Greening Our Urban Spaces...

As temperatures across the globe reach record highs, towns and cities everywhere are turning ‘green’ as city planners and Governments search for innovative ways to reduce their carbon footprint caused, by greenhouse gas emissions, (GHG) and reduce the impact they have on the world.

In effect, urbanisation is entering a new era, and a transformation that will see a ‘rewilding’ of the urban landscape that, when created, will benefit people, place, and planet.

Everywhere we look, capital cities are changing. The once congested streets of yesteryear are gradually becoming quieter, calmer spaces, where residents and tourists, alike, are invited to discover their inner beauty by bike, or public transport, heralding a return to a bygone age.

In fact, residents in many cities are hanging up their keys and turning their back on the car recognising that it, like many of the things we now take for granted, is not about freedom per se, but far more about consumerism and our ‘must have’ modern day lives.

This green revolution may still be in its infancy but, what is apparent, is this utopian view is here to stay, and capital cities everywhere are embracing the opportunity to become greener, cleaner spaces. With bus shelter roofs donning plant friendly habitats and swathes of vertical green walls being used to clean the air, along the most congested of highways, providing a welcome reduction in both pollution and noise.

In Paris - France for example, Spanish born mayor, Anne Hidalgo is not just looking to take action against the ‘car’ to help reduce the cities pollution problem and curb carbon emissions, she is also urging Parisians, everywhere, to take up the urban gardening challenge with her innovative ‘permis de vegetaliser’.

A green permit that gives Parisians the right to grow plants and harvest crops on any free plot of urban land.

Parisian residents can apply for the ‘green’ permit that grants them a three-year renewable permit, to garden in their neighbourhood, this ‘green’ remit includes the creation of rooftop gardens, bee-friendly spaces and vertical living walls.

A bold directive, and one that has attracted its fair share of critics. But, all over the city, tiny green spaces are appearing and these magical, micro gardens now form part of a wider package, that will see Paris transform its streets and urban spaces into eco-friendly landscapes that have far reaching benefits, not just, for its residents, but the world.

Hidalgo’s vision embodies an additional thirty hectares of public gardens, the planting of 20 thousand new trees, and, recognising the importance of education, her vision, looks to ensure schools adopt healthy eating regimes by growing their own to help create a more eco-friendly landscape that will deliver far reaching benefits for all of its residents.

However, it is important that we acknowledge that, although, making our highways greener, for example, may look like an attractive proposition on paper, they cannot be adopted in isolation, otherwise the tangible benefits to both the immediate environment and, indeed, its residents will, be negligible.

In Mexico City, for example, the innovative Via Verde or Green Way, the brainchild of architect Fernando Ortiz Monasterio is, unfortunately, facing such criticism as campaigners question the reported environmental benefits. But, no one can deny that these vertical gardens that adorn the columns supporting the elevated section of the highly congested Anillo Periférico, the capital’s outer ring road, do improve the aesthetics of a city where green spaces, remain in short supply...

Whilst Madrid, the capital of Spain, is considered to be the second most sustainable city in the world, after Tokyo; hardly surprising, with its 300,000 trees and some 6400 hectares of green space. In fact, it has a tree for every 20 of its residents and that has a lot to do with its history... and it is on a mission to lead cities into a #sustainable future.

Yet, in truth, cities don't just need to green up their streets and parks, they need to ensure that they become more than just a collection of buildings, so that they become smarter, all inclusive spaces, creating cities that are complementary, where people can live, work, relax, and thrive… and that demands a new way of thinking.

Look out for our forthcoming blog on smart cities and the green agenda – creating urban spaces that benefit people, place and planet.

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