Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Balcony Greening Jacksonville's Urban Core - Reversing Ecological Consumerism Trends

'Seeds of Green" efforts are beginning here in Jacksonville and Northeast, Florida as an effort to highlight important sustainability efforts no matter how large or small they are.

The inaugural post will feature the efforts of Michelle and Toi Chance-Sangthong of Jacksonville, Florida and I appreciate all the photos they have shared on Facebook - those you see here in this note.
Michelle & Toi's Balcony Garden, Urban Core Greening
Michelle and Toi live in an apartment with their balcony offering to best opportunity to garden.  Without plants, their apartment building is just another concrete structure in the Urban Core.

Michelle and Toi have grown and raised a number of plants on their quite small balconies.   Their example is what other apartment or condo dwellers should follow for several very important reasons.
Aloe, flowers and food plants line their balconies

We all know that grey concrete and black asphalt now cover what was once stretches of green in many cities.  With the loss of vertical and horizontal green, wildlife have suffered while habitat was paved over.

Plants growing in the Urban Core are vital for a number of reasons, including; clean air (they remove carbon dioxide and pump out fresh oxygen), carbon sequestration, stormwater attenuation and cleansing, wildlife and habitat creation, urban heat island reduction, wind breaks, stress reduction, food, beauty and so much more.
Urban Core greening, growing plants in small spaces

Though we might think that one balcony full of plants is a drop in the bucket, the cumulative effect of many inhabitants following Michelle's and Toi's example could make a profound difference in Urban Core environmental quality.

Looking at photos of their balcony I see food, flowers and important ethnobotanicals such as aloe.

Their intensive growing systems include micro irrigation techniques and containerized soil media units.
Michelle and Toi's milkweed, Asclepias curassavica

I've watch them post photos of different types of food they've raised, like cucumbers, on Facebook over the summer.

In many ways Michelle and Toi are becoming environmental producers rather than environmental consumers.  For instance, their balcony plants are replacing a significant portion of the oxygen they daily consume.  Some may say, "Hey, that isn't a big deal - the plants in our yard do that!"  However for apartment or condo dwellers in the Urban Core who do not have yards, their balcony plants can be the best way to offset eco-consumerism.
Urban Core Monarch caterpillars devouring Michelle's milkweed

Growing your own food saves energy too.  With the oil crises where it is, local food eliminates the need for long distance trucking of industrially grown produce, saving diesel and gasoline.  Some statistics show the average distance food on a family's evening dinner table exceeds two thousand miles.  Michelle's and Toi's average fifty feet or so.  Now I am sure all their food doesn't originate on the little balcony, yet their intent and efforts are what this world needs in creating a healthy and sustainable Urban Core.

Beyond the food are the butterflies.  Michelle and Toi grew Monarchs, unknowingly at first, across their balcony.  Michelle purchased a variety of milkweed, Asclepias curassavica from the nearby Ace Hardware store.  Soon her balcony was crawling, literally with Monarch larvae and caterpillars.
Monarch chrysalis on the balcony milkweeds

Michelle went back to the store to buy more milkweed as the caterpillars quickly devoured most of the millkweed leaves.

Michelle and Toi again were producing environmental gain for the Urban Core.
Thanks to Michelle and Toi, Monarchs find habitat in the Urban Core's concrete jungle

Michelle counted fourteen Monarch chrysalis with twelve surviving to ecolsion.

If just one hundred thousand others would follow Michelle's and Toi's example the world could boast of an addition one million four hundred thousand Monarch butterflies.

Little efforts add up.

'Seeds of Green' salutes Michelle and Toi's efforts in Urban Greening and hopes to see more over the years.

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