Environmental Risks of Communities
Cities face many environmental risks due to the concentration of people. Going green in communities is a natural way to minimize these threats. Urban areas tend to have large amounts of impervious surfaces such as roads and parking lots. Impervious surfaces increase the risk of flooding and toxic urban runoff in streams and lakes.
By increasing their environmental risks, communities leave themselves vulnerable to economic damage. One way they can minimize their risks is by careful city planning which will identify threats and find ways to mitigate them.
Restricting sidewalks to one side of the street can effectively reduce runoff. In areas where runoff is likely to occur, restoration of wetlands can help absorb excess water from precipitation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that a single acre of wetlands can hold up to 1.5 million gallons of water.
Communities along lakes and streams can further benefit the environment by protecting shorelines. Natural shorelines will prevent erosion and provide habitat for wildlife. For landowners, natural shorelines offer a maintenance-free solution.
City planning can also incorporate the use of green space. Green space offers many important benefits to communities. According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, green space can increase property values while providing privacy and a noise barrier to residents.Green space creates a more welcoming environment which can provide a tranquil setting for community residents.
Green space also has more far-reaching benefits. It can also reduce crime and increase tourism revenues. Clearly, going green makes good economic sense for communities.
Communities can make great strides in going green by reducing their carbon footprint. Reliance on renewable energy sources and public transportation can reduce some of the greatest contributors to a city’s carbon footprint as well as lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Cities can further conserve energy and water through thoughtful city planning. Use of native plants for landscaping will decrease the amount needed to water and maintain plants. Cities benefit by conserving while creating green space which is environmentally suited for their area.
Many communities have made the decision to go green. Popular Science ranked cities on their initiatives to go green based on electricity, transportation, green living, and recycling. The top three cities were Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, California, and Boston, Massachusetts. Portland was recognized for its commitment to renewable energy, with half of its power coming from renewable resources.
Going green in communities is not just about saving energy and adding green space. It is a lifestyle. Areas which promote green living receive important social and economic benefits while protecting precious environmental resources. Going green can be an effective community-based solution for environmental threats.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Functions and Values of Wetlands – epa.gov
Virginia Cooperative Extension: The Value of Landscaping – www.pubs.ext.vt.edu