You don’t have to live in a tropical climate to find a green city. In fact, some of the snowiest cities are getting greener all the time. Green in the sense of eco-friendly, that is.
Of course, you probably are aware that many communities have recycling programs in place, whether at the curbside or at a communal recycling center, or both. But are you aware that many cities maintain employees or departments that are set up to advise and assist citizens as well as businesses with their recycling needs.
City planners are well-aware of the popularity of the movement toward greener living and working. In response, they are implementing enhanced public transportation, designing bicycle paths on roadways, and encouraging eco-friendly building through changes in codes and licenses.
But don’t be surprised if soon, while you are riding your 12-speed to work, you see a chicken coop and plots of corn pass by. Cities are making it much easier for citizens and businesses to farm – right in an urban oasis.
See that Farm? The One Right Next to the Highrise…. Once upon a time much of the land that is now located in the city was used as a country farm. As cities grew, the farms moved further out into the “country”. It was not convenient nor permitted to raise animals nor grow crops in the city. Land was more valuable to build upon than to farm upon, and municipal codes prevented animals from being raised within city borders.
But with the recent movement to green-up our lifestyles, there has been an increase in demand for local food – agricultural and carnivorous. Higher demand has lead to the creation of small, profitable businesses in the form of farm companies within cities. In addition, non-profit urban farming organizations have claimed plots donated by citizens and business owners wanting to encourage sustainable cities.
Rewriting the Rules As a reaction to the demand from businesses and citizens, municipalities are revising the laws to allow or even encourage urban farming. Recently, San Francisco has altered its laws facilitating organizations to grow and sell produce in the city. Nearby Berkeley is also in the process of enabling individuals to sell home-grown products. Additionally, Oakland leaders are working on changing laws that prevent homeowners from raising animals for food.
While these cities are all in the progressive state of California, it is not the only state hosting these initiatives. Ann Arbor, Michigan, South Portland, Maine and Ft. Collins, Colorado also have altered their rules and now permit poultry farming within their cities.
Growing Food Results in Other Benefits as Well
There are multiple benefits to urban farming for both the citizens as well as businesses within the city:
- Creates local businesses such as farms and farm stands
- Keeps money within the community
- Feeds people within the city
- Eliminates costly transportation needs of food
- Adds green space to the city
Additionally, parallel businesses benefit from the changes. Restaurant owners can farm their own ingredients. Butchers can buy locally. Produce and grocery stores can sell popular, locally grown products.
How One Utility Company Powers Up Urban Gardening While urban gardens typically pop up in empty plots of land within cities, one utility company has been inspired to use its previously unusable properties to feed the hungry. DTE Energy, a Michigan-based utility company supplying electricity and gas to over 2 million customers, has discovered a practical use for the properties that buffer its electrical fields. The company has started DTE Energy Gardens, growing fresh produce on the land. Volunteers plant and maintain the gardens. Once harvested the food is given to Gleaners Community Food Bank to be distributed to those in need.
How Can Businesses Take Part Even if your company is not in the agricultural business, there are still ways to benefit from this green venture. Does your business have land that is not in use? Can it be used to start a non-profit urban garden? If your workforce is large enough to recruit volunteers to maintain a garden, you can operate a farm that provides food for the hungry. The feel-good-factor for your employees as well as the positive public relations can pay dividends.
Don’t have the volunteer numbers you need? Offer the land to be used by an urban farming non-profit already established in your city. Don’t have the land? Sponsor a non-profit urban farm in your community.