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Can community gardens promote more sustainable lifestyles?

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UNESCO Chair in World Food Systems

By Marion Tharrey, Nicole Darmon, INRAE, UMR MoISA, Montpellier, France
Jan 2021


Key points

  • The results of the JArDinS study—conducted in the Greater Montpellier area—did not reveal any changes towards more sustainable lifestyles among community garden users a year after they began participating in the garden.
  • Novice gardeners mentioned several difficulties in getting involved in their community garden, which they visited irregularly. This could explain why no lifestyle impact was noted.
  • The organization of community gardens should be revised to promote long-term integration and active participation of city dwellers (location close to their households, support and regular activities), thereby enhancing lifestyle sustainability.

With over 70% of Europe’s population living in cities, there is an urgent need to promote sustainable urban development that ensures community health, social inclusion, environmental protection and economic development. Urban green spaces are recognized as a vital element in the design of sustainable cities. They provide many health, social and environmental benefits, especially for the most vulnerable segments of the population (WHO Regional Office for Europe, 2016). Community gardens are among the different forms of green spaces. They may be individual and/or collective plots of land cultivated and managed by people living in the neighbour-hood. These gardens may be developed within the framework of city policies or urban renewal programmes. They mainly have a social and cultural function, but also contribute to more sustainable food systems by providing access to fresh and highly nutritional seasonal produce. The overall aim is thus to achieve more sustainable food systems.

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