There is an increase of concerns over sustainability and environmentally con­scious decisions in American culture. We have a need to craft creative solutions to problems that our lifestyles bring to Earth and our local communities.

One solution that should be given more attention and resources is com­munity gardens — collectively owned small gardens that are harvested by and for the community. Community gardens, which are appearing all over the country, are a testament to the power of collective action and care.

The benefits of community gardens are numerous as they shine a light on an exciting future where people can take charge of their own health and bring their neighborhoods together. Com­munity gardens offer a place where a neighborhood can harvest fruits, veg­etables and plants that benefit the local ecosystem. These gardens can also im­prove air and soil quality, increase bio­diversity of plants within the area and offer nutritious plant produce to the local community members.

These gardens are especially useful in urban areas where there are his­torically lower-income populations. The gardens can help mitigate the impact of a food desert — the lack of healthy and accessible food options in a specific region. Gardens do this by making healthy foods more acces­sible to low-income populations.

Gardens also offer a way for com­munity members to participate in phys­ical activity, spend time outdoors and improve their quality of life. The health benefits alone are enough to convince anyone that community gardens are a great solution to environmental and com­munity injustice.

Community gardens are a way in which neighborhoods can form friend­ships, social networks and increase positive community membership. These spaces of community gathering also act as an educational tool to bring awareness of the Green Movement to children and urban populations.

The installation of community gar­dens can help reduce traffic emissions from grocery trips and, over time, create a system in which communities are healthier, more sustainable and more connected with one another. With climate change becoming an increasing pressure on the world and localities, we could look to commu­nity gardens as a grassroots effort to create eco-friendlier neighborhoods and educate more citizens about the importance of a healthy environment, healthy food, and the benefits of social gathering and collective action.

Tacoma is a host to many commu­nity gardens including the Barangay Tropical Park community garden, Swan Creek Park community garden, Proctor District community garden, Green Thumb community garden, Hilltop Ur­ban Garden and UW Tacoma’s very own Giving Garden.

UWT’s Giving Garden was an initia­tive by the environmental science pro­gram in urban gardening that began in 2009. All produce harvested from the garden is donated to the Good Neighbor Café in Tacoma to provide meals to the homeless and low-income families.

These gardens can be thought of as not only resources throughout Ta­coma, but as community efforts to mitigate adverse environmental and health impacts within Tacoma’s broad­er community. Community gardening is a great way to get one’s foot into the door of sustainable living and create healthier and happier communities across the country.

PHOTO BY SARAH SMITH
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Alyssa Tatro

Alyssa majors in urban studies and community development. She is interested in and concerned about issues in Tacoma that impact the community. She is obsessed with all things chocolate and piggies.

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