It may be impossible to put a price on the satisfaction of bringing in a basket of produce fresh from your garden. As well as the enhanced flavors from having truly fresh produce from your garden compared to that of your local supermarket. Though when I was harvesting my potatoes this summer with my daughter I did have the thought, Would it have been smarter for me to grow something else in this space? I estimate out of the 4-5 square feet I used for these plants I probably got about $4-5 worth of potatoes.
I did a little research first to determine yields of various plants per square foot and secondly what the value (organic supermarket prices USD) of the yielded produce at harvest. Given I am a city dweller with a fairly small footprint for my vegetable garden (about 30-35 square feet) making decisions on what to buy at the supermarket and what to grow in the garden may be a huge money saver with just a few dollars invested in some seeds for your vegetable garden.
Now from the results below you can see the winners for the most produce value per square foot are many of the leafy green vegetables/herbs (cilantro, lettuce, chives, dill, Swiss chard) next comes many of the larger vine plants (tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, peas) with many of the root plants taking up the rear. Now much of this makes sense where many of the vine plants grow on trellises and are allowed to spread, which I guess is sort of cheating the square foot rule but I will let it slide. Compared to the root plants whose production is entirely dependent on the space allowed in square footage they have to grow as well as these are normally inexpensive produce items to begin with.
University of British Columbia researchers are making bikeability research easily accessible to consumers and city planners by introducing bikeability “heat maps” in partnership with Seattle-based Walk Score® at www.walkscore.com/bike.
Combining data on availability of cycling infrastructure (bike lanes and trails), topography (hilliness), desirable destinations (attractions, shops and restaurants) and road connectivity, researchers from UBC’s School of Population and Public Health and Simon Fraser University worked with web developers from Walk Score® to develop algorithms to make the information easily accessible online.
Heat maps of Bike Score™ for 10 Canadian and 10 U.S. cities were launched today during National Bike Month in the U.S. and in advance of Bike Month in Canada. Victoria, Vancouver and Montreal rate highest in bikeability for Canadian cities; while Minneapolis, Portland and San Francisco lead in the U.S.
“‘Walkability’ has become part of the popular vocabulary as more emphasis is placed on physical activity, community interaction and healthy living,” says Meghan Winters, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, who conducted the research while a PhD student at UBC. “Bike Score™ and the heat maps will help cities measure and improve their cycling infrastructure – a key to increasing ridership.”
Cycling rates in Canada and the U.S. are low in comparison to many European cities. This disparity is explained, in part, by differences in urban form and cycling infrastructure, says Mike Brauer, Professor, UBC School of Population and Public Health. With rising gas prices, however, more North Americans are looking for more affordable ways to get around, particularly in neighborhoods with limited access to public transportation and where distances are too far to walk to work or shopping.
For walking is the ultimate “mobile app.” Here are just some of the benefits, physical, cognitive and otherwise, that it bestows: Walking six miles a week was associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s (and I’m not just talking about walking in the “Walk to End Alzheimers”); walking can help improve your child’s academic performance; make you smarter; reduce depression; lower blood pressure; even raise one’s self-esteem.” And, most important, though perhaps least appreciated in the modern age, walking is the only travel mode that gets you from Point A to Point B on your own steam, with no additional equipment or fuel required, from the wobbly threshold of toddlerhood to the wobbly cusp of senility.
If walking is a casualty of modern life the world over—the historian Joe Moran estimates, for instance, that in the last quarter century in the U.K., the amount of walking has declined by 25 percent—why then do Americans walk even less than people in other countries? Here we need to look not at pedometers, but at the odometer: We drive more than anyone else in the world. (Hence a joke: In America a pedestrian is someone who has just parked their car.) Statistics on walking are more elusive than those on driving, but from the latter one might infer the former: The National Household Travel Survey shows that the number of vehicle trips a person took and the miles they traveled per day rose from 2.32 trips and 20.64 miles in 1969 to 3.35 and 32.73 in 2001. More time spent driving means less time spent on other activities, including walking. And part of the reason we are driving more is that we are living farther from the places we need to go; to take just one measure, in 1969, roughly half of all children lived a mile or more from their school; by 2001 three out of four did. During that same period, unsurprisingly, the rates of children walking to school dropped from roughly half to approximately 13 percent.
According to the University Center for Atmospheric Research, more than 75 percent of natural disasters are triggered directly or indirectly by weather and climate. In the U.S., more than a quarter of our gross national product (+$2 trillion) is sensitive to weather and climate events, which affect our health, safety, economy, environment, transportation systems and national security. Each year, the U.S. sustains billions of dollars in weather-related damages caused by hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, flooding, heavy snows and drought. The threats associated with extreme weather and climate change are substantial and adapting to climate change will be crucial to economic and social stability, for example by making future water, food and energy supplies reliable and sustainable. Contributing to these costs is the problem of the nation’s aging infrastructure, which needs $2.2 trillion in improvements to meet today’s demands, according to the 2009 National Infrastructure Report Card by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Unless the nation begins taking appropriate measures, these costs are likely to increase: “It appears to us that more extreme weather events — like floods and hurricanes — are becoming more frequent and pronounced and we need to be prepared to adapt to the prospect that what have been episodic events in the past become chronic features of our operational landscape in the future,” observed Craig Philip, Chief Executive Officer of the Ingram Barge Company and a member of the conference steering committee.
So, in light of these developments, what should be done? The article points to some “key initiatives that should be undertaken in the next five years”:
Identify the critical infrastructure that is most vulnerable to damage and disruption. Of particular importance are bridges, highways, rail lines, airports and other key transportation facilities for which there are no alternatives;
Assess the cost of impacts to key infrastructure components. Putting a dollar sign on the potential damage for non-action helps determine the benefits of the proposed protective measures;
Develop better tools and models for performing risk assessments. Right now the climate models are more accurate at the global and regional scale, but they are not capable of predicting the local effects that planners need;
Define and communicate climate change problems in terms that decision makers can understand;
Improve dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders.
Like the United States, the United Kingdom has seen honeybee populations plummet in the last couple of years. The Co-operative Group—a U.K.-based consumer cooperative—has launched an awareness campaign around the issue, and a comprehensive plan of action. The US$1.2 million campaign, called Plan Bee, includes the establishment of long rows of bee-friendly habitats across the country to act as bee corridors. The corridors will also support other key pollinator species like bumble bees, hover flies, butterflies, and moths.
“We want people to understand there’s a problem,” says Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals at The Co-operative. “And we also want to empower people to thinking there’s something they can do about it.” The Plan Bee campaign is promoting pollinator-friendly gardens in urban areas, distributing some 900,000 packets of wildflower seeds, and supporting members of the Co-operative to become beekeepers.
“[Bees] pollinate a vast number of crops. They pollinate all the strawberries, all the raspberries, apples, pears… They’re absolutely essential to agriculture,” says Senior Technical Manager Simon Press. “On our own farms this forthcoming season, we’re going to be putting wildflower seed mixes onto the headlands of the fields to encourage the bees.” Honeybees pollinate as much as one-third of the food grown in the U.K.
I love this classic urban planning graphic from the City of Muenster; Germany’s bicycle capital. It very effectively shows that our cities are going to gain a lot of space over the coming years and decades as more and more people choose to move beyond the automobile.
To this end cities around the world are now developing infrastructure and programs to support walking and biking while turning their backs on the aging infrastructure of the automobile age. Just one example of the latter is the growing number of cities looking at the removal of urban highway systems in order to revitalize downtowns; deal with the challenges of climate change and peak oil; and generally become more people friendly places.