Saturday, August 31, 2013

Benchmarking the Walkability of Global Cities

We live in a world that is urbanising at an astonishing rate: 100 years ago only 20% of people lived in a city, by 2010 more than half the worlds population was living in an urban area and by 2050 we expect that figure to rise to 70%. As these mega-cities become increasingly dense and over-populated, the transport systems that support them are struggling to cope with the sheer numbers of people trying to move around. Many cities around the world are starting to wake up to the fact that they will have to become walkable and bikeable, just in order to function in the future.

As each country takes a slightly different approach to creating walking-friendly cities, one global organisation is working to connect and empower urban governments, citizens and communities to achieve a walkable future. Walk21 is a non-profit with the vision to “create a world where people choose and are able to walk as a way to travel, to be healthy and to relax”.  Since its foundation in 2000 Walk21 has organised an annual international conference in over 10 different countries, this event has become the leading global conference on walking, walkability and urban livability.  Walk21 has also championed the International Charter for Walking, which has been signed by over 4,000 people and organisations including several mayor’s and city governments.  Signing the Charter shows a commitment to the following priorities:

  • Inclusive Mobility;
  • Integrated Networks;
  • Less Crime;
  • Promotion of Walking;
  • Spaces for people;
  • Spatial Planning;
  • Supported Authorities;
  • Reducing Road Danger.


Another example of Walk21 leading the global walking movement is their work on benchmarking the walkability of World cities.  The ‘Making Walking Count‘ project measures how walkable each city is for several key indicators including:

  • Walking and public realm activity;
  • Barriers to walking;
  • Peoples perception of walkability;
  • Projects to improve walkability;
  • Proportion of transport funding for walking.

Each city can see how they compare against other global cities and which areas they need to improve in.  So far the project has benchmarked London, Barcelona, Copenhagen and Canberra and also audited New York and Stuttgart.  Benchmarking results show that Copenhagen was the city where people spent the most time walking everyday (52 minutes a day), closely followed by Barcelona with 48 minutes a day, London with 33 minutes and Canberra with 26 minutes walked per day.

The main reason that people didn’t walk in most of the cities was because of’ ‘too much traffic’, unsurprisingly in Copenhagen, people didn’t walk because they preferred to cycle and in London just under 40% of people didn’t walk because of fear or crime.  Other reasons included cleanliness of streets (21%), lack of amenities within walking distance (20%) and poor quality pavements (19%).  In Canberra over 40% of people don’t walk because of poor street lighting and in Barcelona narrow pavements are a barrier to over 35% of people.  Survey respondents in all of the cities suggested that more people would walk if the cities had better street lighting, less traffic and more crossing points.

This years conference is taking place in Munich, Germany from 11th to 13th September and will feature over 150 presentations and keynotes from Walkability experts such as John Whitelegg and Jason Roberts from Better Block.  Munich is known as “the city of short distances” and this is illustrated by the fact that over 75% of residents choose to walk journeys less than 1km, as part of the conference the city is planning to sign the International Charter for Walking. Walkonomics will be at the conference in Munich this year, providing updates via Twitter and Facebook and some more blog posts on highlights from the conference.  So if you want to get involved with the global walking movement, then sign the International Charter for Walking and maybe even come along to the conference in Munich next month.

Images via Frank Muller


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Design Thinking for Educators

Design Thinking for Educators is…

A creative process that helps you design meaningful solutions in the classroom, at your school, and in your community. The toolkit provides you with instructions to explore Design Thinking.

The design process is what puts Design Thinking into action.

It’s a structured approach to generating and developing ideas.

What is Design Thinking?
It is a mindset
Design Thinking is the confidence that everyone can be part of creating a more desirable future, and a process to take action when faced with a difficult challenge. That kind of optimism is well needed in education.
Classrooms and schools across the world are facing design challenges every single day, from teacher feedback systems to daily schedules.

