Inspiring edible roof gardens

Inspiring edible roof gardens

Londons food growers learn from US edible cities

In 2008, Sustains network director Ben Reynolds organised a trip to the United States, sponsored by the US Embassy, to learn how Americans tackle issues of urban food growing and food access. With colleagues from several London-based food-growing and land-management organisations, he learned that there are huge opportunities to grow more food in our cities.

For information about Sustains report on the visit, click Edible Cities. It looks at examples of urban agriculture projects in cities including New York, Milwaukee and Chicago (where green rooftops have become a common feature of the landscape, to reduce energy bills and cool the city — see Chicago City Hall below), and identifies a series of opportunities that other cities could be adopting.

Ben Reynolds comments: We are all familiar with allotments, and community gardens as features of the city landscape, but more often than not a lot of space is wasted, where with a little support we could see projects like this in the UK, where salad crops, vegetables and even fish are produced commercially within the city.

Chicago has used parts of its public parks for food growing schemes. The Citys Department of Environment also commissioned a City Hall Rooftop Garden pilot project as part of the Urban Heat Island Initiative with the US Environmental Protection Agency. The rooftop garden was designed to test its cooling effects and its ability to sustain a variety of plants in three different depths of growing media. Monitoring of the plants, birds and insects is underway.

Results from monitoring the cooling effects during the gardens first summer showed a roof surface temperature reduction of 70 degrees and an air temperature reduction of 15 degrees. Many species of plant are now well-established, and wildlife has been attracted to the new city oasis, as well as interested architects, engineers and policy-makers — especially those interested in reducing building energy use and helping to cool the city. Read a report on this project by the American Society of Landscape Architects .

Urban eco-restaurant grows food on the roof

An urban rooftop allotment is the latest project of eco-chef Arthur Potts Dawson, at Acorn House restaurant in the Kings Cross area of north London. The restaurant already buys a lot of its food from ethical and sustainable suppliers, and also re-uses and recycles materials.

Inspiring edible roof gardens
  • Read a Times article about Arthur Potts Dawsons vegetable roof garden here
  • Details of the menu and training opportunities can be found on the Acorn House restaurant website
  • Acorn House has also been working with Sustains Ethical Eats and Greener Food project to improve the sustainability of its ingredients and business practices

In his recent Channel 4 series River Cottage Spring, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall visited the rooftop of a Victorian terrace house in Hackney, to see eight beehives kept by teenager Philip Schilds and his father.

These city bees produce one hundred pounds of honey from each hive every harvest time — so with eight beehives, Philip Schilds bees make 2,000 jars per year. In the programme, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall estimated that it costs 250 per hive to set up in bee-keeping, and said that Urban bees make good honey, and lots of it.

Global Generation is a charity aiming to develop an understanding of the importance of the environment amongst the younger generation and empower them to take a lead in generating change amongst businesses and local communities. The charity brings together people of all ages and backgrounds in practical projects that are creative and educational. Recently, Global Generation worked with the specialist advisory organisation LivingRoof.org to create the above living roof in Grays Inn Road, London — making a shared rooftop space for 35 organisations in the offices below. Global Generation is also developing exciting plans for rooftop allotments, working particularly in North London.

See case study information for the Grays Inn project at LivingRoof.org ; and the Global Generation website .


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