Growing Cities – Feeding Future Generations

Below is the trailer for an inspiring new documentary about urban agriculture in America, GROWING CITIES. It follows innovators, activists, and everyday city-dwellers who are transforming their communities one vacant lot, beehive, and rooftop farm at a time. Along the way, viewers discover urban agriculture is about a whole lot more than simply good food.

Host a screening in your community by visiting: www.growingcitiesmovie.com/screenings

Americans Are Driving Less

Transportation_Transition_ImageThe report, “Transportation in Transition: A Look at Changing Travel Patterns in America’s Biggest Cities,” is based on the most current available government data. It is the first ever national study to compare transportation trends for America’s largest cities and lists results for each. Among its national findings:

  • The proportion of workers commuting by private vehicle — either alone or in a carpool — declined in 99 out of 100 of America’s most populous urbanized areas between 2000 and the 2007-2011 period averaged in U.S. Census data.
  • From 2006 to 2011, the average number of miles driven per resident fell in almost three-quarters of America’s largest urbanized areas for which up-to-date and accurate Federal Highway Administration data are available (54 out of 74 urban areas).
  • The proportion of households without cars increased in 84 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas from 2006 to 2011. The proportion of households with two cars or more cars decreased in 86 out of the 100 of these areas during that period.
  • The proportion of residents bicycling to work increased in 85 out of 100 of America’s largest urbanized areas between 2000 and 2007-2011.
  • The number of passenger-miles traveled per capita on transit increased in 60 out of 98 of America’s large urbanized areas whose trends could be analyzed between 2005 and 2010.

The study found that cities with the largest decreases in driving were not those hit hardest by the recession. On the contrary, the economies of urbanized areas with the largest declines in driving appear to have been less affected by the recession according to unemployment, income and poverty indicators.

APA Attends Historic Hemp Growers Meeting

USEI_LogoPrincipals from Abraham Paiss and Associates participated in a well attended meeting sponsored by Colorado Hemp Coffee on March 1, 2014 in Boulder, Colorado. The meeting was organized to help answer questions concerning the new Colorado State guidelines surrounding the growing of Industrial Hemp.

At the meeting the first registration applications were passed out allowing for growers to register for either a Commercial or a Research and Development Registration. We are  optimistic about the ability to begin growing Hemp as it has literally thousands of food, fiber, construction and renewable energy possibilities.

Advances in Composting

Screen shot 2014-02-26 at 1.42.10 PMIt is estimate that 40% of the food produced in the United States is wasted. This includes inefficiencies in the harvesting, packing, transporting, and sales steps of our food system. In addition, a tremendous amount of food scraps are generated in the cleaning and preparation stages as well as leftovers from restaurants, schools and employee cafeterias.

When this food enters our waste stream and ends up in private or public landfills it decomposes and creates methane gas that often escapes into the atmosphere which contributes to the growing green house gas problems associated with climate change.

A company based in New Hampshire has created and is distributing a composting system which can be used in both commercial and institutional situations. The company specializes in the design and manufacturing of urban composters, for food waste composting with its CitypodTM composters.

These composters have started a revolution for on-site, in-vessel, urban composting including odor control and numerous innovations that make this larger scale of composting a viable option. While environmentally conscious consumers may support the idea of on-site composting, the historic challenges have historically made this kind of operation very difficult to initiate. This system successfully deals with odor emissions, is easy to operate and can be profitable to the owner.

Read more about the CityPod Composter on their website.

Bring Back Shared Group Homes

This blog is a reprint about the Shared Home concept addressed in the e-book: Unlocking Home: Three Keys to Affordable Communities 

boarding-houseTiny backyard cottages, micro-apartments, the revival of boarding houses and in-law dwellings—Cascadia is on the bleeding edge of these emerging trends, which reintroduce housing forms of a century ago.

Recently, Sightline  released a short book on the gigantic opportunities cities have to make urban living quarters greener, cheaper, and more abundant by eliminating a few municipal rules.

