Tag Archives: Cincinnati

A Victory for Urban Farming

Cincinnati might not be the first city that comes to mind when someone thinks of urban sustainability, but there are many in this city who fight for conservation issues. Permaganic Co., a nonprofit based in Over-the-Rhine that has operated the city’s Eco Garden since 2010, is an organization committed to not only urban sustainability, but also community involvement and the city’s youth.

The Eco Garden sits at 1718 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine. While the urban garden is used by Permaganic, they don’t own the garden’s property. The city of Cincinnati does. In a clash between continued development in the inner city of Cincinnati, and preservation of the community, the Eco Garden’s land was targeted for CitiRama, a program launched last year to encourage urban development.

The city contacted Angela Stanbery-Ebner, who, along with her husband, Luke, runs Permaganic, in February telling her not to plant at the Main Street garden this year.

After being in operation since 1998, the garden has provided produce for Findlay Market as well as giving the urban neighborhood’s youth a chance to learn how to grow their own fruit and vegetables. In a neighborhood that is often mentioned for the amount of crime, the Eco Garden fosters a sense of community. The land is a miniature farm, an ecosystem in its own right.

The city proposed to move the garden to a different plot of land, but it’s not so simple to transport that many plants who have been rooted on Main Street for so long.

After reaching out for help through petitions and contacting city council, Permaganic received support from city council member, Laure Quinlivan who has long been a supporter of both urban development and making Cincinnati greener. Quinlivan filed a motion and argued that the longest-running urban agriculture program in Cincinnati added to the quality of life in Over the Rhine, gave the community access to local produce and gave teenagers the opportunity to get involved.

After a Livable Communities committee meeting on March 12, the Eco Garden was saved from demolition. CitiRama was forced to find another site to build on and Stanbery-Ebner received the go-ahead from the city to start planting again.

And they all lived happily ever after….for the most part. In a Facebook update Permaganic said, “We are still hoping for long-term permanency…Laure Quinlivan tweeted “We saved this”…I don’t want to read too much into her comment, but we are REALLY hoping City Council will back us again if another development, or anything involving our lease, come up in future…”

Moral of the story? Urban development is not a bad thing; it’s actually a really, really good thing. But when it threatens such a great agricultural project that provides fresh, local produce to an under-served community and offers a place where the community can grow (pun intended), it becomes a hindrance rather than a help. We need to remember that organizations like Permaganic are progressing Cincinnati in the right direction in terms of not only sustainability, but also in community solidarity.

Fair Trade 101

 

https://i2.wp.com/hilo.hawaii.edu/studentaffairs/ssc/images/world-fair-trade-day-logo.jpg

So my readers gave me a great idea after my last post.

While I was rambling on my soapbox about how sustainable fair trade chocolate is, they wanted to know more about fair trade itself. To be honest, I didn’t know many details when it came to fair trade. Buying fair trade was just something nice I thought I was doing, but I didn’t give it much thought beyond that. Now that I know the impact of it, I decided to write a little beginner’s crash course. Let’s begin, shall we?

What is Fair Trade?

The official definition from the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO):

Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade.  It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalizes producers and workers-especially in the South.  Fair Trade Organizations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of international trade.

Fair trade is exactly what it sounds like; it’s the fair exchange of money for goods like coffee, tea, chocolate, jewelry, furniture and art. It’s a global economic model that empowers farmers and producers, especially those working in developing countries, by cutting out needless middlemen and paying providers a fair wage for their goods. The diagram below shows the efficiency and practicality of fair trade versus that of the traditional model:

The Price of Fair Trade

Let’s just admit it, conventional trade is a lot easier on our wallets; using coffee as an example, by comparing a bag of fair trade coffee on Amazon to a canister of coffee at the grocery store you can see a pretty big difference in price, and it’s coffee- a product many people consume on a daily basis. Twelve ounces of coffee doesn’t last long. My reader hayden44e wrote:

I hate that Fair Trade everything seems to be so expensive, although I can totally understand why. I was always a huge fan of fair trade coffee.

12 ounce bag of Fair Trade coffee: ~ $10 dollars12 ounce canister of conventional trade coffee: ~ $3
12 ounce bag of Fair Trade coffee: ~ $10
12 ounce canister of conventional trade coffee: ~ $3

The price of fair trade goods are often higher than non-certified products because when a consumer purchases fair trade, they are covering the costs of production plus a living wage (enough for food, shelter, education and medical care) for the producer. The good news is that by the laws of supply and demand, the more people who buy fair trade, the lower the price will go.  Tea, chocolate and coffee are relatively lower in cost differences because when fair trade became available, many people were willing to support it and buy these items at fair trade prices.