Wherever they fall on the spectrum of scale—the challenges educators are confronted with are real, complex, and varied. And as such, they require new perspectives, new tools, and new approaches. Design Thinking is one of them.

Click here to download the Toolkit.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Creating conserver cities

Conserver cities would be healthier, fairer, more vibrant and convivial places to live. Creating conserver cities means: efficiency replacing waste; renewability replacing resource squandering; living within biophysical limits replacing pollution; implementing socio-economic goals geared to wellbeing for all not more and more money for a few and for a limited period; this generation and those to come, the world over, getting their dues; empowering local communities within urban areas; operating a cyclic economy.

Conserver cities would be sustainable because in broad social, economic and biophysical terms they would be dynamically stable, secure and able to persist over time. They would give on a par with taking instead of being parasitic (the average UK city footprint is three times the sustainable level).

They would ensure a decent future for generations to come ie not ballooning profits for the already super-rich today but an ongoing availability and decent supply of resources, fairly shared. Conserver cities would be One Planet Cities (see the details of how this year Brighton and Hove became the world’s first independently accredited One Planet City).

What would contribute most to creating conserver cities? What are the top priorities? Many changes are needed at many social, economic and biophysical levels but here is my outline of a dozen key priorities.

Getting around

1. the retention and improvement of locally available facilities, services, and jobs and the availability and use of local resources. This strengthens communities and their resilience and reduces the intensity of travel needs, making local economies the priority

  1. far better, cheaper, more extensive public transport; much better cycling and pedestrian provision. Well occupied buses, trains and trams are highly clean and efficient per person, though non-motorised walking and cycling is even more clean and efficient as well being healthier.

Environmental quality and quantity

  1. protecting, enhancing and if possible increasing open, green, natural spaces; biodiversity enhancing developments. Green spaces are important to active, healthy human lives and perform a wide range of biophysical and socio-economic functions, from food growing to rainwater management to city climate moderation LINK. Biodiversity is basic and should be valued for reasons of: ethics; aesthetics; ecology; education; recreation; economics; and the resilience that comes from diversity in systems. I want biodiversity conserved because it exists, because I like it - and because we all depend on it. 
  2. adopting and achieving high land, air, water and environmental quality standards. UK air pollution for instance is a major public health risk, causing the premature deaths of 30,000 people in 2008.


  1. education for sustainable living. This means schools, colleges, universities and others delivering education working to carry out environmental education: in and through the environment as a resource; about the environment by imparting knowledge; for the environment by encouraging students to formulate caring values, attitudes and practical actions in their environment; and by developing the skills needed to study the environment in students. It’s not just about the formal education system though because to achieve conserver cities we need on-going social learning. By social learning I mean encompassing but not same as participation, learning which addresses wider forces and institutions, complementing community activities with political and economic insights and action on macro, meso and micro levels - a paradigm for engaging in institutional and social dilemmas such as sustainable development vs. market forces.

Waste and energy

  1. innovative low carbon and low waste systems and designs; local energy saving and the micro-generation of energy. This is about: doing the same or doing more using less, cutting waste of energy and materials; being thrifty; getting more output squeezed from every input of energy, material, effort, money, time...It’s also about being enterprising, entrepreneurial and making the very best use of the latest technologies in an appropriate way (taking a broad, balanced view of technology, accounting for interactions, assessing and using technologies properly).
  2. waste avoidance, reuse and recycling. Taking the thinking and actions now more commonly applied to UK solid wastes (in particular household waste) and applying them in a total sense - to liquid and gaseous wastes and throughout society.


  1. more local, ethical and organic food availability; more home and allotment grown food. Many who become aware of their personal or household ecological or carbon footprint are surprised at the high contribution that comes from food. Locally-grown, seasonal food means fewer food miles, less packaging and fresh goods and it is also food with a low environmental impact. Growing food and eating seasonal food keeps us in touch with natural cycles.

