We connected with Marcela Moreno, the Green Champion in the Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory in the Strategic Energy Institute. They used their Work Green grant to fund a raised bed garden in their parking lot and to create a composting system. Raised bed gardening, or container gardening, is an urban style of gardening that continues to rise in popularity. This way of gardening allows for gardening in small areas that may or may not even have a patch of land to garden. Additionally, container gardening often leads to higher plant yields and are easier to maintain than traditional gardens. Composting transforms bio-degradable trash into nutrient-rich dirt (which can go right back into the garden). Marcela shared that she began the garden because she saw it as a way of taking the Work Green initiatives further. She believes that if people are not adopting practices, then the sustainability initiative will not stick with people.
The garden at the Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions Lab is a thriving success that has had a positive reception and affects both the office and others. The garden has provided a connection to the graduate students in her area who appreciate the free food. It has transformed the view of the outside area and has provided an attractive and pleasant gathering space. The garden has provided a great opportunity for team work. The entire office works together to maintain the garden, and they problem solve together when problems arise that negatively impact the plants. It has also grown community within the office—when there are large harvests of particular vegetables, group emails go round with cooking suggestions. Marcela and her fellow staff even had a garden party, where party snacks came from what was grown in the garden!
Marcela shared that in the beginning finding the funds for the project was the hardest part of the project, and that is where the Work Green grant came into play. An additional concern that was raised when initially planning the garden was ownership. Who would take care of the garden? Who would sift the compost? Marcela and her office were delighted to see that ownership came naturally to the group, and this was further augmented by having multiple people responsible for the garden and compost care.
For now, Marcela and her teammates are maintaining the garden and continuing to enjoy the fresh herbs and vegetables. At the end of the season they will pull all the remaining stalks and leaves and compost them to make way for a fall garden. They are brain-storming ways the garden can be expanded, as well as identifying different gardening methods to use in the future. Thank you Marcela for taking the time to meet with us, and we look forward to seeing how the garden continues to grow!
Additional source of info about raised bed gardening:
Additional garden images: