Sustainability in Green Public Spaces.
This is a word that has become increasingly prevalent in urban planning and design. It means creating and maintaining something for the long-term. But what does this mean precisely for cities and communities?
It means creating a space meant for people. At the same time, it is where environmental, economic, and social sustainability converge. It is a place that is safe and accessible for both people and nature. This is 11th in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
Sustainability is as broad as it is ambitious. It encompasses numerous aspects of urban life. However, there is one factor where we can start: urban green spaces.
The Bleakness Of Concrete Spaces
Once, buildings and infrastructure stood at the height of development. As a matter of fact, they still do today. While these do serve a purpose, they cannot be the only priority.
So much of our natural environment has fallen in the name of progress. Consequently, this has meant urban spaces devoid of greens and overly dependent on concrete.
It also meant the displacement of countless urban residents. This is all to make way for something that benefits only a few. Unfortunately, this has become the definition of an urban environment in many cities.
Cars Versus People
Roads are proving to be one of the biggest obstacles to sustainable development. This isn’t to say that they are not beneficial. Instead, this is to critique the prioritization of cars over people.
Highways and structured paths help us get to places safely. However, the saturation of these roads reflect how we value cars over people.
Industrial Buildings Versus Urban Green Spaces
As cities grow, so does the number of industrial buildings. These are essential to production and economic growth.
However, a city can only build so many industrial buildings. At some point, the limit is reached and natural spaces should be given more attention. Parks are often seen as a luxury, but they are integral to community health.
Green Urban Spaces: A Big Step Toward People & Nature-Centered Cities
Green public spaces are just as the name implies: expansive green spaces open to the public. These areas can serve numerous functions, from active recreation to passive leisure.
It is a place where people can meet, have a picnic, or simply relax. It is also the perfect spot for biodiversity and natural habitat preservation.
The Benefits Of Green Public Spaces
There are numerous benefits to having green public spaces in urban communities.
1. They create a vibrant and healthy public space.
Colorful and lush green spaces create a lasting impression for locals and visitors. It also serves to bring people together, fostering a sense of community in the process.
2. They mitigate the effects of urban heat islands.
Urban areas tend to be much hotter than their rural counterparts due to the sheer number of buildings. Green spaces help mitigate this, as they can absorb and reflect heat from the environment.
The same goes for rainy seasons. Land and plants help absorb large amounts of water, thus preventing flooding in urban areas.
3. They reduce air pollution, water runoff, and other environmental concerns.
The presence of plants helps reduce air and water pollution. They also filter air quality for pollutants in the atmosphere. Ultimately, this leads to cleaner air and water.
4. They Improve Mental And Physical Health.
Having access to green public spaces helps reduce stress levels, improve moods, and increase productivity. Studies have found that those living in areas with more green public spaces are less prone to depression. The same goes for other mental health issues.
Green urban parks also help people stay on top of their physical health. That is because urban landscapes provide an encouraging space for exercise.
5. They encourage sustainability.
Green spaces encourage us to be more conscious of our environmental footprints. They also create an opportunity to learn about and engage with nature. This way, they further increase our appreciation for the environment.
In particular, green spaces are sustainable because:
- They can act as natural buffers against climate change.
- They are resilient to environmental changes and disasters.
- They provide food, water, and oxygen.
- They improve air quality.
- They help with natural habitat conservation.
- They provide recreational and educational opportunities.
Shifting From Gray Concretes To Grassy Greens
The thing with this goal is that it’s not easy to reach. This is the case with most goals that involve a collective effort. However, we can always start from the bottom while still aiming for significant changes.
Understanding Green Public Spaces
To create more green public spaces, we need to understand what it means in the first place. Green public spaces are parks, gardens, forests, and other green areas that are open to the public.
They do not necessarily have to be large. However, they should be accessible and provide various functions. This way, both locals and visitors can benefit from the benefits of green public spaces.
In this line, a golf course only available to the rich does not count as a green public space. These lands run big, which could otherwise be used to help communities grow.
Start With A Small Urban Green Space
For instance, communities can come up with their own green space projects. These can be as simple as turning unused plots of land into community gardens.
Then, we can reach out to others who are passionate about this cause. This way, the momentum can build up and eventually turn into something bigger.
Transforming Major Cities
Cities are also in need of green spaces. The population density and hustle of major cities is high. This makes it hard for people to find accessible green spaces.
The good news is, now more than ever, cities are recognizing the importance of green public spaces. This has been shown in the massive efforts of some countries. With urban green space strategies, they have successfully changed their cities.
One of the biggest examples is the Harbor Drive Freeway in Portland. The city decided to remove this freeway and turn the space into a park. It is now known as Tom McCall Park.
The Madrid Rio Project is another major urban transformation. It turned a 6.5 km stretch of highway into a green space for all to enjoy.
A similar thing occurred in Cheonggyecheon, Seoul, South Korea. The elevated highway was demolished, and the canal underneath was cleaned. Then, they turned it into a park that runs along the length of the city.
Working With Like-Minded Organizations
This goal will not be possible without support from national and local governments. After all, green public spaces are seen as a form of public infrastructure.
The realization of these spaces will also require collective effort. We must work with organizations that aim to increase access to green spaces.
Green City Growers
Let us take a look at Green City Growers. This B Corp works with businesses, institutions, and municipalities to create green spaces in urban land.
They offer a range of services such as designing rooftop gardens, edible gardens, and outdoor classrooms. Although they work with private clients, they also envision a world where green space access is the norm. This is one step close to a more sustainable and livable future.
Green Cities: The Future Of Sustainability
Green public spaces are essential in creating sustainable cities. This is why we need to understand what they are and how we can create them.
We must work with like-minded organizations. We also need to have the right attitude and start with small projects. That way, we can turn urban environments into green havens that benefit everyone.
Working together is key in creating a green and sustainable future. Let’s continue to do our part in making this goal a reality.