Living With

7 Ways to Make the Concrete Jungle Greener

Amanda Page May 9th, 2013 (updated May 16th, 2014)
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In 2008, for the first time, most of the world’s population became urban—more than half of the planet’s residents now live in cities. And projections show that this migration will only accelerate, that by 2050 the overall urban population will increase 72 percent, from 3.6 billion to 6.3 billion. As cities become bigger and more populated, there will be a greater need to make sure that don’t lose the natural elements that can boost the physical and mental health of city dwellers. Here are seven ways urban areas are keeping green.

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Vertical gardens
Vertical gardens

Inspired by natural regions where plants grow up trees and natural walls with little to no soil, architects and gardeners are using vertical gardens to transform urban environments.  Not only do vertical gardens look nice, but they help combat pollution, reduce noise, improve health, and even reduce the risk of localized flooding.  Vertical gardens can be grown anywhere, as they utilize hydroponic (soil-less) means of growth.  

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Urban farms
Urban farms

Urban farms, which come in the form of gardens or greenhouses, aim to fight pollution,  alleviate poverty in low-income neighborhoods, improve neighborhood aesthetics, and create an economically sustainable system to feed the local population.  The progression often begins with vacant lots, which become shared gardens, which can grow into city-wide projects, eventually becoming full-scale urban agriculture.  

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Rooftop gardens
Rooftop gardens

Growing plants on top of structures isn’t a new idea; ancient Mesopotamian civilizations planted trees and shrubs on elevated terraces.  Roof-top gardens, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing, also reduce the overall heat absorption of the host building, which lowers energy consumption related to air conditioning.  Additionally, plants atop buildings can decrease smog buildup and rain runoff, simultaneously providing cleaner air and waterways.  

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New York’s High Line Park
New York’s High Line Park

New York City’s High Line is a public park that was built on a historic elevated freight rail line situated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side.  The project is an exceptional example of how previously abandoned structures can be utilized to preserve history, boost aesthetics, and create new landmarks.  The High Line serves as a relaxation spot for locals, a setting for art exhibitions, and a source of educational opportunities. 

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Chicago’s Millennium Reserve vision
Chicago’s Millennium Reserve vision

Since the 2004 opening of Millennium Park, Chicago has seen $1.4 billion in economic growth in the neighboring area, which is encouraging further park development within the city.  Chicago has a new $18 million project in mind that aims to turn 140,000 acres of under-used and post-industrial land into a public recreation center called the Millennium Reserve – the biggest Urban Park in the U.S. 

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Recreational trials
Recreational trials

Many cities have introduced recreational trails in urban environments.  Such trails facilitate alternate means of commuting, encourage physical activity, and boost overall urban aesthetic.  Recreational trails help relieve traffic congestion and pollution by encouraging locals to bike or walk to their destinations.  Many cities have bike initiatives in place, including Washington D.C., which hosts an extensive network of multipurpose trails. 

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Community gardens
Community gardens

An excellent way for any urbanite to enjoy nature, connect with a community, and cut grocery bills is to join a community garden.  A community garden is a plot of land, which is gardened collectively by a group of people – for instance an apartment community, non-profit organization, school, or neighborhood association.