Chicago Proposes Bird-Friendly Ordinance

Posted by Ecogardens


Chicago is taking a stand for birds, and we’re totally behind it.

You know how much we love birds.

I mean, everyone should love birds. And we’re part of everyone, so obviously we do as well. (If that’s not compelling enough for you, feel free to read up on some bird-centric goodness here or here.)

As we’ve discussed before, cities are extremely dangerous for birds, and Chicago is one of the biggest offenders. In fact, it has the dubious honor of being the riskiest skyline in the country when it comes to avian traffic, contributing hugely to the billion bird deaths from collision each year.

It hardly bears saying that we need to do something about it.

Which is why we were delighted to discover that Chicago has proposed a bird-friendly building ordinance that will mandate city-wide protection of our feathered friends and do much to promote urban ecology.

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Topics: Urban Ecology

SPOTLIGHT on the Healing Powers of Regenerative Agriculture

Posted by Ecogardens


It’s true that we at Ecogardens don’t grow food for a living. But if we did, we would totally do it the regenerative agriculture way.

Human agricultural methods have evolved over thousands of years. While a thorough investigation of the human relationship with farming methods is beyond the scope of this spotlight, suffice it to say:

Our modern methods are not what they used to be. They are, in fact, harming the Earth.

Killing it, even. We take from the soil and we don’t give back. We add nutrients that will enable monoculture crops to grow, but we don’t truly nourish the land. We strip the soil through obliterative farming practices that leave it barren for future generations.

*cough* dust bowl *cough*

Well, good news: Regenerative agriculture is a type of stewardship that has the power to change all that.

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Topics: Stewardship

Do You Need Custom Media for a Green Roof?

Posted by Ecogardens


Green roofs are unique environments, so you can’t just throw a batch of soil up there and call it good. What media should you use instead? And does it need to be customized or not? We answer those questions here.

Thinking about a green roof? There are a lot of factors to consider, as you already know.

What will you plant? How do you want it to look? Can you, like, eat breakfast on it and stuff?

Well, that all depends. Not only on your space and your vision, but on what kind of plants your particular ecosystem can support and the benefits you hope your green roof will achieve.

And that in turn depends a lot on the media you use.

Many people ask us whether or not they need custom media for their green roofs, so we thought we’d take a crack at answering that today.

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Topics: Green Roofs

SPOTLIGHT: Paris Will Soon Brag World’s Largest Rooftop

Posted by Ecogardens


We’re all for a good green roof. In fact, at one time, Ecogardens boasted the world’s largest monitored rooftop right here in Chicago. But soon, the medal for largest green roof globally will pass to Paris.

Paris is known for many things.

Baguettes. Hunchbacks. Rats that can cook.

It will soon be known for something else: the world’s largest green roof.

According to Forbes, the city – which woke up to the benefits of green infrastructure decades ago and is a world leader in pledging to install greenspace – will shortly be home to a 150,000-square-foot rooftop oasis.

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Topics: Green Roofs

What Is a Floating Wetland and Why Should You Care?

Posted by Ecogardens


You’ve heard of a wetland, and you know what floating is. But how can a wetland … float? We’re here to answer that question, so grab that coffee and start scrolling.

No one needs to tell you that water pollution is a big issue.

(Or at least, we hope they don’t. Because it’s Kind of a Big Thing these days.)

The trouble is, water pollution is astoundingly common. Our lakes, rivers and oceans are devastated by chemicals.

We’re not just talking the toxic runoffs from water treatment plants or industrial factories, either. Nutrients from fertilizers, which are seen as “good” by the agricultural sector, also wreak havoc on waterways. They’re poisoning our drinking water and even dosing our fish with antianxiety drugs.

Why? Because those fertilizers that make plants grow also make algae grow, which then uses up all the oxygen and chokes out other plant and animal life. You know all those green lakes you see when you fly over Florida? Yeah, that’s what’s going on.

The result: Bodies of water that are chemical-ridden, inhospitable to wildlife and sometimes straight-up poisonous. And that’s before stormwater rushes in, carrying toxins and disease with it.

We need to clean our water bad … but which types of green infrastructure can get the job done?

Enter the floating wetland.

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

How to Choose the Right Locations for Planting Natives

Posted by Ecogardens


You know we need more native plants up in here … but where exactly should we put them? Is it enough to plant them in your garden, or should you be looking elsewhere?

Native prairie is rare enough these days to make passing one remarkable. Perhaps you whip out your camera phone, or maybe you point out the rolling landscape to your kiddos. If you see a bison, you basically throw a ****ing party. Because really, who sees bison outside of Yellowstone?

That’s the problem … we shouldn’t be jumping for joy when we see a tiny sliver of landscape that once dominated this continent.

