Community gardens are well known for providing a space for neighbors to grow low-cost, fresh fruits and vegetables. But beyond improving food access, community gardens are places to befriend your neighbors and practice teamwork, to learn and carry on our food cultures, and to enable people of all ages to explore nature in the middle of urban areas. They also provide the opportunity for people in marginalized groups to fully participate and to take on leadership roles. Ultimately, community gardens help empower all of us to organize and advocate for ourselves and for our communities.
This year, Green Mountain Energy Sun Club decided to honor the important role community gardens play in our lives by helping four nonprofit organizations with their sustainability projects. These projects will create opportunities that not only benefit the planet but also the people on this planet.
AWTY International School
AWTY International School encourages learning and the pursuit of excellence while maximizing the potential in all students as they grow to become responsible world citizens. A $135,000 donation from Sun Club will support the efforts of the school to raise responsible world citizens by thinking about where food comes from and how it is grown.
Two shipping containers were built at the school, each housing a farm. One is an aquaponics farm, which utilizes fish to provide a natural fertilizer for plants combined with soilless plant culture. And the second is a hydroponic farm, which utilizes 85 percent less water than traditional growing methods. These shipping containers are completely off the grid and carbon-neutral through the installation of a 14.4 kW solar array that powers the lighting, irrigation, and data collection needs of the farms.
The Betty and Jacob Friedman Holistic Garden and Sustainable Agriculture Project is a part of the Biosciences Department at Rice University and comprises 2/5 acre, nearly four times larger than previous Rice gardens combined. This teaching garden will be used to share gardening techniques with other nonprofits, community gardens and recreational gardeners.
Sun Club donated $77,050 toward the installation of a 20’x20’ greenhouse, rainwater collection system, solar power, composting system, apiary for two beehives, chicken project house and butterfly garden. These additional elements will further Rice University’s ability to demonstrate the positive impacts gardening has on the ecosystem at large.
Plant It Forward Farms
Plant It Forward Farms offers economically disadvantaged refugees an opportunity to become self-sufficient through growing, harvesting and selling produce from a sustainable urban farm within the city of Houston. It secures land, selects, trains, and mentors farmers, as well as establishes each on their own urban farm to sell under the Plant It Forward brand.
Sun Club provided $85,000 towards the readying of one new farm with multiple plots, which will make room for more farmers to join the program, and a new biodiesel refrigerated van that will be used to deliver farm shares to Houstonians.
Target Hunger’s mission is to alleviate hunger and its root causes with an overall vision that no Houstonian goes hungry. Since 1989, Target Hunger has grown to include six food pantries, an extensive senior delivery program, more than 50 community food fairs each year, mobile distributions, plus a community organic garden yielding 6,000 pounds of fresh produce annually.
Sun Club provided $93,800 for Target Hunger to build a new outdoor garden that will feed an additional 400 families annually. The grant went toward the purchase of 2,400 crates of soil and elevated racks, Super Hoop shade structures, two greenhouses and a rainwater collection system with smart sprinkler irrigation.
These are only a few of our Sun Club partners making a difference for our neighbors in Texas. Interested in advancing sustainability in our communities? Visit this link to help create a cleaner planet for us all through sustainability grants.