Growing Interest in Community Gardens

You don't have to be a homeowner with a yard to experience the joys of growing your own tomatoes. Urban community gardens are popping up everywhere, allowing city dwellers to grow their own food, and empowering low-income communities to control what goes on their plates. We dig into community gardening with Norma Anderson, who sits on the board of the Fox Point Community Garden in Providence; Steve Sheekey, volunteer coordinator at the GrowUp! Community Garden in Woonsocket, R.I., and Wendy Pires, garden coordinator at the GrowUp! Community Garden.

Will Providence Grow Smart?

When Providence relocated I-195 to the south of the city, it opened up new land — formerly occupied by the highway — to redevelopment. The new land, called "The Link," has become prime downtown real estate and a battleground for smart-growth proponents. ecoRI News reporter Tim Faulkner talks to Jonathan Harris, design expert and transportation chair of the Rhode Island Sierra Club, and Jan Brodieexecutive director of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission.

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Rhode Island's Road Map to Sustainability

Rhode Island is undergoing a major demographic shift. A growing population is putting significant pressure on the state's urban centers and open space. The state’s ambitious RhodeMap RI project meets the challenges of this transformation by creating a blueprint for housing, transportation, social equality, climate change and the economy. Planners want Rhode Islanders to drive this process. ecoRI News talks to Kevin Flynn, associate director of planning for the Rhode Island Division of Planning; Melanie Army, supervising planner for the Rhode Island Division of Statewide Planning; and Sandra Cano, business and community development officer for Navigant Credit Union. Listen in to learn how and why you should participate in creating a road map to Rhode Island's future.

The Race to Divest from Fossil Fuels

The Fossil Fuel Divestment movement is gathering steam at Rhode Island colleges and universities. Activists enjoyed a recent success when Providence became the first capital city to agree to divest from fossil fuels. ecoRI News sat down to talk with three Rhode Island activists: Peter Nightingale, a University of Rhode Island physics professor; Colleen Smith, a URI graduate; and Marcel Bertsch-Gout, a Brown University student-activist. We asked about the current status of the movement and whether they think their efforts could help create a global shift away from fossil fuels.

Recycle Your Old Gym Socks (and more)

There’s more to those parking-lot collection bins than pleas for clothes and books; they’re part of a billion-dollar global textile industry. Most are legit; some are just making a buck. But that doesn’t mean they should be avoided. The bins are making money for nonprofits and getting clothes reused, recycled and retailored all over the world. So throw it all in there: socks with holes, old underwear, stuffed animals — any household textile. The Blab Lab talks to two area textile recycling experts, Kevin Fisette of Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island and Larry Groipen of ERC Wiping Products.

Farmers Markets Growing ... Too Fast?

Rhode Island has seen an explosion in the number of farmers markets — from just 15 in 2004, the number has grown to 55 this year. The markets connect farmers to customers and stimulate the local economy, but are there too many markets? Is their growth sustainable? ecoRI News speaks with Bevan Linsley, market manager for the Aquidneck Growers' Market and Coastal Growers' Market, and Sarah Lester, markets coordinator for Farm Fresh Rhode Island.

Is Providence Biking Toward a Better Future?

It took Portland, Ore., 30 years to become the biking mecca it is today. What about Providence? With the city's bike master plan set to roll out in June, are we on our way to Biketopia? Some have criticized the plan for being too cautious. But other longtime bikers see a glimmer of hope for the future of biking in Providence. ecoRI News spoke with Jack Madden, owner of Legend Bicycle in Providence, James Kennedy, biker and blogger for Transport Providence, and Eric Weis, trail program coordinator for the East Coast Greenway Alliance and member of Providence's Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Commission.

Should GMOs Be Labeled?

GMO food is on the rise — nearly 90 percent of the food sold in U.S. groceries is genetically engineered. Should consumers have a right to know if their food has been engineered? In California, voters turned down a referendum that would have required companies to label GMOs. Now Rhode Island is looking at similar legislation. ecoRI News talks withAl Bettencourt, executive director of the Rhode Island Farm Bureau, and Amanda Freitas, interim policy coordinator the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA/RI), about the pros and cons of GMOs.

Compost Happens, But Will It Happen in R.I.?

With space in Rhode Island's Central Landfill shrinking and with odor complaints on the rise, finding a way to compost the state's food scrap seems like a no-brainer. What are the hurdles to getting a small- or large-scale composting initiative up and running? ecoRI News talks to Providence's director of sustainability Sheila Dormody and the Environment Council of Rhode Island's Greg Gerritt about the movement afoot to allow Rhode Island's food scraps to rot in peace.

Which Way Will Wind Blow R.I.'s Plastic Bags?

Plastic bags. They're fast, cheap and out of control. If not disposed of properly, they blow — get caught in trees, clog storm drains or wind up in the bay. Should Rhode Island ban plastic bags outright as Barrington did? Sarah Kite, director of recycling services at the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, argues that boosting bag recycling is the way to go. But Channing Jones of Environment Rhode Island wants to see a statewide ban. Which way will the wind blow on Rhode Island's plastic bags?