Back in March 2012, I wrote about the High Line in New York City, and what a positive addition it has been to the city and to the neighborhoods where it's located. The High Line was built on a disused train track, which has been reborn as a beautiful public walkway, fully landscaped with gorgeous trees, bushes, flowers, including areas to sit and rest while enjoying being surrounded by nature in the urban environment. The last phase of the High Line will be completed with the installation of the Spur, a nature-filled rounded structure that will extend over 10th avenue at West 30th street. According to the website, "visitors to this unique area of the High Line will be able to immerse themselves in nature by entering a bowl-shaped structure ringed with broad-leaf woodland grasses, perennials and ferns. The sheltered, and vegetated interior room will be accessible through various openings and entries." Sounds fantastic! I look forward to experiencing the High Line when it's complete in all its glory.
Hoping that the High Line inspires other cities to create urban green spaces wherever possible, as an investment in the quality of life of cities, now and for future generations.
To offer your support, visit highline.org.
The world's oceans are in urgent need of our help.
Five enormous trash gyres, floating masses of mostly plastic debris stretching out thousands of miles and 100 feet deep, are contaminating the oceans and causing untold damage to animal life and ultimately, to us.
The promising solution for cleaning up our trash may have been found by a young man I read about recently and featured in Inhabitat. Boyan Slat, a 19-year old student from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, has designed what looks like a giant manta ray floating in the ocean. Called Ocean Cleanup Array, it removes 7,250,000 tons of plastic waste. As described in the article, "the device consists of an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms that could be dispatched to garbage patches around the world. Instead of moving through the ocean, the array would span the radius of a garbage patch, acting as a giant funnel. The angle of the booms would force the plastic in the direction of the platforms, where it would be separated from plankton, filtered and stored for recycling."
What can each us do to help?
Recycle and reduce plastics from our lives, get involved and help to support efforts to clean up our oceans.
Watch Boyan Slat talk about Ocean Cleanup Array on TedxDelft.
Safe drinking water is essential. It's estimated that by 2025 more than half of the world population will be facing water-based vulnerability. I live in the state of California where our water system is in a crisis because of the aging infrastructure, population growth and climate change. We must come up with a sustainable solution to this crisis, as sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Watch Andy Lipkis, the founder of TreePeople in Los Angeles, as he demonstrates a wonderful plan using a multi-screen animation, showing how rainwater can be redirected to save millions for our cities and provide the water we need for our sustainable survival.
Have you heard about the Food Forest called Beacon that is in development on 7-acres outside Seattle, Washington? Believed to be the largest food forest on public land in the United States, and it's goal is to become a significant resource of food security for the local population. Food Forests already exist in many countries around the world, where the gardening technique of land management that mimics a woodland ecosystem, has been practiced successfully for many years.
In a Food Forest, shrubs, perennials and annuals are replaced with edible trees, such as fruit and nut trees, berry shrubs, edible perennials and annuals. Companions planting as well as beneficial plants are included to attract insects for natural pest management while some plants are soil amenders providing nitrogen to improve the soil's health and mulch. Together they create relationships to form a forest garden ecosystem able to produce high yields of food with less maintenance. Wishing the Beacon Forest Garden wild success, and I hope that it inspires many more to follow in other cities everywhere.
South of the Swedish capital Stockholm is a residential waterside neighborhood called Hammarby Sjostad, and an inspiring example for environmentally friendly for all of us. The objective of the architects is for 50% of Hammarby Sjostad's energy to be produced locally, to provide a sustainable use of resources and minimize energy consumption, reduce the waste of resources and optimize recycling. 75% of it's sustainability model is in the integrated infrastructure and the other 25% is expected to come from the residents of Hammarby Sjostad, who are learning to reduce their impact on the environment. I love this! Hammarby Sjostad is set up in a way that wastewater and domestic waste is turned into heating, cooling and electricity for the buildings, which is also producing 50 percent of the power they need. Water use is also being reduced with the help of innovative filters in the taps and all trash is separated and much of is used to produce energy. This is the way of future, and especially when it comes to turning our trash into clean energy that powers our homes.
Hammarby Sjostad has become an international brand, and is referred to as the "Hammarby-model. See what it looks like on youtube.
More than 2,000 California homes could be powered by unsold food from Ralph's and Food 4 Less markets! This awesome story was recently featured in the LA Times, and 84% of readers voted (including myself) that generating power was the best use for spoiled food unfit to be donated. As our landfills are literally overfilled while the methane gas produced by all the rotting food contributes to Global Warming, it's such a relief to find out that there is a system in place to turn all that food waste into a powerful force for change. The anaerobic digester system was developed by a start-up in Boston called Feed Resource Recovery that "offsets more than 20% of the distribution center's energy demands-all without producing pungent odors." The neighbors must be thrilled about that!
Increasingly areas of the world are becoming susceptible to flooding. A story I read recently in INHABITOTS is so inspiring. The community of Makoko of Lagos, Nigeria is prone to flooding and they have learned to take these periodic inundations in their stride. Over generations, they have adapted their lifestyle by building their houses on stilts. Transportation is by canoe! Nigerian-born architect, Kunle Adeyemi has sustainable living on his mind and he hopes to build a floating school, many more homes and a hospital for the communities living along the coast in Africa. The more you think about it, the more it makes sense since the tides are rising and instead of fighting against them, learn how to live with them.
It's Sustainable Spring and "Yes We Can" start a garden! If you don't have a garden but would like to get your hands in the dirt, there are many grassroots organizations across the USA and beyond who are inspiring and organizing communities to beautify their neighborhoods, targeting vacant lots and creating community gardens and other beautification projects. Fill empty lots with native wildflowers to attract butterflies, bees and birds. Takeover unoccupied lots and fill them with fruit and vegetables for the community to enjoy. Learn how to get involved in improving your community here.
You can plant a garden together with your neighbors and create a beautiful green space for your community that you can be proud of. Learn how here.
You can get free organic seeds at your local seed bank. Find one near you here, or start one yourself!
Inspiring things are happening in Rotterdam, where last July the Dutch energy company Eneco moved into their new energy-efficient 270,000-square-foot office building. It boasts a three story living green wall on the outside, 366 solar panels on the south-side wall and 288 on the roof, as well as a highly efficient heating and cooling system. It's wonderful that so much thought was put into creating a healthy and enjoyable work environment, from the natural light flooding the inside, so there is less of a need for artificial light and several luscious green walls were installed as a way to improve the air quality of the building. Click here to see more images and read more about it.
The company Whole Trees Architecture and Structures foundation is built on sustainable, organic and responsible principles for managing the forest and its precious trees. Started in 1991 by Raold Gundersen, in Wisconsin, Whole Trees carefully culls trees from their local forest. They walk through with a building design in mind and select individual trees to harvest. According to Raold Gundersen "The tree is chosen for its structural and design integrity and for the effect that its removal will have on the forest left standing around it. Often the selection will be based as much on thinning an overcrowded stand or managing an invasive species, so instead of clear-cutting they choose. When the tree has been chosen we peel the bark from it while it stands in the forest, allowing the waste products to go back to the forest floor." Everyone benefits in this story, even the insects, fungi and bacteria that are taking part in the breaking down of the organic matter provided by the discarded tree bark.
The look of using entire trees in your home is not everyone's style, however I do find the process of culling trees in a responsible way something that should be encouraged, as a way of preserving our precious forests for future generations.