Miami has a long history of environmental advocacy, preservation and restoration for a long time. The effects of global warming, sea-level rise, and hurricanes dictate that we be proactive in our approach to threatening environmental conditions. The City of Miami Office of Sustainable Initiatives (MSI), Miami-Dade County's Green Team, The Urban Environmental League of Greater Miami, and Urban Paradise Guild are a few of the local organizations that have been fighting the good fight.
The City of Miami Office of Sustainable Initiatives (MSI) led the creation of MiPlan, the City’s Climate Action Plan which set targets for greenhouse gas reductions. Since then, MSI has led efforts to implement the plan and become a model for environmental best practices.
Urban GreenWorks (UGW) initially started with the intent of improving the environmental quality of inner-city neighborhoods. Our first environmental and enrichment programs for youth began at the TACOLCY Center in Liberty City and Here's Help, a drug treatment center for young men in Opa locka. Each program allowed us to engage participants with community-based environmental projects - from increasing canopy cover to building food forests & pocket hammocks in urban neighborhoods. Since 2012, UGW staff members have served on local government and community green initiatives to better the canopy coverage and environmental quality of City & County-wide.
But why plant trees? Building a healthy tree canopy is critical to our City’s continued prosperity. Trees are an investment in our future. The City of Miami has adopted a tree master plan to increase the size and health of its tree canopy, which set a goal of attaining 30% tree canopy. Trees provide shade and cool our city – saving up to 50% off a home’s electricity bill & providing safe environments for residents to commune and build community; clean our water and provide habitat for birds and wildlife; absorb carbon dioxide, which reduces global warming; and trees add beauty and thereby increase property values in our neighborhoods.
Today, through strategic partnerships, UGW has expanded its urban environment to include school gardens & curricula, food forests, aquaponic systems, and urban bee-keeping; we create and restore native habitat through our "Hammocks in da Hood" and "Pollinator Pathway" projects; we support local adopt-a-tree programs; we offer vegan-based healthy eating programs, as we believe that eating less meat is one of the greatest things an individual can do to benefit the environment; and we offer sustainable and replicable advisory services that improve the physical & social health of our Community.
In 2018, Miami was chosen as 1 of 100 Resilient Cities in the world.
Hammocks in da Hood
In most urban centers one finds a direct correlation between wealthy neighborhoods and the quality and density of tree canopy cover: the greater the cover the wealthier the neighborhood. Which means, in Miami’s poorest neighborhoods there is little or no overhead shade. The streets are hot and residents are reluctant to walk or bicycle or spend time outdoors.
"Hammocks in da Hood" addresses two main problems: the growing hot zone in core urban neighborhoods, and the destruction of the regions native plants and wildlife from both development and the widespread use of exotic plants for landscaping. Our aim is to recreate in some form the native hammock systems (a hammock being a tropical hardwood forest endemic to South Florida) that have mostly disappeared from Miami-Dade County. And our choice locations are neglected open space in under-served Miami neighborhoods. Working with local youth or youth from our drug rehab Addicted to Gardening program, we educate local residents in the importance of native ecology, and the ecosystem that their neighborhood consists of. This connection – as well as the opportunity to plant a forest – is inspiring and helps draw youth closer to nature while teaching them the science behind it. The end result: more canopy cover in core urban neighborhoods, cooler streets, higher recharge rates for urban aquifers, more youth educated in science and natural processes, and the proliferation of plant and animal diversity throughout Miami-Dade County.