Urban Greening – What’s That?

When I tell people that I do translations, proof reading and editing in the area of urban greening, I often get blank looks. Some people nod politely and then go off shaking their heads a bit after I’ve given them a very brief explanation, others summarize, not too wrongly, as ‘so you mean it’s about planting a few trees around the city’. Others don’t even try to understand. They seem to put me straight into their ‘strange person’ category.

Basically, urban greening does mean planting things in towns and cities. It deals with bringing nature back into built up areas. It turns concrete jungles into, well, concrete and plant jungles. Urban greening makes our towns and cities prettier. It provides us with parks, shady streets, borders of flowers and green oases dotted around the grey.

Not only does urban greening make our surroundings look nicer, it also improves our physical, emotional and psychological health. Urban greening improves the quality of the air in built up areas. The plants filter out pollution, absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, dampen noise, help use rain water runoff more efficiently, and generally are good for the environment. Urban greening also helps reduce the heat island effect.
Heat island, what’s that? Built up areas are often warmer than the surrounding countryside. The buildings store heat during the day and only release it slowly during the night, unlike plants which can regulate the temperature much more efficiently. People also generate heat in their daily activities (electrical appliances, central heating, air conditioning, vehicles, etc.). All of this means that towns and cities are islands of heat in the surrounding countryside.

In short, the quality of life in a town or city can be greatly improved with urban greening.

Urban greening is not just something which town councils and urban planners do though. We do not need to look to the powers-that-be to bring nature into built up areas. Everyone can do their own bit to make their town or city prettier. If you have a balcony, plant it. If you have suitable window fixtures, put out flower boxes. If you have a flattish roof, look into turning it into a green, or eco, roof. If you have a patch of dirt outside your front door, plant something there. If you have a garden, go wild. You’ll be doing yourself, your neighbours, the dog two streets down, insects and animals, and future generations good.

Healthy Urban Kitchen Cookbook Review – An Unbiased Viewpoint

I know, I know….diet plans are a dime a dozen and given the fact that there are so many diet gimmicks out there that don’t work, it makes it nearly impossible for a normal person looking for a healthy diet that not only is good for weight loss, it is also good for overall health as well.  Enter the Healthy Urban Kitchen Cookbook.

The creator of this book, Antonio Vildares, happens to be a certified holistic nutritionist as well as rated the #1 fitness expert in New York City as deemed by the New York Times, Sports Illustrated for Women, and Woman’s day.  His mission? 

…to show you what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat to lose weight naturally.  His book should be the bible for healthy weight loss unlike the gimmicky diet plans that simply show how to lose weight without any regard to your health in the process.

What separates the Healthy Urban Kitchen Cookbook from most of the other diet plans is that Antonio’s plan is actually the most sensible diet plan I have seen.  He incorporates common sense (which is a misnomer in most diets) with the organic mindset.  He treats a lot of what we think we know about diets and turns it on its head exposing the modern day myths and urban living mindset that has made this generation the fattest in all of mankind.

Is the Urban Kitchen Cookbook a step by step diet?

In a lot of ways it is but it goes far deeper than that.  For most, Antonio’s diet plan may pose a shock to the system, especially if your idea of a diet is a diet coke and an iceberg salad with ranch.  However, everything that he says not only makes sense, it will have you wondering how you could ever reach for that twinkie on a mid-night binge again.

Is the Urban Kitchen Cookbook easy to follow?

As far as diets go, the urban kitchen cookbook is not necessarily a diet as much as it is a lifestyle and for most Americans, following this diet would require a change in mentality.  Antonio delivers though, with over 100 mouth watering and healthy for you recipes that will have you giggling like a school girl every time you get on the scale.

In addition to this, unlike most fad diets, the Urban Kitchen Cookbook will introduce you to foods that will have you feeling energized, enhance your brain function and improve your overall health.

Who the Urban Kitchen Cookbook is for….I highly recommend it for anyone who is serious about weight loss.  It is for those who want to lose weight AND keep the weight off.  It would be perfect for diabetics or people with other weight related illnesses.  Anotnio’s diet could actually reverse some of these illnesses.

Who the Urban Kitchen Cookbook is not for:  If you are looking for a quick way to drop 5 pounds and intend to resort back to your normal diet, then this is not for you.  The bottom line is the Urban Kitchen Cookbook is not just a “diet”.  It is a lifestyle change.  And that is something that almost all of us need.

