Why do we need more green spaces?
More and more of us are moving into urban areas, and 60% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2050. The UK is seeing a similar trend and London’s population is expected to increase from 8.7 million to 11 million by 2050.
This puts a lot of pressure on green areas in cities, which improve physical and mental health, provides food and habitat for pollinators, and helps mitigate the effects of climate change.
#GiveItAGrow aims to make London greener and wilder by making it easy for Londoners to create a green space at home.
Benefits of creating green spaces
Giving pollinators a helping hand
Pollinators are animals that help plants make fruit or seeds by moving pollen from one flower to another, fertilising the plant. Without pollinators plants can’t reproduce. This makes pollinators like bees and butterflies mini heroes in disguise. But, like most heroes, they also need a helping hand sometimes.
Loss of habitat, changing climates, and the rise of pesticides, are putting our pollinators at risk with 1 in 10 of Europe’s wild bee species facing extinction. This has huge consequences for biodiversity, wildlife and our own food security as 3/4 of crops rely on pollinators to grow.
You can make a difference by growing flowering plants in urban areas supports pollinators – we’ve asked wildlife expert Kate Bradbury to share her top tips for growing for wildlife.
Reducing food miles and packaging
Creating space for growing food in urban areas helps reduce food miles, single-use plastic packaging and food waste in transport.
Growing your own food helps you to eat more seasonally, and is a great activity to do with kids that sparks an interest in the natural world.
Many edible herbs, flowers and plants are also favourites among birds, caterpillars and pollinators, adding an extra bonus to the plate.
Quick-growing edibles such as herbs and lettuce is a good place to start for first-time growers.
That’s why we’ve asked urban gardener Jack Wallington to share his top tips for growing easy edibles.
Boosting health and wellbeing
Green urban areas provide safe routes for walking and cycling, and spaces for people to be active and spend time together in nature. This has a proven impact on mental and physical wellbeing.
For instance, a recent study by the University of Exeter Medical School found that a two-hour “dose” of nature a week significantly boosts health and wellbeing, even if you simply sit and enjoy the peace.
Bringing nature nearer
We want to live in a city where everyone has an equal opportunity to access high-quality green spaces, yet in parts of London living near these spaces comes at a premium making them more accessible for some than others.
Giving more people access to green spaces will not only lead to improved health, wellbeing and social cohesion, but also sow the seeds of a greater understanding, respect and care for our natural world.
Preventing flash flooding
We’re seeing more extreme weather patterns including periods of intense rainfall which can lead to flash flooding. Green spaces help reduce flash flooding by absorbing excess water.
2/3 of London’s front gardens are now either partially or wholly covered in paving, bricks, concrete and other hard surfacing.
Replacing real grass with plastic lawns (known as astroturf) not only puts increasing pressure on London’s struggling sewerage system, but is also a leading cause of microplastic waste that will never biodegrade.
Keeping our cities cool
As record-breaking temperatures and heatwaves become the new normal, urban green areas play a critical role in cooling cities. Open soils in parks, on lawns, in cemeteries and urban gardens, as well as green roofs, rooftop rain gardens or green walls, help buffer heat. In fact, studies comparing green sites with non-green sites found that on average temperatures were 0.94°C lower in green spaces during the day and 1.15°C lower during the night.
With more than 1/3 of London’s green space, and 1/5 of London’s total land area, being made up of private gardens, we can all play a part in keeping London cool.