Category: Environment

The Food We Waste

Chris King, founder of Food Is, said his exploration of food waste has been meaningful and productive, and has been involved with numerous organizations designed to prevent food waste such as Food Cycles, Plan Zheroes, and The Dinner Xchange. Chris believes the best way to reach people is to focus on the positive with his photography.

Chris informed the audience of shocking truths about the food we waste. 20-40% of food produced doesnt get eaten. Ultimately, its criminal,said Chris. According to The Washington Post, the United States is wasting $165 billion of food, and The Guardian says the United Kingdom is topping the charts of European food waste. Approximately 25% of food and beverages the average American buys is thrown away and 15 million tons of food in the U.K. is thrown out. In 2014 48.1 million Americans (32.8 million adults and 15.3 million children) lived in food insecure households. Chris said food insecurity is a lack of food supply due to economic or other issues preventing easy access to food. On a global scale, nearly 1 billion people are malnourished. In 2013 500 thousand people were forced to access food banks and other sources of food support. Read more

Mafia in the Food Chain

The influence and infiltration of the mafia and small time criminals in food industries is rising in Italy. Guiseppe Vadalà (Italian National Forestry Corps) and Roberto Iovino (Italian General Confederation of Labor, Farm Work Confederation) discussed, in their dialogue The Mafia in the Food Chain on September 30, 2015, these criminal organizations fabricate food and use forced labor. Vadalà said there are five main mafia groups in Italy; 52.3% of agri-corporations are owned by the mafia and 19.8% of that are farm fields. It is estimated the mafia makes 9.8 billion euros through agriculture each year. Read more

The Mafia in the Food Chain

Before it became associated with drugs and contraband, or romanticized by Hollywood films, the mafia started from humble beginnings. The Italian mafia originated in Sicily, where families banded together to protect each other from the injustices of the government and foreign invaders.

As the mafia gained political and economic power in the 20th century, the Italian government attempted to disband it by sending its members to northern cities, where, at that time, the mafia did not have a strong presence. This divide and conquer method was counterproductive and ultimately only resulted in spreading the mafia to the north. Read more

Alternative Nicotine Delivery Systems

The upcoming conference on Tobacco and Public Health will bring together top tobacco control experts from countries all over Europe. The conference is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), a philanthropy organization which has granted hundreds of millions of dollars towards tobacco research and is credited as a major contributor to the awareness campaigns that have considerably shifted American social attitudes towards tobacco. Health policy work to reduce the harm of tobacco is fought on two fronts. The cheapest and most politically attractive option is prevention policies, which are policies aimed at stopping young people from using tobacco in the first place.  The second and more complex policy issue is harm reduction, which is aimed at finding the most cost effective way to reduce the health burden of people who are already using and are addicted to tobacco. As action continues to be taken to prevent new people from picking up a cigarette, the health community is still faced with the question of how to decrease the health burden of millions of tobacco users today whose smoking continues to have important social consequences. Read more

Tobacco and Public Health: A Look at Tobacco Policies in the U.S. and the EU

In both the United States and Europe, tobacco use is currently the single greatest preventable health risk. Annually, there are an estimated 430,000 tobacco related deaths in America and 700,000 European smokers who die prematurely. The science is clear, and there is no debating that tobacco use is a major health issue that demands action. American and European policy makers are actually very much in agreement on the basic framework of anti-tobacco policy, but each nation has interpreted and implemented this policy in different ways and to varying degrees. As nations attempt to find the right combination of anti-tobacco policy (policies), there is still a huge platform for debate about what should be done and who has the right or responsibility to act. To what extent should the government legislate on citizens’ right to make their own health decisions? Do current tobacco policies adequately take into account the importance of cultural and social attitudes towards tobacco? And ultimately, in the international race to decrease the health burden of tobacco use, who’s actually getting it right? Read more

What We Forget about What We Eat

The Milan Expo, which kicked off this May, is themed “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. The 2015 edition of Expo is concerned with how we feed the planet and how we can alter practices to do so more sustainably. Feeding a planet of 7 billion people is an incredible challenge, one that we, as humans, still have not been able to meet. The industrialization of agriculture and the mass production and consumption of food has significantly changed the way humans interact with food. We know less and less about where our food comes from. The sad reality is that the practices by which we acquire food have become unsustainable, and to many consumers the impact of agro-industrialization is still unknown, or ignored.

