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The empty lot epidemic; urban gardens can fix this

Isabella Santoro

Photography Editor

Image via y Isabella Santoro

Unsurprisingly there are many empty lots around Providence waiting to be turned into something great. Urban gardens are the way to go. There’s no point in leaving a lot empty when there are so many ways a city can use it to their advantage and for the good of the community. While driving around Providence, I encountered on Charles Street alone three empty lots full of overgrown weeds and trash. These lots could become urban gardens, which are extremely beneficial in cities for several reasons.

For one, they provide many environmental advantages such as lowering extreme heat, which has become a huge issue over the past few decades. Research from City of Phoenix’s Cool Urban Spaces shows that tree coverage and replacing pavement and dirt surface with vegetation can help lower elevated temperatures. Their research also showed cities with less vegetation and urban gardens had higher temperatures versus those that had gardens.

Urban gardens will provide people with an opportunity to come together as a community. There are many socially beneficial aspects of urban gardens. From the center of Agriculture and Food and Environment, it shows how within neighborhoods, people a part of gardening groups develop trusting relationships with neighbors. This can be immensely helpful for people moving into a community they are unfamiliar with, or for people who want to get to know their neighbors in tight knit areas of a city. They can also help people of diverse backgrounds come together. People of any race, religion, sexuality, etc. can find common ground within gardening and share their experiences without prejudice or stereotyping. Diversity is huge in cities and coming together as a community with many diverse backgrounds can help a city become more inclusive. Research from GardenTech shows that gardening can be therapeutic for people. A study showed gardening can significantly lower cortisol levels and showed greater physical relief from stressful feelings. The world as a whole is overwhelmingly stressed out, and this can really help a community to destress, take a break from work and the rush of the day by doing an activity that not only benefits them, but their entire community.

Urban gardens are highly educational. They are especially helpful for children and schools trying to teach inner city students the science behind growing your own food. These students do not often have access to much vegetation and are not always able to learn what it means to eat healthy and make a positive impact on the environment. This might also help students to learn the dangers of littering because they will be less likely to want to litter in a community where they’ve planted gardens. Most suburban and rural communities are able to teach their students how to use a garden but in cities this is much harder. Taking the time to set up gardens for students to learn from them is a step in the right direction for education.

Economically urban gardens are extremely useful, especially in lower income areas where it might be most cost efficient to grow your own food. Some of this food is even donated to lower income families or urban garden jobs are given to those who are struggling to find work. For those who can’t easily access grocery stores or do not have the money, growing their own vegetables and fruits is beneficial. It also helps out property values. With urban gardens on display in cities, it shows a care for the community, upping property values and making people want to move to cities.

The rapid change in climate we are seeing as a society shows urban gardens are only more essential to the wellbeing of cities and communities.

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