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How Do Green Spaces Benefit A City's Environment?

Mar 21st, 2024

Living in a bustling metropolis offers undeniable advantages. From diverse cultural experiences to a plethora of career opportunities and networking events, city life can be more than exhilarating. However, navigating the urban jungle also comes with its fair share of challenges, including air pollution, noise and the constant feeling of being surrounded by concrete and asphalt. 

This is where green spaces come in, offering a welcome respite to the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle and significantly impacting the well-being of city dwellers.

Green spaces like parks, tree-lined boulevards and shady sidewalks do more than beautify cities: they actually improve our mental and physical wellbeing! Here are a few ways that your neighborhood park and canopies of sidewalk trees contributes to a happier, healthier urban lifestyle. 

5 benefits of urban green spaces

Green spaces improve air quality

One of the most crucial benefits of green spaces in urban areas is their ability to improve air quality.

Cities are notorious for their high concentrations of air pollutants, primarily from vehicle emissions and industrial activities. These pollutants can have detrimental effects on our health, leading to respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases and even premature death. However, trees and other vegetation act as natural air filters, absorbing harmful pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter from the air and releasing cool, crisp oxygen as a byproduct. Studies have shown that increased green space can significantly reduce air pollution levels, making our cities cleaner and healthier to breathe in.

Green spaces reduce noise levels

Beyond cleaning the air, green spaces also play a vital role in mitigating the constant din of urban life. Traffic noise, construction work and the general hustle and bustle of city living can take a toll on our mental and physical health. Increased exposure to noise pollution has been linked to stress, sleep disturbances and even hearing loss. Just because we get used to it, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily good for us.

Green spaces, with their leafy trees, bushy shrubs and other dense, natural elements, act as sound barriers, absorbing and deflecting noise pollution and creating physical distance between you and the noise. Studies suggest that living near parks or other green areas can significantly reduce noise levels, creating a calmer and more peaceful environment for residents.

Green spaces are cool… literally!

Another significant benefit of urban green spaces is their ability to regulate city temperatures. As cities are dominated by concrete and asphalt, they tend to absorb and retain heat, leading to what's known as the "urban heat island effect." This phenomenon can increase temperatures by several degrees compared to surrounding areas, contributing to discomfort, heat-related illnesses and increased energy consumption for cooling. It’s a vicious cycle, and with the spread of urbanization it’s a challenge that we have to address sooner rather than later.

Fortunately, green spaces offer a natural cooling solution. Trees and other vegetation provide shade, reducing surface temperatures and creating cooler microclimates. Well-designed green spaces can significantly lower urban temperatures and make cities more comfortable and energy-efficient! Plus, the greenery is a nice change from all the concrete and asphalt.

Green spaces are good for everyone

Perhaps the most compelling benefit of urban green spaces lies in their profound impact on human health and well-being. 

Studies have consistently shown that individuals who live near green spaces experience a range of health benefits. Spending time in nature on a walk in the park, a jog through a greenway or sitting under a tree can significantly reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure and improve mood. Additionally, green spaces encourage physical activity, providing opportunities for walking, biking and other forms of recreation. This increased physical activity contributes to a healthier lifestyle, potentially reducing the risk of obesity, heart disease and other chronic illnesses. 

Research even suggests that living near green spaces can have a positive impact on longevity, with studies showing a correlation between increased green space and slower aging! Green spaces could, quite literally, save lives!

The benefit spreads beyond us humans to our four-legged companions, too! Dogs are naturally athletic and have a hard time regulating their energy and emotions when cooped up indoors for too long. When they have access to places where they can exercise, run, play and socialize to their hearts’ content, they end up happier, healthier and calmer at home. 

Green spaces are 10/10

Green spaces aren’t merely a luxury in our bustling urban landscapes (though we certainly take them for granted); they are a vital necessity that significantly improves the quality of life for city dwellers.

From cleaner air and reduced noise pollution to cooler temperatures and improved physical and mental health, the benefits of green spaces are undeniable. As we continue to plan and develop our cities and change how we exist within them, prioritizing the creation and access to green spaces should be at the forefront of our efforts. By creating a network of parks, greenways and even rooftop gardens, we can cultivate healthier, more vibrant and sustainable urban environments for our generation and for future generations to come.

And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

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Featured photo by Nerea Martí Sesarino on Unsplash

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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