Sustainable Cities™

London: 2,012 vegetable gardens by 2012

A sustainable food initiative called Capital Growth has been encouraging Londoners to turn derelict land into vegetable gardens that will yield local, seasonal and organic food. Apart from offering healthy, affordable produce and absorbing some CO2 emissions from London’s transportation systems, these new thriving oases will make the city a greener, more pleasant place to live and will bring local communities together around a common goal.

Tomater i London, foto af Nick Saltmarsh, november 2008, Flickr Creative Commons

London of the UK will be the focus of the world's attention between July and September 2012, when the city will host the 30th of the International Olympic Games. The city has placed sustainability at the heart of its bid for the event and The London 2012 Sustainability Plan has been produced to illustrate how such a bid will be carried out on time. It is structured according to five priorities:
 climate change
, waste
, biodiversity
, inclusion
 and healthy living - all of which will be addressed throughout the Olympic construction period, during the Games, and in the future legacy the event will leave behind.

A huge determining factor of the London Olympics' sustainability will be how the city supplies food. The environmental and social effects of about 1.3 million construction worker meals and several meals for each of its expected 14 million attendees are clearly very significant. Also, a sustainable approach to food provision could have an immense long-term impact on local communities and could determine how food is produced in the future. It is for these reasons that one of the most distinctive initiatives in the category of 'healthy living' is a sustainable food strategy. Such a strategy will promote the production of food that is fresh, local, seasonal, organic, and derived more from plants than from animals.

Veg bunches, Photo by Nick Saltmarsh, August 2008, Flickr, Creative Commons

The government has established the Capital Growth project in order to encourage Londoners to create vegetable gardens from unused urban spaces, including schoolyards, nursing homes, disused railway yards, canal banks, housing estates, and, especially, flat rooftops on residential and commercial buildings. This is accomplished partly by offering monetary incentives, such as £1000 for each flat roof space converted into a garden. In order to be able to feed Olympians with locally grown produce, officials hope they can get 2,012 new local gardens prior to the Olympics in 2012.

It is estimated that there is about 100 km2 of flat roof space with the potential to grow food across the capital. The conversion of this roof area into garden space would not only supply local produce but it would also significantly reduce London's carbon footprint and provide community projects that promote self-sufficiency. The Capital Growth website organizes and matches up citizens who are willing to garden with plots of available land within the city and provides such citizens with tools and compost to get their project started.

Linking up currently unloved patches of land with people who want to discover the wonders of growing their own food....will make London a greener, more pleasant place to live while providing healthy and affordable food, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

As the most high-profile international event, the Olympic Games present a huge opportunity to demonstrate how cities can become more sustainable through simple incentives that enact large changes in citizen lifestyle. The transformation of London from a consumer to a producer will leave lasting impacts on its food security, citizen health, community cohesiveness, and international image. As part of The Sustainability Plan, Capital Crowth will aid people in reconnecting with the fruit and vegetables they eat in addition to improving the city air quality, cutting traffic congestion and carbon emissions associated with food transportation, and making London an overall greener place to live.


Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014