The Green Smackdown: Growing Up

Twice-worn socks and vertical farming

| | Vertical farm design by Chris Jacobs|

Truth time: The weekend has come and gone, and I've yet to make good on last week's promises to swap out my incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents. I still can't find CF bulbs that work with dimmer switches. (Hit me with suggestions, folks.) As an alternative, I'm skimping on electricity, keeping the lights on low or off altogether. Let it be known that I enjoy reading in bed with a camouflage Petzel LED headlamp in lieu of bedside lighting. The white light is easier on the eyes, and the whole effect is rather cozy. It feels like camping, except without the funky tent smell.

Speaking of funky smells, last week's carbon-reducing efforts also included wearing a pair of socks twice—the average washing machine consumes about 40 gallons of water per load, the energy equivalent of leaving the fridge door open for an entire day—and I reduced the number of times I ran the dishwasher from four to two times during the week. Humble measures, to be sure, but like MegaCarbon Emitter says, it's about making sustainable lifestyle changes. On that score, I applaud MCE's efforts to ease off the meats. We all know that raising livestock is tough on the planet. But sadly, so is raising sweet little crunchy vegetables. Industrial farming is particularly brutal, using 939 million pounds of pesticides each year and consuming 70 percent of our annual freshwater supply. (You can learn more about the hazards of agriculture at oxfamamerica.org.) For those reasons among others, I'm particularly intrigued by a concept recently featured in New York magazine known as vertical farming: basically, a giant skyscraping hothouse. Its chief proponent, Columbia University microbiologist Dickson Despommier, says that a 58-floor "farm" building with eight million square feet of growing area built on 140,000 square feet of land, can produce the same amount of food as 1.6 square miles of traditional farmland—enough to feed 35,000 people year-round. If these statistics hold true, vertical farms may be all but mandatory come 2050, when the number of humans roaming the planet will increase by three billion and more than 90 percent of the world's population will reside in cities. Imagine the resources saved if the majority of those people ate local produce? Which brings me to this week's carbon-reducing goal: to eat locally. And by that I don't mean ordering from Bo Bo's Chinese takeout two blocks from my apartment, as tempting as that is. No, it means shopping for produce grown within 250 miles of me. Or, more likely, skipping the vegetables altogether. —Nicole Dyer