Building Repairs May Lower Crime Rates: Is this even a Question?

Here’s an article I came across that discusses the deeper roots about crime within communities with struggling and/or decaying buildings. I think there are many obvious reasons such as long-term poverty, lack of political priority, as well as public and mental health issues that all combine to help determine crime rates in a city or even further into distinct neighborhoods. It only makes sense when one stops to consider how our built and natural environments affect us that we can then start to make some connections between crime rates and decrepit buildings- to me this is obvious.

Homes that have been foreclosed upon and boarded up usually signal that the neighborhood needs help, and typically what comes with that are some urban problems that may be stereotypical but often sadly play out in the real world. Boarded up homes don’t look good to outsiders or those within that community- it’s a constant visual reminder of distress, which only brings on more stress to those that are directly affected by having to witness these homes everyday. Not to mention the activity that can go on in these abandoned buildings- criminal matter, stray animals or simply a dry place for the homeless to sleep in- these buildings can often be hubs for attracting nuisances.

In the article, it talks about an ordinance that Philly used requiring that all abandoned homes have working windows and doors if the neighborhood is 80% inhabited, and thus houses cannot be boarded up. Think about it- most of these homes were in working condition and at least livable before they were vacated, so what’s the point in boarding up perfectly good homes? Naturally, to prevent people from going in. But Philly has taken these steps in efforts to decrease the negative perceptions within communities that have seen vacant homes pop up through parts of neighborhoods. How one perceives where they live impacts their health and productivity, and I’m glad that at least one city is taking this into consideration. A quick search also led me to The Vacant Property Coalition of Detroit. Taken directly from their site:

Michigan Community Resources provides The Vacant Property Coalition of Detroit as a platform to unite diverse residents and neighborhood-based organizations across the city. We equip them with the knowledge, tools and resources to address community concerns related to vacant property through education, advocacy and community-driven problem solving.

I’m glad to see there are a few places out there attempting to do some systemic work towards this issue and I’m sure there are more out there. If you know of any organizations or ventures out there that are working towards keeping housing usable rather than boarding up neighborhoods, join the conversation!

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Garden Planner- A Resource for the Food Planner

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As a resourceful planner, I thought I would see if the Farmer’s Almanac had moved any of their brilliance online, as a way to share resources and farming techniques with others who may not buy the paper almanac. It turns out they did! I discovered on their site Garden Planner, an entire free 30-day resource that allows you to map out your garden space! You can your planning page for $25 for yearly access in order to make modifications to your garden, as well as make additional plans (the free trial only allows you to make one plan). This planner allows you to be realistic about your garden space and how it will be used up within every square foot

There are some tutorials on the main site, as well as a gallery where you can view published garden plans and even look up ones close to where you may live. Plant grow guides are available for most plants, and the site also allows you to add plants they may not have, and edit information about them to publish for future use. The plant varieties are customizable but most varieties are already on there, including organic and hybrid plants.

This site is extremely helpful because it provides a printout of when to sow your plants indoors, outdoors, and when to harvest them according to the month. It can even send you email reminders for when to sow if you allow it! I’m including my garden for a reference, but just want to say that as a visual learner and planner this site really helped to take my ideas and turn them into reality without the scariness of making the drawing accurate. Thank you Farmer’s Almanac Garden Planner!

Recycling Plastic Film Locations- A Resource for Simple Sustainability

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Recently I’ve been considering packaging and how that is a major part of buying anything from the grocery store, or any retail store for that matter. As one of my resolutions, I want to eliminate as much packaging and wasteful plastic use as possible. This is hard to do considering much of the food I buy is from Trader Joe’s- I love the store! However my major issue with them is how most of their produce comes already in plastic bags or cardboard and plastic-wrapped containers.

One of the ways to resolve this could be to shop at other holistic stores and local grocers or farmer’s markets to pick my own produce there, and bring my own bags. This is something I really enjoy and now many cities are offering winter markets, so you can have fresh seasonal produce all year long! I also have made plans to design my own garden (another hobby of mine) so that I can grow most of my food on a plot, instead of having to buy it-this will be in another post titled Garden Planner. Another way I realized I could help is by making sure I save all of the plastic packaging I get and bringing it to a site specifically made to recycle just these materials. In most single or two-stream town recycling programs, there is not a way for the plastic machines to handle the thin plastic sheets and bags that are leftover after we’re done with our products. The plastic is too thin and when it is mixed with the larger, harder plastics, it can actually get stuck in the processing machines and cause them to malfunction. However, more towns are finding ways to handle these plastic films often in the form of plastic shopping bags, Ziploc bags, and plastic packaging.

Recently I found the website PlasticFilmRecycling.org. Here you can find locations by your zip code to see where to drop off your plastic film leftovers. There is also information on what sorts of plastic are accepted, and then eventually what they will be recycled into! The plastics currently not accepted are the plastic bags for pre-washed lettuces and for frozen foods, along with compostable bags. However, there is still a ton of packaging that can now have a place in the recycling stream. There’s even a tab that helps you to start your own collection program, as well as report places that take these recyclables but is not in their directory. Check out the Wrap Recycling Action Program page to see how to get businesses and stakeholders of communities to get involved too! I think this is great especially for communities that are trying to reduce their packaging and being civically involved in a collective effort.

As a planner, an environmentalist, and a civic-minded person, I want to do my part and make sure from now on, I save all of my plastic packaging and film, bring it to the nearest location, and feel good that I do not have to wonder what exactly is going to happen to the leftover packaging. I hope you will visit the site, spread the word about it, and find your nearest location to help recycle these plastics that are often seen as small but really have huge impacts on the environment.