Guest post by Renee Garner
Words like hyperaccumulator and phytoremediation sound like something straight out of a 1960s Sci-Fi movie and hardly verbs describing gardens. But when the conceptual, and socially minded artist Mel Chin creates a garden, you get these lengthy words among others.
Mel Chin is a Texas born artist now living in North Carolina; and when he plants, he plants for good. In 1990 Chin began working with the United Stated Department of Agriculture’s senior scientist, Rufus Chaney, to plan, sculpt and garden Pig’s Eye Landfill in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Together they assessed hyperaccumulator plants, which absorb heavy metals through their root systems and store them during the growth process. The heavy metals in this case are zinc and cadmium, and the project is called “Revival Field”, not “Revive James Hetfield.” The ultimate transformation occurs through phytoremediation, or the transference of the metal laden dirt to ore quality metals (harvested through the plants for reuse) and revived, healthy soil.
The Minnesota test site lasted 3 years, and while the trial run was productive, the soil was still somewhat polluted, and not yet reusable. A second garden was planted in Palmerton, Pennsylvania and another has been installed in Stuttgart, Germany. Ongoing tests are run for productivity, as other plants are researched for affective levels of metal accumulation.
Apparently, Chin always knew the plants were up to something.
Guest post by Christina Radisauskas
Last week I went to a film and discussion series entited “Label Me Confused: What organic, free range, and all those other words really mean” at a local theater. Several organic farmers gathered to discuss the benefits of choosing to eat locally produced and/or organic foods rather than typical supermarket fare. It started with the showing of the film “My Father’s Garden,” a documentary about the perils of using chemical pesticides and fertilizers (50% of the top soil in the U.S. is just GONE!). Afterwards, a panel of local farmers discussed the processes of becoming certified as organic farmers, and what the labels on the food we buy really mean. Of most interest to me was the question of whether buying certified organic food was better than buying locally produced food. The average food item in the United States travels 1500 miles before reaching the dinner table! And many local farmers use sustainable and/or organic processes on their farms. Becoming certified is expensive and time-consuming, and a lot of small, local farmers just don’t do it.
Here are some links of interest-
Sustainabletable.org – A site addressing many issues of eating, living, and growing sustainably. The ‘shop’ page is helpful in finding conveniently located stores that sell locally produced food items.
eco-labels.com – A site devoted to clearing up what labels really mean.
Short articles addressing local vs. organic foods:
Guest post by Christina Radisauskas
I work at a university that has finally decided to develop a “sustainability initiative.” Because I am a librarian, I was asked to create a bibliography of resources to enhance our faculty’s understanding of the concept and how they might incorporate it into their departments’ curricula. While I worked on this project, it was difficult for me to keep from looking at all of the gardening-related sites that I kept finding. Of course, there are zillions, but one that I really liked, and have gone back to from time to time, is gardensimply.com. There is plenty to look at there, and it is written with the layperson in mind. The books section is lacking, unfortunately, but overall, I think it is a fun site with a lot of practical advice about things like building compost and worm bins, preparing a new garden, identifying your soil type, etc. My favorite page on this site has got to be the what-to-do-when-in-your-zone. Now, if only I could get myself to remind myself to look at it in time…
While I’m at it, here’s another few sites for wanna-be environmentalists. Ideal Bite is a down-to-earth site containing tips for “greener” living – from shampooing your rugs to using natural lubricants (shhh…) I get their Daily Tips in my email, and quite often I learn something new.
Eartheasy is another site that has tons of suggestions about where to buy natural clothing, how to conserve energy in the kitchen, how to give environmentally friendly gifts, etc. In case you are interested in digging a bit deeper, their suggested reading list is pretty good, too.
Taking the EcoFoot quiz to get an idea of how your lifestyle relates to the natural resources available is eye-opening. I’m embarrassed to say that according to my results, if everybody lived the way I do, we would need 4 earths to sustain us. Eek! I am a gluttonous pig!