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Millennials are getting back to the land — in backyard gardens and urban plots

February 13, 2017 | Posted in Living Green | By

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Millennials are returning to one of civilizations most ancient traditions – working the land.

Seth Matlick carries a box of fresh vegetables from the fields of his farm in the North Valley. The vegetables are used in local restaurants. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

Whether it’s a business, an urban farm, a plot of land shared by the neighborhood or a garden in their own backyard, the generation that was born after 1980 is planting their hands in soil.

According to the 2013 National Gardening Association Special Report: Garden to Table, which comes out every five years, there were 13 million millennial gardeners that year, an increase from 8 million in 2008. The 2016 National Gardening Report says 5 million of the 6 million new gardening households last year were 18- to 34-year-olds.

These freshly picked salad radishes are from the Vida Verde farm in the North Valley.

Seth Matlick, 32, grew up in New York, the country’s ultimate concrete jungle. Besides some houseplants, he said he never grew anything or visited a farm. He now operates and owns Vida Verde, a four-acre organic vegetable farm in the North Valley. The farm grows more than 300 types of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. It sells the produce and herbs to 15 local restaurants and La Montañita Co-op.

eth Matlick, the owner of Vida Verde farm, makes a list of the produce needed by area restaurants, which he will harvest from his farm.

Matlick’s farm also participates in the Community Supported Agriculture program, which helps financially support their operation while providing community members with fresh produce. Matlick said program participants essentially buy a share of the farm at the beginning of each calendar year. In return, they receive a box of fresh produce weekly for 26 weeks.

“It comes out to about $23 a week,” he said. “In exchange you get $25 to $30 worth of food (a week).”

After attending college in Vermont and studying sociology and business, Matlick started working at the Bronx Zoo but soon became restless. He said he decided to travel and found himself in New Mexico, a place he had never visited. He fell in love with the openness of the state and the opportunities to be outdoors. A friend suggested to him that he try a farming internship and he did just that.

“At then end of it, I decided I loved the lifestyle,” he said. “I love being outside and I loved being able to bring my dog to work.”

A box of head lettuce is being filled by Sam Hedges inside a hoop house on the Vida Verde farm in the North Valley. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

Matlick wasn’t quite ready to trade in his ticket to the concrete jungle though. He wanted to farm while still having access to city life. Matlick said when he was growing up urban farms and community gardens were not something available to city dwellers. He said he’s seen it become more popular among his peers, but like him, although they embrace the craft, they aren’t necessarily willing to abandon city living all together.

“I love still being able to live in a city,” he said. “Albuquerque is an urban environment but it has a rural feel to it.”

Albuquerque resident John Philpott, 26, is originally from Nebraska where he said he saw a lot of large farms but not a lot of individual farming and gardening. His parents had a small garden but it was never something he really considered as an adult until he worked at a grocery store.

“I got this idea that instead of buying fruits and vegetables, I could grow them,” he said. “Fresh picked stuff always tastes better.”

A few months ago Philpott and his wife relocated to Albuquerque from Gallup, where they had established a hearty garden. Philpott said he used the internet to teach himself about the best techniques and methods for gardening. The couple installed a hoop house, which functions as a greenhouse, to bolster their yield. Inside they planted vegetables, including beets and carrots.

They now live in a duplex in the Wells Park neighborhood, so they don’t have enough space for a hoop house. Philpott hasn’t let that deter him. He has placed his vegetables inside a raised planter box with a plexiglass window that protects the garden from wind and helps trap the heat during the cold months.

Seth Matlick, 32, provides produce like these carrots to local residents and restaurants.

North Valley resident and New Jersey native Sean Foran, 32, said he’s literally reconnecting with his roots by planting roots. His family, he said, is from Italy and growing their own food is a longtime tradition. He had a grandparent nicknamed “Strawberry Grandpa” because he was so well known for the strawberries he grew. He got his start in college when he helped create a community garden as part of his social work degree.

He and his wife have started a small garden in their backyard growing tomatoes, lettuce, kale and fruit trees as well as raising their own chickens.

