Green spaces such as parks, gardens, and playgrounds provide important benefits to the environment as well as human health. They promote physical and mental well-being and help mitigate the effects of climate change. However, as development increases in cities and urban areas it is increasingly difficult to access green spaces. We should seek to protect and expand areas that enhance human and ecological health.
Green Spaces and Health
Not only do green spaces provide open areas for children and adults to engage in physical activity, they have a positive effect on mental health. Green spaces provide the opportunity to socialize and connect with nature, which is strongly effective in protecting humans from mood disorders such as depression, neurotic behavior, and other stress-related issues. Spending more time outdoors for longer periods of time often leads to greater mental health benefits.
Additionally, green spaces provide an oasis from noisy traffic significantly reducing the noise pollution in urban spaces. Noise has a profound effect on our physical and mental well-being. Constant exposure to frequent loud noise is known to trigger anxiety and stress resulting in feeling more irritable and frustrated. Peaceful, vegetated areas are important for individuals to reduce this irritability that leads to behavioral issues, including violence.
Traffic not only causes noise pollution but significant increases in air pollution and tire particulates in the air which causes heart and respiratory health impacts. Trees are well-known for removing a number of airborne pollutants, including ozone, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. Trees not only improve air quality at local sites but also across cities.
Green Spaces and the Environment
The most commonly recognized benefits of green spaces are environmental. Green spaces offer environmental benefits such as lowering the impact of heat islands since they do not trap heat like asphalt, concrete, and buildings do. Trees and shrubs also have the capacity to sequester carbon from the atmosphere resulting in lowered greenhouse effect.
Green space is important for maintaining water quality and reducing runoff pollution. Since developed areas are commonly impermeable, when rain or other water travels through these areas it collects pollutants and carries them to local bodies of freshwater and the ocean and can cause frequent flooding events. Green spaces offer water regulation benefits because soil and vegetation slows the rate at which water travels downstream, allowing for percolation back into the ground while simultaneously supporting local flora and fauna.
It is complicated for communities to choose between green spaces and infrastructure, especially since different stakeholders have different values and points of view. However, what if we could have both? One example proposed by local org San Diego Commons is freeway caps/lids. Freeway caps are bridges that are built over highways and are commonly used to provide additional park space. San Diego Commons is proposing building two freeway caps over the I-5 in the Sherman Heights, East Village, and Balboa Park neighborhoods. Not only would the freeway caps serve to reconnect communities that are currently divided by the I-5, it would also be a great opportunity to provide green spaces in these neighborhoods.
Case Study - Teralta Park
Freeway caps are not a new thing, even in San Diego. Teralta Park, located South-East of Normal Heights, is built on a freeway cap above the I-15 freeway. Prior to the construction of the I-15, the City Heights Community Garden served as a space for the community to come together to grow healthy produce and create public art. The garden became part of the community’s identity which was recognized by the “Dancing Carrots” displayed along the garden fence.
The garden was excavated and the community lost its open space during construction of the I-15. However, local community members advocated for additional open space to replace the once prominent community garden. Teralta park was constructed as a result and currently spans several blocks offering the community a space for gathering and play. Restoring and expanding Green spaces in San Diego is necessary to enhance the health of our communities and environment.
The San Diego Green Building Council is committed to inspiring, educating, and collaborating with the community on issues that affect human and ecological health such as the heat island effect. Our Electric Home Cooktop Program, helps address residential energy consumption as well as providing health benefits such as improved indoor air quality.
To learn more about the Electric Home Cooktop Program or participate please visit the Electric Home Cooktop Program (EHCP) Website. You can also find more information on the energy efficiency of induction cooktops by visiting the EHCP resources section.