The Holistic Benefits of a Green Lifestyle
By: Jennifer Davidson, CMLI, OBMI Landscape Architect
Although impactful, creating outdoor living spaces in our homes, planting gardens, lining roadsides with trees, and maintaining public parks with natural landscapes it is difficult to quantify the real benefits of a green lifestyle. It is easier to measure sustainability by calculating with resource-dependent changes resulting in energy efficiencies and cost savings. For example, converting to LED bulbs or installing solar systems can be easily quantified. But as money is a great motivator, it is important to understand the value of our environment in a more holistic sense.
Health & Wellness Benefits of a Green Lifestyle
There is an increasing amount of research about the positive impacts our interactions in nature has on short and long-term physical and mental health. Due to numerous research findings and medical studies, natural spaces are increasingly seen as a tool that can lead to being used to live a healthier lifestyle which results in savings associated with disease prevention and maintenance.
Studies have frequently shown the positive impact being in nature has with lowering our heart rates thereby reducing stress, relieving depression symptoms, lowering blood pressure, and increasing focus. Studies show that just 20 minutes in a park for children with ADHD reduces symptoms with results similar to a dose of Ritalin. And there is no shortage of research highlight the many benefits of walking 15 to 30 minutes a day for a healthier life.
Financial Benefits of a Green Lifestyle
Despite the multitude of benefits of a properly designed landscape, all too often it is seen as a luxury rather than necessity. However, due to an increasing amount of research and emphasis, landscaping is directly linking our ‘green’ environment to a quantifiable value. For homeowners, a properly designed landscape has curb appeal resulting in a faster sale and higher perceived value of the home. In fact, the actual resale value can be 5 to 10% higher when compared to comparable homes.
On a larger scale of the financial benefits of a green lifestyle is the simple act of planting a tree. In the groundbreaking research completed by Stuart Hayward with the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce, it is estimated the value of a tree in its 50-year lifetime is an impressive $1.6 million! This figure accounts for the tree's value in producing oxygen; recycling water; controlling climate and island heat effect; absorbing pollution, noise and UV radiation; controlling soil erosion; providing a home and shelter for birds and insects; and naturally converting carbon to protein.
Environmental benefits of a Green Lifestyle
In addition to the financial benefits assessed in Hayward’s research were the many environmental benefits. Trees can also be used to combat rising temperatures, providing shade for personal comfort as well as counteracting heat Island effect1, the result of higher temperatures experienced in urban areas. Air-conditioning units benefit from shade by reducing their workload, energy usage and ultimately homeowner utility costs.
Stormwater management is also a common theme and benefit to a green lifestyle, particularly in low-lying areas. Natural planting solutions can control rainwater absorption into the ground/groundwater supply where it falls rather than contributing to flooding. A properly designed landscape can manage stormwater through the use of strategic plantings of trees, shrubs and permeable paving. Using landscape solutions to harness ‘eco-system services’ works with nature rather than against it.
Ready to live a green lifestyle but not sure where to start? There are many things you can do! Even the smallest and simplest of spaces has potential and can be transformed with landscape design. If space is limited, a few pots filled with herbs or veggies help us to eat better, exercise and save money at the same time. Even though there has been a reluctance to re-plant trees due to past hurricane damage planting trees is one of the best things that you can do. While old, unpruned and isolated trees, may be vulnerable to hurricanes native trees in good health can act as a natural barrier to wind damage, flooding, and erosion. A local landscape professional can help guide the right tree and location choice to realize the most benefits from your tree plantings and overall landscape design.
Although there are plentiful research and data on the benefits of a green lifestyle, the most powerful benefit is how changing to a green lifestyle will change your life. While realizing the benefits you will feel healthier, happier and more connected to nature.
Power of Landscape Architecture