From Vacants to Vegetables: You Got Your Garden Plot, Now What?

414 E 26th Street, Baltimore, MD. Here is the vacant property I adopted. Not too big, but a good amount of space to get started.

So I got my plot, pictured right, exactly one month after applying. Now what do I do? How do I go about turning a vacant city lot into a vegetable garden? Let’s start off with what I can’t do, and what I have to do.

According to the license agreement with the city, I can’t install “permanent landscaping,” such as an orchard or a tree farm. This is due to the fact that at …read more

No Clean Water? Suck It Up!

TECHNICIAN HOLDS SAMPLES OF “DIRTY” AND “CLEAN” WATER AFTER TREATMENT – NARA – 543808 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Suck it up!” may be the words residents of developing nations begin to hear more and more when in search for clean drinking water. Well, at least that’s what social entrepreneurs from companies like Life Straw are hoping the 780 million people that lack access to clean water will do. Like more than half a dozen water purification for-profit ventures that actively participate currently, Life Straw recognizes that clean water is a global concern.

Water.org morosely reports that 3.4 million …read more

The City Energy Project: Better Buildings, Better Cities

Chicago City Hall Green Roof

Earlier this year, 10 mayors of large American cities announced a partnership with the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) and the Institute for Market Transformation in the new City Energy Project. The goal of the project is to improve large public and private-sector building energy efficiency to reduce energy use, and thus decrease city pollution and save residents and businesses money. If the project succeeds, the savings could reach $1 billion nationwide, and the hope is that these cities will act as a model for communities across the nation and the world.

But what …read more

From Research to Change: The importance of communicating effectively

In a recent interview in The New York Times, the actor Alan Alda discusses how he combined his career in acting and interest in science to help start The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, located at Stony Brook University. He notes the importance of scientists learning how to effectively talk about their work:

Image of Alan Alda taken at the World Science Festival launch press conference (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“[…] Scientists often don’t speak to the rest of us the way they would if we were standing there full of curiosity. They sometimes spray information at us without …read more

From Vacants to Vegetables: So You Want to Garden in the City?

Urban blight turned into gardens (Photo credit: Bob Elderberry)

Almost one year ago, I moved from rural New Hampshire to urban, post-industrial Baltimore. I had lived in cities for most of my life, but always felt a visceral connection to the “great outdoors”. I also love to cook and am a big fan of anything DIY. This past summer I bought several herbs and vegetables for my apartment to cook with. Window space quickly disappeared, but my desire to grow did not. It became clear that I needed more space; I needed an urban garden.

But, how does one …read more

Oh Goody, More Garbage!

Trash bags and cardboard boxes (Photo credit: www.mnn.com)

Nothing says “Spring is right around the corner” quite like receiving multiple baby shower, wedding, and housewarming invitations in the mail. So far, in 2014 I have a housewarming and a 1-year old’s birthday party this month, a wedding in April, a baby shower in May, and two more weddings in September and November. Apparently, I may be an adult.

Besides feeling relatively old, feelings of guilt started to creep in when thinking about the mountain of wasted wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, and of course over-priced and under-used gifts these …read more

Why I Walk: A Pedestrian Manifesto

Traffic Signal “Walk”, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pedestrian, the word evokes mundane thoughts. No surprise, as one of its two main meanings is “dull.” The other meaning is a person walking along a road or in a developed area, hardly inspiring either. This is partly because contemporary society views walking as a tedious task, something which we try to cut out of every day life with gadgets and infrastructure such as escalators or moving sidewalks. Most people prefer to take public transit, drive their cars, or ride their bikes (all faster modes of transportation). This is especially …read more

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

Jet streams flow from west to east in the upper portion of the troposphere. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been impossible to ignore talk of the polar vortex in recent weeks. Freezing temperatures, snowfall, accidents.. It’s enough to make you want to stay inside and hibernate this winter! If you’re wondering about the story behind the extreme weather, read on:

What is the Polar Vortex?

The polar vortex is a “large pocket of very cold air that generally sits over both the North and South Poles”. It is usually sequestered in this area by the encircling jet stream, keeping the …read more

Composting in the City

I first learned about composting in 2009 while living in an intentional community in the upper level of a rehabbed church in Post-Katrina New Orleans. Seven of us shared one refrigerator, one common living area, and one small trash can, and one even smaller trash can. The second trash can was actually more like a canister—less than a foot high, roughly eight inches in circumference and was used for compost scraps.

There are multiple forms of composting, but the most common form for city dwellers is Backyard composting. You combine browns (fallen leaves or straw), greens (grass clippings and …read more

What Does the Future Hold for Energy Use in America?

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, AER Energy Perspectives and MER.

After declining for several years in a row, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions grew by 2% in 2013. This was largely due to an increase in the use of coal by electric power plants in the U.S., after a rise in the price of natural gas.

While this still left the U.S. 10% below 2005 levels, it is a move in the wrong direction. These findings follow President Obama’s recent second term push for national action on climate change, and call for an increase in the use of renewable energy …read more