What is Green Infrastructure?
The definition of Green Infrastructure according to the Ohio EPA is "The use of vegetation, soil, and natural processes to manage water and create healthier urban environments". What this means is that by using natural resources to collect rainwater, runoff and other precipitation in order to cycle it back into the ground. The process not only helps to clean the water, but also to control stormwater runoff.
Making A Change
In the world today going green is becoming a major factor in how we build and improve cities. There are a lot of major cities not only in the U.S. but in countries around the world that are taking big steps to become as green as they can.
Portland, Oregon- Since 1903 Portland has been inspiring cities to embrace green space. Becoming a leader in mixing urban and outdoor spaces, the city demolished a 6-lane highway to develop a waterfront park and can boast about their 92,000 total acres of green space. In addition to the extensive acreage, the city has 74 miles of biking, hiking, and running trails. They have also established an urban-growth boundary protecting 25 million acres of forests and farms.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania- In 2013 the City of Philly was granted the first EPA-approved green infrastructure plan. One of the projections for the plan was that it could absorb and eliminate ~1.5 billion pounds carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of taking 3,400 cars off the road. Economic benefits would include; property values that would increase by $390 million in 45 years and the creation of 250 local green jobs. The new plan was based on the "green acre" concept (one green acre=one inch of managed stormwater from one acre of impervious drainage area or 27,158 gallons of stormwater).
New York City, New York-The City of New York made the first step in 2010 to go green by unveiling the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan. Goals for this plan are to reduce combined sewer overflow(CSO) volume by 3.8 billion gallons per year, capture rainfall from 10 percent of impervious surfaces in CSO areas through green infrastructure and other source controls, and provide substantial sustainability benefits (i.e. cooling the city, reducing energy use, increasing property values and cleaning the air).
Vancouver, Canada- Named the most livable city by Economist Magazine, Vancouver is a world leader in hydroelectric energy which makes up 90% of its own power supply. The greenhouse gas levels are 20% lower than reported in 1990, and recently introduced solar powered trash compactors are able to hold five times more waste while being the size of a normal trash can.
Bogota, Columbia- Lauded for making major steps to go green, Enrique Penalosa is given most of the credit for creating change based on a philosophy of 'hedonics'; bringing about change through planning around human happiness rather than economic growth. This thought process aided in implementing a car-free day for the entire city, revitalizing green space by overhauling the bike paths in the city, and promoting designs that put children and their safety as a first priority.
Curitiba, Brazil- Made up of almost 30 parks and urban forests this city of about 1.8 million people is one of the top 10 greenest cities in the world. For such a populated city they have a number of green options to boast about; in 1991 a program was implemented that gives low-income families a way to earn bus tickets and food by gathering and recycling reusable waste. This lead to 70% of the cities waste being recycled every year(equivalent of 1,200 trees in paper recycling). Contractors are able to receive a tax incentive when construction projects include green areas. The average green space per citizen is about 52 square meters (560 sq. feet) and continues to improve, as well as a break on property taxes that allows them to be removed completely for landowners that maintain 70-100% of native forests located on their land.
Frieburg, Germany- In 1986 this city in southern Germany became one of the first German cities to adopt local energy production. Since that time they have kept taking steps towards green ideals by promoting alternatives to classic transportation (i.e. trams, pedestrian walkways, etc), and taking to solar paneling which makes up as much as 50% of roofs in some districts. Recently the city has also focused on creating cycling incentives.
Barcelona, Spain- In recent years Barcelona has been working towards building more stations along their high-speed rail to allow for eventual close proximity to the rail for more of the population, thereby reducing the amount of vehicle commutes as well as urban and rural traffic. Another big initiative in the city has been in recycling and in 2006 more than one third of the cities total waste was recycled.
Malmo, Sweden- Most of this cities electricity comes from nuclear and hydro-power with photo-voltaic(solar electricity) being considered as a green energy alternative in the restoration of an area called Sege Park. Malmo has also accomplished turning Western Harbour, a former shipyard, into an area that runs on 100% renewable energy from sun, wind, and hydro-power. Citywide, buildings are constructed with sustainable materials and designed to be energy efficient and the streets in the area are pedestrian and cycle friendly, with 40% of commuters and 30% of all travelers biking.
