Saturday, 16 September 2017

8 Reasons Why Denver is Set to Become a Major Sharing City

Denver Skyline (Larry Johnson via Flickr)

 All over the globe - from Ghent, Belgium to Gothenburg, Sweden - people have been launching amazing sharing projects. These include bike kitchens, coworking spaces, community gardens, and so much more. On this side of the pond, we recently profiled the range of sharing initiatives in Ithaca, New York. Now, another city in the U.S. that's transforming into a great Sharing City is Denver. Here are eight reasons why:

1. SAME Cafe 

Photo by Courtney Pankrat
Since 2006, SAME Cafe, Denver's only nonprofit restaurant, has been serving lunch Monday through Saturday to anyone looking for a meal. The restaurant follows a pay-what-you-can model. If you can't afford to pay, you are encouraged to volunteer in the kitchen for half an hour in exchange for a meal. Owners Libby and Brad Birky started the restaurant with the philosophy that "everyone, regardless of economic status, deserves the chance to eat healthy food while being treated with dignity."
2. Solderworks & other coworking spaces

Image provided by SolderWorks
Opening in Sept. 2017, SolderWorks takes a slightly different approach on popular coworking spaces. Located just North of Denver in Westminster, this coworking space offers tools and equipment such as a 3D printer, power supplies, solder equipment, a tool workbench, and open worktables. SolderWorks offers a space for professional makers to create.
The city of Denver also has many traditional coworking spaces such as GalvanizeThriveIndustry Denver, and the newly opened Union Stanley in Aurora (a Denver suburb).
3. Denver Tool Library
Rather than buy each tool when working on a project, the Denver Tool Library offers the opportunity to borrow any tool you need for just $80/ year. Denver residents who join the library have access to over 2,500 tools from Denver's Tool Library. Tools available include carpentry and woodworking tools, electrical and lighting tools, metalworking tools, and even gardening tools. Not only that, but the library hosts an in-house bike shop where members can come fix their bikes.
4. Bike sharing

Image from Denver BCycle Facebook page
Many big cities now have a bike sharing program. Denver is no exception with B-Cycle. Using an app, users can find the closest bikes. With more than 700 bikes and 89 bike sharing locations, the program is good for both commuters and tourists who want to explore the city. B-Cycle is a nonprofit business operating with the help of many local sponsors. All that is needed to get a bike for day is a credit card.
5. Denver Public Library
As is the case with many libraries around the country, the Denver Public Library has a strong focus on loaning out items other than books. Community members can check out items such as GoPros, toys, museum passes, Chromebooks, and Colorado State Park passes.
The Denver Public Library currently has two ideaLabs (with two more opening in Fall 2017). An ideaLab is a space anyone can use as a makerspace. The labs include recording studios, 3D printers, scanners, computers, digital cameras, green screens, and much more. These spaces are meant to spark imagination and help Colorado residents create. The labs are also staffed with library employees and volunteers.
6. Denver Urban Garden

Image from Denver Urban Garden Facebook page
Since 1985, the Denver Urban Garden (DUG) has been cultivating community gardens all over the Denver area. The program has grown to include over 165 gardens that grow food for the community. One of the gardens even grows food that is then donated to SAME Cafe for their restaurant. DUG also hosts school-based community gardens and many programs that help people with their home gardens such as a composting lessons and lessons on how to grow a successful garden.
7.  The Park People

Image from The Park People Facebook page
Another program in the city of Denver is The Park People. The nonprofit works to help grow trees in the city. With so much new development in Denver, the need for new trees is growing. The Park People’s Denver Dig Trees program has provided over 50,000 free (or low cost) trees to Denver residents for over 30 years.
8.  Little Free Libraries

Photo by Courtney Pankrat
Little Free Libraries are an international phenomenon. In April 2017, Little Free Library founder Todd Bol came to the city to help deliver the City of Distinction award to Denver since the city has one of the most active Little Free Library communities with over 500 registered libraries in the Metro Denver Area.
Header photo of Denver's skyline by Larry Johnson via Flickr

Monday, 28 August 2017

9 Awesome Urban Commons Projects in Ghent

by Shareable, on P2P Foundation:

Mai Sutton: Urban commons initiatives are booming in the Belgian city of Ghent, according to a new report. One of the researchers behind the study, Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation, says that “the ecosystem of commons-based initiatives in Ghent is quite exemplary precisely because it covers an ecosystem in an area that requires a lot of capital and has to overcome a lot of commons-antagonistic regulation.” So against the odds, approximately 500 urban commons projects have sprung up in the last decade.

