No matter what kind of landscape you have, there are labor costs to maintain it. Whether you’ve got a beautiful, edible food forest or acres and acres of grass, somebody has to get out there and prune tree limbs, clear invasive plants, or hop on a lawn mower and cut the grass. However, the type of landscape does impact what kind of job has to be done and whether that job is environmentally friendly or not.
Roots Down believes in the power of Productive Urban Landscapes to create better jobs and better community. Simply put, a field of grass that is mowed and sprayed with synthetic herbicides and pesticides is inaccessible to the community, potentially dangerous, and offers little to nothing in return. We’ve already seen numerous lawsuits against the makers of Round-up, a synthetic herbicide, for causing cancer. Additionally, lawn mowers are the leading cause of amputations for children in America. These jobs don’t require any community engagement or particular skills of any note, meaning they are often low wage jobs with little pathway to moving up. Plus, have you ever tried to eat grass?
On the other hand, a food forest does not require any synthetic chemicals or lawn mowers. The landscape creates food for humans, birds, bugs, and other neighbors on planet earth to enjoy. Maintaining them requires specific knowledge about different plant, animal, and fungal species, plus an ability to engage the community so they know how to support and benefit from the landscape. They have a significantly more positive impact on the community, the environment, and the labor force.
Here are the top 5 ways Roots Down creates Green Jobs.
Reducing Carbon Fueled Jobs
If you’re familiar at all with Roots Down, you’ll know one of our programs is the Grow, Don’t Mow network of edible and natural landscapers. Although we’re not totally against it, we definitely have an aversion to typical mow and blow landscaping services that use heavy machines fueled by gasoline and oil. By replacing purely grass based landscapes with different species that are native or edible, we create the first opening for green jobs that don’t rely on chemicals or lawnmowers.
Quick, what are five things you can learn from a field full of grass? Pretty tough question to answer. Now, think about a forest. What are five things you can learn from a forest? With so many species of bugs, birds, and plants in a forest, there are so many things to learn! Especially following the pandemic, people are looking for more and more ways to safely learn outdoors. Productive urban landscapes create significantly more opportunities for outdoor education than grass. Particularly during the summer months, they also provide shade that allow us to stay outside for longer. Can you imagine if your class was sitting outside on a field of grass during 90 degree weather? No thank you.
Community food programs
If you’ve read our blog about the tragedy of our food system, you’ll know the biggest issue is logistics and distribution. When food is grown so far away from the people who are consuming it, feeding people in need is a big challenge we often fail to meet. That’s even more true with fresh, healthy food. By growing as much food as we can in urban areas, we create new opportunities for green jobs to feed hungry people. When we have an abundance of local food, we’ll also need people to harvest, process, and distribute it. But instead of that being an international system that delivers unhealthy food fueled by oil, it’ll be a hyper local system that distributes fresh food straight from the tree.
Since Productive Urban Landscapes require some level of specialized knowledge about plants, animals, fungus, and the local community, there are numerous ways to create upward mobility within the paradigm of maintaining landscapes. Rather than something as simple and mowing and blowing, there are levels of knowledge and experience that workers can obtain in order to move up the job ladder. If we only have landscapes full of grass, there isn’t really any opportunity for upward mobility. Once you’ve mowed one landscape, you’ve pretty much mowed them all.
Value Added Producers
One apple tree produces an average of 160 pounds of fruit per year. That’s a lot of apples! The problem is, they all come at one time, and there’s pretty much zero chance that you can eat 160 pounds of apples in the 4-6 week period they are producing. That’s where value added producers come into play. That’s a technical term for anyone who takes a raw product and improves it, like turning lemons into lemonade. With fields full of grass, there’s pretty much no value to be added. Fruit, veggies and herbs create opportunities for jams, spice mixes, teas, oils, and, of course, pies. Don’t tell me you’re anti-pie, are you?
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