Greening the Suburbs

Fifty-five percent of Americans live in suburbs. That is not going to change in the near future. For that reason, suburbs in the United States are fertile places to reduce our carbon foot print and perhaps improve the quality of life at the same time. 

Suburban lot sizes typically range from one-quarter acre (10,890 sq. ft.) to one acre (43,560 sq. ft.).  Houses plus driveways usually cover 2,500 to 6,000 square feet, leaving 8,400 to 38,560 sq. ft. of land per lot. This land usually produces carpet grass, often with high uses of chemicals and fuel. 

The Suburban Micro-Farm: Modern Solutions for Busy People by Amy Stross is but one of a plethora of books and websites about growing part of our own food on our suburban lots. 

Rainwater catchment systems In the past several decades water has generally been available and rather inexpensive. As Earth's climate becomes hotter that will change. The southwestern United States has been in drought conditions for more than 20 years, with no end in sight. The Colorado River's flow is greatly diminished and communities it serves are running out of water.  

We have relied on large scale projects including dams, canals, and pipelines to make water available. However, most of the sites for dams have been developed and it is likely that we will not be able to afford such massive public works projects in the future. 

Rainwater collection can help us decrease use of surface and groundwater. 

Solar panels can supply substantial amounts of household needs, thus reducing the necessity to increase power generation by fossil fuels or nuclear power. 

These solar panels provide an annual average of 84% of electrical energy for this 3,000 sq. ft. house in Texas. That includes air conditioning and water heater, but does not include interior heating, which is minimal. 

Keyhole gardens were originally developed in Africa. They have proven to have so many advantages that we have dedicated a special section of this website to them. Click here for more information. 

How might greening the suburbs improve the quality of our lives there?

While there is no guarantee this could happen, the things above are related to quality of life.

A family garden provides work opportunities, but what kid wants to work in a garden?  Perhaps they do and don't know it. 

In 1960 Paul Goodman published Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized Society in which he presented the case that youth in modern societies, especially males, have no social purpose until they graduate from school, and even college and graduate school. Their only tasks are to stay in school and out of trouble, neither of which is very compelling. 

Having tangible work to do may be compelling. It is even possible that a young person could have their own garden plots and also raise chickens, so they could sell vegetables and eggs. Consider this in the context that it's likely that our post-pandemic economy will probably not be as affluent as we have experienced for decades. 

While working in the garden may be a little far-fetched, it is fairly possible that carpooling could reduce the need for multiple vehicles, thus reducing family costs and making money available for other things.