Hidden in city regulations are a set of simple but powerful barriers to affordable housing for all. These rules criminalize history’s answers to affordable dwellings: the boarding or rooming house, the roommate, the in-law apartment and the backyard cottage. In effect, cities have banned what used to be the bottom end of the private housing market.

Unlocking Home: Three Keys to Affordable Community details how to revive inexpensive housing in walkable neighborhoods—at no cost to the public—by striking a few lines of municipal law.

The three keys are re-legalizing rooming and boarding houses, uncapping the number of roommates who may share a dwelling, and welcoming accessory dwellings such as granny flats and garden cottages.

Opening up this housing would:

  • create new income opportunities for property owners
  • alleviate the outward pressure of sprawl into farmland and forests
  • increase residential concentration organically, without big changes to architectural character
  • yield compact communities that support walking, transit, neighborhood businesses and low-carbon living

Most important, these tactics would generate thousands and thousands of units of inexpensive housing in metropolitan areas, unlocking homes for the many people who need them.

Unlocking Home is a Sightline e-book available for $3.95.  Details at this link.

Envisioning the Future

futuristic_cityOver the past 30 years, society has moved toward sustainable solutions in a wide number of areas. Innovations are occurring in energy efficient construction, renewable energy systems, local food production, low carbon transportation and mixed use developments.

How would a city of the future look, feel and run if the innovations we see today were expanded and inter-connected throughout the entire fabric of a medium-sized city? This is the question we aim to answer with the help of visionaries, inventors, business leaders, farmers, engineers and artists. Together, we have the knowledge and experience to make sustainable cities happen in our lifetime.

Come play with us. Let’s do it now.

Building Resiliency: Every Egg Matters

Reprinted from Resilient Communities
The Egg Map: How to Accelerate Local Food Abundance

Here’s something I found incredibly useful as a way to improve a community’s resilience: an Egg Map.

Take a look at this map of egg producers, from the innovators at Incredible Edible Todmorden UK.

Every point on the map is a home, farm or business that has a chicken coop. Many of them got started with chicken keeping through the Todmorden “Every Egg Matters” campaign.

Given how productive chickens can be, it’s not that hard to overproduce. So, a good portion of these locations produce MORE eggs than they need.

Further, the campaign increased the awareness of people in the town to the benefits of fresh, locally produced eggs — from the radically better taste, particularly if eaten within 48 hours of being laid, to the claim (mostly unproven, although I suspect it is highly dependent on the type of chicken and what you feed them) that they are much better for you than the factory fresh eggs bought in a store.

Most of the locations on the map includes details about how many eggs they have available for sale and contact info (phone/text) for how to reach them.

As you can see, this map provides:

  • A method by which you can keep a community effort/campaign alive. The map documents it, charts its progress, and keeps it alive after the campaign slows/ends.
  • A way to connect the community — you can now connect with neighbors to buy food and/or get advice on how to run your own coop.
  • Provides an extra source of income for coop owners. Income that can eliminate the costs associated with the coop and come in handy in a pinch. Further, by replacing egg imports, it keeps wealth inside the community, where it can do the most good.

Making maps like this may be something you want to do for your community.

If you want to use Google maps, here’s some simple instructions for building your own map (including a video).

If Google or the Internet becomes unavailable for short periods of time, you may want to opt for open source map tools that you can run on a PC connected to a wireless community network.

Growing Local Farmers

Growing_PowerReprint of story: Chicago Takes Huge Step Towards Retraining for the 21st Century

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–November 22, 2013.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced a $300,000 grant to Growing Power’s Farmers For Chicago Program. One of the first programs of its kind in the nation, the Farmers For Chicago Program will provide local non-profits the funding and resources to install the necessary agriculture equipment and train up to 50 local-residents in urban farming skills. The produce grown from Farmers For Chicago farms are then sold at grocery stores and farmers markets throughout the city.

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