By Ali LoPiccolo
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)
The trending inclination to dwell in the city, coupled with the evolution of the food system, has landed us at a crossroads. Global population continues to rise, and the rural farming landscape is under immense pressure to keep up. In the United States, those who are involved in agriculture comprise a mere 2% of the country’s population. In order to ensure the future stability of food access and availability, a broader audience needs to be engaged in the entirety of the food production process.
What is urban agriculture?
Urban agriculture involves the cultivation and distribution of food in and around urban areas, offering a transformative solution in managing the stress placed on our global food system. Apart from the direct benefit of fresh produce, urban agriculture results in a variety of additional positive effects on the surrounding environment, including:
- Water Management: The presence of permeable spaces within a city allow rainwater to drain through the soil, mitigating the risk of floods and allowing cities to spend less on drainage systems.
- Biodiversity: Urban agriculture contributes to increased crop diversity, promoting richer environmental interaction among people and the surrounding space.
- Pollution control: Incorporating agricultural practices into city settings reduces the net discharge of CO2 into the environment. It also significantly reduces the miles that food needs to travel in order to feed people, lessening emissions.
- Increased environmental awareness: Urban agriculture aids in shifting the human perception of food. Direct interaction with the food system is often lacking in urban areas, so encouraging widespread access to food production is nutritionally and educationally beneficial.
Urban Agriculture and Green Building
Efforts in urban agriculture are an important contributing factor to the LEED certification process. Under LEED v2009, there is an opportunity to earn a sustainable purchasing credit. This credit requires that at least 25% of a project’s food and beverage purchases meet any of the following criteria:
- Harvested and produced within a 100-mile radius of the site
- USDA Certified Organic
- Food Alliance Certified
- Rainforest Alliance Certified
- Protected Harvest Certified
- Fair Trade
- Marine Stewardship Council’s Eco-Label
With the necessity and feasibility of urban agriculture on the rise, LEED projects can benefit from choosing locally sourced food.
Close to home
This year, Atlanta created the first food forest in GA and the largest food forest in the nation. To mimic natural productivity, this 7-acre plot of land is designed to cultivate food on multiple layers. The space will produce a variety of crops including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and herbs. Food forests are a vital resource in the fight against food deserts. They provide a public space where produce can be accessible to areas that lack access to fresh foods. The Atlanta food forest is a huge step towards the city’s goal of ensuring that 85% of residents are within a half mile of fresh food by 2021.
A few ways to eat more sustainably
- Buy seasonal and local: Eat fruits and vegetables that are in season. It is a great way to support local farmers and businesses, it reduces food mileage, and requires less resources as the produce moves from field to fork.
- Check the label: Items that are fair trade certified or USDA organic are required to comply with strict environmental standards. These labels show a commitment to environmental responsibility.
- Less meat helps the environment: Animal products are extremely resource intensive. By reducing our consumption of animal products, water is saved, less methane is released into the atmosphere, and more land is available to grow direct consumption crops.
- Avoid packaging: Wrappers and packaging material contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment and to the food we consume. When unable to avoid packaging, purchasing recycled and responsibly sourced materials is best.
- Compost: Reduce your food waste by returning left over nutrients back to the soil. This decreases your carbon footprint and keeps excess food out of the landfill. Did you know that it takes 25 years for a head of lettuce to decompose in the landfill? Find out more about composting here.
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Sources and Additional Resources
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