Urban greening is a big topic at the moment, but why is it important? We’ve listed the top 5 reasons we think our cities should be greener.
1. It makes us happy!
Spending time in nature is great for our wellbeing. Did you know that being close to nature can help you feel less worried or anxious, make you experience positive emotions and just generally improve your mental wellbeing? Given half the global population lives in cities (and this is on the rise - London alone is expected to have 3 million more residents by 2050), this means it’s more important than ever to build sustainable and healthy places to live.
2. It's good for wildlife
Bringing greenery into our cities, whether through green roofs, walls or pocket parks helps support biodiversity. We’ve experienced this ourselves: where we work in Paddington a green space on the working campus plays host to an abundance of wildlife, such as insects and birds.
Another great example is the Natural History Museum garden, in which over 3,300 species have been identified since it opened 25 years ago, many of which have contributed to scientific studies. Green spaces for wildlife don’t all need to be big, even just a single plant can act as a stepping stone as many small but mighty creatures navigate their way across a concrete jungle. If you want to learn how to make your garden more bee friendly, check out our advice.
3. It's future proofing in the fight against climate change
Did you know standing under a tree in really hot weather is a great way to cool down? Of course you did, but maybe you didn’t know that the right amount of tree cover in cities can lower temperatures by 10 degrees fahrenheit! Shading homes and streets breaks up urban ‘heat islands’ (caused by the heat generated by houses, shops, industrial buildings, vehicles and people in close proximity) and trees also release water vapour through their leaves. As we experience hotter summers these sorts of benefits will be increasingly important.
Increased extreme weather events will also include heavier, more frequent rainfalls. Green spaces can help with expected increases in heavy downpours, to avoid flooding. Sustainable drainage (often referred to as SuDS) includes nature based solutions to slow the rate at which stormwater enters piped drainage systems and this includes things like rain gardens and street trees. Also, turning grey, impermeable surfaces into green, permeable ones reduces the risk of flash flooding, as some water is able to drain into the ground, instead of run over it.
4. It can help support our food system
Greening in cities can also mean growing food! Private gardens, community gardens, allotments and urban farms all have a role to play in building a more resilient food system. While this won’t replace large scale farming, growing this way can help us reconnect with food and shorten supply chains for certain products. Learn more about the benefits of eating locally produced food here.
Currently 84 percent of fruit and 46 percent of vegetables consumed in the UK are imported, so growing in towns and cities can only improve our resilience to any shocks in the supply system. Vertical and indoor growing are also more resilient to pests and extreme weather, and the conditions are much easier to control than out in a field.
5. It can reduce air pollution
Now considered the biggest global environmental health threat by the World Health Organisation, green spaces can play a role in tackling this issue. Plants can improve air quality using good old photosynthesis! They absorb harmful gases and produce clean oxygen. It’s a win win. An added bonus is that plants deflect radiation from the sun, meaning that leaves soften the rays and reduce UV exposure, reducing eye and skin damage, and dehydration from overexposure.
These are our top reasons for making our cities greener and we hope to see more and more of this in the coming months and years, both in our home city of London, and across the world. Have you seen any great examples of urban greening we should know about? Let us know!
Square Mile Farms bring vertical, urban farming to city dwellers. We aim to bring people closer to food production and help to create a culture of healthy, sustainable living. Find out more about our offering and get in touch here with any queries. You can also follow us on social media to stay up to date with our journey, find us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.