If city-dwellers wanted to visit a green space in the 19th century, they likely found themselves at a cemetery. During much of that time, cemeteries played the role that city parks often do today, acting as a spot for people to gather. But increasingly over the past decade, communities have once again embraced hanging out in cemeteries. “Kennesaw was looking for ways to instead of fencing off to make it more accessible to their citizens,” says Holly Vine, executive assistant at the Atlanta Regional Commission planning agency. The city worked with ARC to gauge resident opinion and make the publicly owned Kennesaw City Cemetery into a green space for its burgeoning downtown. The cemetery, whose earliest known burial dates to 1863, has some prominent residents who contributed to Kennesaw’s founding. Follow this link to read more.
Even a few months into lockdown, we are still figuring out new ways to live, learn, work, and play. In every major facet of society, we are watching as the systems that once kept us going are breaking down. One particular area of focus has been on public education as schools close their doors and scramble to move classes online. The headlines highlight students and teachers struggling to adapt to this new mode of learning, and parents struggling to manage their kids, work, and household responsibilities simultaneously. Some school districts are choosing to shut down for the year, unable to make the transition to remote learning; some parents have flat out given up on homeschooling, unable to deal with the demands of work and their kids’ classes. Follow this link to read more.
What goes down the drains can be used to make things grow. Sewage sludge – carefully treated to make it safe – is used often in agriculture. Now, researchers are testing these materials, called biosolids, for use in urban settings. In a new study, researchers combined high-quality biosolids with other urban waste – food and yard waste, sawdust, and nut shells for example. They found several such mixtures to be acceptable in terms of smell and looks, and the mixtures also supported plant growth. Using biosolids and urban waste to make topsoil or engineer additions that increase soil fertility has several benefits. “Soil additions must have nutrients, and ideally organic matter, to support plant growth,” says Ryan Batjiaka, a researcher at the University of Washington. “We are currently very dependent on finite resources to supply these nutrients.” Follow this link to learn more.
In the urgency of the moment, affordable housing organizations are understandably focused on the health of their residents and vitality of their organizations. Green building may seem like an unaffordable luxury at a time like this, but by making buildings healthy and sustainable, we can help build resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic and to future health and climate threats.
Organizations that previously committed to sustainable, green building practices—energy and water efficiency, good ventilation, and nontoxic materials—may find they and their residents are better able to withstand the stresses of this pandemic. Even though those projects may not have been planned and built with a pandemic in mind, the core elements of green building create conditions for better resilience in the face of a sudden global health threat. Follow this link to read more.
The connection between walkable communities and public health was already at the center of planning discussion in many communities before the Covid-19 pandemic prompted many cities to close public streets for pedestrian use. Join the Maryland Department of Planning and the Smart Growth Network at 1 p.m. EDT on Thursday, June 11, as two of the nation’s leading walkability experts, Dan Burden and Mark Fenton of Blue Zones, lay out a significant new canvas for the health of the built environment, with wide application to communities across the nation. Making use of their combined 70 years of experience on walkability and health issues in more than 3,000 communities, they will “walk through” a set of street design tools and techniques as the first of a multi-part series on walk audits they will present with us. Follow this link to learn more.
How can you tackle recidivism and serve your community at the same time? Civil Society Fellow Matthew Fieldman and the team at EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute is leading the way. Based in Cleveland, Ohio, EDWINS is ensuring their work bettering the futures of previously incarcerated individuals would not end due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but instead pivoted their model to meet the needs of their community. The Aspen Global Leadership Network spoke with Matt about the EDWINS model, what it took to pivot, and advice for others looking to serve their communities. Follow this link to read more.
The 2018 Farm Bill required the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish an Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production. In authorizing the Office, Congress recognized that farmers in urban communities may not fully take advantage of USDA’s resources and may need extra focus. USDA recently created this office within the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the office has been busy implementing the farm bill’s urban agriculture provisions.
The office has a number of responsibilities and will administer two grant programs. The first, the Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Competitive Grant Program, is currently open for applications. This program will fund both planning and implementation grants for tribal governments, local governments, nonprofits, and schools to support and increase urban agricultural producers. The second grant program, the Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction Project Cooperative Agreements, is accepting applications from local governments, including conservation districts, for projects specifically focused on compost and related urban conservation. Follow this link to learn more.