Partner Post: The GrowHaus’ 7 Tips to Make a Vibrant and Sustainable Urban Garden
Let’s talk about urban gardening! Of course growing your own food is fun and rewarding, but what’s more is that it may lead you into eating more fruits and veggies; you can control what chemicals and pesticides you want, or don’t want, to touch your food; and it may save you a few dollars during your next trip to the grocery store. Not to mention, we think you’ll have a good time in the process! Here are seven tips to making your urban garden sustainable, unique, and vibrant! To learn more check out a workshop at The GrowHaus on the second Saturday of every month.
Compost is not as complex as it is often made out to be. An old trash can or two, with holes punched for drainage, and potentially painted with fanciful designs, can make for a worthy bin. What’s more, diverting food scraps of almost any kind from the landfill is one of the best ways to reduce your waste footprint!
Utilize No-Dig Principles
There’s really no reason to spend energy and time digging up your garden. Tilling the soil can degrade nutrient content and destroy the microbial ecology that is great for your garden, while leaving your soil exposed to the harmful effects of the sun. Worms and bugs help to fertilize our soils naturally, and continue the cycle of life! Once your garden is in shape, leave it be, and don’t compress the soil by walking on it! In addition, add mulch or other browned plant materials around your plants to help retain moisture (especially in the dry climate of Colorado).
Use Creative Designs like Mandala and Keyhole
Straight-line rows are so last season. Consider designing your garden with non-traditional drainage ridges. Mandala, keyhole, and terraced designs are good ways to construct your garden that aren’t the traditional rectangular rows. These designs maintain a creative flair while also allowing footpath access to the edges of every bed of plants.
Incorporate natural elements such as rocks, wood, and water.
Adding environmentally sound aesthetic to your garden can make it appear more natural and help you avoid using unnecessary plastic or metal boundaries in your garden – items that will inevitably degrade over time. Stone, slate, field stone, and dry wood are all useful additions to decorate your garden with – not to mention repurposed items of a vintage flavor, for decoration.
Build More Advanced Garden Structures
Herb spirals are a fun way to create gardens in small spaces, for plants that need different levels of shade, like those of herbs and spices. A mound covered with a spiral or other patterned design is a beautiful way to include excess rocks, pieces of concrete, or any material that supports small amounts of soil and plant material. Succulents and creeping plants are other garden items that live and look well in rocky terrain.
Advanced systems could include water collection through rock rivers, retention basins, and the stepped up addition of an aquaponics or vertical garden. Fish ponds, aquariums, and vertical constructions that use eaves, gravity irrigation systems, and other additions will make your neighbors jealous!
Intercrop using guilds, mixing plants that support one another
Permaculturalists sometimes classify vegetables and other plants according to their growing style. Diggers like tubers loosen the soil, crawlers cover the undergrowth, protecting soil. Climbers wend their way up supporters like trees and corn stalks, feeders provide nitrogen plant food to the soil. Protectors can repel insects and other pests, and so on. Growing plants that complement one another has a learning curve, yet that’s part of the fun! Tomatoes could be supported by bush beans and zucchini, with an intermixing of herbs, spices and flowers. Example guild guides can be found online.
Be creative and have fun!
Having a garden is an expression of natural artistry. Make something truly yours, using your favorite plants, farm animals, and other innovative additions. The sky is the limit when you’re growing!
Many of us have heard about the big challenges climate change is bringing to Colorado. From forest fires to drought, and from extreme floods to abysmal snowpack, we’re beginning to see the fallout from climate change across the state. What we used to think of as tomorrow’s crisis is happening today. Underserved communities in our urban centers are being hit first and worst by the effects of climate change. The Climate Gap is the disproportionate and unequal impact the climate crisis has on people of color living in more polluted areas and the poor.
In Colorado, many people have been struggling to manage the challenges of climate change for decades. For example, the climate gap means that communities of color living in inequitable conditions and the poor are suffering more during extreme heat waves. We are already experiencing intensified heat waves in our urban centers due to rising temperatures and the heat island effect. The western United States has seen a larger increase in average temperature in the past decade than any other part of the country. The heat island effect describes urban areas that experience much higher temperatures than neighboring rural areas. Without access to air conditioning or cars to escape the heat, families living below the poverty line are at a much higher risk for mortality than others.
