Growing up in northeastern United States, I had a garden at home, and I would often help my mother grow plants and vegetables. When I left home to attend university in Vermont, the students maintained an organic garden that grew fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. It was one of my favorite places on campus to visit and was where my husband proposed marriage, so it continues to bring me fond memories.
Gardens don’t only hold personal significance for me. They also provide important benefits to individual health and the environment. Many Americans have chosen to grow their own produce as a healthy alternative to supermarket varieties or to reduce fossil fuel consumption and emissions required to transport produce across great distances. Responsible consumers plant home and community gardens in an effort to “eat locally” to reduce carbon emissions and have a smaller impact on the environment.
The U.S. Consulate General, Hyderabad decided to team up with i Go Green Foundation to plant a school garden. We wanted to help students begin the path towards healthy lifestyles and learn about the benefits of gardens to the environment. Planting a school or community garden restores oxygen to the air, helps replenish groundwater supplies and reduces air pollution.
Planting a garden also creates a positive learning space and opportunity to build responsibility in young children. By planting a school garden we created an outdoor classroom where students can gain firsthand knowledge about basic plant biology and the ecosystem. They also learn the value of responsibility, as they work to care for living things and learn about the many environmental and health benefits of plants and trees. Most importantly, planting a school garden empowers students by showing them they can have a positive impact on their community and the environment.
The students of Sri Vidyanjali School in Kukatpally were excited to have their own school garden. Together we planted seeds that will grow into palak, tomatoes, bitter gourd, brinjal, chili peppers and more. Of course, I could only be there for one day; it will be up to the students to maintain their garden. I told them I’d be come back to check on their progress. The students promised to make me lunch with fresh vegetables from the garden. I can’t wait, as long as they don’t use too much chili!
Elizabeth Jones is the Assistant Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate General, Hyderabad.