A family plants a garden at their east-side home in 2016 with the help of the Southern Arizona Community Food Bank.

This story was created by #ThisIsTucson and underwritten by the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality — take the Drive-Less Pledge and get entered to win a gift card. Thank you for supporting the local organizations that support us!


Suddenly, we're in a world where teleworking and bread baking coexist. 

Hop off a Zoom call with your coworkers and then check on your sourdough starter. 

It's a weird world none of us could have imagined just months ago. 

We're driving less, cooking more and finding slower ways to spend our days. And while we're yearning to again hug our people, dine in restaurants and wander the aisles of Bookmans just because, there are some habits we're picking up that we'd like to stick around. Some, especially, are good for our community and our world. 

Gina Murphy-Darling, the founder and CEO of the Tucson-based sustainability website and platform Mrs. Green's World, says her family has been playing games — once a vacation-only activity — cooking together and making a point of getting to know the neighborhood better. 

"We all stop working from home at an agreed-upon time and gather in the backyard for healthy snacks, conversation, and once in a while, a glass of champagne for the adults," she writes in an email. "No phones, no texting, no distractions — just being together." 

She says the family enjoys it so much they plan to keep up the habit even after the stay-at-home order lifts.

These are little things that make both our days in isolation and our lives in Tucson just a little more  sustainable. Here are a few more ideas. 

Walk 

In an effort to not go stir crazy, many Tucsonans have opted to leave the confines of their homes to take a walk through their neighborhoods. Pandemic or not, birds are still singing.

Chances are you're taking plenty of walks through your neighborhood right now. We love walks because you get a more intimate glimpse of the streets you drive through daily. 

In recent weeks, neighbors around Tucson have rallied to hide teddy bears in windows, color sidewalks with chalk and create signs with messages of hope. Keep your eyes open for these

We have created a guide to Tucson wildflowers and birds you're likely to see on your walks, so you can add a component of education to your exploration. We're also starting to see palo verde trees blossom, filling neighborhood front yards with dainty yellow blossoms. Here's a list of 10 things you probably didn't know about palo verdes.  

If you live in a historic neighborhood, there's even more to know about the place you live. From Winterhaven — which was developed with a holiday light festival in mind — to Barrio Anita with its history of Chinese grocers, many Tucson neighborhoods have fascinating stories to tell about our city. Here are 10 amazing facts about historic Tucson neighborhoods

Buy local 

Julie Swartzentruber, a server, tells a customer over the phone their dessert options at Five Points Market & Restaurant, 756 S. Stone Ave., on March 20, 2020. Due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), bars and restaurants have been ordered to only offer takeout options to customers. Customers are not allowed inside the restaurant and can only call or text in their orders to limit contact with staff.

This is always important, but it's even more important now that most of our local businesses are closed or have had to drastically change their business models. 

Murphy-Darling suggests ordering one meal a week from a locally-owned restaurant and calling to ask about safety protocols for food prep and the staff before you make your order. 

The Thursday Santa Cruz River Farmer's Market at the Mercado San Agustin has also converted to a drive-thru format. Get more information about that on the market's Facebook page

You might also consider taking bread-making lessons online from Barrio Bread's Don Guerra or getting meat delivered by local butcher Forbes Meat Company. 

Side note: Now is also a great time to practice minimizing your food waste. Because the longer you can make things last, the less you have to brave the grocery store. 

There are also several online markets that have popped up in the last month to curate multiple Tucson small businesses in one spot. 

The annual Made in Tucson Market has gone virtual for the month of April, with the websites of tons of Tucson artists compiled into one place. Startup Tucson has also launched the digital marketplace Tucson Shops Tucson to help you explore and shop from some of your favorite local businesses online (#ThisIsTucson has a digital shop in the market). 

Garden 

Ruby Boulet-Stephenson waters the family's new backyard garden, on March 27, 2020.

We've always loved gardening, but having a few veggies growing in your backyard feels particularly good right now, amid fears of food security and limited grocery store trips. Plus, everything is blooming right now, which makes for a daily dose of happy when you pop outside to see flowers. 

Murphy-Darling suggests planting a butterfly garden if you're not sure where to start. 

"Milkweed attracts monarch butterflies, so you won't just have done a fun activity, you can make a difference for a species that is disappearing and get to enjoy seeing your garden or front or back porch full of beautiful butterflies," she says in an email. 

If you're new to desert vegetable gardening, Native Seeds /SEARCH — which has closed both its online and physical stores for now — has a great guide to planting and harvesting in the low desert. According to that guide, now is a good time to plant corn, cucumbers, squash and more. 

The Pima County Master Gardeners of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension also has fantastic resources for Tucson gardeners. This is super helpful, because much of the generic gardening advice you find on the internet isn't specific enough to our unique climate.  Also, the master gardeners have set up a remote "plant clinic," so you can get specialized plant help from home. Just submit inquiries by calling 520-626-5161 and leaving a voicemail or emailing pcmgplantclinic@gmail.com

The Pima County Master Gardeners, for example, recommends that in April, you plant warm season annuals (think zinnias and marigolds), perennials that provide color and attract pollinators, heat-loving vines, citrus and fig trees and seeds for certain veggies. 

The April recommendation also have suggestions for how you should be caring for existing plants during this time of the year. 

If you still need to purchase plants and garden supplies, here are a few local nurseries doing curbside pickup: 

Silverbell Nursery and Co., 2730 N. Silverbell Road, is limiting customers on site and also has an online store with curbside pickup options. 

Harlow Gardens, 5620 E. Pima Street, will work with you if you'd like to purchase via email and then have your order delivered or picked up. 

Tucson Clean and Beautiful's Trees for Tucson is still selling and delivering trees in the Tucson area. And planting a tree, perhaps, is the ultimate sustainable, quarantine activity. 


Take the "Drive-Less" pledge for healthy air and you could win a $100 gift card

If you (like us) are driving way less these days, you are already helping Tucson's air quality. By skipping just one commute trip in your motor vehicle each week — by carpooling, taking transit or riding a bike instead — you can reduce air pollution about 1,000 pounds a year and help keep the air healthy for those you care about. 

When we drive less we'll all win with cleaner air to breathe, and if you take the "Drive-Less" pledge you might win a $100 gift card! Read the Healthy Air Is In Our Hands Campaign and Contest Rules and then take the pledge for cleaner air.


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