So if money’s tight but you really want to support fair trade, you can do what I do and buy fair trade goods when it’s convenient financially. It’s better to support fair trade every once in a while than not at all. Plus, fair trade is as much a human rights movement as it is economics, so you can always advocate for it, even when money is tight.

One of my readers, Holly, knows a lot about fair trade also. Her advice on how not to spend too much:

Findlay Market also offers a lot of green options for fair prices if places like Park + Vine are out of your price range. Even Kroger locations have been offering more and more local/green options. It’s so awesome to see the trend taking root in everyday American culture.

What Else?

By supporting and buying fair trade, you’re not only ensuring fair wages for farmers, but you’re improving communities in developing countries. Fair trade cooperatives (the farms where products are grown) often reinvest their revenue into their business and into their local communities. Not only that, but with the purchase of the cooperative’s goods, they receive funding called a social premium. This social premium in turn is used to build the local community. What the social premium is put towards often depends on the needs of the community, but the most common investments are in schools and education, healthcare, environmental projects, gender equity and business development.

Fair trade is also sustainable. In conventional trade, farmers are often forced into practices that destroy the environment. Fair trade however encourages sustainable farming methods like reforestation, water conservation and growing organic. The standards are pretty high too. You can read more about the requirements here. Fun fact: 85 percent of fair trade coffee is grown organically.

So now I know, but where do I go?

Local:

Online:

So now that you know more about the impact, are you more likely to buy fair trade goods? Is there anything you wanted to know that I didn’t cover? Class dismissed.

For more information:

World Fair Trade Organization

Green America

Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade International

Shop Green for Valentine’s Day

green heart

Valentine’s Day is coming up, but you still haven’t bought your significant other’s gift? Don’t despair, there’s still time! Better yet, it’s a great chance to add a little green to a holiday traditionally colored by reds, whites and pinks.

Fair Trade Chocolate

Fair trade is a movement setting the standard for economically fair and sustainable production of goods. Farmers involved in fair trade are encouraged to use the local natural habitat and to avoid using harmful pesticides on their products.

Wanted: For crimes against nature.
Wanted: For crimes against nature.

Chocolate is a wonderful gift for Valentine’s Day, but normal chocolate production is bad for the environment as it destroys rainforests and cacao normally is covered in pesticides. Fortunately for the chocoholic, the movement is growing so organic, fair trade chocolate is becoming more available. It costs more, but it’s definitely greener.

Where to Buy:

Living Flowers

Fresh cut flowers are pretty, but they don’t last very long, and they can get expensive as it gets closer to Valentine’s Day.

Now you’re probably thinking: “What’s the problem with fresh cut flowers? They’re natural and they just decay once they get sent to the landfill.”

Nope.

But they look so innocent.
But they look so innocent.

Jennifer Grayson explains it really well in this Huffington Post article. It basically comes down to the same problem fair trade is trying to tackle: poor working conditions. Then you have the problem of pollution while distributing the flowers across the United States, pesticides and insecticides and to top it all off they emit methane when they wilt and decay. The alternative for flower lovers? Living, blooming flowers!

Blooming flowers live much longer and are much easier on the environment. Green thumbs don’t matter; many varieties of potted plants are hardy and low maintenance. They’re easy to find too; just visit any local grocery store or garden center and opt for the potted plant instead of the cut roses, or visit Apartment Therapy for ideas on what kind of flowers to look for. Beware, some plants/flowers can be very pricey. Lowe’s carries some reasonably priced house plants that range from $3 to $35.

Where to Buy:

  • Local grocery store
  • Garden centers

Earth-friendly Consumerism

It might not sound like a good precedent to set by giving your loved one a recycled gift for Valentine’s Day, but that’s not your only option. (Although Global Good Partners has excellent recycled products.)

If you go for recycled gifts, just make sure this isn't your shopping destination.
If you go for recycled gifts, just make sure this isn’t your shopping destination.

You can buy fair trade or locally made gifts instead. The Daily Green has some great ideas for what to look for while shopping.

Also instead of the traditional, cheesy Hallmark greeting card, consider making your own! Inhabitat has a couple examples that you can utilize to make creative, personalized cards.

Where to Buy:

So how about it? Are you planning on shopping green for Valentine’s Day? What about any other time? Have you ever bought fair trade, locally made or recycled products? If so, what? Let me know in the comments! Have a great Valentine’s Day!

3 Great Green Initiatives from the Cincinnati Zoo

I took a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo this past Friday. Not just because it’s Penguin Days (although penguins are pretty awesome), but I wanted to see some of the conservation efforts the zoo has been implementing.