Food waste is one of the greatest obstacles to creating a sustainable model for feeding the planet. Roughly one third of all produced food goes to waste. Wasted food is generally left to rot, which emits 10% of the world’s greenhouse gasses. However, by creating a more sustainable food infrastructure, the rotting, wasted food could be put to better use. Alternate uses for otherwise discarded food include creating compost and bio-fuel, or it could be redirected to the one in nine people on our planet who do not have enough to eat. These solutions to food waste would transform  the current linear system of production to consumption into  a cyclical system, where waste would be reused. Read more

Community Gardens and Public Health Dialogue

by Blair Simmons, NYU ’16

On April 2, five experts on community gardening and mental health will come together to discuss recent research, public policy and practice. The idea of repurposing disused urban spaces and converting them developing in the U.S. and Europe, but this new practice has been flourishing as of late in Florence. Florence recently opened its own community garden in Borgo Pinti.  Community gardens tend to improve people’s quality of life. It is the starting point of neighborhood and community development, creating social interactions, adding beauty to neighborhoods, producing food, reducing family food budgets, conserving resources and creating recreational opportunities. These things in turn help the mental health of the participants. Studies have shown that just being in a green space lowers blood pressure.  

In Florence, the Community Gardens of Orto Dipinti is just such a breath of fresh air. People who live in the area tend to the garden and get to take home a third of the produce. Another third goes to meals for community events and the other third is sold. The upkeep of the garden and the events held there have both become the heart of the community. Mutual benefit is shared between the good feelings of the community members and the state of the garden.

NYU Students Visit to Florence’s Community Garden the Orto Dipinti

By Nicole D’Alessio, NYU ’17

Today, Friday March 28, the LPD Student Working Group for the Community Gardens and Public Health Dialogue met Giaccomo Salizzoni, one of the dialogue guests and mastermind behind the only community garden in Florence the Orto Dipinti. Giacomo told us to “make ourselves at home” as he explained that what we see (which was already breathtakingly unique) is only the tip of the iceberg for what he has in store for the community garden. Giacomo described the community garden as “a start-up” and he showed us a few of the initial projects. NYU Students joined the community in making “magic wands” for children, which involved forming paper mache stars mixed with seeds inside, which children then attach to a stick and plant in the soil and wait for their very own seeds to sprout. Giacomo showed us that the garden, largely consisting of trains of durable, reusable baskets that house the crops, is constructed of “all-natural technology.” NYU Students watered crops with the rest of the community, while chatting with Florentines. Levi Leet filmed the encounter and is creating a documentary film based on the community garden and it’s effects. Jon Stone artistically photographed the interactions and atmosphere while Sara Barr, Courtney Casatuta and I swept the garden floor to gather compost. The irrigation system was largely created by volunteers in quite an artistic way: volunteers created clay sculptures with holes at the top, which rest above the soil where upon placing a stick into the sculpture one might monitor the water level inside the soil. These creative projects provide ways for people—whether they have disabilities, are ordinary citizens, or are international students—to interact with each other and foster a sense of oneness. When the city devoted the plot of land to public usage, Giacomo took the incentive and formed a community garden, but, being a non-profit organization, the community garden may not attempt to make income. This, and lack of funding from both the government and private sources, provides little means of expanding the project to it’s full potential. He showed students his schematics for project ideas for the garden that are still in development, among an impressive amount of other brilliant ideas, including a Zen garden, an outdoor community library, and “A Tree of Energy” that will eventually have an electronic brain, which can monitor the state of health of the plants, and through solar panels covering the top of the tree, power charging stations for pieces of technology. “I can see that the garden helps people,” Giacomo said, because it keeps people off the street and enables disabled people to interact with others where they might not have, and gives a sense of community to an otherwise large and busy city center. For more information, the community garden, whose motto is “to beautify the neighborhood, strengthen community bonds, provide a recreational opportunity for the community, and to promote environmental awareness, especially among youth,” has a website, which you can visit here.