The climate gap also means that communities of color and the poor will breathe even dirtier air. Denver is notorious for our sub-par air quality, in fact we were just rated the 14th most polluted city in America for high ozone according to the American Lung Association. In fact, according to The Denver Business Journal the Denver zip code 80216 in north-east Denver is the most polluted zip code in the entire U.S. What does this mean for families living in Denver? The highest majorities of people of color and low-income residents are in some of the most polluted neighborhoods of Denver. These communities are projected to suffer from the largest increase in smog associated with climate change. More air pollution means more cases of asthma among children, more missed school days, more unpaid days for the caring parents, less income for families who already struggle to access reliable and affordable transportation, more missed hospital and health care appointments, and a host of other concerns that ripple outward as we link climate change to equity, diversity and inclusion.
Where America Stands
With Trump in the White House, America has pulled out of many of the national and international climate mitigation initiatives including the Paris Agreement. However, in the vacuum of federal leadership on climate, many local, state and regional governments have taken the lead on greenhouse gas reductions. Initiatives such as the U.S. Climate Alliance, America’s Pledge and We Are Still In represent non-national actors that are committing to reduce emissions to meet the Paris Agreement goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels; and to aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C. The organizations and individuals who have signed on to these initiatives represent $10.1 trillion in GDP from the United States alone.
In Colorado, Governor John Hicklenlooper recently announced a 2018 update to the Colorado Climate Plan. The state objective is to cut greenhouse gases by 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, and to cut carbon from the electricity sector by 25 percent compared to 2012 by 2025 and 35 percent by 2030. The updated plan outlines advances in climate change management at the state level, as well as the progress that has been made since the release of the initial plan in 2015. Over the last three years, some examples of progress that has been made toward climate change mitigation in Colorado include joining the U.S. Climate Alliance, the adoption of the statewide electric vehicle plan, and the passing of the Denver Green Roof Initiative. The report also takes into account changes in both global and federal climate policy. In the updated Climate Plan, the authors recognize that “for communities with inequitable living conditions, such as low-income and communities of color living in more polluted areas, climate change is likely to exacerbate existing vulnerabilities.”
So, there is some good news. Through strategic collaboration, individuals and organizations across the country are advancing climate change action despite federal-level barriers. In Colorado, our climate policies and plans are integrating environmental justice into the equation for climate change solutions. But there is still a long way to go.
Where You Come In: Climate + Equity
Governor Hickenlooper and his senior staff will be visiting The Alliance Center on June 14 to discuss the updated Colorado Climate Plan and how we can meet Colorado’s state goal with actions at all levels – personal, community, and government. The event is sold out, but it will be live-streamed here.
Here at The Alliance Center, we intentionally integrate equity into all aspects of our work. We believe that a climate change solution that is not founded on environmental justice is not a solution at all. Integrating equity into each aspect of our work takes dedication, clarity, and a lot of help. In 2018 we are creating new educational and collaborative initiatives that feature equity at their core.
Our Climate + Series connects climate change to everyday issues that people can relate to such as health or housing and gives them tools to take action. At all of our Alliance Center-led events we are offering free translation services as well as limited transportation for members of underserved communities who want to participate in our events but would not be able to do so if transportation services were not provided.
As we bring people together to create sustainable solutions, we are working to break down the barriers to participation for members of underserved communities. Climate change is affecting each of us, and no community should have to carry the burden of these challenges more than another. With your help, we can scale up our impact and create solutions that honor each other and the planet.
https://www.thealliancecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/voices_tya_bullard_main-760x378.jpg378760Ashley Lovell/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/TheAllianceCenterLogo_Horz_RGB_394_280-300x213.pngAshley Lovell2018-06-04 13:43:542018-06-04 13:43:54Closing The Climate Gap
The Alliance Center is proud to partner with organizations like Re:Vision to create a better future for all. As we prepare to break ground on our own sustainable urban garden next month, we are thrilled to share Re:Vision’s story of the incredible, life-changing impact urban gardens can have on communities.
