As countries develop, one of their prime initiatives is to make their spot on the globe a better place. Choosing to live sustainably and helping eradicate homelessness are often at the top of their agendas. Surprisingly, sustainability and helping the homeless are connected goals.
As it turns out, they overlap quite often. Ideas meant to help the environment can also be useful for homeless people. Some programs designed to help the homeless are more environmentally friendly than others. Consider a few of the ways innovations for sustainability have helped the homeless.
Tiny Home Communities
Tiny homes have become a popular trend in recent years. While the average American home measures 2,600 square feet, tiny homes are usually between 100 and 400 square feet. They cost less and take a smaller toll on the environment because they consume less energy and displace less of the natural landscape.
Nonprofits in Seattle, Austin, Portland and other cities have begun using tiny houses to help the homeless. Organizations set up tiny home communities where those without a home can live. In many of these villages, people earn their keep through community service and must abide by certain rules to be allowed to stay there.
The cost of building, maintaining and living in these tiny homes is much lower than traditional housing, so it’s living in them is a more attainable goal for homeless folks than traditional housing. It provides them somewhere safe and structurally sound to live and also offers them a community to help them work toward goals.
Tiny homes also have a relatively small impact on the environment while still giving homeless people somewhere to live.
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Leftover Food Donation
Leftover food fills 18% of landfills in the U.S, which amounts to 30 million tons of wasted food each year. When that food sits in the dump cut off from oxygen, it creates methane gas, which contributes to global warming.
According to the EPA, 50 million people in the U.S. don’t have enough to eat, which equals about 15 percent of the population. Many of those people are homeless. These two problems can be fixed with one solution. By donating excess food waste to homeless shelters and other organizations, we both eliminate food waste and provide hungry people with something to eat.
California-based non-profit organization Feeding Forward is taking a modern approach to helping that become a reality. The organization runs a website and mobile app that connects businesses that have extra food with homeless shelters. After someone lets Feeding Forward know they have a donation, the service will send a driver to pick up the food and deliver it to a charity.
Some restaurants say they don’t donate their food for fear of being sued if something goes wrong with their donation. Luckily, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects restaurants from being liable if someone gets ill or hurt because of donated food as long as the establishment didn’t act in gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
This law makes it easier for businesses to do good for both homeless people and the environment by donating food. By donating uneaten food, we can make progress on two of the biggest issues of our time.
You may have started noticing more buildings with a little extra green. Rooftop gardens and even vertical gardens planted on buildings’ wall have been gaining popularity as part of green architecture.
Planting vegetation on buildings reduces the amount of energy needed to heat and cool the structure. Plants also absorb carbon dioxide, which helps reduce global warming.
Some cities have begun incorporating edible gardens into their structures, which can help feed the homeless. This not only provides food to hungry people, it also delivers that food in a more sustainable way.
The food is local, so it doesn’t need to be shipped using fossil fuels. Rooftop and vertical wall gardens reduce the stress on farming land by taking advantage of unused urban space we already have. The gardens can serve as a way for homeless people to learn agricultural skills. The food is also healthy because it’s pure fruits and vegetables.
Protecting the environment and helping the homeless are two major concerns that people have in today’s world, and they are the focus of a multitude of charitable organizations. As it turns out, a single idea can help both causes and take us one step closer to a healthier planet and healthier, safer people, too.