Organic food growing is low-input, making minimal use of energy intensive synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, using as much as 40% less energy, supporting higher biodiversity levels and prioritising animal welfare more.

Balanced lower meat or no meat diets are both healthier, lower environmental impact and better for animals (vegetarian diets can be 40% lower impact than even low meat diets). Growing some of your own vegetables and not wasting food can reduce environmental impacts by more than a tenth, reducing the energy and waste which goes into getting food from field to plates, including transport, refrigeration and packaging.

People and participation

  1. people taking personal responsibility to be more environmentally-friendly. Individuals and households really need to own and support moves to establish conserver cities or those moves won’t be socially sustainable. Genuine lasting solutions are much more likely if behaviour and technical changes are coherently combined. A purely technical ‘solution’ may often result in changes in other key factors which reduce, undermine or reverse any progress made. Examples: increasing fuel efficiency of vehicles means less fuel used, saving people money, which they may then spend on travelling further, consuming more fuel.; installing low energy lighting may mean people are happy to leave them on for longer; cars with many safety features may be driven faster.
  2. inclusive, informed, genuine public participation in community life. This is about: open exchange of ideas; mutual understanding; effective, timely information; promoting trust; highlighting decision-making processes; dealing with complex, possibly controversial issues; unique insights; serving each other. It ideally develops a common view, a sense of purpose – and allows communities to take control and set agendas. This is the way to learn to live better lives.

Policies and performance

  1. open, involving, accountable, ethical attitudes and policies. Getting governance right at all levels (individual, neighbourhood, community, city, region, nation…) is crucial to effective leadership and the sharing of power and responsibility. Social sustainability, and thus overall sustainability, depends upon this. LINK
  2. broad-based measures of progress - social, economic and biophysical. It’s crucial to creating conserver cities that our real wealth, source of our resources and the basis of our lives is acknowledged, that is, the natural and social world with its whole interconnected water, air, land, biodiversity and social systems. Cities need to agree broad performance measures because it’s not mere money flow, high production and consumption or narrow progress that healthily sustains us.

by Glenn Vowles


Cycling for prosperity

The concept of iteration/cycles is very important in both educational and environmental senses. The reflection stage in learning and environmental management cycles is particularly important because it can lead to highly beneficial re-exploration and ongoing progress. Cycles are found throughout the natural world of course: the carbon cycle; water cycle; nitrogen cycle; various geological cycles; and indeed life cycles. Cycles are less common in modern, industrialised societies but they are catching on: we recycle; we go through experiential learning cycles; we build iterative, cyclic approaches into laws, regulations and standards (see image of the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle, sometimes called the Deming or the Shewhart cycle).

Good teachers and good managers are sensitive to their experiences and adjust what they do accordingly. We’ll know we have made real progress towards a sustainable society when the idea of a cyclic economy is commonplace (see image below).

Iteration is about repeating stages in a process in a cyclic fashion and is a key concept in systems thinking. It is valued because of the opportunities provided for improvements to be made due to re-exploration, review and reflection…on environmental effects or learning needs and acting on feedback to revise what is proposed and done.

Experience can provoke thinking – and thinking can enable decisions. Taking decisions can lead to actions. Reflecting on feedback from actions generates further experience and so the cycle continues and goes forward with inputs altered (see image of the experiential learning cycle). 

Stages in human decision cycles may include: exploration; formulating problems, opportunities and systems of interest; identifying feasible and desirable changes; and taking action aimed at improving the situation; in addition reflecting, connecting, modelling, and use of a variety of conventional and innovative tools and techniques may occur at any stage.

ISO 14001, which lays out what is needed in an EMS (environmental management system), has iteration as a central feature (see image above): policy leads to planning; plans are put into effect and monitored against a standard, with appropriate corrective action; good management practices are sensitive to the state of play, respond to feedback, review the current system and make appropriate policy changes to spiral the environmental management system around and forwards.

