Urban Gardening in NYC, that’s what! This summer it was obvious: urban gardening is hot right now, and everyone from Martha Stewart to high school students in the Bronx know that there’s a lot of it happening right now in NYC!
I did a little digging (insert pun) and found that urban gardens are more than just a passing fad here in NYC – and students have some interesting reasons for planting them. Check out my silent film investigation of the who, what and where of urban gardens in NYC:
What many people don’t always recognize is that even though growing your own food may seem like just another new hot trend, it can also benefit urban communities and help us tremendously in our efforts to cool the climate.
Collectively, our entire industrial food system and associated emissions may account for 1/3 of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (grist.org) What is it about industrial agriculture that produces greenhouse gases?
Well, almost every step along the way is environmentally harmful and greenhouse gas producing! It starts with the clearing of forests to make space for large industrial farms, the use of chemical fertilizers on land which diminishes the health of the soil and releases nitrogen dioxide (or N2O, a gas about 300x more powerful at trapping heat than CO2), the methane (CH4) from the farting and burping livestock, and the CO2 produced when our food is trucked, shipped, or flown to supermarkets from thousands of miles away. In fact, on average, every meal consumed in the U.S. travels about 1500 miles before it’s consumed!
And yet, none of these steps are necessary when planting an organic garden in a city. Instead of clearing forests, people get creative about finding space to grow their gardens: vacant lots, rooftops, school yards. Instead of chemical fertilizers, organic gardens use organic compost usually made on site. Piling up old food scraps and leaves makes some of the richest fertilizer available.
At most urban farms you don’t see livestock – chickens maybe, but their waste is great organic fertilizer and they rarely have gas! Instead of traveling thousands of miles, urban gardens are right in our communities, at our schools, or in our backyards, and few to no vehicles are needed to get the food to our plate. Urban gardens also bring greenery to concretized cities and greenery takes pollution and carbon out of our air. This brings fresh air and fresh food to urban communities that often have limited access to both.
Last semester I met many students who were taking on urban gardens at their high school, and so many more who are making plans to do so this year. Many of the students I spoke with told me that gardening at school is actually a really fun and much needed break from the books — a chance to get outside and do something with your hands, and a way to help your community become a healthier place.
The ACE presentation helps clarify the connection between urban gardening and curbing climate change. My own interest in this connection lead me to find a community garden near where I live in Brooklyn, and explore how getting involved there could lower my own emissions.