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No Waste – The Greenhouse Restaurants in Australia

Mai 17, 2011
Greenhouse Sidney (C) VillagePic

Greenhouse Sidney (C) VillagePic

In December 2009, Joost Bakker, an Australian designer involved in sustainable construction launched the  waste-free „Greenhouse“ restaurant in Perth. In 2011 this was followed by another temporary Greenhouse in Sidney, that has been dismantled and will now go on tour through Europe.

So, what is so special about these restaurants? Everything was planned from scratch to achieve maximum sustainability and recyclability:

1, the building itself: All the material used in the construction are recyclable or recycled. For the frame steel and straw bales for the insulation are used which are then clad with plywood. The furniture includes chairs made from old road signs and aluminium irrigation pipes or light shade made from old fencing wire. The waste water from the kitchen is re-used in the rooftop gardens where parts of the food for the restaurant is grown…

2. the food: What can not be grown in the rooftop garden is produced as sustainably as possible. Fresh milk is delivered directly from a farm and then processed to butter, yoghurt and mozzarella cheese. Wheat is grinded to flour and used for bread, pastries, pasta etc. All the organic wastes are composted and recycled as fertilizer in the rooftop gardens. It is even possible to make cola and soda in the restaurant.

Find more information here: Greenhouse Perth, Greenhouse Sidney.

Find a short video on the Greenhouse in Sydney below.


Yokohama Greenery Tax – conservation of privately-owned land

Mai 14, 2011
Yokohama (C) JulienF

Yokohama (C) JulienF

The city of Yokohama, situated south of Tokyo, is losing nearly 100 ha of forests and farmland every year. Most of these green areas are privatley owned. To stop the loss engaging with the landowners is therefore essential.

This decline in green areas has several reasons. The economic value of forest has been steadily decreasing similar to the income that can be generated by farming. Despite the efforts already taken, the city (e.g. tax deductions) was not able to stop the loss. A more visible and active approach was therefore necessary. The idea is that the city guarantees to purchase the area at a certain price in the future and that this enables the city to arrange conservation agreements with the landowners.

To raise the money for these purchase agreements and to gain the confidence of the landowners that the promised money will be available the city decided to introduce a Greenery Tax. The tax was implemented in April 2009 and annually amounts to approximately 8€ for individuals (the tax for corporations is a little higher) and should lead to a revenue of around 20 million Euros.

The tax is part of a larger programme with several 5-year goals such as the doubling of total area of designated green conservation areas in cooperation with the citizens. The first evaluation undertaken showed promising results: The awareness among people increased and 9,6 ha of forest land could already be bought. However, the report also stresses that their is still a lot to do in the long run and that the participation of the citizens is still low.

Built on waste – „energy mountains“ in Karlsruhe and Hamburg

Mai 9, 2011
(c) IBA /

(c) IBA /

Landfills are usually not a welcome sight. Hamburg and Karlsruhe made the best of it and created „energy mountains“. The first step is to seal the old garbage dumps. (the landfill site in Hamburg has a size of 45 ha and a volume of  7 million m³) Inside the mountain degradation processes lead to generation of (greenhouse) gases. The gases are captured and used to generate electicity and heat. That was the first step the cities took.

The next was to build wind power plants on the mountains. The first one in Karlsruhe was installed in 1999. Now 3 power plants with a total capacity of 3.000 kW are in operation. In Hamburg 4 plants with 2.650 kW are currently in use but at least two of them will soon be substituted for bigger plants. The installation of the wind power plants is especially challenging as the plants can not be properly „anchored“ due to the soil they are built on.

The power of the sun is harvested as well: The solar panels in Hamburg provide the city with 400.000 kWh per year. Finally the swath accrueing on the hill is used to produce biogas and flora and fauna is returning to a mountain that actually consists of garbage.

You can find more information on what is going on in Hamburg here:

Est. 1992 – Bio-Garden in Mülheim/Ruhr

Mai 6, 2011
VHS Bio-Garden in Mülheim/Ruhr. (C) VHS

VHS Bio-Garden in Mülheim/Ruhr. (C) VHS

Urban agriculture is a „hit with the kids“ these days, something cool and hip. Adult Education Centres (Volkshochschule in German, so I’ll use the abbreviation VHS) on the other hand have an image of being outdated and  lame. So how do these two things go together? Actually quite well.