At Re:Vision we believe access to healthy food is a right, not a privilege. Whether through teaching families to grow their own food with our Re:Farm program, or beginning to plant the seeds of community-owned wealth at the Westwood Food Co-Op with Re:Own, our purpose is to create a thriving, resilient community. We achieve that using a three main strategies; we cultivate community food systems (Re:Farm), develop local leaders with our Promotoras (Re:Unite), and grow community wealth by creating a locally owned economy (Re:Own). We believe by providing residents with tools, training, and inspiration, the community will come together to solve some of their most pressing issues.
In 2009, Re:Vision started working in the Westwood neighborhood of southwest Denver. Westwood is bordered by Federal to the east, Sheridan to the west, Alameda to the north and Jewell to the south. You might know the area for its amazing taquerias and Vietnamese food. What you might not know, is Westwood faces significant health and economic disparities because of decades of underinvestment and inadequate resources; 37% childhood obesity rate (compared to the state average of 27%), and while Westwood has the most residents under the age of 18, it also has the fewest open spaces and parks in Denver. The average household income is less than half the Denver average, and less than 4% of the population has a college degree. There are no supermarkets, schools are overcrowded, and it is dangerous for youth to walk through the neighborhood. Yet, despite decades of neglect, Westwood is one of Denver’s most vibrant and diverse neighborhoods, where 84% of residents are Latino, and approximately 60% of whom are first generation immigrants.
So, with all of these alarming statistics, why focus on food access and sustainability? Because that’s what the community wanted. When we spoke with residents, they mentioned a desire to be able to grow their own food as not only a means to save money on their grocery bills and improve access to and consumption of healthy foods, but also as a way to reconnect with the land. Many of our community members have agricultural backgrounds, and had to give those up in Denver’s more urban setting. They also gave up traditional ways of cooking because fresh produce, like chiles, and various herbs needed to cook certain dishes weren’t accessible, due to their price or actual availability. When budgets are limited, often times families are forced to make a choice between purchasing foods that will go a long way (think processed and shelf-stable foods) and produce. With the Re:Farm program, families don’t have to make that choice. Their gardens yield enough produce to feed the family and often times their neighbors as well. And if they have excess produce, they can take a variety of classes at our educational kitchen, La Cocina, to learn new culturally relevant farm-to-table recipes, or how to can and preserve so they can enjoy their produce year round. Families who participate in the Re:Farm program report continuing to eat more fruits and vegetables even in the off season.
What began with teaching seven families how to grow food in their own backyards, is now a thriving program changing food access in one community. To date, Re:Vision’s Re:Farm program has helped families throughout southwest Denver establish 1,765 annual gardens, collectively producing more than 500,000 pounds of fresh produce and saving those families over $1 million in grocery bills. In this current 2018 season, we have just over 260 families participating in the Re:Farm program.
Written by JoAnna Cintron, Re:Vision Director of Communications and Individual Giving
The Alliance Center is thrilled to announce Brenna Simmons-St. Onge, former Director of Programs, as our new Executive Director! Read more about the exciting transition in a letter from Brenna below.
Sustainability to me is more than a buzzword. It is not just recycling or installing LED lights. It is a set of values. It’s a lifestyle, one that honors the connectedness, finds balance, and strives for harmony in all systems — living and human generated.
The Alliance Center is sustainability in action. It is my great honor to step into the role of Executive Director and work with the amazing team who have been my close colleagues for the past three years to help create a truly sustainable and inclusive future. A future that works for all.
I joined The Alliance Center in 2015 after a very intentional career change. I had been working at the Brown Palace Hotel heading up their sustainability initiatives and wanted to find a place where I could have a deeper impact; where I could live and breathe sustainability — nothing less. After a ten-year career in the hospitality industry creating and leading sustainability programs for some of the premier hotel brands at the corporate and property level, I made a dramatic change in my professional life. I made it my mission to join the organization that is central to the sustainability movement in Colorado.
It is an honor beyond words to be working with our passionate and dedicated team and board, and collaborating with our extremely high-caliber tenants and partners. I feel a natural high every time I walk into The Alliance Center, and I can feel the energy seeped in passion, action and impact. To me, The Alliance Center is the most inspirational organization, housed in the most innovative building in Colorado. We are LEED V4.1 Platinum certified and are working to change the paradigm for how buildings interact with our energy grid, while driving collaborative solutions in our economy, our environment and our communities.
