The Suburbs and Permaculture

farming in the suburbs

The suburbs offer an outstanding—and obvious—opportunity for for food production and permaculture.

Here’s a good overview of the potential marriage of the suburbs and permaculture for growing food, similar to this post. With abundant lawn area in many suburban developments, people can easily grow much of their own food. Or they can share space, rent space, or trade space with people who want to grow food. Water is available through wells or city water. And the land area that could be used is huge.

A NASA researcher estimated that lawns in the U.S. are the most-irrigated “crop” in the nation. “Even conservatively,” Milesi says, “I estimate there are three times more acres of lawns in the U.S. than irrigated corn.” Read the article here.

Here’s what we could have:

veg garden - peas growing like crazy

 

CSA delivery by bike

CSA delivery by bike in Seattle.

Some areas may even be close enough for bicycle delivery of the veggies!

 

In dense cities, alleys are more useful for people than for cars

alley, laneway, infill

In dense cities, alleys are more useful for people than for cars.

San Francisco’s Living Alley Project. In dense cities, alleys are more useful for people than for cars. Great idea for making useful space for people, rather than cars. Looks like a low-cost strategy for a pleasant space. Street party?

About the Commons

the commons, Kaid Benfield

Kaid Benfield of the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote this though-provoking post about “the commons,” why they’re important, and what works. Interesting to tie together the commons and sustainability.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture

Achieving Sustainability Through Multiple Systems

Braås small-scale heat plant in Växjö

A small wood-fueled heating plant in Växjö.

Creating a sustainable city depends on optimizing multiple systems. It doesn’t happen with tackling just one issue.

Here’s a BuildingGreen post from Alex at BuildingGreen.com about “Europe’s greenest city.” Växjö, pop. 61,000, set a goal to be independent of fossil fuels by 2030. The city has addressed energy needs and pollution with several approaches.

A biomass combined heat and power plant burns wood chips sourced locally. The plant serves 6,500 customers with heat delivered via insulated hot-water pipes, and provides electricity to 29,000 customers. The city’s population is roughly 61,000 people. More in the Wikipedia entry.

This all reminds me of what  CCLEP is doing on Minnesota’s north shore. With projects devoted to wind, solar, district heating, transportation, and energy efficiency, CCLEP is figuring out what works. It often takes a hefty investment in infrastructure up front, but the effort should pay off over time, and pollution should be more easily minimized.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably with

  • green building
  • permaculture
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Small Iowa Town Cuts Energy Use By 8% In One Year

Fairfield, Iowa cut energy use.

Fairfield, Iowa, cut energy use by 8.5%.

According to Midwest Energy News, the town of Fairfield, Iowa, has cut its energy use by about 8% in the last nine months. How did they do it? Primarily through simple conservation measures such as switching to compact fluorescent bulbs and air sealing. The low-hanging fruit is easy and is pretty much free money.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

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Becoming A Very Green City

Convergence. Synergy. Whatever you call it, many different organizations in my city (the La Crosse, Wisconsin area) are coming together to learn, teach, and practice sustainable living principles. And it appears that momentum is building. La Crosse is becoming a very green city.

So many different projects are interwoven that it can be challenging to remember them all. Some are well under way, such as Gundersen Lutheran’s projects, and some are still in the planning stages. In no particular order…

Creating a community food system

Hillview Urban Agriculture Center is building a community food system. This nonprofit group is working with Western Technical College, Mayo Health System, Organic Valley, the YMCA, and others to grow and distribute food for local people to eat, addressing food insecurity, food deserts, and healthy eating.

Western Technical College will build a new greenhouse system on campus that will provide space for Hillview, as well as for the college’s Landscape Horticulture Program. The college will build three Passive Houses on the former Hillview Greenhouse site. WTC students will help build one home per year, gaining invaluable hands-on experience, integrating the different elements of the Building Innovations program, and adding to knowledge of best practices for sustainable housing. The houses will be sold, adding to the tax base of the city.

This photo shows the old Hillview site, where three Passive Houses will be built by professional contractors and WTC students.

 

Western Sustainability Institute will be a regional resource

WTC is also building the Western Sustainability Institute, which is to be a central resource for the regional sustainability efforts of business, government, nonprofits, and education. The Sustainability Institute will be advised by the Mississippi River Region Sustainable Communities Consortium (MRRSCC), which includes members from regional government, planning, education, and nonprofit entities. The MRRSCC is being developed with funding from a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Gundersen Lutheran is nearly energy independent

Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center is a national leader in sustainability efforts through their Envision program, and will be energy independent in 2014. They’ve invested in conservation, tapped the county landfill for methane, invested in wind farms, installed a biomass boiler, and more.

And the City of La Crosse and La Crosse County have adopted The Natural Step, which provides a framework for ensuring that human activities are done sustainably. And many more projects are under way.

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

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A Tiny House In the Back Yard

 

Here’s a great staccessory dwelling unitory illustrating how different housing arrangements, such as a tiny house in the back yard, can meet a variety of needs and wants. For aging parents; young adults juggling college, traveling, and volunteering; or friends who need little space, it’s a great way to stay connected to friends and family, while ensuring that everyone has some space.

Adding a tiny home is a sort of infill development, and helps to enliven older neighborhoods. Large suburban lots, of course, will have plenty of room for tiny homes, which can help to enhance the feel of community.

One of the main issues is prohibitive regulations, as adding another housing unit of any size is often prohibited. And many people are concerned about their property values and seeing junky shacks constructed as rental units. Valid concerns, but no reason to prohibit tiny homes outright. You’ll see the term “accessory dwelling unit” applied to buildings like tiny homes, and it’s an acknowledgement that building codes and zoning regulations can adapt.

Lloyd Kahn’s latest book, Tiny Homes, offers hundreds of creative examples of small dwellings, from cheap and funky to surprisingly expensive. Deek over at Relax Shacks will show you inventive ideas as well. And Kent Griswold of The Tiny House Blog covers the topic extensively.

 

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

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Green Cities Make People Happier and Healthier

Live Science reports on a study that people feel enhanced well-being in cities with more green space.  It’s clear that green cities are not just more pleasant; they’re good for us! Green cities make people happier and healthier.

parks make people happier and healthier

Here’s another example. And another from a post I wrote in 2012.

So what do we do to create green cities? Lots of things, but one of the most crucial is improving the urban forest.

 

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture

What Are the Best Cities for Treehuggers?

What are the best cities for treehuggers?

American Forests’ 10 Best list is based on 6 main criteria.

Despite the emerald ash borer, some cities’ urban forests are healthy and well managed. What are the best cities for treehuggers?

According to American Forests, they are:

  • Seattle
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Sacramento
  • Denver
  • Austin, Texas
  • Minneapolis
  • Milwaukee
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • New York City
  • Washington, D.C.

And then there’s this nonsense. Those power lines should be buried, or at least relocated to the alleys.

What are the best cities for treehuggers?

Thanks, Xcel Energy!

The Farmhouse Media is all about living sustainably through

  • green building

  • green cities

  • permaculture