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Gardens Under glass

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Anna R Lee


By Vicky Poole

Gardens Under Glass is a project dedicated to urban agriculture and growing local foods in a former high-end shopping complex in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The complex resembles a giant greenhouse, making it a perfect fit – and a fine example of adaptive reuse. It was all too easy to see the complex as retail, but Gardens Under Glass looked beyond typecasting.

Food is grown using aquaponics and hydroponics, as well as conventional methods. These growing systems do not rely on soil, but instead on water – whether organically nourished with added nutrients or straight from fish waste, in aquariums that are part of the same vision .

Beyond local food, Gardens Under Glass hopes to become a regional center for green innovation. Here businesses can gain a competitive edge in our highly franchised market economy. Local and independent merchants with sustainable philosophies, products, and technologies can combine forces under one roof.

This, in turn, promotes a daring ideal – the self-sustaining city. A community need not depend solely on mega-corporate investment to be at the center of the economy. As an added bonus, small businesses promote a more stable economy through greater diversity.

The project’s Resource and Education Center opened its doors in September 2010. Its workshops, open to the public and local schools, cover cooking with seasonal and local produce, herbal healing and healthy diets, and growing food at home. They also show the importance of local river and stream habitats. They also focus on the three life-supporting components of the biosphere: air, land, and water.

These workshops show how we can change our buying habits – and so does the example set by the complex itself. It incorporates recycling and waste reduction, efficient energy use, cafés with food grown on site, rainwater retention, litter prevention, less energy-dependent landscaping, and composting. It was created almost exclusively with recycled materials donated or found right on site.

Gardens Under Glass can be a blueprint for cities across the country. It can be a catalyst for community connections, walkable cities, and local foods, products, and business. Most of all, it is about creating self-sustaining neighborhoods, with jobs for all. The choice is not “us OR the environment” : a healthier environment can ensure a healthy economy.

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