Take action to tackle environmental problems and reduce dependence on fossil fuels, even if you’re on the 12th floor of a city high rise. Many small steps from many people add up.
- Water, Water Everywhere
It’s a two-for-one deal. Aquaponics famers raise both fish and crops in a symbiotic system. Each one’s presence helps the other. The process requires no artificial fertilizers and uses significantly less water and space than other farming methods. Fish waste becomes organic fertilizer for plants. The crops and their growing media filter and clean the water before it goes back to the fish.
- Garbage Turns Good
Some urban farmers put their garbage to good use. Through composting, they turn organic waste into fertilizer. Leftover food doesn’t go into a landfill, and plants get environmentally safe nourishment. This reduces dependence on fossil fuels, because many fertilizers are petroleum based. Composters collect garbage in dedicated containers, either indoors or out. With time, air, leaves, bark, paper – and sometimes worms – waste decays quickly and becomes fertilizer.
- City Slickers
Urban agriculture is exactly what it sounds like: farming in the city. Crops grow on vacant lots and brownfields, areas formerly used as industrial or commercial sites. Land devoted to urban agriculture is tested and treated, because it lacks nutrients and may contain pesticides, winter salt and other contaminants.
- Box It Up
The lack of available land doesn’t stop some urban gardeners, who use porches and window boxes to grow herbs. These plants don’t need as much light as flowering plants and vegetables. These tiny herb gardens also require only small amounts of water. A little planning and effort produces big results.
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn … and Other Urban Areas
Plant a tree in the city and reap the benefits. Because of concrete, buildings, asphalt and other surfaces, cities are typically up to 9 degrees warmer than surrounding areas during summer. Tree shade helps lower temperatures. Trees also reduce wind speed, put water back into the air and decrease noise. Research shows that, when urban housing areas have sufficient greenery, quality of life goes up and crime goes down.
- Bee Nice to Cities
Certain birds and insects pollinate many food crops, but these populations are declining. Pesticides, disease, climate change and human encroachment take their toll. When pollinators have to travel far to find food, cities present a challenge. Traditionally, heat and lack of vegetation make them inhospitable. Growing attractive native annuals and perennials on windowsills, rooftops, balconies and in city gardens offers pollinators safe havens.
- Here Comes the Rain Again
Keeping plants hydrated in urban areas isn’t easy. Water sources may not be easily accessible, affordable or plentiful. However, rainwater is free and available to everyone. Some urban farmers collect and store it in rain barrels and cisterns. A warning, though: Don’t let these collection areas become mosquito breeding grounds.
- What’s Going on Here?
Areas with microclimates show different temperature, water and frost conditions than expected based on their general geographic locations. For example, buildings and pavement often make cities hotter than surrounding areas. Structures also provide wind protection. Urban farmers who consider microclimates grow plants that thrive under these unique conditions rather than the typical regional climate.
- Top of the World
Green roofs bring agriculture to the little-used space on top of buildings. These container gardens vary in size but provide benefits such as insulation, improved air quality, heat dispersion and rainwater absorption. They’re also green retreats in the middle of urban jungles.
- Bringing the Country to the City
If you’re a city dweller without a garden – or you want more variety than you can raise – local farmers markets offer food at affordable prices. Because crops haven’t traveled far, they’re fresher, more nutritious and better tasting. Transportation costs are less, which cuts down on fossil fuel use. Crops aren’t traveling cross-country, they’re just going from farms to nearby cities.
- For Everything There Is a Season
Eating seasonally means food costs less because it doesn’t have to be transported from far-away farms. You’re also likely to eat a greater variety of foods because of different growing seasons. Look forward to fall grapes and apples, winter leeks and kale, and summer peas and cucumbers. Local farmers markets are traditional sources of seasonal offerings.
- Howdy, Neighbor
Community gardens give city neighbors places to grow plants and feel connected. These plots are often on underused or abandoned land. The gardens provide more green space for the city, which helps moderate rising temperatures caused by buildings and pavement.
Though living in a city might limit your living space, it doesn’t limit your ability to impact climate change. It’s not easy being green … but it’s a good idea.
Megan Nichols enjoys discussing environmental issues and other scientific discoveries on her blog, Schooled by Science.