The Plenty 20

By Anuj Desai, Dan Fost, Liz Galst, Tobin Hack, Jessica A Knoblauch, Alisa Opar, Sarah Parsons, Mindy Pennybacker, Victoria Schlesinger, and Jessica Tzerman

The Plenty 20 logo designed by Hinterland


Nature Education
Government officials and the media are (finally!) trying to transform today’s children from couch potatoes into naturalists. The movement started with Richard Louv’s 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. In 2007, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD) proposed the No Child Left Inside Act, legislation that would provide $500 million to implement environmental education programs in America’s schools. And now, some states are taking action, too: This year, environmental groups in New Mexico lobbied for a “sin tax” on new televi­sions and video games—if imposed, the tax could provide $4 million a year for outdoor education programs. 

Closing the Loop
Landfills are suffocating under the more than 200 million tons of garbage that Americans produce each year. To remedy the situation—and eliminate the concept of waste altogether—eco-minded companies are creating Cradle to Cradle–style products and take-back programs (see page 67). Patagonia customers can return used Common Threads apparel, and the company will turn it into new clothing. Nike takes back worn athletic shoes (of any brand), grinds them up, and makes sporting and playground surfaces. And pet-toy manufacturer West Paw Design asks customers to return chewed up toys from the Zogoflex line—the company will make a new toy from the remains, free of charge. 

Green Affordable Housing
Why should green housing be the exclusive domain of eco-conscious movie stars? Shouldn’t our nation’s low-income residents—about a third of American households—also benefit from lower energy costs and improved indoor air quality? A recent report by the affordable housing group Enterprise Community Partners found that greening the nation’s existing affordable housing stock could save “up to 50 million tons of CO2” over a ten-year peri­od. Proof of the health benefits can be seen at the High Point Homes, a former housing project turned thriving, mixed-income community in Seattle, where the percentage of asthmatic chil­dren needing “urgent clinical care” dropped from almost 62 percent to 21 percent. With green afford­able homes, the poor and the planet benefit together.  

Skyscraper Farms
During the next 50 years, the world’s population may reach 9 billion people, and the vast majority will live in urban areas. Feeding those hungry mouths could require clearing an additional 10 billion hectares for farming (an area the size of Brazil). But there is another, more innovative solution on the table: farming in skyscrapers. The Sky Farm, proposed for downtown Toronto, would stand 58-stories high and produce enough food to feed 35,000 people each year. Envisioned for New York City, the 30-story Vertical Farm would cultivate a variety of produce and grains, support aquaculture and perhaps poultry, and employ energy- and water-saving practices—all without pesticides or transportation costs.  

Intentional Communities
Newsflash: Communes aren’t just for hippies anymore. You don’t have to pat on patchouli or live in a tent to join one of the 385 registered eco-villages or 500 cohousing projects around the globe. Eco-villages—communities or towns united by residents’ attention to sustain­ability, conservation, local living, and respect for nature—won’t save the world all on their own, but they are safe-havens for the ambitiously eco and inspiring models for the rest of us. Offshoot concepts such as farm shares (for example, Community-Supported Agriculture shares, or CSAs), student co-ops, urban housing coop­eratives, and even green retirement homes are already sprouting up countrywide.   

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Issue 25

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