The Urban Kitchen Cookbook is one of the few diet plans out there that will not only help you lose weight, it will also help you live healthier.  I highly recommend it.

Vertical Gardens – The Answer To Urban Farming and Food Security

When I was growing up in the UK many years ago, ‘vertical gardens’ wasn’t even a keyword as Google didn’t exist! However, I was lucky enough to live in a small village and to spend many happy hours with my grandfather discovering the wonders of his veggie garden, watching insects skate around on top of the water barrel and eagerly exhuming new potatoes as they mooned their milky white bums up through the black soil. To my way of thinking, my city dwelling friends missed out (I know- I dipped out on fun city stuff too) a few lucky ones had parents who stoically worked an allotment several miles away from their terraced houses but most of the others had to settle for supermarket veggies that struggled to stay fresh in the fridge. My friends were blissfully unaware of what they were missing by not ‘growing stuff in dirt’ and slobbering over those delicious, buttered ‘spuds’. Does this matter? I think it matters a lot – on so many levels.

The world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history – It is estimated that by 2030, 60% of the world’s population will be living in cities – this will have a huge impact on our lifestyles – on the space to grow food, on food security and food miles, on our sense of well-being¹, on our social activities, and the air we breathe will be more polluted than it is already. City temperatures will be several degrees higher due to the urban heat island effect. Sydney’s urban temperature may rise by up to 3.7C by 2050². Apartment blocks and shopping malls will swallow us up and our ‘fresh’ food will be worn out by the time it reaches our plates. Maybe we’ll end up with Food Pills after all and soil – what was that used for?

Vertical gardens, installed for use as urban farms, can play a vital rescue role by maximizing unused, vertical real estate (walls and rooftops) and by establishing urban farms on our doorstep, we can support fresh food production and combat pollution of our cities. Plants have an amazing capacity to clean our air. Fresh produce, from as many vertical gardens and roof gardens as is viable, will improve our health while soothing us with their lush aesthetic beauty. The benefits of organically grown produce, picked from your vertical garden minutes before it lands on your plate gets the gold award for both taste and nutrition. Did I mention that children eat what they grow? Do we need to address childhood obesity? Oh and don’t forget that ‘messing about in real dirt’ bonus. ‘Nuff said.’

It doesn’t matter who you are, there’s a vertical garden system that you can use for urban farming. One particular steel vertical garden system is strong enough to hold large volumes of soil and thus provide large, dig – in beds in which vegetables and herbs thrive. Water does not evaporate as quickly from large pockets of potting media as it does from small pockets so water consumption is lowered. Extreme temperature swings are reduced in vertical gardens that hold large amounts of soil, lessening root ‘shock’. If city dwellers started to grow more produce with vertical gardens, food miles would be reduced, food security would be assured and restaurants and cafes could delight their diners by tapping into a seasonal supply of fresh food right before their eyes! Urban foodie, Sally, in apt. 403, the Primary School on the corner, the tiny courtyard at the back of Pete’s restaurant or the Aged Care chef desperately trying to feed his residents on $9 a day – all these people have a range of vertical garden systems from which they can choose to produce an abundant harvest – many come in DIY kits. Food prices will keep rising if we don’t pay attention to growing UP in our cities.

The use of vertical gardens for urban farming can involve a whole community AND save money – and I’m not talking about grand scale projects on the roof of a car manufacturing plant. An official audit of a project³ which involved bringing gardening joy back to just 46 older people in a single borough in south London, has concluded that it could have saved the taxpayer as much as £500,000 ($1,042,318) a year in just one area. The potential savings were calculated using standard estimates of the cost of NHS care for reduced medications, visits to doctors, A & E and decreased number of hospital admissions as well as fewer visits from health and social workers.

I believe that the installation of vertical gardens need to be supported on every scale, in shopping malls, on rooftops, on balconies, in courtyards, Aged Care facilities, hospitals, restaurants, schools and even in public city spaces. With a little smart planning, an option to participate in community urban farming will see young and old benefit from a life enhancing activity that yields a luscious harvest that is literally ‘off the wall.’

¹Studies by Kellert, Heewagen & Mador 2003)

²ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, Dr Daniel Argueso

³ “Garden Partners” project in Wandsworth – run in 2009 by Age UK, Sarah Jackson and funded by the local NHS trust