Of course, what we are talking about here is best practice – and that is not always what happens. Best practice EIA (environmental impact assessment) is cyclic/iterative. It is often much more of a straight line process than the ideal portrayed in the image below however and this is part of the reason why the European Commission are making substantial changes to their EIA Directive.

Systems thinking means seeing situations in total ie as a whole, accounting for interactions, interrelationships and interdependencies between parts. Its joined up thinking, recognising and forming networks, loops and cycles. It is the opposite of reductionist thinking, where an explanation or solution is sought by breaking situations down into smaller components. Systems thinking is constructivist or connectivist, attempting to shed light on events that appear to be distinct by mapping linkages. In this way complex events are understood better by seeing the whole, often establishing that a system in total is different from what one would expect by just looking at individual parts or by adding the parts together. It is often the case, as Aristotle said in Metaphysics, that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’.

by Glenn Vowles


Sustainable Schools Resource Overview

The Sustainable Schools Framework was built on the principle of care – of oneself, of others and of the environment.

There are 8 doorways in the framework which are approached through Campus, Curriculum or Community approaches. The Doorways are: Food and Drink; Energy and Water; Travel and Traffic; Purchasing and Waste; Buildings and Grounds; Inclusion and Participation; Local Well-being; and Global Dimension.

The following resources offer a range of informative resources designed for governors, bursars, pupils, teachers
and school leaders, as well as those supporting schools such as local authorities and NGOs.

Sustainable Schools

Friday, August 9, 2013

Sustainable Agriculture Curriculum

Back to Toolbox || Books & Manuals || Activities

Learning to Plant Seeds
Learning to Plant SeedsDuring our summer programs, we use a series of workshops to introduce youth participants and their youth leaders to the principles of sustainable agriculture and the food system. Here is the eight-part series that we have developed through the years.

Workshop 1: Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems (click here for PDF)
Introduction to sustainable agriculture principles and how they are used on the farm

Workshop 2: Soil Sleuths (click here for PDF)
Introduction to soil function, components, and its impact on sustainable farming

Workshop 3: Compost Happens (click here for PDF)
Compost 101: the importance, and how to create it

Workshop 4: Wayward Weeds (this curriculum is itself wayward, i.e. missing)
Introduction to weeds and weed management

Workshop 5: Insects-ploration (click here for PDF)
Introduction to insects and their role in agriculture

Workshop 6: Trace The French Fry (click here for PDF)
Discussion of two types of food systems: global/industrial and local/sustainable

Workshops 7-8: Food Systems Debate (click here for PDF)
Debate and discussion of the merits of different types of food systems


The Food Project's manual series captures the nuts and bolts of each of our acclaimed programs. Written for our staff but accessible to other organizations, these guides address the fundamental principles, structures, and philosophies vital to the success of any youth-based program. Each manual describes in detail all of the steps necessary to implement and manage a specific area of The Food Project. This series is meant to assist those who want to do similar work in their own community.

Summer Youth Program Manuals, Volumes I, II, and III ($22.95 each / free downloads)

The Food Project’s Summer Youth Program employs over 100 youth from greater Boston and the North Shore of eastern Massachusetts to work on the land, grow organic produce, serve the community, and grow together. Behind the scenes, this program is complex to run and execute. These three manuals will provide readers with an entire picture of how to recruit young people, how to train them, how to set up the program, and how to run it once the summer begins. The three volumes together form a complete guidebook for running a successful and dynamic summer youth program.

Volume I:  Recruitment  Download (PDF)

Volume II:  Set-Up  Download (PDF)

Volume III:  Implementation Download (PDF)

Academic Year Program Manual (free download)

Annually, this program employs young people who have completed our Summer Youth Program to work on community-based projects during the school year. Members of the D.I.R.T. Crew (Dynamic, Intelligent, Responsible Teenagers) dedicate Saturdays and after-school hours to lead over 1700 volunteers on our rural and urban farm sites, work in shelters, and attend conferences to speak about their experience working for The Food Project. This manual discusses every aspect of this program and is a great resource for those looking for ways to engage young people throughout the year.

