By Kyla Kent

May 29, 2017

In general, cities face a unique set of environmental issues. Many basic ecosystem components and processes are profoundly altered within cities, including climatic conditions, water infiltration, nutrient cycling, resource inputs, and vegetative cover and composition. This may not surprise many considering we live in a concrete jungle where people live on top of each other, cars sit idling in traffic, and waste builds up in a matter of minutes. These are problems we hear about every day, yet are left with limited information on how to solve them. While living expenses in the city continue to rise through the roof, environmentally concerned individuals are taking other actions to conserve their frivolous living habits and waste. Recycling and carpooling have started to become city norms and Air BNB is on the rise to help people find more affordable places to live in the city. While these methods are a start to bettering our environment, there is still more we can do to help our cities! Urban agriculture helps combat some of these environmental city problems, plus more, ultimately serving as a closed-loop solution. Here are 7 reasons why you should start urban gardening to help the environment:

  1. Improved Air Quality

  • Like trees and extensive green roof plants, garden plants filter airborne contaminants such as CO, SOx, NOx
  • Dry deposition and microclimate effects may be higher for rooftop gardens, because of the elevation
  • Further research needed; expected benefit based on estimations from other types of green spaces
  1. Reduced Carbon Emissions

  • Decreased food miles reduce carbon dioxide emissions
  • Majority of fruit and vegetable transport is made by truck, which produces highest emissions
  1. Waste Reduction

  • Food waste is diverted from landfills for compost
  • Decreased food waste from shorter transportation distances (Distribution accounts for about 10% of the loss for fruits and vegetables)
  • Elimination of shelf standard factor (Grocery stores can reject produce that doesn’t fit their shelf appearance standards) and higher acceptance of imperfect looking produce
  1. Reduced Storm Water Run Off

  • Reduced compaction and increased drainage in formerly vacant lots increases infiltration
  • Evapotranspiration, the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and other surfaces, from community and rooftop garden plants decreases runoff
  • Diversion of runoff to rain barrels and cisterns for irrigation
  1. Combats Urban Heat Islands

  • Like trees and extensive green roof plants, garden plants have cooling effect due to photosynthesis and evapotranspiration
  • Garden plants may have more of a cooling effect than grass or sedums because they have broader leaves and are taller, providing a larger surface area and more shade
  • Deeper soil required for root growth on rooftop gardens provides more insulation
  1. Grows Biodiversity

  • Increased microbial biodiversity and earthworms in soil in formerly vacant lots (community gardens)
  • Increased earthworms and garden insects attract birds; a number of beneficial insect species unique to cities have been identified in community gardens
  • A wide range of insects, including beetles, ants, bugs, flies, bees, spiders and leaf-hoppers are commonly found on green roofs
  • Increased plant variety = higher biodiversity, so rooftop gardens should provide greater number of species than extensive green roofs
  • Green roofs/rooftop gardens provide stopping grounds/nesting for local or migrating birds
  1. Increased Soil Quality

  • Reduced soil compaction
  • Improved pH
  • Increased organic matter
  • Improved nutrient content
  • Increased microbial activity
  • Improved drainage
  • Reduced contamination

Due to the above reasons, we have chosen to provide jobs in urban agriculture so that our environment and cities can benefit from our work!

For more details, studies, and research about the listed benefits above check out http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1044&context=mes_capstones