Copenhagen, Denmark- In 2001, the City of Copenhagen opened the world largest offshore windmill park which is able to power about 32,000 homes. Now more than 5,600 windmills supply Denmark with 10% of its electricity. Fast forward five years to 2006, the city won the European Environmental Award for its clean waterways and environmental planning. Copenhagen is also known for trading personal cars for bikes and a metro.
Reykjavik, Iceland- Named the greenest city in 2008, this Icelandic city plans to be completely independent from fossil fuels by 2050 and become a hydrogen economy. As of now the city already gets its energy for heat, hot water, and electricity from hydro power and geothermal resources which are renewable and free from greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the vehicles in the city are already running on alternative energy sources, including three hydrogen powered buses.
Melbourne, Australia- Since 1997 the city of Melbourne has been in a drought, because of this water conservation is a big pull for them. In 2002, 2020 was named as the target year for net zero carbon emissions. The United Nations met and created the "Melbourne Principles".
1. Provide a long-term vision for cities based on: Sustainability, intergenerational, social, economic and political equity; and their individuality.
2.Achieve long-term economic and social security
3.Recognize the intrinsic value of biodiversity and natural ecosystem, and protect ad restore them
4. Enable communities to minimize their ecological footprint
5. Build on the characteristics of ecosystems in the development and nurturing of healthy and sustainable cities
6. Recognize and build on the characteristics of cities, including their human and cultural values, history, and natural systems
7. Empower people and foster participation
8. Expand and enable cooperative networks to work towards a common, sustainable future
9. Promote sustainable production and consumption though appropriate use of environmentally sound technologies and effective demand management
10. Enable continual improvement, based on accountability, transparency, and good governance
Future Green City:
Masdar, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates-As of 2008 the city of Abu Dhabi was spending 15 million in order to build an Eco-friendly 2 square mile zero-emission community called Masdar City. This new city would make use of solar, wind, and biofuels for energy and water purification as well as underground light rail.
Get the Kids Involved
One of the major ways we can help the environment is by passing down the passion for saving the environment. Giving the next generation an understanding of why the planet is so important and the improvements we can make to help it last is going to be a huge step towards making a difference. Below are a few options on getting kids interested and involved in the "green" movement
If you have a technology friendly child then consider taking a look at this site. Pinterest is a sharing website where people can create "pins" and share them with the rest of the world. There are numerous categories that users can peruse through or use of the search bar for more specific finds is an option. It's a great site if you're looking for project ideas and Do-It-Yourself instructions, and users can filter searches based on age or project degree of difficulty. Weather you want to start off with something simple like a flower box, or windowsill garden to blueprints for rain barrels if you're looking for something more advanced. Bonus: for parents it's very user friendly!
Weather it's before bed, during down time, car trips, or just for fun, reading to your kids can spark a lifelong love of learning. Visiting your local library is one of the best ways to introduce the idea of green infrastructure and "going green". Kids and parents can find numerous books on the topic of environment with the ability to locate them based on age range.
Being hands on is also a good way for kids to learn. Volunteering for activities like community clean-up days, boy scout/girl scout community service projects,
Environmental groups are always looking for volunteers to help with data collection. This is an easy way to learn the procedures that go into keeping natural spaces healthy. Teachers, you can sign-up for environmental workshops offered by Ohio EPA to learn fun and educational ways to teach students about the environment. These workshops cover a range of topics from wetlands to animals and everything in between.
Walking, biking, running, picnics, all can be enjoyed in local parks. They are also a good tool for teaching. Try making a game out of identifying flowers, trees, animals, etc. Knowing what makes up the area can lead to solutions for preserving it.
Attending celebrations that deal with the environment can also be a good starting point for learning. Earth Day, Arbor Day, World Environment Day, and National Green Week are among numerous days that bring awareness to better the planet.
Museums and other natural/environmental resources can be found in every state and just about every major city. These are just a few of the places here in Ohio;
Cleveland: Museum of Natural History
Cincinnati: Museum Center
-Cincinnati History Museum
-Duke Energy Children's Museum
-Museum of Natural History & Science