Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘employment practice in the Netherlands

Community gardening? Is this new life-style feasible?

Community gardening is supposed to allow people to help themselves to fresh, healthy food, that otherwise they might not get and strengthens the ties that hold communities together.

Sort of fancy that every able community members reserves a day off each week to grow the community own food? Would we all reap numerous lifestyle, health and environmental benefits…?

Andrew Simms published in The Guardian on Oct. 10, 2012 under “The growing appeal of national gardening leave

Less time in the office, and more time in the garden.

Add these two good ideas together and we can make an even better one. If all new employees in otherwise full-time jobs were given the voluntary option of a shorter, four-day working week, Britain could reap a wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits.

This option is standard employment practice in the Netherlands. It could be done flexibly, either by working shorter hours, or by compressing a conventional working week into four days.

Individuals could spend the extra day however they liked. But, if the time was combined with supporting the rapid expansion of productive and pleasurable gardening in the nation’s towns and cities, it would help tackle a staggering array of urgent challenges.

Britain would be much better off if we adopted a scheme of “national gardening leave.

Growing things brings enormous individual health and wellbeing benefits. But the greening of urban space does much more than that. It makes for:

1. more convivial towns and cities,

2. can produce a more resilient food economy

3. acts as an important buffer against the extremes of a warming climate.

4. It’s effective against depression, dementia, cardiovascular complaints and a huge range of other medical conditions.

The combined cost of physical inactivity, poor diet and mental ill-health in the UK runs into tens of billions of pounds. Can a single activity such as gardening alleviate all three problems, reducing the need for some public services and increasing our capacity to care for each other?

The educational benefits in terms of helping restore attention spans benefit old and young equally. For example, re-familiarizing people with food through growing their own is one of the best ways to learn and improve a diet.

In some of the poorest, recession-hit neighborhoods from Detroit in the US, to Hackney in London, community gardening allows people to help themselves to fresh, healthy food, that otherwise they might not get and strengthens the ties that hold communities together.

Increasing urban green space reduces the lethal effect of heatwaves, set to worsen due to climate change, by cooling built-up spaces that become “heat islands”. They can improve air quality and temper flooding that follows intense rain, also likely to worsen in a warming world.

There are hard economic benefits here, the chance for better lives and a more resilient food system, with more of a buffer built-in against volatile weather and food and energy prices.

To reap all these benefits, however, requires two key ingredients that appear to be missing, in short supply, or otherwise hard to access.

These ingredients are the time to do it, and the physical space to do it in.

A study last year of New York, the most densely populated city in the US, found upwards of 6,000 acres that could be put to use in urban farming. How much space could London, or Birmingham or Manchester find if they really looked?

Every workplace and public institution in the UK could probably find at least some growing space: in a car park, a window sill or a roof. The roof of a Budgens supermarket in North London recently became the home of the initiative “Food from the sky.”

What about time? A long historical struggle reduced the norm of the working week to what we have now. The next step could make for happier employees, save money and reduce our carbon footprint.

That’s what happened in the municipality of Utah when, in response to the economic crisis of 2008 they put staff onto a four-day week. Absentee rates fell, millions of dollars were saved, and carbon emissions cut 14%.

In the UK we have high unemployment coupled with a culture of long hours and overwork. By distributing more equally the work available at any given point in time, more could enjoy the benefits of work while ameliorating the destructive aspects of overwork.

Normal isn’t working.

We need to do something different to improve the shape of life in Britain. To be a national gardening leave employer all you’d need to do is offer new staff (and existing ones where possible) the option of a four-day week.

Add a growing space for the rapid expansion of productive and pleasurable gardening, and we can make Britain better, starting now.

If you’re an employer, and think you can do this, get in touch.




June 2023

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