Download (PDF)

Rural Agriculture Manual (free download)

The Food Project manages a over 40 acres of farmland in eastern Massachusetts and distributes over 250,000 pounds of produce annually. This manual explains how to run a sustainable production farm while integrating thousands of youth and volunteers throughout the season. You will learn how to set up a farm to accommodate, celebrate, and utilize the labor of people who are walking onto a farm for the first time and will be forever changed by their experience. Included in this manual are tools for crop planning, labor management, and produce distribution, as well as tips for an abundant harvest.

Download (PDF)

Urban Agriculture Manual (free download)

The Food Project grows produce on urban farms in Boston and Lynn, Mass.  This manual details how we created healthy soil, how we intersect with the community, how to work with the young people involved in The Food Project’s programs, and how to plan urban food lots. This manual specifically addresses the trials and successes of agriculture in an urban arena.

Download (PDF)

Farmers’ Market Manual (free download)

The Food Project runs farmers’ markets Boston, Lynn, and Beverly, Mass. These markets bring local, fresh produce to customers who do not have easy access to this type of food. Our manual discusses setting up the market, selecting produce, training workers and young people, marketing, and keeping business records.

Download (PDF)

Volunteer Manual (free download)

This manual is a thorough introduction to The Food Project’s Serve and Grow farm work volunteer program. The Food Project depends on over 3,000 youth and adults to assist us in growing food, keeping our city food lots beautiful, and reclaiming urban land. This manual outlines recruitment, scheduling, and designing programs for volunteers.

Download (PDF)

Dream of a Nation


A Powerful Free Resource for Teachers and Professors

Dream of a Nation reaches across political party lines and religious beliefs and focuses on what we have in common, what is possible.It is comprised of a book and an initiative, with special focus on providing educators with hands-on, standards based, spot on lesson modules. Essays, video clips, and guides are designed to flip the switch from toe-dipper to full-on, change-the-world citizens.

The book’s 12 chapters explores contemporary problems, new ideas, and successful models. Its stellar collection of essays and illustrations are authored by more than 60 individuals and organizations, such as YES! Magazine, Veterans for Peace, and Green for All.
Dream of a Nation is proud to create and offer an array of free, downloadable materials for educators, including:

  • Dream of a Nation bookDream of a Nation Book Cover
    The book’s 12 chapters explores contemporary problems, new ideas, and successful models. Over 60 individuals and organizations, including YES! Magazine, Veterans for Peace, and Green for All, authored this stellar collection of essays and illustrations.
    You may download the book in its entirety or individual chapters here
  • Lesson Modules and Chapter Questions
    Four lesson modules with 18 lesson plans take your students from becoming issue experts to being active in their communities. In addition, robust questions for each chapter of the book are offered. Your students will debate, connect problems with solutions, discover opposing points of view, and hatch their own plans to take action on the issues they care about. No sitting on the sidelines, here!
  • Solutions Gallery
    For each of the 12 overarching issues (chapters), at least four related issues are identified and explored. Essays authored by partner organizations about their efforts to address the challenge help connect your student with the real world. “What If?” and “What Can I Do?” questions deepen understanding and inspire students to action. Explore solutions here.
  • Learning Standards Alignment
    Dream of a Nation isn’t a textbook. It focuses on real-world examples and content to support goals and standards that students are required to master, and teachers are required to teach.

    The book and all curriculum materials align with Common Core Standards, National Council for the Social Studies Curriculum Standards, as well as standards requirements as described by state education agencies. Visit standards alignment here

Additional Resources

Educators :: Home page for entire collection of free, downloadable curriculum resources.

Secondary Education Portal ::  Access to all downloads, forums, blogs, and action center.

Higher Education Portal ::  Access to downloads, forums, blogs, and action center.

To access the portals, you will need to register with Dream of a Nation. Sign-up is free, and please be assured that your email will not be shared.

