By turning unused land into community gardens, London has found it is possible to grow local, low carbon food, and to engage thousands of citizens in the process.

The Challenge

London has more than 8 million citizens and is growing steadily, which means more food consumption and more carbon emissions associated with food production and distribution. London officials launched Capital Growth so that local food production could help the city make good on its ambition to achieve substantial emissions reductions.

The Solution

In response to a growing population and a wish to lower its CO2 emissions, London developed Capital Growth, a project enabling local food production and consumption. Initially aiming to create 2,012 community food growing spaces by 2012, the city already boasts 2,432 community food gardens covering 991,000 m2 across the city. With more than two-thirds of the gardens built on previously unused, derelict, or inaccessible land, the city has proven that scarce land is not an obstacle to growing local food.

Capital Growth doesn’t just help to expand London’s community food production network, it also provides support, enabling the city’s gardens to flourish. More than 80 training sessions have educated growers, and, according to estimates, the Capital Growth network could grow at least 357 metric tons of its 10 most popular crops per year. With edible gardens found all over the city, supported by more than 150,000 volunteers, London is demonstrating the positive social, economic, and environmental returns that come with local food production.

Environmental Benefits – Capital Growth projects have incorporated rainwater harvesting, where rainfall run-off that would have drained into London’s sewer system is instead utilized for garden watering, easing the burden on the drainage system and reducing water consumption.

Social Benefits – Capital Growth enables often marginalized people to engage with their communities, leading to increased feelings of community cohesion.

Economic Benefits – The financial value of produce grown at just 160 growing spaces was $233,179 between March 2013 and February 2014.

Health Benefits – Hands-on involvement in horticulture and its accompanying sense of achievement support mental health and well-being for food growers

About Cities100

Presented by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), Sustainia and Realdania – Cities100 showcases leading solutions to urban climate challenges in ten sectors, ranging from solid waste management to transportation.

Available online and in print, Cities100 provides stakeholders an accessible format to explore achievable solutions for climate action in cities, and will be a useful tool for relevant groups ranging from impact investors and development organizations, to mayors and city governments.  You can access the full Cities100 2015 publication online here.

  • Economic
  • Environmental
  • Health
  • Social
Key Impact
With three Edible Garden Open Days and two Big Dig volunteering days, Capital Growth engaged more than 5,500 Londoners, and as more gardens are registered each year, local food production is taking deep root in London
Emissions Reduction
2.6,000 metric tons of CO2 saved per year from 991,000 m2 of capital growth projects
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