In a corner of the Dizengoff shopping center in Tel Aviv there is a wooden kiosk selling fresh greens and herbs. It's called Honesty Stand and it's an unexpected oasis in the multitude of chain stores and food courts that you can find in every mall. This modest vegetable stand depends on the honor system: no staff or cashier, customers take what they need and leave the money in a box. Does it work? Yes, 80% of people do pay. Thanks to the high quality and affordable prices, the produce sells out easily and the stand has to be replenished four times a day, but that's not difficult as the vegetables are grown on the roof of the shopping center.
In the heart of the dynamic Israeli metropolis, the rooftop of the city's oldest mall accommodates a 750-square-meters farm, where one would not suspect such an urban farm to exist. The project Green in the City has been launched in 2015 by the hydroponics company LivinGreen and the Dizengoff Center’s sustainability department. The goal is to promote urban farming and public health, enabling citizens to grow vegetables on their own vegetable. "The rooftop farm can help urban Millennials to get excited about growing their own food, without having to move to the rural farms, or kibbutzim, that attracted previous generations" says Lavi Kushelevich, urban farming advisor who works at Green in the City.
This pocket of green, surrounded by skyscrapers, grows 17 different kinds of vegetables and 10.000 heads of leafy greens every month, and sells them to local restaurants, at farmer's markets and through the Honesty Stand. No pesticides are used, no soil is needed, Green in the City uses aquaponics and hydroponics methods, which means growing food plants in water, with the nourishment materials dissolved in the water. Solar powered air pumps aerate the water. "The vegetable grows twice as fast compared to soil-grown produce" Kushelevich explains.
The farm hosts educational workshops, cooking classes and system demos. But that's not the only sustainable initiative at the Dizengoff Center. On the roof they also recreated bird habitats and placed beehives for pollination to encourage bees to populate the area. And the basement is home to a colony of a few dozen bats, protected by the mall's sustainability department.
It's fascinating to see how a hub of consumerism can be turned into a force for sustainability. This project should be an inspiring example for other shopping malls.
Next Nature Network was a guest of Vibe Israel and took part in the Vibe Eco Impact Tour in December 2016 to explore sustainability initiatives in Israel.