Sunflowers bring hope – and possible eco-benefits – to New Orleans

By

  • close
    Annual sunflowers are cheerful plants that are liked by people and birds. The seeds can also be turned into biofuel.
    View Caption

Talk about multitasking -- sunflowers planted on previously blighted vacant lots are providing not just beauty, but it's hoped that they will also be able to remove contaminants from the soil and provide green jobs, plus – as a bonus – the seeds can be harvested and turned into environmentally friendly biofuel.

That's a pretty big order even for such a large plant. But projects planting sunflowers in vacant lots are already under way in New Orleans and Pittsburgh. And expansion to Cleveland may be next.

So far, the nonprofit group that's behind all this, GTECH, has partnered with a number of organizations – including Carnegie Mellon University. Their goals: reclaim vacant land, empower communities, and translate ideas into action.

Recommended: Culture and Science

Will Bradshaw of Green Coast Enterprise, a partner with GTECH in New Orleans' Project Sprout, told Living on Earth that sunflowers were chosen specifically for the project becauset they "create hope. People have a direction connection to them," he said. They remember their grandmothers or other relatives growing sunflowers. And they signal a brighter future.

Scientists aren't necessarily agreed on whether sunflowers can remove lead or other contaminants from soil, so turning sunflower seeds into biofuel seems the most promising green possibility.

But that's not the whole point of the project. "There's a real possibility," Mr. Bradshaw told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "to help people envision their neighborhood and their spaces in new ways."

And that's a good argument for those who would like to see the sunflower considered for the national flower, as we discussed earlier this week.

Garden-related news:
Voting has opened to select America's favorite farmers' markets. Click here to read all about it and to vote.

Farmers help save songbirds

More Monitor gardening: The main Monitor gardening page. Our blog archive. Our RSS feed.

You may also want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. If you join the group (it's free), you can upload your garden photos (and possibly win a prize). Join the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions.

And finally, you can now follow us on Twitter.

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...