Citizens are becoming more aware of the effects of climate change not only on a global scale, but also locally, and are demanding action from local authorities towards a more sustainable future. Climate change effects are being more visible year after year.
Governments are aware of the situation and are searching for ways of tackling it to mitigate and revert the effects of climate change. At a local level, municipalities are planning for greener urban areas and have taken action to increase the tree canopy of the cities and the amount of parks and green areas. Barcelona, for example, has a plan to increase the tree canopy of the city from 25% to 30%.
Benefits of trees and green spaces in urban areas that can be summarised as follows:
Better overall quality of life:
Improved relaxation and restoration: The contact with green areas and nature has been recognised to be restorative and relaxing as they help reduce stress because of an innately predisposition to find non-threatening natural stimuli relaxing. Moreover, it is suggested that involuntary attention given to rich stimuli in natural settings helps improve performance in cognitively demanding tasks.
Enhanced physical activity, improved physical condition, and reduced obesity: There are several factors that promote inactiveness such as traffic, and lack of paths or footpaths in cities. Therefore, accessibility to a near green zone significantly improves the predisposition to physical activity.
Production of natural sounds and anthropogenic noise buffering: noise pollution is a major threat to human health, which leads to increased stress, bad sleep quality, etc. Trees have proven to be an effective way to decrease noise levels in dense urban areas.
Optimised exposure to sunlight and improved sleep: More time spent outdoors leads to an increase in the exposure to sunlight, which can have positive effects by improving vitamin D levels. Also, exposure to blue light can stimulate alertness and cognition, helping to promote healthier sleep.
Reduced exposure to air pollution: Vegetation in general can reduce the levels of air pollutants by acting as a physical filter of particles and absorbing the carbon dioxide.
Reduction of the urban heat island effect: Heat related morbidity is a major public health concern. Heat waves have killed more than 166.000 people between 1998 and 2017 and this number is continuing to rise as temperatures increase on the globe. Having more green zones strategically distributed across the city can help reduce the heat island effect decreasing temperatures up to 5°C.
Enhanced pro-environmental behaviour: green areas can provide a feedback effect on citizens, enhancing good activities towards the environment, as well as more awareness towards climate.
Better storm runoff: Green infrastructure mimics how nature handles rainwater through the use of porous surfaces , rather than impervious surfaces like roadways, which helps in intense rainfall runoff and helps mitigate climate disasters such as floods in cities.
Improved mental health and cognitive function: Some studies suggest that there is stronger evidence that green spaces benefit more the mental health than the physical health. People living in greener areas are linked to lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.
Improved functioning of the immune system: it has been demonstrated in several studies that there is an association between visiting nature and immune system boosts which can be due to the exposure to certain chemical or physical factors in green spaces.
Reduced cardiovascular morbidity: Low levels of vegetation in cities are related to higher risks in suffering cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, it has been proven that walking around green spaces can help reduce heart rate and pressure, thus being helpful in coronary diseases rehabilitation.
Reduced mortality: Several studies have shown evidence that exposure to urban green space is linked to reduced mortality rates. A recent study in Philadelphia suggests that increasing the tree canopy in the city up to 30% can prevent 400 premature deaths every year.
Improved pregnancy outcomes: A systematic review has shown a positive relation between access to green spaces in close proximity to homes of pregnant women and birth weight in newborns.
Starlab team is very conscious of the facts exposed and aims to create new solutions that can help address these issues. With GreenDEX, we want to empower cities to make better decisions and keep their citizens informed. Moreover, with this service we aim to help Real Estate agencies adding environmental information to the investment decisions of their customers.