Coming to a rooftop near you - the urban growing revolution

Published: 3 Oct 2014

Could London, New York and other cities be self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables? Yes, writes Rachel Dring, by converting wasted roof space into gardens and greenhouses. Benefits include reducing waste; raising energy efficiency, sustainability and food security; and healthier, more connected citizens. 
When Tiana Begum and her two teenagers moved into their new home in a 1970's council flat in West London, the landlord didn't just hand over the keys. 
He also gave them the pamphlet for their local veg-box scheme, which delivers fresh produce grown in the rooftop greenhouse above their heads. 
"That's not food miles", Tiana exclaimed, "that's food metres!" 
They get a discount when they volunteer a few hours a week with growing and distributing the food. Tiana also soon discovered their energy bills are 40% cheaper due to the insulating effect of the greenhouse. 
These benefits come with some rules - you must separate your food waste from the rest of your household waste. This is collected weekly and converted to compost for the greenhouse via local anaerobic digesters. 
You also have to share the elevators with the farmers, so lifts littered with leaves or a roll cage full of produce are a regular occurrence. When there's a glut, Tiana helps convert the surplus crops into chutneys and preserves, which she sells online, in the in-house community kitchen. 
Her children are also getting involved. Her daughter, Thameda, who's finishing school soon, has been offered a paid apprenticeship as a horticultural trainee at the greenhouse. 
Her 14-year-old son, Amit, who never used to be keen on eating his greens has changed his tune since helping out with the growing and harvesting: 
"These vegetables actually taste of something. Vegetables used to be so bland but the ones they grow upstairs have so much flavour." 
Courtesy of the Ecologist. For more information please visit their website here. 

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