Before Europeans arrived, the United States was composed of vast swaths of native prairie and savanna (prairie with trees dotting the landscape). According to Yale University, these rich grasslands are irreplaceably diverse.

For instance, “The Southeast is one of North America’s great, but forgotten, grassland regions. Its native prairies and savannas have been reduced by more than 90 percent since the first Europeans arrived, almost 100 percent in many areas. Yet the remaining scraps include more grassland plants and animals than the Great Plains and Midwest combined.”

If you’re thinking “Dang! That’s like some rainforest style diversity right there!” then you are correct. And we need to bring it back. To the Plains, to the Midwest, to the South. To everywhere.

But how?

By finding the right locations for planting natives and putting them to good use in stewardship of the Earth.

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Topics: Stewardship

How to Increase Your Mental Health with Time in Nature

Posted by Ecogardens


It is no secret that we are facing a mental health crisis here in the United States. Buckle up, because this might get a little depressing – but don’t worry, Nature is once again here to save the day!

According to a recent study undertaken by Mental Health in America:

  • In a 5-year period, rates of severe youth depression have increased.
  • 50% of screeners age 11-17 often think about suicide or self-harm throughout the week.
  • Over 76% of youth with severe depression – 1.7 million kids - did not get treatment they need.

And that’s just our kids. Adults also face steep rates of depression, much of which is caused by lack of access to proper care, other research finds.

“Mental health services in the U.S. are insufficient despite more than half of Americans (56%) seeking help,” says the National Council for Behavioral Health. “Limited options and long waits are the norm, but [there are] some bright spots with 76% of Americans now seeing mental health as important as physical health.”

That’s good news indeed. Better news, if you’re one of the enlightened who knows how important it is to seek out mental health improvement: Nature can help.

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Topics: Stewardship

SPOTLIGHT on Bioaccumulation and Why It Matters (Even to Humans)

Posted by Ecogardens


It hardly bears saying that we humans tend to act without considering the consequences, but this is truer than ever in the case of bioaccumulation. Here’s why we should all be freaked out by this concept.

What do a tiny piece of phytoplankton and an orca whale have in common?

They’re both riddled with toxins, byproducts of human activity that these organisms have no choice about and can’t do anything to prevent.

It’s depressing. We’re depressed right now.

Because bioaccumulation is no joke. It’s the idea that chemicals concentrate in animals as they eat food or are exposed to substances containing them. The same is true for plants.

The true kicker, though, is that plants and animals take chemicals in faster than they can get rid of them through normal metabolic processes.

And that really sucks.

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Topics: Stewardship

Should You Get a Green Roof?

Posted by Ecogardens


Making the decision to install a green roof on your garage, deck, municipal building or commercial structure is a big one, with a lot of factors involved. Here’s a quick look at the reasons why you would.

Green roofs have, like, a great rap.

Everyone knows they look awesome. Most people know they’re “good” for the environment, even if they’re not clear on how. And many people are aware of their amazing abilities to soak up stormwater and clear pollution from the air.

While green roofs are one of the absolute best stormwater solutions we have in our cities today, though, you might not feel as good about the costs involved.

Which leads to a big question: Should you get a green roof? Or save that money for, like, a hundred classic Nintendo 64s?

(We don’t know. Just a thought.)

Luckily for you, we’re here to answer that question today.

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Topics: Green Roofs

How to Compost If Your City Doesn’t Offer Municipal Pickup

Posted by Ecogardens


Wondering what to do if your city doesn’t offer municipal curbside compost pickup? Never fear; there are plenty of ways to keep food scraps out of landfill.

If you’re anything like us, it kills you to toss a banana peel in the garbage. Watching those carrot shavings languish in the trash can is tantamount to murder. You’re tempted to secretly bury apple cores in the nearby park in the dead of night.

Because trashing food – even if it’s only scraps we’re talking about – just feels so wrong.

And, well, it is wrong. Compost has amazing benefits for the world, and has been a valuable aspect of human stewardship for many millennia. But today, it seems we’ve forgotten its importance.

The result is that more than 15 percent of municipal solid waste ends up being food scraps, with 22 percent of landfills represented by food waste (as of 2015 numbers, the latest available). That’s 39.7 million tons and 30.3 million tons respectively, the difference accounted for by combustion for energy recovery.

Of that original 39.7, only 7.4 percent is combusted and only 5.3 percent is composted. Not good enough, we say.

But assuming your city doesn’t offer municipal compost pickup, and most still don’t, what are you supposed to do? Without that bin, what composting alternatives do you really have?

Well, it turns out, quite a few. If you're wondering how to compost outside your home, here's what you need to know.

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Topics: Stewardship