Monday, February 25, 2008

Community Gardens

Source: julianmeade cc photograph of Tricycle Community Garden

I apologize for the delay, community gardens are so varied, I wasn't sure if what I was writing was a fair portrayal of the subject. But this is the world wide web, and what's so unusual about that?

So what's up with community Gardens? The concept is simple, a piece of open space in an urban area is used by community members as a place to garden. Generally people get their own plots from less than the size of a sheet of plywood to more than the size of a Ford Expedition. Some gardens have membership fees, some have volunteer work to remain in good standing, many have both.

When you join a community garden, you can plant fruits vegetables and flowers in your plot and must tend it to see your plants thrive. There isn't enough space to get all of your produce from your plot, but in high summer you may be able to get a lot.

The American Community Gardening Association has an incomplete list of gardens that can be searched by garden name or zip code. There aren't any gardens listed for where my parents live, but there are a whole lot listed in New York, as well as near Beverly Hills 90210. So you can try your luck with that database, or just look around in your neighborhood.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


In the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Barbara Kingsolver calls February "the hungry month." While you are contemplating your hunger, why not think to this summer when foods will be growing in your garden and can be easily harvested.

What? You don't have a garden? Not enough room? You live in an apartment! I do too. Katie and I have tried to grow some plants in our windows, but they all face north and plants never thrive. But we do want to eat foods fresh from our garden or farm anyway. If only there were a way to have some direct stake in the land and the bounty that came from it without owning land.

Actually there are two ways. Community Supported Agriculture(CSA)/farm shares are one and another is the community garden. Both allow you to enjoy the bounty of the harvest at a more personal level, but each has its own strengths.

CSAs are a way for you and me to connect directly to a farm where our produce is grown and directly support the farmers that grow it. There are three reasons that this is important. Financially: food you buy in the supermarket gives very little of every dollar you spend to the farmers who grew it. See the USDA infographic below.
Source: USDA infographic

Your money can go farther too. You pay for part or all of your share before the food comes to the market so the farmer has money to pay expenses without relying on credit or loans. For your part, the food is often but not always cheaper than if you bought the equivalent food at a supermarket. The Environmental benefits are even better. Many farms that participate in CSAs use organic or Integrated Pest Managaement practices. And by the very nature of a CSA, the farm that supplies your food has to be a close drive to your pickup location. The final reason that CSAs are good is, for lack of a better word, spiritually. You know where your food was grown. You know the farmer who grew it. And you are sharing in the bounty of the harvest, a tradition as old as agriculture itself.

You can find a local CSA by going to and entering your zip code.

Tomorrow I will tell you about community gardens.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Because the rebate is really just an early refund on the 2008 tax year, there is a lot to be said for spending it on something that will reduce your tax liability. Making donations to non-profits like American Forests like I suggested yesterday is one way to do it. But there are still a few tax credits out there for buying renewables or hybrid vehicles. Because the IRS is so bizarre, Toyota vehicles no longer qualify for a tax credit but Ford, GM, Nissan, and Honda all still have them. Check it out here. Replacing inefficient appliances and insulating your home also still have tax credits from the same legislation. But if you're hoping to get solar or wind power, you should check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. They have a great map, just click and save! Here is their page on the personal tax credit.

Monday, February 11, 2008

six oh oh?

My grandmother always tells me "Don't spend it all in one place." whenever she gives me money. Five dollars or fifty dollars, it doesn't matter, that's the advice that I get. So if we were going to spend this money in a lot of places what would be the best way to do that?

I'm going to cheat here, I'm going to say "I could plant trees all over the world."

American Forests has a program called Global ReLeaf where for every dollar you donate, they will plant a tree. Trees are planted in urban areas as well as in less urban areas. Attention is payed to restoring natural habitats and ecosystems.

Here's a list of all the places you can plant trees with American Forests.
$600 = 600 trees all over the world
Want to get some more bang for your buck?

Think that the trees must be going away for some reason?

Maybe it's all that junk mail you keep getting.

There are a number of companies that promise to reduce your junk mail. My wife got Green Dimes to do it for us. For $20, they will stop your junk mail and plant 10 trees using one of their affilliates.
$20 = A lot less junk mail + 10 trees
You might want to take note that there's a very interesting article in about the business model of Green Dimes and its parent company Tonic.

Friday, February 8, 2008

They're Coming!

It's official, we're getting a rebate from the government.

Or are we? The New York Times and MSN both have their takes on why this money is not free, and why it probably won't help out in the ways that lawmakers claim that it should.

But what's done is done. Now we have to decide whether or not to spend it. But if we do spend it, what's the wisest way? Besides getting rid of debt? Saving the world of course. Between now and May when the checks are actually sent, I'm going to help point out the ways that your share of the $168,ooo,ooo,ooo can be spent to make a difference in emerging fields of green technology to environmental stewardship, to... well we'll just see what else you and I can come up with from here.

That's a lot of zeros up there, and there's no way President Bush will do anything to slow climate change in his administration without us doing it for him. People will thank us later.