (soon).
Maybe a CSA is more possible. There are already some organic/bio-dynamic farms, and one permaculture food-forest, in this region. One of these farms has a small store, which opens on Wednesday-mornings and Friday-afternoons to sel their products (and also some products of other farms).
I am doing what I can to tell my friends about those opportunities to buy real local organic food, instead of the 'supermarket organic'. And that works. Sometimes we ride our bicycles to the farm-store together, other times I meet people I know there.
Next week we will visit the food-forest with a small group. It's about 45 minutes riding (bicycles) I think.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
master pollinator
Posts: 1428
Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
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Something else we have here: a community garden. We started it 4 years ago. Town council approved the plans and we could start the garden in a part of a park in this neighbourhood. It's going well, although the people working as volunteers on the garden are about the same group as it was when it started.
We try to interest other people, by organising plant-swap-days and writing articles in local newspapers (and having a facebook page). People come there, talk with us, enjoy the garden ... but not many of them join our group.
 
Kena Landry
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In my neighbourhood, we have a program called "Un plant de tomates à la fois" (One Tomato Plant at the time) which manages collective gardens. It's not a community garden - people sign up to a garden, go there at planned hours, and there's an instructor/leader teaching basic gardening techniques and dispatching jobs. There is also a rota for watering. And all attendees leave with their share of the weekly harvest. They also manage a community kitchen where people can cook together and bring home a portion of the meal, and organize nature/gardening activities for school age kids.

One of their gardens is on a community center rooftop, and it really reminds me of the Eden garden in The Year of the Flood: you get up there on a dreary escape stair and end up in a green lush garden brimming with produce. The others are in church yards, mostly.

It does require some funding (mostly to pay the instructor and some supplies. They also get donations from home hardware stores and such), but it's been running for several years now and it makes a huge impact in the community. I'm sure lots of gardeners, like myself, have "graduated" from there and gained the confidence to garden at home or in a private patch in a community garden afterwards.
 
pioneer
Posts: 128
Location: South East Kansas
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Eric Tolbert wrote: What are some other things people are doing to create sustainability in their local communities?


For me living in a small city it can be hard to find people who want to talk about sustainability. In my view creating sustainability in cities starts at home. If one leads by example other will follow.
 
Kena Landry
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One silly thing I've done to build sustainability in my community is to use active transportation for gardening.

Whether that's using a bike trailer to pick up supplies at the garden center, carting old bricks in a wheelbarrow along a busy avenue, or walking  to the school garden with my gardening tools on one shoulder and a pitchfork in hand, it makes urban gardening extremely visible and shows the community it can be done, and without fossil fuel to boot.

We are so unused to those "rural" sights in an urban setting that it's sure to attract attention and curiosity, and often spark interesting conversations.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
master pollinator
Posts: 1428
Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
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Kena Landry wrote:One silly thing I've done to build sustainability in my community is to use active transportation for gardening.

Whether that's using a bike trailer to pick up supplies at the garden center, carting old bricks in a wheelbarrow along a busy avenue, or walking  to the school garden with my gardening tools on one shoulder and a pitchfork in hand, it makes urban gardening extremely visible and shows the community it can be done, and without fossil fuel to boot.

We are so unused to those "rural" sights in an urban setting that it's sure to attract attention and curiosity, and often spark interesting conversations.


I wouldn't call that 'silly'. Riding a bicycle is very 'normal' here. Riding a bicycle with garden tools in the panniers, or walking along the street with garden tools is a little less 'normal', but there are alotment gardens nearby, so it happens. Walking along the street with a wheelbarrow full of bricks, or full of garden tools ... that only happens in the surroundings of our community garden. The 'tool shed' is not directly near the garden, so every time we have our garden-working-days there, we have to bring the tools from the shed, in the wheelbarrow. Yes, it's good to be visible!
 
Kena Landry
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Inge Leonora-den Ouden wrote:

Kena Landry wrote:One silly thing I've done to build sustainability in my community is to use active transportation for gardening.


I wouldn't call that 'silly'. Riding a bicycle is very 'normal' here.



I meant silly in the sense that it's not a big gesture, a big community program, something that strikes me as a "save the world" big move. But it's part of the little gestures that normalize a more sustainable lifestyle.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 385
Location: Durham, NC
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I'm a former board member of The Scrap Exchange which is a creative reuse center.  It's hard to describe the whole thing but in general, we forge relationships with waste streams (fabric seconds from architectural/fashion/interior design shops, wood from cabinet making cast offs, industrial waste streams, expired scientific disposables, store closings, sign misprints, etc etc) and offer them for sale.  There are creative reuse classes and outreach.  Urban gardening, art installations, and the like.  

When I started on the board we had just moved from a collapsed warehouse where the ceiling leaked and the floorboards rotted, into a nicer warehouse.  That move was very challenging. Physically, organizationally, advertising the new place.  It wasn't clear if we'd be able to retain all of the staff because money was so tight. But over the course of a year or two, and with a huge boost from an insurance settlement from the roof collapsing on us, we had enough capital to purchase a former movie theater in a run down strip mall.

The square footage was finally enough to breathe a little, the location was great, and soon the profits became substantial enough for us to not worry about making ends meet.  We got enough saved to purchase another part of the strip mall and convert that to a donation processing center and thrift shop.  We had shied away from clothes/handbags/furniture what have you because we wanted a clear distinction between ourselves and thrift shops, and also because the area is saturated with thrift shops.  But the sheer scale of such donations kinda steered us that way.

I'm no longer on the board but my understanding is that they've now purchased the majority of the Lakewood Shopping Center and are leasing space to underserved populations (latino businesses, working mother coworking space, art supply stores, a maker space, etc.) They are doing seminars across the country to help other cities establish creative reuse centers. They've diverted over 1.4 million pounds of material from the landfills.

My point is you can start small and unpolished, but with vision and dedication can earn millions which are poured directly into community and sustainability.  We had hard times and gut checks and unforseen challenges the whole way but things are humming right along.
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