New York’s rooftop farms provide fresh local produce – and help stop a sewage problem

New York_

(Oliver Niblett, Unsplas

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Douglas Broom, Senior Writer, Formative Content


High above the streets of New York, more than 36 tonnes of organic vegetables are grown every year. And the farms that produce them aren’t just feeding residents – they’re helping to stop sewage polluting the city’s rivers too.

Covering a total of 2.3 hectares (5.6 acres), the farms sit on top of three historic industrial buildings. Their soil is just 25 cm (10 inches) deep, but it absorbs millions of litres of rainfall each year – water that would otherwise flush straight into the city’s drains.

New York has long had a problem with what is known as Combined Sewer Overflow, where rainwater inundates water treatment plants causing the sewers to overflow directly into the Hudson and East River.

Sewer systems around New York can become overwhelmed during heavy rainfall.
Image: Open Sewer Atlas NYC

Growing business

The city has made progress in recent decades, spending $45 billion since the 1980s on wastewater treatment to reduce discharges into waterways. But with more than 70% of its area paved and upwards of 8 million residents, the problem still occurs when it rains heavily.

Brooklyn Grange, which operates the three rooftop sites, built its first farm in 2010. It broke even in its first year, moved into profit two years later and now employs 20 full-time and 60 seasonal staff.

Its founders believe commercial urban agriculture can help cities become cleaner and greener. And they measure their success against a “triple bottom line” – profit, the environment and impact on people.

Image: Brooklyn Grange

A buzzing project

Green roofs help urban areas reduce the heat that otherwise radiates on summer nights from conventional rooftops. That not only helps to make the city cooler in summer but also reduces the amount of energy needed to keep the buildings cool.

The rooftop farms use waste food to produce compost. Half their produce is sold to restaurants and they run two weekly markets and deliver locally through a community-supported agriculture scheme, which connects farmers directly to consumers. They are home to 40 beehives, too.

The farms have so far hosted 50,000 young people on educational visits to learn about sustainable city farming. They run public courses on everything from sustainable dye-making to making hot chilli sauces. They host yoga classes and even weddings.

The company has now expanded into designing and building mini farms and wild flower gardens for private clients across the city.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about the future of cities?

Cities represent humanity’s greatest achievements – and greatest challenges. From inequality to air pollution, poorly designed cities are feeling the strain as 68% of humanity is predicted to live in urban areas by 2050.

The World Economic Forum supports a number of projects designed to make cities cleaner, greener and more inclusive.

These include hosting the Global Future Council on Cities and Urbanization, which gathers bright ideas from around the world to inspire city leaders, and running the Future of Urban Development and Services initiative. The latter focuses on how themes such as the circular economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be harnessed to create better cities.

Almost 70% of the global population is predicted to live in cities by 2050. And while cities drive the global economy, they are also responsible for three-quarters of global CO2 emissions.

So projects like these will become ever more important, according to the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Cities and Urbanization, if urban areas are to meet targets such as those set out in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Preparing medical students being digitally as well as socially responsible

Leveraging digital for high quality internships

Heard about deepfakes? Don’t panic. Prepare

New UN bullying report calls for ‘safe, inclusive’ schools for all children

2nd Global Consultation on Migrant Health 21-23 February 2017 in Sri Lanka

New Disability Inclusion Strategy is ‘transformative change we need’, says Guterres

Using CO2 as an industrial feedstock could change the world. Here’s how

This is the world’s greenest football club – and you’ve probably never even heard of it

Amazon, a pair of shoes and my Data Privacy walks away

Finland has a new eco-fashion line – clothes made from trees

UN News Daily #UNGA Guide: Mandela Peace Summit, Global Goals, Youth and Yemen

South Sudan ‘revitalized’ peace deal must be inclusive, Security Council hears

Agreement on EU funding for cross-border projects

Solidarity needed to overcome ‘isolated’ attacks on Venezuela refugees, migrants

Fair Taxation: EU updates list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions

Will COVID-19 usher in a new culture of outdoor living and dining?

This Central Asian lake is a stark reminder of the impact we have on the planet

The EU has to prove it can remain one piece

“An open China brings opportunities to Europe”, a Sting Exclusive by China’s Ambassador to EU

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Guterres calls for restraint in Venezuela, Jazz Day, the importance of breastfeeding, and updates from Libya, Iran and Mozambique

Big data is coming to agriculture. Farmers must set its course

This is how to achieve a clean economic recovery that combats organized crime

How climate change can be addressed through executive compensation

Colombia: ‘Significant strides’ towards integrated peace, UN envoy tells Security Council

The reverberation of permanent multiprofessional education in combating antimicrobial resistance: future generation prognostic change

Cross-roads

Trailing the US-EU economic confrontation

South Africa’s SMEs should be first in line for a digital upgrade

African continent ‘an example of solidarity’ towards migrants and refugees: UN chief

Carbon neutrality and funds for EU programmes are EP priorities for EU summit

Here’s what happened when a charity gave $1,000 each to poor households in Kenya

EU mobilises €21 million to support Palestine refugees via the UN Relief and Works Agency

Service and Sacrifice: For Ghana, UN peacekeeping is a ‘noble opportunity to serve humanity’

NATO summit, Brussels, 11-12/07/2018

Trump to run America to the tune of his business affairs

Colombia: Rights experts condemn killing of reintegrated former rebel fighter, call for respect of peace process

The Italian ‘no’ and France’s Fillon to reshape Europe; Paris moves closer to Berlin

Syria’s groundbreaking constitutional talks: ‘a clear success of mediation’ says Guterres in Turkey

Strong multilateral institutions key to tackling world’s dramatic challenges, UN chief says In Moscow

How the digital economy is shaping a new Bangladesh

Will technology connect or divide us? The challenge for leaders in Globalization 4.0

COP25 climate talks: What just happened, and what lies ahead?

In Yemen, Special Envoy sees UN role in preserving ‘essential’ aid pipeline at country’s major port

Colombia is a Latin American success story, but must pursue new reforms to achieve stronger and more inclusive growth

UN chief ‘following very closely’ reports of chemical weapons use in Syria’s Aleppo

France is bringing back national service

4 ways to keep the momentum rolling on mental health

We must treat cybersecurity as a public good. Here’s why

Statement on the Code of Practice against disinformation: Commission asks online platforms to provide more details on progress made

As Libya talks resume in Geneva, UN negotiator seeks to overcome sticking points

AI can help us unlock the world’s most complex operating system – the human body

How to make later life happy, healthy and meaningful

One more country to test the EU project: Kaczynski’s Poland

China is among the 20 most innovative economies for the first time

To save biodiversity, MEPs call for binding targets at global and EU level

Tributes for ‘role model’ former UN refugee agency chief, Sadako Ogata

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of Raytheon by UTC, subject to conditions

Financing economic recovery, written by United Nations Under-Secretary-General

French full-body veil ban, violated women’s freedom of religion: UN Human Rights Committee

The costs of corruption: values, economic development under assault, trillions lost, says Guterres

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s