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How to Start an Urban Farm in a Post-Industrial City

Youngstown, Ohio, may have shrunk, but its urban farms are growing.

Youngstown, Ohio, has a lot of vacant land. In its manufacturing heyday, its population topped 170,000. Now less than half that number live in the city. The 73,000 or so inhabitants live among 22,000 vacant lots and buildings.

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Small Investors Could Earn Returns Funding Solar, Too

The crowdfunding company Solar Mosaic is expanding and planning to offer funders a return on their investments.

More than four hundred people invested in Solar Mosaic’s first round of crowdsourced solar projects. A stake in one of the five projects required an investment of at least $100, to be paid back in full, and funded community solar projects that would have otherwise had a hard time putting together the capital needed to install solar panels. Solar Mosaic community members told the company that, while they enjoyed the impact their money was having, they viewed these investments as they would a donation—a nice way to put money to use helping others out.

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Not Cool, Man: Cities Crack Down on Stores Blasting Air Conditioning Outside

New York City banned stores from keeping their doors open while the air is blasting. But it's a problem worldwide.


On the very first day they could justify it this summer, big stores in New York City already had their doors open, air conditioning blasting out onto the street. It served as an invitation to potential customers—step inside, it’s cold in here—but it’s not the most environmentally responsible practice. And in New York City, it’s illegal.

Open-door air conditioning is a worldwide plague. Last year The Economist called out Tokyo stores like Louis Vuitton and Hermès for blasting cool air out the door, even while Japan was hustling to keep energy use low after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. A former Marine and one-time journalist got riled up about the issue two summers ago after he found an entire mall's worth of shops keeping their doors open during a heat emergency. A couple of concerned citizens are trying to end the practice in Hong Kong, while campaigners in Toronto, sponsored by the local power authority, have been fighting it since 2005. And in Seoul, officials preparing for a heat wave are touring stores to ask them to keep the temperature at a reasonable level and the doors shut.

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Keystone XL Would Increase Gas Prices and Carbon Emissions

Two new—but conflicting—reasons to oppose the project.


Most people stopped thinking about Keystone XL, the tar sands pipeline, after months of political sniping led the Obama administration to nix the project. But Congress hasn't forgotten about it: Republicans and Democrats have been quietly fighting over whether to shoehorn a measure approving the pipeline into a transportation bill. Meanwhile, environmental groups, oil lobbyists, and independent analysts have been working to predict the consequences that would result if it was built. Their efforts have produced two new reports providing two new—but conflicting—reasons to oppose the project.

In some parts of the United States, building Keystone XL could drive gas prices up, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council in a report confirming other economists' conclusions. This may seem counterintuitive: Proponents of the pipeline (and oil drilling in general) have argued that Keystone XL will help increase oil production in Canada, which will mean lower gas prices in the long term.

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New Microloans Could Give Young Farmers the Capital They Need

Beginning farmers don’t need much money to get started. But until now, the USDA had no way of giving them any loans at all.


Farmers are not a good investment risk. Their business requires substantial influxes of capital to erect barns, buy tractors, and plant seeds, with little guarantee of return. When a river floods or a heat wave hits, it can throw the best business plan off course. One of the best ways for farmers to borrow money is to ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which can provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in financing. (Unfortunately, there’s a huge amount of paperwork involved in these loan programs.)

But young and beginning farmers don’t need all that. Starting out, a farmer might need a few thousand to buy a truck, some tools, or a round of seed. Young farmers who want to start small, often organic farms have had trouble getting access to that kind of money. When the National Young Farmers Coalition asked beginning farmers last year to list the challenges they faced, lack of capital came out on top.

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In New Orleans, Net-Zero Energy Homes Go on the Market

More than five years ago, Global Green USA started working to help New Orleans build back greener.


After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans more than five years ago, the nonprofit Global Green USA started working to help the city build back in a greener way. In 2006, the organization held an open design competition, asking designers to come up with a single-family home that used net-zero energy. The hope was the design contest, along with an initiative to educate homeowners on sustainably building, would help promote green building practices in New Orleans. But the group also built five houses based on the winning design in the Holy Cross neighborhood and the hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward, with the idea of providing affordable housing to a few displaced families.

By 2009, the houses were finished and ready to go on the market. But financing complications delayed, over and over again, the moment when families could move in. Now, the project is finally completing its first stage. Four of the houses went on the market a week ago. Global Green has already received the first offer on one of them.

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