A Community Garden Point of Interest in Florence

Text by Nicole Marie D’Alessio, photographs by Jon Stone, NYU Florence students

La Pietra is holding a dialogue entitled “Community Gardens and Public Health” during the month of April, in which Giacomo Salizzoni, architect and manager of the Borgo Pinti Community Garden, among others, will speak about the benefits of community gardens. A community garden is usually a plot of land gardened collaboratively by a group of people, and they can foster cooperation, communication and collective problem-solving through working with the land.

In the 17th century, the garden was part of the Salviati estate on Borgo Pinti. It was the first garden in Tuscany to feature jasmine (jasminun grandiflorum). Since the Florentines loved to mix scented flowers with tobacco in order to give it a special fragrance, the garden was praised for its unique scent throughout history. The garden was eventually given to the City of Florence and remains a green oasis amidst the bustling city center. It was renamed Giardini del Borgo, and is now adjacent to the Cooperative Barberi, a school which welcomes disabled children. Salizzoni transformed a portion of the garden, which was a previously private athletic field, into a community garden that is now open to the public. “Community gardens beautify a neighborhood and help to bring neighbors closer together,” the Community Garden website explains.

STONE_LPD-Community-Gardens-Borgo-Pinti_05032014_049The Community Garden is now located in the center of Florence at Borgo Pinti 76. According to TM News, the volunteer work of “disabled people, American students, and ordinary citizens allowed the formerly private garden to become a public non-profit space,” which seeks to introduce gardening to those who have never done it before, strengthen community bonds, reuse organic waste. Salizzoni says that the space is “so much more than a vegetable garden.” In fact, everyone involved in the community garden has learned to work together, combining their various skills to create a cooperating community where the experience is fulfilling to all those involved. The products which are cultivated go to those who participate in the harvest and are also made as donations. They often host all-naturally grown dinners in order to foster community.


An interesting project already under way and awaiting sponsorship is “The Tree of Energy,” a wooden structure of bamboo, designed with the help of “Bambuesto”—a association of artists dedicated to creating with only bamboo culms—and according to Il Fatto Quotidano, it will have a series of solar panels that will serve to feed 6 different sources: a webcam, a system of LED lighting, a wireless repeater, a sound system, a charging point for mobile phones and an Arduino board, a sort of electronic brain which can monitor the state of health of the plants through the level of moisture and soil fertility.


STONE_LPD-Community-Gardens-Borgo-Pinti_05032014_038This project shows that the Community Garden on Borgo Pinti, which seeks to improve a sense of community in relation to gardening, also seeks to harmonize technology with nature, two seemingly conflicting facets of human life. More information about the Community Garden project can be found on their Facebook page.

On Friday March 28th, interested NYU Florence students will be visiting the Community Gardens together with Giacomo Salizzoni in order to experience it for themselves.

Eco Acupuncture Project Presentations

By Brian Merlano, NYU Florence student

Yesterday participants of La Pietra Dialogue’s Eco-Acupuncture presented their second round of informal and in-house presentations detailing the progress thus far in their inspirations, themes, and site-specific intervention proposals. The various teams, made of international students from University of Melbourne, University of Florence, and TU Delft University, presented a wide array of intervention concepts and sites. It was exciting to see that their proposals all had a symbiotic approach to how they would shape the future of Florence; forward-thinking interventions took into account the historic and cultural heritage of the Renaissance (or “Greenaissance” as one team said) city.

The different teams all had interesting ideas at hand. From the revitalization of truly local markets to the introduction of a new kinds of meeting spaces, the students drew inspiration from Florence’s history as an international city to build on new and sustainable points of interests. Many placed focus on the social aspect of their interventions, underlining the need for interactions from Florentine locals with these new spaces and each other. Many ideas were interestingly cultural hybrids, such as one student’s proposal for digging up underground compost sites along the river, a practice common in some southeast Asian countries.

The informal presentations, though still needing more work and planning, provided an exciting jumping off point for what are sure to be inspiringly innovative final presentations. Students will be showcasing their preliminary site-specific intervention proposals in a public conference at Palazzo Strozzi’s Sala Altana!