Back in 2010, the former governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, called the Cincinnati Zoo “the greenest zoo in America” after it had received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certifications on four of their buildings. I read about all their initiatives online, but I wanted to see firsthand what is making the zoo leaders in sustainability, and while there are many, many green projects that  the zoo is responsible for, the three below are, in my opinion, the most innovative and unique.

3. Water Conservation

Rain garden sign in the Go Green Gardens
Rain garden sign in the Go Green Gardens

Storm water runoff is a huge problem in Cincinnati. Our sewer system is one of the oldest in the country, and with the growing urban population, it’s no longer built to handle the city’s needs. So when it rains, things get messy. To handle the overflow issues, the Cincinnati Zoo decided to try a few methods, one is the pervious pavement that soaks up water when it rains instead of letting it flow into the sewers. The others are literally green: rain gardens and vegetative roofs.

Rain garden outside the Schott Education Center
Rain garden outside the Schott Education Center

Rain gardens are planted in low areas with local, water-thirsty plants. They collect rainwater as it falls and runs off the pavement, reducing flooding in the zoo’s neighborhood. It’s an ideal garden for urban living as it also functions as a habitat for wildlife and it doesn’t need much space. The benefits from a rain garden also include reducing pollution and erosion and the fact that the plants’ roots will purify rain water as it runs deeper into the soil. The zoo hopes that their rain gardens in the Go Green Garden and just outside the Education Center will serve as an example to other large, urban facilities on how they can begin conserving water.

Green roof on the giraffe barn
Green roof on the giraffe barn

Vegetative roofs serve the same function as a rain garden, holding up to 75 percent of rainfall. They also are useful for reducing the urban island heat effect which increases the temperature of cities and suburbs by up to 7 degrees more than rural areas, not to mention it cuts back on pollution by filtering the air. Just like the rain gardens, the two green roofs at the zoo, one on top of the giraffe barn and the other at the Primate Center are designed as a test to see what works and what can be improved.

2. Composting and Recycling

Solar trash compactor
Solar trash compactor

I’ve always seen the green recycling bins scattered around the zoo whenever I visited, but I saw something new this time, and being the nerd that I am, I was really excited to see it: a solar trash compactor. I’m not sure how popular or widespread these are, but it’s the first time I’ve ever seen one. From BigBelly Solar, it’s a literally a smart trashcan. It goes beyond recycling to reducing the amount of waste. It uses miniature solar panels to power the compactor on and crush whatever is in it. The best things about this is that it is an on-site compactor, so it can hold up to five times a normal trashcan’s capacity, reducing the number of times it needs to be collected and taken to Rumpke. Less exhaust, less pollution.

Composting is another project the zoo is working on. With that many animals, there’s going to be a lot of waste. Not just the kind of waste I know you’re all thinking, but food scraps and bedding need to be replaced as well as leaves and grass trimmings from maintenance, and that old material needs to go somewhere. So instead of wasting it, the zoo composts it. About 7 tons of organic material are composted each week. The zoo actually is in a partnership with Marvin’s Organic Gardens, a landscaping company who only uses organic material. More than 2,700 pounds of animal waste is composted daily at Marvin’s Organic Gardens totaling up to more than 1 million pounds every year.

And finally…

1. Solar Panels

Solar canopy over the parking lot
Solar canopy over the parking lot

Solar panels aren’t exactly new technology, but the way the zoo is using them is unlike anything else. A solar canopy sits in the parking lot, sheltering cars and generating energy to power zoo. It’s made up of 6,400 panels and is the largest publicly accessible, urban solar array in the United States.  The winter sunlight is really weak, but even when my friend Rachael and I visited, the zoo was operating on 75 percent of power harvested by the solar canopy. Now imagine in the summer on a really sunny day how much solar energy the zoo collects. On those really sunny days they can operate off the grid. Not only that, but any extra energy collected on those days can be stored and saved for another time.

Control panel
The interactive green monitor allows visitors to see how much solar energy the zoo is running on at that time.

(One other good thing about the solar canopy: it protects your car. That becomes really helpful to visitors in the summer when there’s no other way to avoid getting in a stifling car with seat belt clips just waiting to burn your hands. Also, almost all of it was locally made!)

Solar panels and wind turbine in the Go Green Garden

The reason I admire the Cincinnati Zoo so much is because they’re so focused on conservation efforts with wildlife and ecosystems, they are very green energy savvy, they encourage sustainability and because they prove that even a large, urban facility can operate in an earth-friendly, eco-conscious way with little strain on the environment. There are so many more green initiatives there, and I encourage everyone to go check them out.

And of course go see the penguins:

For more information on the Cincinnati Zoo’s green initiatives go to: http://cincinnatizoo.org/conservation/go-green/green-initiative/