>A canal in Ghent. Photo: Dimitris Kamaras (CC-BY 2.0)
Last week, we wrote about the overall findings about the report. Below, we highlight a few standout examples of urban commons projects that are thriving in Ghent:
  1. Wooncoop is a housing cooperative that gives home renters the same housing security as home owners. The cooperative buys, refurbishes, and mutualizes buildings — not the land on which they stand like a Community Land Trust. Once someone buys a share of Wooncoop, they can rent a house or apartment in one of their properties owned by the co-op. They are guaranteed housing there for a lifetime while paying reasonable rent for a well-maintained residence.
  2. There is a multitude of innovative co-housing initiatives that have emerged in Ghent. But what is interesting is that people are not simply living together in a shared space, but rather, sharing various amenities. This includes sharing kitchens, guestrooms, and laundry rooms. This model works when a group of houses are designed collectively to share their facilities. However, local regulations have hindered the growth of this kind of co-housing development. Labland is a workshop and think-and-do-tank that is working to change policies on behalf of these experimental initiatives.

A park in Ghent. Photo: Dimitris Kamaras (CC-BY 2.0)
  1. The City of Ghent facilitates the temporary use of local land and buildings. The most notable one is the Driemasterpark, a park that sits on a former industrial site in a poor neighborhood that is entirely managed by nearby residents. It was opened in late 2016, and in addition to having a playground, the park has spaces for chickens and dogs, and a vegetable garden.
  2. Ghent has a thriving Community Land Trust(CLT). When public land becomes available, the city occasionally sets aside a percentage of land to the CLT so that it bypasses land speculation by real estate developers. The CLT keeps properties affordable and accessible to low-income residents.

View of Ghent from above. Photo: Gunvor Røkke (CC-BY 2.0)
  1. Ghent’s food sector is where the commons is most developed. This is partly due to the public organizations in the city that are building political support for this work. Gent en Garde is a transition platform that endorses the demands of civil society for fair, organic, and local food. It created, among other things, the Urban Agriculture workshop, which is a working group of individuals and organizations whose mission is to create a more sustainable and healthy food ecosystem in Ghent.
  2. Ghent’s public schools collectively provide about five million meals a year to their students. However, much of it tends to be the cheapest food they can order from remote multinational food producers.L unch met LEF is an initiative that aims to counteract this by bringing local, organic food to public schools. The group plans to transport the ingredients using cargo bike sharing, a zero-carbon transportation system.
  3. A brainstorming session between a few Ghent urban commons leaders led to the idea of introducing pigs to vacant land, as an experiment in maximizing the use of unused public property in Ghent. Spilvarken started as a pilot project in 2014. A few weeks after three pigs were brought to the neighborhood, nearby residents voluntarily began taking care of them. Soon thereafter, the pigs because a center of community socializing, and a way for nearby residents to dispose of food waste as feed to the animals.

Solar panel installation in Ghent. Photo courtesy of Johan Eyckens
  1. As a city that was inthe first cohort to sign the EU Covenant of Mayors in 2009, Ghent has created an ambitious plan to reduce its carbon emissions by the year 2030. One critical part of its strategy is the creation of a central governmental body called Energiecentrale. The agency serves as a contact point for locals to get support for anything related to making energy efficient renovations to their homes, businesses, and facilities. The agency provides free energy audits of homes and facilitates a “sustainable neighborhoods” program, by providing advice and financial support to get community-led energy efficiency initiatives, such as energy co-ops, off the ground.
  2. The crown jewel of the city’s energy program is the community-owned Energent — a renewable energy cooperative with cheap shares that make membership accessible to most Ghent residents. The co-op started as an ambitious project, in coordination with the city, to furnish the majority of houses in the neighborhood of St. Amandsberg with solar panels. Individual solar power — in which people only get the power harnessed from their own panels — are expensive. Under a system like Energent, more people can afford to install solar panels. The problem of less productive, east-west roofs — called the intermittency problem or the unequal provision of energy due to weather — gets solved. This shows the the advantage of having a collective approach to energy provisioning.
Header image courtesy of Nathalie Snauwaert