A community garden in Paris' 14th arrondissement. All Photos: Alex Davies
Paris just wrapped up its Week of Sustainable Development, a showcase of the City's myriad efforts to promote green thinking, from renewable energy to pedestrian and cyclist-friendly policies. Paris has also made a big push to green its already-green spaces: its parks and gardens. With 82 parks designated for "ecological management" and about 60 community gardens, Parisians are growing their own food and enjoying life in open spaces that are not only more sustainable, but more natural.
The park at the Square Auguste-Renoir, one of 82 "ecologically managed" parks in Paris.
The 82 "ecologically managed" parks were designated as such in 2009, and benefit from efforts to reduce the use of chemical treatments as well as of water and energy for their maintenance. An independent agency will monitor all 82 for soil quality, biological diversity, management of waste, and the behavior of park visitors, among a variety of other criteria.
On an "ecological tour" of the 14th arrondissement, I was told that much of the work consisted of getting locals on board. For example, visitors to the park at the Square Auguste-Renoir were at first unhappy about the idea of putting dead leaves back under live plants, seeing it as a messy solution; in the past the leaves were carted away. But the arguments for the benefits natural composting eventually won them over. Conversations like this one have been happening all over Paris for the last three years, and the sustainability movement is gaining a lot of ground.
The City has also been promoting the development of community gardens, saying on its website: "A community garden facilities relations between the different places in the life of the arrondissement: schools, retirement homes, hospitals, etc." Providing detailed guide to how to start a shared garden, Paris has seen a boom, including one garden on the roof of a brand new gymnasium in the 20th (check out the pictures here.)
That same ecological tour included a visit to a local garden, whose produce is sold on weekends; the funds go back into the organization running the garden. All are encouraged to join in- the plant beds are even raised up off the ground to make participation for seniors and the physically disabled easier.
As I see it, these efforts that happen at the local level and don't just involve but depend on the community are the most impressive of Paris' sustainable development program. There are no renderings of cool buildings and river banks to ogle, just pictures and stories of communities that come together to enjoy the outdoors and benefits of home-grown food, and make sure their children can, too.
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More on urban gardening:
Urban Gardens, Farms, Bees and Chickens are All Growing Community (Video)
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The Bronx's Urban Farm is a Community Effort