The Book

With over 400 pages of material that makes complex issues graspable, Dream of a Nation is a tool that will inform and engage. Download whole chapters or individual essays below:

Foreword by Paul Hawken Introduction by Tyson Miller A Poem by Noesha Hampton

Download all front matter from the book including the table of contents and all of the above.

Good Government Chapter
Good Government icon Toward a Living Democracy
Good Government icon Redefining Security for Strong Communities and a Safer World
Good Government icon Getting Money Out of Politics: Putting the Public First
Good Government icon Citizens Strengthening Democracy
Good Government icon Innovation in Government
Good Government icon Bridging the Political Divide

Citizen Stewardship Chapter
Citizen Stewardship icon Unified in Stewardship
Citizen Stewardship icon Staying Within Our Limits
Citizen Stewardship icon Living Lighter
Citizen Stewardship icon Citizens Shaping Their World
Citizen Stewardship icon Helping Others: Finding the Will and the Way
Citizen Stewardship icon The Power of Young People to Change the World

Economy Chapter
Economy icon Lighting the Way to a New Economy
Economy icon Building a “We” Economy
Economy icon Moving the Green Jobs Movement Forward
Economy icon Make It in America
Economy icon Real World Models for Creating Stability
Economy icon Switching Taxes to Get America Working

Media Chapter
Media icon Media: A Tool for Strengthening Democracy
Media icon Making Coverage Count
Media icon Focusing on Solutions
Media icon Citizen Empowerment Through Journalism

Education Chapter
Education icon Seeing Education in a New Light
Education icon Fair School Funding and Equal Opportunities
Education icon Educating for a Sustainable Future
Education icon A School and Community Strategy for the 21st Century
Education icon Making Education Work for All Students

Re-Powering America Chapter
Re-Powering America icon 100 Percent Carbon-Free Electricity Within 10 Years
Re-Powering America icon Building a Conservation Nation
Re-Powering America icon A U-Turn on Transportation
Re-Powering America icon A Green Energy Future Without Expanding Nuclear
Re-Powering America icon A Blueprint for a Clean-Energy Economy

Improving Health Chapter
Health icon Key Steps for a Healthy Nation
Health icon Strengthening the Food & Health Connection
Health icon Avoiding the Dangers of Toxic Exposure
Health icon Tackling the Profit Problem in Healthcare

Ending Poverty Chapter
Poverty icon Ending Poverty in America
Poverty icon Ending Homelessness: A Dream with a Plan
Poverty icon 0.7% of Wealth: A Small Price to End Global Extreme Poverty
Poverty icon Building Prosperity from the Ground Up

Re-Imagining Business Chapter
Re-imagining Business icon The Next Frontier of Business
Re-imagining Business icon Supplying the Demand for a Livable Planet
Re-imagining Business icon The Rise of the Conscientious Consumer

Strengthening Communities Chapter
Communities icon Transforming Urban Injustice into Beauty and Empowerment
Communities icon Creating Food Security, Improving Health, Creating Community
Communities icon The Next Generation of Family Farming
Communities icon Supporting a Green Future in Native American Communities
Communities icon Envisioning an Inclusive World
Communities icon Immigrants in America: Common Values, Common Dreams
Communities icon Reforming Prisons, Saving Billions, Creating Opportunity

Waging Peace Chapter
Waging Peace icon War and Ending It
Waging Peace icon Reallocating Military Spending, Taking Care of Soldiers and Increasing National Security
Waging Peace icon Creating a World Without Nuclear Weapons
Waging Peace icon Establishing a US Department of Peace

A Nation That Shines Chapter
Nation that Shines icon Dreaming the Future Can Create the Future
Nation that Shines icon Everyone a Changemaker
Nation that Shines icon Realizing our Roots and the Power of Interconnectedness
Nation that Shines icon Painting Hope in the World

Closing by Alice Walker

Download acknowledgments, endnotes and index here.