05/21/2010 04:14 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Green Rehab in Philly and Kansas City

Too often the green movement has been guilty of catering to those who can afford pricey retrofits and other amenities of an eco-friendly lifestyle while ignoring the needs of those whose bank accounts are insufficient--or who may not have bank accounts at all. So it's pleasing to be able to highlight efforts in two major cities that create opportunities where few exist. Emily Main has posted a fascinating piece on NRDC's Smarter Cities site about Philadelphia's Roots to Reentry program that gives inmates a chance to dig into the earth, produce their own organic food and distribute seedlings to the community:

Jamie Oliver may have trademarked the idea of a food revolution with his recent reality show, but in Philadelphia, a less-publicized food revolution is taking place in the backyard of the local city jail where a garden tended by roughly two dozen inmates at any given time is used to grow seedlings and organic produce for community gardeners, local food pantries, and soup kitchens. "We produce thousands and thousands of pounds of food for donation," says Sharat Somashekara, city gardens coordinator for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which helped establish the program through its Philadelphia Green program. "Our whole garden is managed organically," he adds. "We build the soil, we compost, we cover crop--we even make our own cayenne pepper spray." Read on...

Meanwhile, as Rob Goodier documents, the Green Impact Zone in Kansas City, Missouri is working to "defibrillate" a neighborhood suffering from soaring unemployment by bringing in green jobs training, alternative energy programs and other initiatives:

150 blocks that were once decaying in the heart of Kansas City, Missouri, are on the verge of a green renewal through government grants and local business investment. What's planned is not just a face-lift, but a kind of rebirth for the impoverished neighborhoods, vacant lots and dilapidated homes and roads within what is now called the Green Impact Zone.

The impact could take the guise of college programs, public health measures, green jobs training and a regional test ground for green energy technology. Democratic congressman Emmanuel Cleaver championed the program with the idea of focusing resources and creating a model for other neighborhoods to follow. The program's leadership is now waiting for a federal decision on the grants for which it applied. Already the local utility company, Kansas City Power & Light, won a $24-million federal grant to build a "smart grid" in the zone and on its outskirts. Read on...

These are stellar projects and we need more of them in American cities. By attending to excluded and neglected communities, we can hope not only to mend our environmental fabric but our social fabric as well.