Nature Does It Best: Looking to Green Infrastructure to Improve Our Communities

Tree Canopy Expansion

Green infrastructure can help mitigate the negative impacts of development, build resiliency to climate change, and help reduce infrastructure costs.

The Greenbelt itself can be thought of as a regional scale green infrastructure. The Greenbelt includes over 290,000 hectares of protected natural features, such as wetlands, hedgerows, and forests. These protected spaces provide a multitude of services to our communities, ranging from reducing the risk of floods, reducing health care costs, to storing carbon.

To get a better understanding about the multitude of benefits that green infrastructure provides; we sat down with Tom Bowers, the Foundation’s Research Manager. This is the second blog post in a series that explores the multitude of benefits that green infrastructure provides to our communities.

How does green infrastructure benefit communities?

Green infrastructure is able to provide multiple benefits at the same time. There is competition for space in cities. Having living, breathing infrastructure that supports healthier environments for people and nature is a very efficient use of space and resources. Neighbourhoods incorporating green infrastructure are healthier places to live, which means people live longer and it helps to reduce health care costs. Bonus, green infrastructure can also help reduce household costs, for example by mitigating the urban heat island effect and lowering our energy bills.

Green infrastructure will become increasingly prevalent in all cities and towns and recognized as a key component of complete communities. Green infrastructure will be seen as a key resource for adapting and building resilience to climate change – critical infrastructure for prosperous, healthy, liveable 21st century places.

Why are governments and business turning to green infrastructure?

There are several factors for municipalities and businesses that make green infrastructure increasingly attractive: cost, health, climate change and environmental decline.

Green infrastructure is generally more cost effective.

Our approach to development has created problems. For example when we pave over green space, rain falls on impervious surfaces, instead of being absorbed into the water table, and is directed into the sewer system very quickly. With increases in average rainfall, we are seeing floods that occur more frequently. These flooding issues need to be addressed now, while at the same time we need to accommodate more growth. Green infrastructure can be integrated into new developments to avoid the problems associated with too many paved surfaces, and re-introduced in existing communities to help mitigate these problems.

Climate change is causing a shift in weather patterns. More intense rainfalls and longer, hotter dry periods in cities and towns are placing increasing stress on the capacity of existing grey infrastructure. Green infrastructure helps address specific problems, e.g. urban heat island effect, and complements existing infrastructure to avoid the need for costly upgrades.

Green infrastructure mitigates the impact of urbanization.

Permeable Pavement

What are some of the challenges or costs related to green infrastructure?

Greater use of green infrastructure represents a big shift in public policy in most municipalities. Adoption affects many different professions and municipal divisions, for example, planners, engineers, maintenance crews and asset managers. It takes time to develop new processes, align budgets, and build skills and capacity to adopt a new approach.

Read the next blog in the series.


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