trash

A very intricate weed grows on the concrete banks of the Shibuya River

渋谷川の端に、複雑な雑草を見ました。汚いところで、こんなきれいな植物が育ちます。

Next to crumbling concrete, trash, and a drainage pipe, I saw this beautiful weed with red and green flowers on the hard edge of the Shibuya River.

Zero waste

Zero waste vs landfill

Interesting New York Times article about how zero waste is moving from fringe to mainstream, including Yellowstone National Park (plant-based cups and utensils), an Atlanta restaurant (composting on premises), and Honda North America (no packaging means no dumpster at factories).

Food waste, 13% of United States trash, releases methane– a climate warming, greenhouse gas– when sealed in landfills without oxygen. Composting provides non-petroleum fertilizers. Other initiatives include bio-degradable packaging, recycling, and re-using.

Why are neighborhood parks so sad?

Why are neighborhood parks so sad?

I am struck by how poorly maintained and under-used many of the residential neighborhood parks are. This one, close to where I live, is large, has many mature trees facing the street, and has almost no usage. To call it uninviting and unloved would be an understatement.

Why are neighborhood parks so sad?

The street side is almost promising. There is a long row of mature trees and a community bulletin board. Next to the bulletin board, and also on the far end of the park, are designated areas to leave your trash. Unfortunately, there is no receptacle for the bagged garbage, so crows and cats pick through the bags and the contents start to disperse.

Why are neighborhood parks so sad?

The entrance to the park reveals vast areas of gravel, unplanted beds, and few amenities or attractions. The size of the park only underscores the waste of so much public space going unused. Given how avidly neighbors tend to their tiny gardens and occupy small strips of public space, why are local governments unable to harness this human resource for beautifying and maintaining public space?

I can imagine many other uses for the park: community vegetable gardens, flower contests, rice field, bee hives, food stand, children’s play area, public art-making space. Given limits to local government budgets, maybe there would be a way to attract corporate sponsors and neighborhood volunteers. If more people were attracted to enter the park, I am sure it would be cleaner and more inviting.

After the jump is a photo inventory of the current park assets, mostly aging structures with a surprising amount of trash. During my visit I noticed a small garden crew and two people on a bench.

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Animal garden ornaments

Tsukishima garden animals

What do you think of animals as garden ornaments? It seems that the desire to populate urban areas with animals goes hand-in-hand with cultivating plants. Does it add to urban life or detract?

A sustainability entrepreneur friend recently told me how much he dislikes the “clutter” and bad taste of old ladies using styrofoam planters for street pots. I imagine he would take a similarly dim view of animal ornaments.

There is a sometimes ambiguous line between trash and art, the living and the never animate. I wonder if the garden animals are dissimilar from the public space plants: a way to take ownership of the street, to make public space personal, “alive,” and magical. They can also be chaotic or unattractive.

Below is a statue of “tanoki,” a popular if somewhat obscene racoon figure of myth. I like how he is accompanied by a duck, elephant, dog, elf, two smaller tanokis, and a white picket fence.

Tanoki and animal friends in Nakano