About Neighborhood Greening

Photo credit: Vicki Bonk

The environment is often viewed as something that’s “out there.”

The pond down the road. A state park. “Up North.” But what if we considered our yards a crucial, interconnected part of the environment? And what if the place where we live, combined with others’ yards, our community boulevards, parks, open spaces, schoolyards, businesses, organizations, and places of worship became, collectively, a well-functioning ecosystem? Could thoughtful environmental stewardship of the places where we live, shop, learn, work, worship, and play have an important impact on our streams, wetlands, lakes, and wildlife?

We think it would.

And that’s why Neighborhood Greening, a non-profit organization dedicated to environmental education and stewardship, was created. Neighborhood Greening’s hyper-local focus aims to harness the spirit of community to make small but impactful efforts that will make a greener neighborhood for both humans and wildlife.
How we roll up our communal sleeves can be used as a model for other neighborhoods across the region. The idea is to create Neighborhood Greening communities across the metro area—maybe even across the country. It’s a big undertaking, but one we believe is very much worth pursuing.

Why Pursue This Big Idea?

Consider this:

  • About 41% of the land in the U.S. in the lower 48 states is used for agriculture.
  • Around 54% of the rest of our land has been converted into suburbs and cities.
  • We have paved 4 million linear miles of roads in our country—not including parking lots, driveways, and other paved surfaces.
  • We have converted roughly 35 million acres of land to turf grass (that’s more than 8 times the size of New Jersey).
  • “… the consensus among landscape ecologists is that 3 to 5% of the land remains as undisturbed habitat for plants and animals.”

We’ve left surprisingly little space for wildlife to thrive.*

Because of this sweeping habitat loss across the country, our urban and suburban landscapes take on an importance that was not imperative in the past. Populated places are shifting to become the “new” wildlife refuge to make up for the losses elsewhere. Unfortunately, our designed landscapes are overwhelmingly filled with non-native, decorative vegetation. Many of the trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses growing in our neighborhoods are native to China or Europe, or other regions of the United State, but not Minnesota. Emerging research over the past decade continues to confirm that local wildlife needs local vegetation to thrive. What we have been planting hasn’t been as helpful to birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife as it could be. Our neighborhoods may look green, but they may not actually be green.

Never Doubt That a Small Group of Thoughtful, Committed Citizens Can Change the World.

Through our collective actions, we can make our neighborhoods highly functioning ecosystems. Community is a wonderful thing because there is so much we can do—together. Block by block. Neighborhood by neighborhood. Margaret Mead’s powerful idea, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” informs Neighborhood Greening’s approach to change-making.

Neighborhood Greening endeavors to be a community model to be celebrated and emulated so that we can proudly pass along our green spaces to the next generation. It is hoped Neighborhood Greening communities will be introduced throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Let the words spoken by a brave young South African boy who died at age 12 from HIV/AIDS inspire us all: “Do all you can, with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are.” We look forward to rolling up our communal sleeves with you.

* Statistics cited are from the book Bringing Nature Home, by Douglas Tallamy, Ph.D., [September, 2006]

The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect is published four times per year by Neighborhood Greening. In it, we spotlight our successes, examine small but impactful changes we can make to become better stewards of our local environment, tell our “green” stories, and show how environmental stewardship directly enriches our community, families, and lives. Sign up to be notified when new issues are published.