Earth Day 2014: 10 groups working for greener cities

Earth Day is an opportunity to highlight solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges. This year, the focus of Earth Day this year is urban revitalization through greener cities, and many organizations across the globe are working toward that goal. 

William DeShazer/AP/File
Karyl Buddington, Director of Animal Care, releases a monarch butterfly during the Earth Day celebration at the Tigrus Garden on the University of Memphis campus in Memphis, Tenn. Thursday, April 17, 2014.

April 22 is Earth Day—an annual celebration of the planet’s biodiversity and an important opportunity to highlight solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges. Through more than one billion pledges to buy local produce, start composting, eat less meat, reduce energy consumption, and many other actions, the Earth Day Network is creating an international movement to protect the plant and secure a sustainable and healthy future for all.

The focus of Earth Day this year is urban revitalization through the theme of Green Cities. According to the United Nations, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities and by 2050 some 6.3 billion people will be living in urban areas. In addition, there are at least one billion urban farmers and gardeners around the world, providing food and nutrition to poor and wealthy consumers alike.

And urban agriculture produces more than just food—food forests, gardens on rooftops, backyards, balconies, and city parks create green spaces for gardeners and eaters to gather, talk, and eat!

There are countless individuals and organizations across the globe working to promote urban agriculture and encourage investment in growing cities:

  • The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) organizes and hosts forums and events furthering positive and healthy nutrition practices that are sustainable for the planet. Additionally, BCFN produces publications encouraging responsible food choices on a personal level, such as the Double Pyramid which highlights diets that are conscious of human bodies and the planet.
  • Bioversity International conducts research on development options in regards to expanding, improving, and supporting agricultural and forest biodiversity. With increased biodiversity, food and agricultural systems can become more productive, efficient, and robust.
  • The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) hosts Food Day, a year long venture culminating on October 24th and advocating for Americans to “Eat Real,” through education efforts, community festivals, and infrastructure adjustments aimed at improving diets, whole foods, and fixing the modern food system.
  • Growing Power, Inc., was founded by former professional basketball player and one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people, Will Allen. Growing Power works to secure sustainable, affordable, and healthy foods for communities around the U.S.
  • La Via Campesina, the international peasant’s movement, amplifies farmers’ voices around the world and protects food sovereignty by creating sustainable food communities and agricultural models.
  • Mazingira Institute is an independent research and development organization based in Nairobi, Kenya. Its founder, Diana Lee Smith carried out the first survey of urban agriculture in Kenya in 1985 and has more 20 years of experience in research, policy, and advocacy work on urban poverty, gender, development, and environment issues. She recently highlighted work her at the Food Security, Agriculture and Livestock Forum and strives to improve urban farming in Nairobi.
  • Oakland Institute is an independent think tank serving as a center of information, knowledge, and problem solving for pressing environmental and agricultural issues the planet faces today.
  • RUAF Foundation (Resource Centers on Urban Agriculture and Food Security) is a global network working towards improving sustainability and policy options to optimize modern urban life. RUAF’s work focuses on core ideas including; productive reuse of waste and wastewaters, city adaptation to climate change, food security and social inclusion, short food chains and local economy, and planning resilient urban food systems.
  • Slow Food International has a vision of local, community-oriented food away from the world’s industrial agricultural model. Slow Food hosts workshops and provides educational models of urban, small-scale agriculture and farming.
  • The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Save Food Initiative, a global project on food loss and waste reduction, operates on four core tenets: awareness raising and collaboration efforts working to lessen food loss and waste reduction, policy, strategy, and program development through field studies, and support to investment programs and projects in both the public and private sectors.

I would love more suggestions about organizations you would like us to feature on Food Tank. Email me anytime at!

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