Grow Where You Eat

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Seedlings growing in planting containers

Sometimes it is all too easy to look at the deluge of environmental bad news and feel helpless in the face of the impending doom. Rising sea levels, species in decline, toxic air floating over toxic lakes. Current events fuel distopian nightmares of a future that has droughts on top of floods, ice storms on top of heat waves, and an environment turned topsy-turvy.

But we have to remember that the future is not written in stone. For every environmental woe there is an environmental win. As you read these words, there are cities banning plastic bags, countries signing into law aggressive emissions standards, and globally, the rate of growth for renewable energy is outpacing fossil energy.

This summer our office decided that we could do something more to improve the campus footprint and so we launched an agricultural demonstration project. This is not new idea. McGill and Ryerson are two institutions that already grow food on campus and reap the benefits.

A little known fact; growing food is one of the most energy intensive, water guzzling things that humans do. It is a hard reality to swallow.because we all need food and no one wants to criticize the work of farmers. But, if we want to take a chunk out of that nasty apocalyptic future, we need to start finding better ways of growing and sourcing our food.

The preliminary work for the Urban Garden, that's what we are calling our little project, has already been completed. In the past month we have;
  • Collected used buckets from the cafeteria and other recycled materials
  • Created self watering containers for the plants
  • Grew seeds and purchased cuttings for the garden
  • Planted and started a watering timetable
Now our volunteers are taking care of the plants and getting more buckets. We are hoping to figure out exactly what kind and how much food we can grow on campus. The potential benefits for the environment are huge. The reduction in transportation will reduce the amount of CO2 generated and the food will not have any pesticides sprayed on it so fewer chemicals in the environment,

There are social benefits too. Everyone knows where their food comes from and everyone gets the opportunity to learn a little more about how farming works. Not to mention, the gardens are being run by a solid group of volunteers, so we can add socializing and community building to the list.

There are other volunteer programs supporting the Urban Garden, the learning gardens and wild pollinator projects for example. But the concept that underlines all of this is the notion that in the face of environmental apathy, there is an overwhelming amount of hope and optimism.

A volunteer carries buckets to be reused as planters

A proud volunteer fills a wheel barrel with containers filled with soil

Volunteers plant seedlings in reused buckets

A garden is just one small piece of the puzzle and our environmental salvation will take a lot more than some local tomatoes. But if you will permit me a little metaphor, the seeds have been planted and the shoots are starting to take off. It's time to think about the small thing that you can do which will have a lasting impact.

~jON - campus sustainability manager

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