Already in 1992, as part of the Mülheim horticultural show, the VHS Bio-Garden was established. They propably  wouldn’t call it urban agriculture but this is what they are doing. The garden comprises an area of 2500 sqm and is divided into several areas for example vegetables, herbs and wildflowers.

In addition the VHS offers several information courses. Every week people can work in the garden and are thereby educated on the methods of gardening and the interdependencies of wildflowers and animals and their importance for biodiversity. On sundays people can visit the garden and ask the staff all they want to know related to gardening for example on composting, green roofs or nesting boxes. A market where people can trade their own seeds and plants will take place this weekend. All this is free of charge.

Practical information on how to build and foster gardens is provided on their website and a brochure on „100 medicinal and spice plants“ was published last year as well.

If you should be in Mülheim, here is how you find the garden:

One Great City – Community Gardening in Winnipeg

Mai 1, 2011
(c) emples

(c) emples

The City of Winnipeg, Canada actively supports the development of community gardens. Community gardens are defined as: “an open space that a group of citizens voluntarily manage where horticultural activities are practiced“. They have adopted this policy to foster healthy communities and the improvement of the quality of life, e.g. through lower crime rates, food security and neighborhood stabilization and want the people to actively engage to participate in the future development of the city.

The city provides the community groups with suitable plots and groups can apply for them. This works like a project application. The group has to prove the endorsement by the community and develop a site plan. The application has then to be submitted and if the group is successful they can sign a lease agreement.

Individual garden plots are available as well and can be rented for a seasonal seasonal fee. The permits have to be renewed every year and it is encouraged that excess produce is donated to local food banks or community kitchens.

I think this is pretty remarkable. You can find out more here.

Garbage People – „Recycling“ Systems in Cairo.

April 29, 2011
(C) Shawn Baldwin

(C) Shawn Baldwin

Even though Cairo has more than 8 million inhabitants it still lacks a proper garbage disposal system. Therefore waste disposal has become a job of the informal sector. This is how „Garbage City“  came into existence. Its inhabitants (known as „Zabbaleen“) gather the waste of the richer quarters for a fee and bring it to Garbage City. Up to nine thousand tons of garbage are generated there. As much as possible is recycled. Allegedly up to 90%, which is immense compared to 30% in some western cities. The Zabbaleen have invested heavily in the technology and infrastructure to achieve this efficiency. Plastic bottles are sold and other materials are use for handmade craft. Organic wastes used to be fed to pigs but due to fear of the swine flu the authorities ordered the culling of all pigs in April 2009, depriving the garbage gatherers of a major income source.

Even a local NGO exists to support the Zabbaleen. The organization runs a school and a micro-credit scheme exists here as well. A US-NGO, Solar Cities, chose the Garbage City to experiment with clean energy technologies: solar water panels and biogas systems adapted to the local circumstances are set up to improve the livelihood of the inhabitants.

I couldn’t find much information on the internet that goes beyond what I wrote. There is an interesting article in the German magazine Enorm and two documentaries have been produced, but nonetheless it would be interesting to learn more about how the garbage people make a living off the garbage they collect as this could be an approach worthwhile to be transferred to other cities.

The Inaugural Blog Entry: Urban Agriculture in Estonia I

April 28, 2011
Urban Agriculture doesn’t have to focus on growing vegetables in an urban environment but can be useful to create awareness for general environmental pollution in cities.  In 2008 the organisation Linnalabor  carried out such an public experiment. What they did was to grow edible plants next to two main traffic arteries of the capital Tallinn. After growing the plants they tested them for pollution levels. The results showed that for example the lead levels were three times higher than allowed. Even if more experiments with different designs would be necessary to obtain robust results, this experiment gives a first indication and lead them to the rhetorical question: „If we are afraid to grow edible plants in cities because of the pollution, why do we agree to live in such unhealthy environment?“
One of the outputs of the project was the brochure below. One page 108 you can find a short summary in English.
Please click here for the brochure.
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