By Steve Edgerton
The turfgrass found in lawns, parks, and schoolyards represents the single largest irrigated crop in the U.S. Across the country, turf guzzles up 34 billion liters (nine billion gallons) of water per day, demanding 31 million kilograms (70 million pounds) of pesticides and 757 million liters (200 gallons) of gasoline annually.
Edible landscaping represents a different take on how to design and interact with yards and urban green spaces. With an emphasis on native perennials and food-producing plants, edible landscapes can be a great way to create green space and provide healthy, fresh food.
Replacing just a fraction of traditional lawn with edible landscapes designed around locally appropriate plants would have numerous benefits. Edible landscapes often require little or no additional irrigation or fertilizer, can increase food production potential in cities, and can be a boon to pollinators and ecological diversity. To celebrate and explore these benefits, Food Tank is featuring 15 organizations from around the world working to create edible landscapes.
1. Backyard Abundance
Backyard Abundance is a non-profit based in Johnson County, Iowa, focusing on both the design and educational aspect of edible landscaping. Founded in 2006, Backyard Abundance prioritizes the importance of residents taking a role in the transformations of landscapes as a way to find harmony with the natural world, connect with the elements of food production, and to feel empowered by the fact that individual decisions and actions can positively influence seemingly overwhelming environmental problems.
2. Ecologia Design
Michael Judd founded Ecologia Design following years of experience implementing whole systems design and functional landscapes in Mexico and Nicaragua, in addition to studying modern landscape design principles at the New York Botanical Garden. Ecologia represents a melding of aesthetics and functionality, designing beautiful landscapes with an emphasis on food production and working in line with local cultures and ecologies.
3. Edible Estates
Edible Estates is an initiative that began in Salinas, Kansas in 2006. Its goal is to create "prototype" gardens in cities around the world, with 16 already complete. Designed with its specific bioregion in mind, each garden takes into account local geography, culture, history, and the current needs of the communities. The emphasis is on productive, edible landscapes, and each design involves partnerships with local art institutions and horticultural or community gardening groups. Edible Estates strives to inspire others to look at underutilized or misappropriated green spaces in a new light, highlighting new contexts for food production and connections to the natural environment.
4. Edible Landscapes London
Edible Landscapes London is a nonprofit that specializes in food forests; a production system that combines fruiting shrubs, trees, and herbs, with each plant playing a complementary role that contributes to the health of the whole system and maximizes productivity. They developed the first ever accredited forest gardening course in the UK, and are a leading figure in creating edible, biodiverse landscapes in London.
5. Edible Landscape Project
Born from a community event in 2012, the Edible Landscape Project (ELP) sought to transform the Great Western Greenway in County Mayo, Ireland, into an edible landscape. The ELP is now a globally recognized social enterprise, focusing on forest gardening to contribute to ecosystem health and food security throughout Ireland. They are also active in mental health advocacy, and the positive role that growing food and connecting with nature can play in cultivating healthier mental landscapes.
Foodswell is a non-profit taking on the issue of food insecurity in Australia. Their research projects often emphasize the design and community development components of food access in remote and indigenous settlements throughout the country. Foodswell implements edible landscape designs along with other novel food growing strategies that are most appropriate for the specific community, with greater access to affordable, healthy food being their guiding directive.
7. Home Harvest LLC.
HomeHarvest creates edible landscapes in the Boston area. Ben Barkan founded Home Harvest, taking his experience on 35 organic farms around the world and applying it to the urban environment, where he aspires to create regenerative ecosystems and connect people more directly to their food. HomeHarvest also has a nonprofit branch, focusing primarily on planting fruit trees as a food source for communities in need, while also teaching residents how to maintain and utilize them.
8. Incredible Edible Network
Started by a group of citizens in the small town of Todmorden in Northern England, the Incredible Edible Network set out to inspire positive community change through food, by redesigning green space into edible landscapes, building community gardens, providing training, and supporting local commerce to strengthen local food systems and community resiliency. Their small start caught on in a big way, and the network now encompasses over 100 UK towns, along with towns in Canada and New Zealand.
9. Maya Mountain Research Farm
Taking its name from the Belize Mountains that it calls home, the Maya Mountain Research Farm is a non-governmental organization and working demonstration farm. The farm primarily focuses on cultivating a productive and biodiverse tropical food forest, replicating the ecological services of native forests to sequester carbon, conserve habitat, and fight against erosion, all while boosting local food security by incorporating more edible plants into the landscape.
10. Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden
Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden is a regional research center in Luang Prabang, Laos. The garden brings a snapshot of the region's impressive biodiversity into the heart of the country's largest and most popular city. They leverage this visibility by creating educational programs and acting as a tourist destination to promote the incorporation of edible and local plants into urban environments and to build awareness around local environmental preservation initiatives.
11. Philadelphia Orchard Project
Working in low-income neighborhoods often characterized as food deserts, the Philadelphia Orchard Project plants orchards filled with a variety of edible plants in vacant lots, community gardens, and school parks. They work in conjunction with organizations in the community to design and implement the orchards, and train residents to care for the plants, offering accessible and affordable options for fresh produce where there often are none.
12. Sadhana Forest
Sadhana Forest is a nonprofit operating in Haiti, India, and Kenya. Their projects involve the reforestation of severely eroded landscapes with food-bearing trees, building local food security while simultaneously remediating valuable land. Founded in 2003, Sadhana Forest has already planted hundreds of thousands of food-producing trees, with many more to come.
13. Sustainable Landscaping Initiative Vancouver
Sustainable Landscaping Initiative Vancouver is a nonprofit based in Vancouver, Canada. Their mandate is to drive an industry-wide greening in the world of landscaping. This would include a shift towards native plants, edible gardens, eliminating toxic chemicals, increasing water efficiencies, zero-emissions machinery, and whole systems design inspired by local ecosystems. They provide a variety of resources to assist landscaping organizations in a green transition and to become eligible for several eco-landscaping accreditation programs.
14. Trees That Feed Foundation
Created by Mike and Mary Mclaughlin and Paul Virtue in 2008, the Trees That Feed Foundation (TTFF) promotes the integration of tree crops into the landscapes of developing countries. The benefits of food-producing trees are many, and include reducing community dependence on fertilizer, water, and other inputs for food crops, while also sequestering carbon and strengthening local ecosystems. TTFF successfully runs projects in 11 countries throughout the Caribbean and Africa. Their programs include supplying local organizations with trees and providing training in tree care to ensure the long-term sustainability and benefits of their projects.
Wayward is a landscape, art and architecture firm from London, England. Many of their projects take a creative approach to implemented food growing into underutilized urban landscapes. Often repurposing salvaged plants and local building materials, their installations offer mind-bending and inspiring takes on incorporating edible spaces into contemporary art and architecture installations.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The U.S. reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, in a sign that the outbreak is not letting up as the Fourth of July weekend kicks off.
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By Jason Bruck
Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus
On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.
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By Kelli McGrane
Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks.
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"Emissions from pyrotechnic displays are composed of numerous organic compounds as well as metals," a new study reports. Nodar Chernishev / EyeEm / Getty Images
Fireworks have taken a lot of heat recently. In South Dakota, fire experts have said President Trump's plan to hold a fireworks show is dangerous and public health experts have criticized the lack of plans to enforce mask wearing or social distancing. Now, a new study shows that shooting off fireworks at home may expose you and your family to dangerous levels of lead, copper and other toxins.
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By Ashutosh Pandey
Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
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