“As I dove more and more into gardening, I connected more with my childhood,” he said. “I put in a little time every day. I look at that as leaving the world behind.” [abqjournal.com]

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10 Trends in Urban Gardens

February 6, 2017 | Posted in Living Green, Uncategorized | By

In the last year, the urban gardens that have really grabbed people’s attention on Houzz have a number of characteristics in common. All are stylish, contemporary and maximize space for outdoor living. Many have calming color palettes, such as deep green, white and charcoal, and — no surprise — are expertly designed to carve out privacy in crowded city lots.

Location is the most notable common thread of the most popular urban backyard photos uploaded and saved to ideabooks in 2016. Hats off to London’s landscape architects and garden designers who took 8 out of the top 10 urban gardens.

Pimlico Flat

10. Lush backyard getaway. This leafy retreat in the Pimlico neighborhood of London feels hidden, thanks to a slatted screen at the back of the garden and mature trees, vines and shrubbery on either side. Bamboo, grown in brick planters toward the back, offers a quick-growing screen for urban gardens.

Small outdoor room with a green wall in Kensington

9. Living wall. Vertical gardens have been popular on Houzz for the past few years, but this walled London courtyard is a particular standout. With just enough room for a cafe table and chairs, the narrow courtyard left little space for large-scale potted plants. Covering the wall with vertical planting pockets makes room for growing a diverse array of ferns, vines and perennial flowers and creates a verdant backdrop.

College Crescent

8. Sleek lines. This favorite garden proves that with a creative design, even an oddly shaped, sloping lot has enormous potential. Working with the London backyard’s natural gradient changes, garden designer John Davies created a series of terraces and planting beds so that the resulting view from the ground floor is one of lush foliage layers. Lights washed over specimen plants and soft lighting from the fountain create an inviting atmosphere after dark.

Related: Shop for Outdoor Fountains

RHS Chelsea Flower Show Garden 2

7. Layered garden. This peaceful garden designed by Charlie Albone won a Silver-Gilt Medal at the 2016 Chelsea Flower Show and resonated with Houzzers worldwide. The formal structure of symmetrical planting and clipped boxwood hedges provide balance with the exuberant purple, white and magenta blooms.

Jet Black Garden

6. Urban cool. Dark decking, river rocks and black mondo grass give a chic, moody look to this London backyard. We’ve seen black being used in exterior design over the last couple of years, and if the number of times this London backyard has been saved by Houzz users is any indication, it’s not going out of style.

Hampstead Small Garden

5. Backyard lounge. This stylish retreat in Hampstead, London, would be the perfect place to relax on a sunny afternoon with a group of friends or family. Using artificial turf instead of a traditional lawn cuts down on maintenance and frees up more time to enjoy the garden.

Islington Courtyard

4. Sunken patio. This sophisticated outdoor lounge, complete with daybeds and a modern fireplace, would look right at home outside one of London’s chicest spas. Instead, the space is a private backyard behind an Islington home. Dark wood fencing and bright foliage enclose the sunken patio to create a private retreat.

Related: Find a Fire Pit for Your Backyard

RHS Chelsea Flower Show Garden

3. Outdoor room. Another award-winning garden from the 2016 Chelsea Flower Show, this outdoor room designed by Hay Joung Hwang offers plenty of inspiring ideas for Houzz users.Creating a semienclosed space outside — this one is made of three walls and a ceiling — would be a useful extension off the home for an urban garden. In warm weather, one could enjoy eating outside under a canopy of trailing vines. Even on a cloudy day, the outdoor living room would feel cozy and inviting with a fabulous view of romantic, cottage-style perennial beds.

Durlston Road , Kingston upon Thames

2. Backyard pergola. Designed for outdoor entertaining, this garden in South West London offers an alfresco dining area and shaded lounge thanks to the wooden lattice. It’s perfect for relaxing with a cool drink on a summer afternoon. City planning departments have been known to allow homeowners a few extra feet of wooden lattice on their perimeter fences above the maximum height limit. In a tight city lot, an extra few feet of lattice can add much-needed privacy while still allowing light into the garden.

Private garden designed by John Davies

1. Walk on water. It’s no surprise that Houzz users found this urban backyard to be inspiring. Stepping out from a London flat and into this tranquil retreat would feel like being transported on a mini vacation from city life. The lotus pond, symmetrical tree backdrop, and soothing colors of green, gray and deep purple all evoke a sense of calm.


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Green City : Vancouver Passive House

December 19, 2016 | Posted in Live Green | By

With less than four years to go, the likelihood of Vancouver becoming the world’s greenest city by 2020 remains up in the air.

A recent development, however, may just be one of the city’s most important environmentally minded initiatives to date: the construction of Canada’s largest “passive house” building, a structure so energy-efficient that experts estimate residential utility bills will cost as little as $10 a month.

Dubbed the Heights, the six-storey, 85-unit mixed-use property at 388 Skeena Street is slated to be complete next spring.

It joins more than 10,000 residential, institutional, and commercial properties across Canada that have been built according to passive house, a voluntary standard forwarded by German researchers that emphasizes significant levels of insulation, airtight design, and the recycling of outgoing warm air in highly energy-efficient buildings.

“Up until now, a lot of the passive houses that we’ve seen have been single-family detached,” Karen Tam Wu, director of the Pembina Institute’s buildings and urban solutions program, explained by phone.

“And what this particular project signifies…is where Vancouver would like to go and what Vancouver is focused on in terms of the opportunity to greatly reduce our carbon pollution.”

Housing a combination of studios and one- to three-bedroom suites, the Heights is constructed with 35-centimetre-thick walls, multiple layers of locally sourced insulation, and triple-glazed windows.

This “envelope first” approach keeps warm air in and cold air out, while the installation of a heat-recovery ventilator (HRV) ensures that the fresh air that does enter is first warmed up by heated stale air on the way out.

The Heights will house a combination of 85 residential studios and one- to three-bedroom suites once complete.

The result is a resilient, healthy, and well-insulated home that makes cranked-up thermostats very much unnecessary, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and decreasing energy bills.

In the summer, the warming stage in the HRV system may be bypassed, enabling cool air to enter each unit. Other details, such as windows that offer lower rates of thermal transmittance in south- and west-facing suites, help prevent overheating, too.

“The idea is that it actually moderates your climate much better than the typical building,” Scott Kennedy, principal of Cornerstone Architecture (one of three local firms collaborating on the Heights), noted during a recent media tour of the space.

As one of the first passive-house projects that will be available for rent in the city, the Heights represents an important step in establishing green buildings as the new norm in Vancouver and throughout B.C. and Canada.

Speaking alongside Kennedy, Ed Kolic, president of Eighth Avenue Development Group, revealed that he hopes to court similarly environmentally minded businesses—such as a Burnaby-based energy-efficient-retrofit retailer—into the ground floor of the East Vancouver premises.

Residential rent will hover at a blended average of $2.70 per square foot.

Tam Wu said that as more architects and builders hop onboard, the costs of constructing such properties will decrease significantly, making the proliferation of accessible, ecofriendly dwellings an even more tangible reality.

“If we can demonstrate that this type of low-carbon, low-energy building can be built using passive-house technology, then, right now, we’re already doing what Vancouver hopes will be the future of building.”


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Green living paves the way for better green and sustainable practices

December 5, 2016 | Posted in Living Green | By

Green Living, an annual eco lifestyle event positioned to meet the needs of eco-conscious consumers and businesses alike, returns for its second year from 9 to 11 September 2016 at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre. It is the first sustainable lifestyle event that aims to build a bridge between consumers and companies advocating green products.

This year’s exhibition is inspired by the themes from the book Cities of Loveauthored by Mr. Tai Lee Siang and Ms. Valerie Ang, which will be launched at Green Living 2016. The book focuses on 12 core ingredients that can make the city a better and sustainable place to live in; such as Family Oriented City, Edible City, Smart Device City, Garden City and more. These ingredients will be represented by the different zones of Green Living and visitors will be able to explore and experience them personally.

“The future of our human existence lies in our cities, by 2050 it is expected that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in them. So how can we shape the future for a better and brighter tomorrow?” said Mr. Tai Lee Siang, President of Design & Business Chamber Singapore. “Green Living and loving our cities is something that everyone can achieve.”

“As a thoughtfully curated and dedicated eco lifestyle event, Green Living 2016 encourages and reminds everyone to be responsible for our environment,” said Ms. Karen Leong, Project Director of Reed Exhibitions, organiser of Green Living 2016. “With a bigger event this year, the myriad of exhibitors and activities lined up will help visitors to better integrate green habits into their daily lives.”

Housing over a 100 brands of eco-friendly products covering Sustainable Home, Eco Parents, Health & Wellness, Transportation & Mobility and Smart Technology, Green Living seeks to encourage visitors to adopt a greener approach to their lifestyle.

Smart & Sustainable Home Showcase

Green Living will showcase two showrooms for sustainable home and smart technology with partners such as IKEA, Bosch and Lutron, offering an insight on the ease of creating eco-friendly and sustainable spaces for the whole family. This will also be IKEA’s first sustainable home exhibit out of the IKEA store in Singapore.

A tour within the showroom will be conducted to educate both family and kids on easy and simple solutions as well as tips on how to live a more sustainable life at home.

Interactive Workshops & Seminar Corner

Over 40 workshops and seminars will be available for the public throughout the 3 days.

Catering to various interest groups, the workshop and seminar schedule features a variety of interesting topics including:

  • Terrarium Making by Ecoponics, suitable for both adults and children
  • Chemical Free Skincare by Precious Oilers for making natural home-made products like deodorants with therapeutic grade essential oils.
  • Green Beauty. Where to Start? by Ayelli, teaching how to read beauty labels and what organic certifications to look out for
  • SuperEating for the Whole Family by Balanced Living, an interactive cooking demonstration that explains which nutrients are vital for your family’s needs
  • Organic Gardening at Home by Biomax on the dos and don’ts of organic gardening and how to convert a normal garden into an organic one
  • Low Carbon Tips by Singapore Environment Council (SEC), showing how to monitor household energy consumption and carbon emission
  • “Energize” Yoga conducted by Tara Stiles, founder of renowned global yoga brand Strala

The majority of the workshops and seminars are available free of charge for the public. For more information, visit www.green-living.com.sg

Over 100 eco-lifestyle products and services

Visitors can start their green lifestyle journey at Green Living 2016 with a wide selection of over 100 eco-lifestyle products and services brands that benefit the environment and meet their modern needs.

Beauty and wellness aficionados can look forward to organic skincare products and makeup made from natural ingredients, such as Ayelli’s pure organic Moroccan Argan Oil, Balm Kitchen’s botanical-based skin care and body care line, Flare Wellness’ organic beauty treatments as well as The Soap Haven’s range of soap bars suitable for all skin types, including for those with skin-conditions.

Parents can also look out for products for their little ones, such as Twinkle’s line of organic essential baby oil, Bebe Bamboo’s sustainably sourced bamboo clothes and many other eco-friendly clothes, baby products and toys brought to you by Mumpreneurs’, a collaboration between Gardenasia and Mums@Works.

Visitors will also be able to stock up on organic food products at the Green Café as well as try their hand at making their own DIY delicious smoothie on a pedal-powered smoothie bicycle.

Interior decorations and furnishings such as Reborn’s beautiful table lamps made from upcycled glass bottles, In-Vitro’s Botanicaire Air Detoxifier and Coriandoli’s soy wax candles will also be available at Green Living 2016.

An alternative mode of transport, Scootastic,will make an appearance showcasing their revolutionary e-scooter, K3 Fosjoas, along with a wide selection of Emarco’s Personal Mobility Transporter which offers comfort and safety in getting around the island while minimizing carbon footprint

GP Battery ‘Charge & Save’ campaign

As a champion for a better environment and e-waste reduction, GP Battery will be giving out 1,500 packs of rechargeable batteries to visitors who exchange their old alkaline batteries at Green Living 2016 under their ‘Charge & Save’ campaign.

World Wildlife Federation (WWF) Singapore reality-to-virtual display

Amongst the many key highlights of the event, World Wildlife Federation (WWF) Singapore will be putting together an immersive experiential show with Samsung’s Gear VR to raise awareness of park rangers. The reality-to-virtual display will showcase a day in the life of a park ranger and their roles and responsibilities in protecting national parks and animals in their natural habitat.

Singapore Sustainability Story II

Founded on government initiatives to make Singapore a sustainable city to live in, Singapore Sustainability Story is back for its second edition showcasing inspiring stories from agencies, corporates, communities and individuals to share their journey towards a greener lifestyle and city. The best 20 shortlisted stories will be showcased at Green Living 2016. Visitors will be asked to cast their votes for their favourite story and the top three stories will win shopping vouchers.

SEC Recycling Bin Design showcase

The Recycling Bin Design Competition 2016 organised by Singapore Environment Council (SEC), will be showcasing life-size prototypes of innovative and effective recycling bins designed by schools. These exhibits aim to educate the public on the many different ways to recycle.

Other highlights

Visitors will get to see the live sketching of a gigantic art canvas by Band of Doodlers that shows ‘What kind of earth will future generations inherit’. The canvas depicts a beautiful and contaminated earth, to educate the public on the importance of protecting the environment.

Visitors are called upon to show their love for the environment by recycling their plastic at Green Living’s Eco-Love Machine. In return they will be rewarded with eco-friendly gifts for their recycling effort. In addition, visitors will get a chance to participate in a Lucky Draw to win $16,000 worth of prizes and products including e-scooters, green home appliances and shopping vouchers.


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Harvard finds certified green buildings improve both thinking and sleep

October 31, 2016 | Posted in Green Building, Live Green | By

New research from the Harvard School of Public Health finds that workers in high-performing, green-certified buildings think and sleep better than those in similar buildings that were not green-certified.

Led by Dr. Joe Allen, director of Harvard’s Healthy Buildings program, researchers studied 109 workers in 10 buildings in various climate zones across the country for one week. All the buildings were high-performance in terms of having high ventilation rates and low total volatile organic compounds (VOCs), but six were specifically green-certified.

The researchers found that compared to workers in the non-certified buildings, workers in the green-certified buildings had 26 percent higher cognitive function scores, reported 30 percent fewer “sick building” health symptoms, and saw 6.4 percent higher “sleep quality scores” (as measured by wearable sleep monitors).

This research follows a bombshell 2015 study by the same group that found elevated indoor carbon dioxide (CO2) has a direct and negative impact on human cognition and decision-making — at CO2 levels that most Americans (and their children) are routinely exposed to today inside classrooms, offices, homes, planes, and cars.

That first study measured a typical participant’s cognitive scores dropping 21 percent with a 400 ppm increase in CO2:

In the new study, the biggest differences in cognitive function between workers and the two types of buildings were in crisis response (73 percent higher in green-certified buildings); “applied activity level — the ability to gear decision-making toward overall goals (44 percent); focused activity level — the capacity to pay attention to situations at hand (38 percent); and strategy (31 percent).”

In both studies, researchers made use of a sophisticated multi-variable assessment of human cognition used by a State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University team, led by Dr. Usha Satish.

In an interview with Climate Progress, Dr. Allen explained the reasons why he thinks workers in the certified green buildings outperformed those in the high-performance buildings that weren’t certified.

First, workers in the certified buildings spent more time working in the “ideal comfort zone” (the optimum range of temperatures and humidities, which provide 90 percent or higher occupant satisfaction). Second, those workers had more and better quality light, most likely driven by more use of daylighting. Future studies will examine these factors in greater detail.

You may be wondering how it is that people in green-certified buildings slept measurably better at night. The answer appears to be better quality (bluer) light and more light (a larger contrast between daytime exposure and night-time):

CREDIT: Harvard University

The findings from this study were presented pre-publication at the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual Greenbuild conference. More information on both studies is available here.

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