Greening Cities – two recommend green book reads!

Our campus sustainability committee has a green read each semester. This spring the book we are reading is   Green Metropolis by David Owen – and we are lucky that the author will come to speak on campus in March too. The book discussed how people living in densely populated cities (like NYC) are actually much greener than the suburban sprawl. People don’t often own cars as they walk or bike or take public transportation since parking is so bad/expensive; they live in small spaces hence less heating cost (and heat escaping benefits neighbors);  and with smaller places they don’t accumulate lots of “stuff.”  Owen makes some controversial and cranky comments that should lend to interesting discussions and debates.  (here is a NYT review of the book)

Our Friends of the Library book club is also reading a green city book this spring called Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier by Edward Glaeser – a Harvard Econ Professor.  This book also promotes how cities are greener than non urban areas, again concentrating on NYC – they live longer and use less energy, etc. This book too lends itself to debates and discussing as Glaeser clearly want to get people fired up.  (here is the book review from NYT)

Overall, either book would be a great green read for any library book group!

Urban Farming … and schools

Great Kids Farm is owned by the Baltimore Public School system, teaching skills in nutritional and agricultural education, providing food for the cafeteria’s in the schools.  Classes can visit the farm and interact with chickens, goats, and bees or garden the  small fruit, vegetables, and mushrooms. read a recent article on a visit to the farm and view the photos!

Real Food Farm is Civic Works’ innovative urban agricultural enterprise, located on six acres of Clifton Park in northeast Baltimore.

Growing Power is a Milwaukee-based organization that teaches urban residents, especially children, about farming, under Will Allen, co-founder and CEO.

Read more about these programs or other ideas for urban farming on Sowing Seeds Here and Now – or attend – the Chesapeake Urban Farming Summit June 18, 2010. Sponsored by ECO (engaged community offshoots) Inc, who’s goals it to reserve the effects  of systemic poverty, racism, and oppression through establishing and promoting social venture community-based businesses, involving people from all walks of life in healthy and sustainable living activities. Schools folks – read more about their farm to school programs!

How green is your city?

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) has a site called Smarter Cities.  They offer stories, maps, news, information, etc. on what makes a city “smart” and they also ranked cities according to how “green” they are. They have 3 categories according to city size: under 100,000 = small, 100,000- 249,00 = medium and over 250,000 = large) You can read about how they collected data and scored cities under the criteria of  Air Quality, Energy Production and Conservation, Environmental Standards and Participation, Green Building, Green Space, Recycling, Transportation, Standard of Living, and Water Quality and Conservation. Top large cities: Seattle (WA), San Francisco (CA), Portland (OR).   Top medium cities: Madison (WI),  Santa Rosa (CA), Fort Collins (CO).  Top small cities: Bellingham (WA), Mountain View (CA), Norwalk (CT)

Urban Rooftop Gardening

Rooftop gardens offer energy savings by providing better insulation, reducing heat affect on building, and cutting back on storm water runoff. But they also offer educational space  (for school kids growing their veggies for school cafeteria to social service projects teaching people how to garden and cook), personal gardening, community gathering (shared rooftop gardens for an apartment building), and healthy living in a city. Rooftop gardens also offer longer growing season and less pests. Many cities and/or states  –  Chicago, San Francisco, and New York State, etc – are encouraging rooftop gardens and offering tax incentives.  Read this NYT article (6/16/09) for more information and check with your state to see if you can get a tax break or other incentive to start a green roof on your library.

Are you in an urban setting?

Look into the idea of Urban Homesteading for your library and to educate your library patrons.  It’s the idea that even in an urban setting you can be a bit of a farmer –  from container gardening to having chickens –  thus creating a better lifestyle for yourself and your family with local, in season, healthy and cheaper choices of food.   California even has an Institute for Urban Homesteading who’s principals “preserve a slower, more intentional, more sustainable and more pleasurable way of life, rescue the lost arts of the garden, the kitchen and things done by hand and imbue everyday tasks with wonder and beauty.”

Perhaps a library could host local experts teaching workshops such as raising chickens in your backyard, beekeeping, canning, making yogurt, producing fruit and honey wines and cheese making.

Check out Fallen Fruit web site, which is attempting to map locations of  public fruit in neighborhoods around the country(public fruit is fruit that overhangs sidewalks, parking lots, streets, etc.)