Roof food is local food is good food

May 28, 2007

Still thinking about green roofs.  Particularly the use of urban roof space for food production.  

The Urban Agriculture Network recently reported that Brisbane has become “the first city in the world to include both urban agriculture and green roofs in an action plan to meet predicted global climate change challenges”.

It’s an inspiring move.  The dual challenges of climate change and increasing oil scarcity are forcing us to acknowledge that fossil fuel based transport use must be dramatically reduced.  Yet, most conventional food supply chains rely heavily on transport.  It is only by decentralising and localising food production systems that we can effectively shorten these supply chains, reducing the distance from producer to consumer. 

Imagine an apartment building with a rooftop garden that is used to grow food for the residents, on a co-operative basis.  The need for food transportation is effectively eliminated.  Money is saved, air pollutants reduced, carbon emissions cut (in fact, a roof food production system could even be considered ‘carbon positive’ since it absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere).  And this is to say nothing of other benefits in regards to improved thermal efficiency of the building, reduced stormwater runoff, increased amenity and aesthetic value, and so on.   

Due to our reliance on road-based transport over such a large geographical area, Australia is in a particularly vulnerable position when it comes to the imminent oil shortages and increasing fuel prices of the near future.  (To read more about oil vulnerability, click here).  Reducing food miles is going to become essential if we Australians are to check our dangerous reliance on fossil fuels. 

But less stick, and more carrot: greening our cities from the roof down is also just a mind-bogglingly cool concept.  I love the idea in the same way that I love wind turbines: concrete reminders that for all our technical innovation, it is often in nature that we find the simplest, most beautifully efficient solutions.    

And I also love the idea that there is this whole other world above our eye-line that we never think about – a world that may hold at least a small part of the answer to many of our most pressing environmental problems…

The city just got a whole lot roomier.


  1. Apart from roof top gardens, there are also possibilities in Melbourne’s inner city laneways. Currently many of these are not well-utilised, and thus could also merit the attention of local producers.

  2. Along similar lines to steph’s comment, I saw a great example of reclaiming dead city space to grow food the other day. A resident of a block of flats in Melbourne’s north had completely converted their car space to a food producing garden using about 15 large terracotta pots. It was fascinating to see a bountiful garden surrounded by concrete and parked cars.

  3. Fantastic! I love that idea of ‘reclaiming’ urban spaces for new uses – it is nice to see car infrastructure in the inner city being appropriated for bike use too…

  4. Joe: that’s a great meme: “dead” city spaces. Do you know about Japan’s geurilla gardening movement?

  5. Wow! Thanks Girl on The Avenue – I love it!
    Apart from being a nifty alliteration, the juxtaposition of guerrilla (with all its revolutionary fervour) with gardening (carefully mulching the tomatoes on a lazy Sunday morning) is just fantastic! Having just moved into a new place with a pathetically small courtyard (the sacrifices we make to join the North Fitzroyalty…), I think I’ve found an avenue to satisfy my green thumb.

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