Paris has taken urban sustainability to the next level with the most recent addition to its team of municipal workers. Rather than investing in another fleet of gas-guzzling lawn mowers, the city has acquired four large sheep to take care of its green spaces. Known as “eco-grazing”, the sheep won’t just be mowing the city’s lawns — they’ll be fertilizing them too!
For now, the team of lawn-mowing sheep will be living and grazing a grassy slope just outside Paris’ Municipal Archives building. At a cost of €260, the sheep were incredibly cheap, another aspect of the program’s overall sustainability. Along with the wildly successfully Velib bike sharing system, the sheep are part of the efforts of Mayor Bertrand Delanoë to make Paris more environmentally friendly. This is a spectacular example, and its extensive coverage from traditional news outlets and blogs worldwide are undeniably contributing to the image of a greener Paris. If the pilot program succeeds it will be extended and expanded.
The program is appealing in its reference to the commons of the pre-modern city, where public land was shared, and free-roaming domesticated animals were as commonplace as benches and street lamps. With today’s immense popularity of urban farming, rooftop gardens, and urban chickens, Paris’ urban sheep represent one more step in the complete (re)integration of farms and cities. Looking back to historical uses of cities, but with modern standards for health and safety, we can reference the past, and improve it while building the sustainable city of the future.