Protecting Green Spaces

Green spaces help build a healthy environment by encouraging natural yard and garden care and sustainable land use. These spaces offer many great benefits to our environment.

They filter pollutants and dust from the air, provide shade and lower temperatures in urban areas, and they even reduce erosion of soil into waterways. These are just a few of the environmental benefits that green spaces provide.

What is a green space?

A green spaces is a community space consisting of land rather than buildings. They are areas of grass, trees, or other vegetation set apart for recreational or aesthetic purposes in an otherwise urban environment.

Green spaces could include parks, community gardens, cemeteries, schoolyards, playgrounds, public seating areas, public plazas, or vacant lots.

What are the advantages?

There are an endless amount of benefits to green and open spaces. In urban areas, green spaces help regulate air quality and climate. Similar to the advantage of green roofs, green spaces reduce energy consumption by countering the warming effects of paved surfaces that causes the Urban Heat Island Effect. Planting trees in these spaces reduces heat build-up and enhances nightly cool downs. This in turn, recharges groundwater supplies and protects lakes and streams from polluted runoff.

Protecting the Water Supply

The water quality protection green spaces offer, reduces the amount of nitrate that leeks from the soil into the water supply. When proper landscaping is done, the amount of surface water runoff also decreases, keeping pollutants out of waterways and preventing septic system overload.

Protection Using Plants

Trees naturally remove pollutants from the air, so every tree that’s subtracted from a city’s ecosystem means some pollution remains that should have been filtered out. Plants and turf remove smoke, dust and other pollutants from the air. One tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually, equaling 11,000 miles of car emissions. One study showed that one acre of trees has the ability to remove 13 tons of particles and gases annually.2,500 square feet of turf absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releases enough oxygen for a family of four to breathe.

Through the creation of green spaces, natural resources are conserved. By using trees to modify temperatures, the amount of fossil fuels used for cooling and heating is reduced. Some trees can reduce house temperatures in the summer, allowing air conditioning units to run 2 to 4 percent more efficiently. The trees also allow the sun to warm the house in the winter.

The increase of plants and mulch in green spaces also holds soil in place. This prevents soil erosion out of lakes, streams, storm drains and roads. In addition, aiding in reducing flooding, mudslides and dust storms.

Protection Using Turf

The implementation of more grass will keep summers cooler. Lawns will be 30 degrees cooler than asphalt and 14 degrees cooler than bare soil in the heat of summer.

Homeowners can also “grasscycle” by leaving grass clippings on the lawn when mowing. The clippings quickly decompose and release valuable nutrients back into the soil to feed the grass, reducing the need for nitrogen by 25 to 50 percent. This is an easy green choice to make because, homeowners can reduce their mowing time by 30 to 40 percent by not having to bag clippings.

A healthy, sodded lawn absorbs rainfall 6 times more effectively than a wheat field and 4 times better than a hay field. Grass acts as a natural storm water management system.

Why protect green spaces?

Other than for the endless benefits green spaces offer, why are they important? With the reoccurring issue of drought sweeping many areas of the country and world, water conservation and self sustaining landscapes are of growing importance.

Smart irrigation strategies and water efficient irrigation networks are needed to be in place. Sensor controlled and drip irrigation systems can reduce water consumption by green spaces. Zone irrigation, the use of mulch and soil amendment techniques, can also help increasing water retention capacity of the soil and reduce evapotranspiration.

Another simple method to reduce water consumption is to avoid watering green spaces in the middle of the day and scheduling lawn irrigation for early morning or evening hours. Using drip irrigation systems or a cycle-soak method, instead of sprinklers, is also an attractive option for achieving greater water efficiency and improved water penetration.

With more and more public parks and gardens being planned, it is imperative for people to remain aware of the importance of a balance between water consumption and the greening of urban habitats. Water conservation is set to become a major consideration in all its uses in the near future, especially for the development and maintenance of green spaces.

Implementing water saving techniques will make the difference in drought areas. The expansion of green spaces that aid in this problem will help build a more effective system for water conservation.