Urban Greening – What’s That?

When I tell people that I do translations, proof reading and editing in the area of urban greening, I often get blank looks. Some people nod politely and then go off shaking their heads a bit after I’ve given them a very brief explanation, others summarize, not too wrongly, as ‘so you mean it’s about planting a few trees around the city’. Others don’t even try to understand. They seem to put me straight into their ‘strange person’ category.

Basically, urban greening does mean planting things in towns and cities. It deals with bringing nature back into built up areas. It turns concrete jungles into, well, concrete and plant jungles. Urban greening makes our towns and cities prettier. It provides us with parks, shady streets, borders of flowers and green oases dotted around the grey.

Not only does urban greening make our surroundings look nicer, it also improves our physical, emotional and psychological health. Urban greening improves the quality of the air in built up areas. The plants filter out pollution, absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, dampen noise, help use rain water runoff more efficiently, and generally are good for the environment. Urban greening also helps reduce the heat island effect.
Heat island, what’s that? Built up areas are often warmer than the surrounding countryside. The buildings store heat during the day and only release it slowly during the night, unlike plants which can regulate the temperature much more efficiently. People also generate heat in their daily activities (electrical appliances, central heating, air conditioning, vehicles, etc.). All of this means that towns and cities are islands of heat in the surrounding countryside.

In short, the quality of life in a town or city can be greatly improved with urban greening.

Urban greening is not just something which town councils and urban planners do though. We do not need to look to the powers-that-be to bring nature into built up areas. Everyone can do their own bit to make their town or city prettier. If you have a balcony, plant it. If you have suitable window fixtures, put out flower boxes. If you have a flattish roof, look into turning it into a green, or eco, roof. If you have a patch of dirt outside your front door, plant something there. If you have a garden, go wild. You’ll be doing yourself, your neighbours, the dog two streets down, insects and animals, and future generations good.