How do I love thee? Let me count the ways ...
There's been lot of love shown recently to the notion of cities being 'resilient,' 'good' … or just plain fabulous. Take, for example, The Rockefeller Foundation's well-known 100 Resilient Cities initiative, which offers support to cities attempting to become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges being faced today.
GOOD magazine also recently launched the Good Cities Project with Ford, where thought leaders are invited to pen open love letters to their favorite city. There's even the annual 'Good City Index,' which uses 8 metrics to identify cities transforming themselves through high levels of creative civic engagement, amongst other factors.
It's no wonder there's been so much focus on improving city life. According to Nielsen, urban population growth is set to outpace growth in the suburbs for the first time since the 1920s, reversing a decades-long trend to live and work in the suburbs. Driven in large part by Millennials moving to cities in droves, it's a clear choice to give up the car and commute in exchange for a walkable lifestyle. Naturally, a larger market has emerged for the consumption of goods and services targeted towards the urban dweller.
So how are brands responding to these trends?
Many large corporations have moved operations back to city centers to be closer to the younger, talented workforce — Yahoo!, Pinterest, United Airlines and Quicken Loans, to name a few. Companies are also rethinking their products and services to create greater appeal for the urban dweller, whether it be smaller, trendier, or more 'sharable'.
However, perhaps the real trick to winning over urbanites (especially the elusive Millennial consumer) is to help them master urban life. According to an article written by Bruce Katz and Greg Glark last year for Quartz digital news: "The rise of cities is changing what companies make, provide and sell. City-savvy corporations are inventing new products and processes to help cities grow in more sustainable and efficient ways and help city residents master urban life.”
Part of the plan for 'mastering urban life' might also include mastering the basics, such as growing your own food (not a bad idea since 'operating in sync with the natural world and not in opposition to it' happens to be one of the metrics used by the Good City Index).
Considering the drought plaguing California, food insecurity may become more of a reality than most people think. Many crops are produced almost exclusively in California — over 90 percent of artichokes, walnuts, kiwis, plums, celery, garlic and cauliflower for the entire nation. In view of the rapidly changing environment, eventually everyone may have to know how to grow some of their own food.
This is where The Urban Homesteader comes in — a unique startup project that teaches people how to turn their small urban space into a modern homestead. Through a web series, how-to materials and a skill-sharing platform, The Urban Homesteader shows urbanites how to produce their own food, whether it be on a patch of grass, a balcony or a window sill. The project also suggests innovative ways to conserve water and reduce energy consumption ... certainly all very necessary for drought-stricken California.
The project is being kicked off through an Indiegogo campaign, and is hoping to broaden the impact of grassroots urban sustainability efforts by teaching people basic homestead skills in a modern, entertaining style that is easy to understand. While the short-term goal is to launch San Francisco as the pilot city, the long-term goal is to be broadcast on PBS.
Taking a cue from Montreal, which landed near the top of last year's Good City Index, it would be ideal if more cities allowed their citizens to turn their backstreets into communal gardens. Support for The Urban Homesteader will help turn that into reality — arming urbanites with the skills they need to have more control of where their food comes from.
So click on the link to The Urban Homesteader's Indiegogo campaign, show some love, and help expand urban sustainability. Soon we'll all be able to say 'Je t'aime!' to all our beloved cities.