One of the most straight-forward ways to combat climate change, food insecurity, joblessness, and community fragmentation is to convert all those wide open lawns and wasted public spaces that exist throughout our communities into Productive Urban Landscapes (PULs).
A PUL is a space that uses ecologically-sound, permaculture principles to stack functions & produce a variety of benefits for multiple community stakeholders. For instance, a small bed near a community library filled with shrubs and box hedges, while relatively easy to maintain, is an ecologically dead space. While we spend money and time to maintain them, we get little to nothing in return.
Instead, Roots Down believes in planting a few varieties of fruit bushes, a fruiting tree, and a sprinkling of pollinator plants. While the installation and initial maintenance is greater than box hedges, the community gets a significant return on that investment. This space now provides a locally-sourced snack for underprivileged members of the community (who already rely on libraries for internet, information, and shelter), while creating a cozy microhabitat for a variety of species of insects. Over time, these spaces will also require less maintenance except to harvest the fruits of our labor.
There are so many locations that could use a PUL, from front lawns to schoolyards, but we are especially excited about libraries. For starters, libraries offer free learning opportunities for anyone in the community. PULs expand those offerings by increasing the number of species on the property -- from plants to insects to birds. Not only can you harvest fruit while listening to a songbird, you can head straight inside to learn about the health benefits of the fruit and the migratory patterns of the birds.
While it may not seem like a direct correlation, libraries also improve the overall health and wellness of the surrounding community. According to a study by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, 59% of libraries help patrons find health insurance resources and 23% provide free fitness classes.
Lastly, libraries are the permaculture of buildings because they stack so many functions. Where else can you study for an exam, learn a new language, find health insurance, access the internet, or host a community meeting? It makes perfect sense to add PULs to libraries to round out the full suite of offerings that already exist. With more demand for safe, outdoor activities, PULs are the perfect companion to public libraries.