Archive for the ‘local’ Tag

Developing for Post Oil America

Locally grown food is a good way to promote community sustainability and cut back on energy use.

Locally grown food is a good way to promote community sustainability and cut back on energy use.

It is inevitable. If we keep consuming oil, we will eventually run out. Although estimates vary as to how much oil we have left in our reserves, it nevertheless is a good idea to start planning for the post oil period. Some communities have started to piece together parts of the puzzle. Brattleboro, Vermont, typically known for its alternative lifestyle has started a grassroots organization to deal with what might happen after the life of oil. The group is called Post Oil Solutions, or POS for short, and its aims goals at five different factors: community gardens, local food, energy, transportation, and education.

What I found most interesting of these was the local food. POS says the following:

Did you know that most of the food on local store shelves has traveled an average of 1400 miles? Between transportation, and conventional agricultural practices, there are 10 to 15 calories of fossil fuels in every calorie of food you eat.

That means if you eat a 500 calorie meal (a calorie is measure of energy), at least 5000 calories went into the making, maintaining, and transportation of that meal. If the ratio of energy consumed versus needed is indeed that high, it means that there are huge amounts of energy wasted. It is clearly not possible for everyone to eat only local foods; the cost of growing food around New York City will cost much more than food being grown in developing countries, but I think most Americans believe there should at least be more local food available, especially if it carries a reasonable price tag.

In a link from POS site, there is an article from One passage I thought really related to our situation today: “[With 15 minutes a day and a piece of] lawn roughly the size of the parking space for your car, you can grow a significant amount of good food—food that is organic, food that is tasty, food that is healthy[...] During World War II, Americans started “victory gardens,” growing up to 40 percent of their fresh produce. In these tough economic times, it again makes sense for us to grow some of our own food.”

Any community visioning or master plan should incorporate making enough areas suitable for both individual and commercial farming, as it is an important part of sustainability. Doing so will cut down (however slightly or large it may be) our oil dependence and consumption.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Intern, Vertices LLC


Revisiting Community Visioning in Lexington, KY

A view of the rehabilitated area in Lexington, KY

A view of the rehabilitated area in Lexington, KY

Lexington, KY has been a city of earlier discussion on this site, so I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the city. One of the main sections of the city, the area surrounding Triangle Park, had been severely under utilized. Like a typical American city, disinvestment in the downtown areas in favor of suburban areas left this area of Lexington in need of a make over. But residents did not want to scrap the old architecture that had stood for many years and was part of the culture of the city. Instead, buildings in Victoria Square were allowed to stay even amongst new building codes thanks to the willingness of a few local preservation and revitalization advocates.

What had been a haven for rats, pigeons, graffiti, and the homeless, has now been transformed into an enjoyable square with restaurants and studio apartments overlooking Triangle Park.

The revitalization of this area of Lexington is a great example of how planning a community with the involvement of local residents can be a great tool for a successful rehabilitation project.

Take a moment to look at the picture (from above. Notice how nearly all the buildings are 3 stories, each building has a small relatively small building street fronts, and the buildings are real close together (in fact they are touching). This is typical of older style urban design and is very desirable for people. The streetscape of small banners, lights, and trees also contributes to this being a desirable area, and is an sample for good urban design.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Inter, Vertices, LLC

A Little Local Service

President Obama recently launched an initiative to help Americans get involved in community service. In his youtube address to the nation, he asks volunteers all over the country to register their events on the government run site Although not everyone will be involved in a community service events, perhaps not even half, but at least President Obama is providing support for the people that do choose to volunteer their time.

In terms of community visioning, this program is a good way to get people “thinking globally, acting locally.” Whether someone volunteers because they enjoy keeping local parks trash, or because they want to make a difference in someone else’s life, it is all a part of the community. The community is the most important aspect in visioning.

In response to this video, a student run organization, the Student Conservation Association (SCA), has put together a checklist for how one can help. They list several possibilities:

  1. Plant a native tree
  2. Help clean up green space in my community
  3. Lessen the impact of my visit to parks
  4. Help educate others about making a difference
  5. Volunteer for a local park restoration
  6. Enter the green your school contest

You can visit and sign their Conservation Declaration form here.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Intern, Vertices LLC

Bringing Cities to life with Plant life

A prospering garden in the heart of Cleveland, Ohio

A prospering garden in the heart of Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland has had its fair share of downtime in recent years, but now it seems small community efforts are helping to recreate the image of the city- and it doesn’t involve superstar LeBron James.

In the West Superior Hill section of the city, Burning River Gardens has been putting small community efforts to work. 15 garden plots were erected last year and now in its second year, 13 volunteers have been assigned garden plots to grow organic only vegetables. Rules strictly forbid any unnatural weed killers or fertilizers, making organic food each year and avoiding soil contamination and river contamination (when rain drains the chemicals into the water via runoff).

A community garden such as this one are good ways to bring local food into local homes and therefore create more productive people and communities. One instance pulled from this article I was reading from says one of the gardeners who had a plot offered a nearby homeless man a few dollars a day to water her plant while she was out of town, but the homeless man said he had already been watering them for her.

Despite how little this community garden may be, it offers recreation activities for more community residents on a plot of land that might otherwise go unused. The site is also lined with brick that was left over after a local school had been torn down. A small image of a trickle down effect in the community can be seen from this by connecting different types of people with different activities. Many people being able to say they played a part in a local success, whether it be the person who donated the bricks, the homeless man watering the vegetables, or the person who finally eats a ripe product of the garden (they’re eating local).

Community gardens are just a small example of community interaction methods that can be employed in nearly every city, suburb or rural area. Small actions like these gardens reproduced many times will have an exponential effect on the livability, likeability, and overall quality of urban areas for future living. You can start by planting just one seed today.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Intern, Vertices LLC

All resources drawn from: