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

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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

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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.

[Forbes]

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How to Safeguard Your Family Against Home Health Risks

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January 16, 2017 | Posted in Uncategorized | By

How to Safeguard Your Family Against Home Health Risks

The last thing we want to think about is the danger our homes could pose to our health. Yet, studies find that hazards, pollutants, and dangers exist within our homes that can aggravate allergies, sinuses, skin, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems, and more. Worse still is the fact that so many people do not realize the ways in which our homes make us sick. To help you protect your family, we share some tips for safeguarding your family against home health risks here.

Take a Good Look at Your Household Cleaners

We think that our household cleaners are safe because they are marketed for home use. Unfortunately, studies show that 21 common household cleaners contain air contaminants, including 24 that are associated with serious health concerns and cancer. Even the fragrances in household cleaners are known to cause respiratory problems for people. If you have not looked at the ingredients and warning labels on your cleaners, do so immediately. At the very least, you should follow the directions for use to the letter and ensure that you run a fan and open a window when you clean.

Better yet, replace your household cleaners with organic or homemade, non-toxic products. For example, you can mix water with vinegar or lemon juice to clean glass. Use baking soda as a scouring agent and borax mixed with water as a multipurpose cleaner.

Get a Home Inspection

You may be familiar with home inspections as a task to complete when buying or selling a home, but you should consider getting a home inspection for peace of mind. Certified home inspectors carefully examine the interior and exterior of your home and can point out potential problems, safety hazards, defects, and other concerns to homeowners.

Be Aware of Carbon Monoxide Danger

Carbon monoxide poisonings can happen at any time, but the number of occurrences rises when the power goes out and people use generators, when people use gas ranges or fireplaces, or when people leave their cars running inside the garage. Other sources of carbon monoxide dangers in the home include unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, leaking chimneys and furnaces, furnace back-drafting, gas water heaters and woodstoves and fireplaces, and tobacco smoke.

Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, which makes it very dangerous. Initial symptoms include headache, weakness, dizziness, and nausea, but symptoms can worsen to include vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision, and loss of consciousness when the poisoning increases. If the carbon monoxide issues develop slowly, victims may mistakenly believe they have the flu.

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, install carbon monoxide alarms in hallways near areas used for sleeping. Make sure that your appliances are in good working order and have them repaired if they are not. Have your heating system professionally inspected and serviced once a year and make sure that professionals check and clean your chimneys and flues. Do not operate any gasoline-powered tools or generators in the house or any enclosed space. Should your carbon monoxide alarm sound, immediately go outside and call 911.

Prevent Leaks and Check for Mold

Mold often is the culprit behind homes that make people sick. The problem with mold is that it can grow any place where small amounts of water collect. This means mold may form in air ducts, overhead vents, windows that collect condensation, bathroom floors, bathtubs, kitchen sinks, and any other area where water collects. If your home is too humid, mold can begin to grow behind walls and above ceilings, so you may not even be aware of its presence.

If you do see mold growing, use bleach to kill it and prevent more growth. If you suspect that mold is growing in hidden places, contact a professional to come in and do an assessment of your home. Sometimes, people must hire professional cleaning services to remove mold from their homes. The best way to prevent mold is to reduce the amount of humidity in your home, run bathroom fans during and after a shower, and use dehumidifiers when and where necessary.

Of course, you want to do all you can to keep your family safe and healthy. That’s why you should be aware of the hidden dangers in your home and know how to safeguard your family against them.

Image via Flickr

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What Does the Election Mean for the Environmental Movement?

Hang onto your hat!

December 27, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized | By

President – Elect Donald Trump has nominated some of the worst cabinet appointees in history!  His nominee for Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, the former Governor of Texas and two time Presidential candidate, promised to eliminate the Department of Energy during the 2012 Presidential Primary campaign and is a climate change skeptic.  His nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency has sued the EPA for doing its job and wants to eliminate it or make it a powerless shell.  His nominee for Secretary of State is the CEO of Exxon Mobil and was a climate change skeptic until very recently.

What does this mean for the environmental movement going forward?  First of all, as far a Green City Challenge is concerned, we will continue doing what we are doing.  Our mission is to educate New Yorkers about ways to live, work and eat green.  It doesn’t matter who the President is.  Our work continues regardless.

As far as the environmental movement in general is concerned, that is a different story entirely!

Environmentalists are in panic mode.  Based on what Mr. Trump said during the election season and his cabinet nominees, the environmental picture looks very bleak indeed!  However, we have to keep fighting for what we believe.  We know there will be many legal and legislative battles ahead so we have to get ready.  If you are not personally involved with any environmental organizations, this would be a good time to join one.  It doesn’t matter what organization you join, but find at least one to join and volunteer, donate, and do something!

There are many national organizations to choose from including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Audubon, etc.  If you want to find a local organization to get involved with, you might consider Clearwater, the New York Restoration Project (founded by Bette Midler), Solar One, The Lower East Side Ecology Center, Green Home NYC and of course, Green City Challenge.

It goes without saying that if you would like to get involved with Green City Challenge, your assistance would be very welcome!  We are looking for new board members with fundraising, marketing or governance experience.  In addition, we are looking for volunteers to help us raise funds, create new games and challenges, conduct outreach, write articles for our blog, etc.  To inquire about volunteer opportunities, please call Les Judd at 718-530-5074 or send an e-mail to les@greencitychallenge.org

Whatever you do in 2017, hang onto your hat because it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

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Green City : Vancouver Passive House

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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.”

[straight.com]

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