Over the last few years we have intentionally taken the time to clearly define our vision and the impact we want to make in the world, and we have developed a comprehensive strategy to achieve our lofty goals. We are now ready to implement our plan and help create a world where our communities are inclusive, our democracy is strong, our economy thrives, and our planet is healthy.
The challenges we face today are existential and threaten our very survival. We simply do not have time for petty squabbles, partisan politics, tribalistic narratives, or 20th century band-aid solutions. Now is the time when we must come together in deep solidarity to co-create solutions for the 21st century and beyond.
I am elated to lead an organization that will play a mighty role in this paradigm shift. I personally invite you to join us on this journey. It will take each and every one of us, working together, to create the world we are proud to pass along to our children and grandchildren.
From the front lines of the sustainability movement, and with my deepest gratitude,
https://www.thealliancecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/brenna.jpg480640Moira Wiedenman/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/TheAllianceCenterLogo_Horz_RGB_394_280-300x213.pngMoira Wiedenman2018-05-24 14:35:462018-06-11 10:10:59Announcing our new Executive Director
I recently attended the Climate Leadership Conference in Denver and I had the opportunity to hear Carl Pope (former Executive Director of The Sierra Club) speak about his new book, Climate of Hope. Mr. Pope started his speech, and his book (written in collaboration with Mayor Michael Bloomberg), by noting that it is easy to […]
https://www.thealliancecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/greenenergy-e1521482747204.png540810Ashley Lovell/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/TheAllianceCenterLogo_Horz_RGB_394_280-300x213.pngAshley Lovell2018-03-19 12:16:342018-06-11 10:07:41A Case for Optimism
Nonprofits come in many shapes and sizes, but one thing they share in common is a desire to scale up their impact on the world. Collaboration has long been touted as the best way for nonprofits to scale up, but the actual practice of collaboration is often messy, making it hard to measure the impacts of these efforts.
At The Alliance Center in Denver, CO, over 50 nonprofit and for-profit organizations work under one roof. We are a mission-driven nonprofit with an event and collaborative working space which is dedicated to bringing people together to create a sustainable and inclusive future. As the operator of a collaborative working space, we strive to create a work environment that is inspiring, inviting, and that promotes constructive interactions between tenants.
The Alliance Center recently underwent a brand realignment process to reconnect with our mission. As part of this process, we changed the name of the organization from the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado to The Alliance Center. For many years, the building that houses the collaborative working spaces was named The Alliance Center while the nonprofit organization that managed the building and created programming was called the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado. This caused considerable confusion. While we are excited to have one name for all aspects of our work, changing our name to The Alliance Center is about a lot more than simplifying our moniker.
The Alliance Center is the space where people come together to build the sustainability movement. We are honored to have a wide range of for-profit and nonprofit tenants in the building who are working on a variety of different sustainability-focused initiatives. While our mission has always been to create a sustainable future, for the past few years, we have focused primarily on own initiatives rather than on helping to grow our community of tenants, supporters and friends. Our rebranding is designed to change that.
How are we changing our brand? First and foremost, our focus is on our community and on scaling up the impact of the sustainability movement. We have begun to implement new tenant-centered programming such as our Expertise Exchange lunches where our tenants can share their knowledge about fundraising, communications, technology and many other topics. We are also working more closely with our tenants to create shared programming which will focus on the three tiers of sustainability: our environment, our economy, and our communities. Strengthening and diversifying our relationships with our tenants is at the core of our updated brand strategy.
Our community also extends beyond the walls of The Alliance Center. We will be rolling out a membership program in 2018 that is designed to grow the sustainability movement and to give individuals and organizations tangible ways to live, work, and play more sustainably. Members will have access to networking opportunities with the giants of sustainability, discounts at our café, first looks into upcoming sustainability-focused events and much more.
Why are we doing this? Because we believe that we can make a bigger impact with a stronger, more connected, and more inspired community. We will be tracking the impacts of our new initiatives through tenant and supporter-focused outreach, through social media hashtags such as #AllianceforAction, and through our tangible metrics related to waste diversion, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and much more.
Enjoy looking around our new site, and we can’t wait to share more of our new initiatives with you in the future.