Everyone likes green spaces, and some of us are lucky enough to work in them. It’s not just gardeners who work in green spaces though. The diversity of opportunity is mind blowing for people to work in creating, maintaining, managing green spaces or simply just working in green places.Consider sports people who work on sports grounds. Their daily routine is inextricably connected to green landscapes. Consider zookeepers, farmers, conservation managers – all who work within green spaces.The Nature of Green Spaces
- You would be forgiven for thinking that a green space is a garden. In fact, many green spaces are gardens of sorts, but they also go beyond a typical home garden.
A green space may also be:
- A public garden
- A park
- A communal garden
- Hospital grounds
- A nature strip
- A reserve
- Natural bushland
- Pots and plants on a balcony
- A green wall
- A roof garden
You see, a green space can be any space where plants are growing, no matter how large or small.
What they all have in common is plants.
The Value of Green Space
There is no single value of a green space. Rather, they have multiple benefits:
Carbon sinks – plants remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it.
Air filtration – plants can filter out air pollutants and trap dust.
Insulation – plants around buildings improve insulation.
Mental health – connecting with nature is good for mental health.
Physical health – using green spaces for exercise promotes physical health.
Let’s break these down.
In a world where the detrimental effects of climate change are plain to see, we need all the help we can get.
Carbon dioxide accounts for over 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
It remains in the atmosphere for a very long time.
Carbon dioxide traps heat and contributes significantly to global warming.
We need to reduce emissions, but plants can also help us out.
By storing atmospheric carbon, plants can help to slow climate change.
Carbon is stored in leaves, shoots, and roots of plants.
Plants also return carbon to the soil.
Pound for pound, trees store more carbon than other plants due to their larger size.
Plants can also improve air quality.
They filter out some harmful toxins from the air and can trap dust and other small particles.
Besides using carbon dioxide, plants release oxygen which people and animals need to breathe.
Green spaces help to reduce the ‘heat island effect.’
Heat islands are places where the temperature is considerably warmer than the air temperature.
A chief cause of heat islands is built surfaces like roads, pavements, walls, and roofs.
Plants can insulate houses against extreme temperatures making them warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
This means people can use less power heating and cooling their homes.
Other environmental benefits include:
Trees and shrubs can be used to reduce noise pollution.
Plants increase biodiversity and sustainable ecosystems.
Plants can be used to reduce erosion – bare soil erodes and releases carbon to the atmosphere.
In towns and cities, people are exposed to crowding, pollution, and noise. These are associated with increased mental stress and poorer health outcomes. Green spaces provide a means of escape.
Green spaces enable people to connect with nature. It has been argued that humans have an innate tendency to want to connect with nature. Humankind evolved by understanding and working with the natural environment. ‘Concrete jungles’ of today are often completely devoid of nature.
The presence of green space, and the quality of the space, has been found to correlate with psychological wellbeing.
Natural environments are restorative – they promote restoration of our physical, psychological, and social resources. Manmade environments are more complex and stimulating so impose demands on our attention. The attention we give to natural environments is a more relaxing 'soft fascination'.
Green spaces can help to reduce fatigue, elevate mood, and enhance concentration. These positive benefits are increased according to how often people visit green spaces, and so having more of them around will be of great value to any city.
Even just being able to observe nature through a window can improve a person’s life satisfaction, mental health, and overall mood.
Office workers who can see nature from their window report higher life and job satisfaction than those who do not have a view of nature.
With regards to mental health disorders:
Children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) show fewer symptoms after spending time in green spaces than manmade outdoor spaces or indoors.
People with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) have been found to recover well in enclosed gardens that offer some calmness and protection, and a refuge from fear.
Residents of areas where there is more green space within a 1 km radius have been found to have a lower prevalence rate for depression and anxiety.
Many of the physiological indicators of arousal associated with stress such as elevated blood pressure, blood toxins, and heart rate, have been measured and found to reduce when people are in green spaces.
Green spaces also encourage physical activity. Green spaces which are attractive, e.g., birdlife, trees, water features, are more often used for walking. People who use public green spaces are three times more likely to meet recommended weekly exercise amounts than those who don't.
Careful exposure to sunlight boosts vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D promotes strong bones and prevents some forms of cancer.
A lack of vitamin D can lead to muscle weakness, fatigue, pain, and depression.
Improved air quality can:
Reduce symptoms of pre-existing health problems such as asthma and allergies.
When plants are used to reduce the heat island effect:
There is a reduction in heat related health problems like breathing difficulties, exhaustion, and heat stroke.
This protects vulnerable populations like children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health complications.
These are just some of the potential health benefits. There are many others.
A Cautionary Note
Whilst green spaces are mostly good for most people, they are not ideal for some such as:
People with pollen allergies.
People who may have allergic reactions to things like animal hairs and dust mites.
People who are afraid of outdoor spaces e.g., those with agoraphobia, some people who experience panic attacks.
Who works in the ‘green space’ Space?
There are many different professions where knowledge of green spaces is desirable.
Climatologists – amongst other things, climate scientists may research factors that influence climate change. They might also advise government and local authorities about ways to mitigate these factors e.g., providing more green spaces.
Environmental scientists – people who work in environments roles are concerned with the conservation and reclamation of a range of green spaces.
Construction workers – carpenters, stone masons, and landscapers may be called upon to build green spaces in private or public gardens.
Structural engineers – may be consulted for their expertise in assessing new builds for supporting green spaces like green walls and roofs, or for retrofitting existing buildings.
Garden designers – landscapers and garden designers are increasingly looking at ways of improving gardens and greening up other spaces around buildings. The niche area of biophilic design is concerned with the association between green spaces and health.
Health – there is growing awareness of the psychological benefits of green space amongst health professionals. GPs have often recommended exercise to patients, but now they might recommend exercise in a green space. Psychologists, counsellors and other mental health workers are aware of the growing body of evidence that correlates green spaces and psychological health.
Alternative therapies – horticulture therapy is an emerging field that addresses ways that gardens and plants can be used to improve people’s physical and mental health. Ecotherapy is another area that is gaining traction that makes use of green spaces in therapy, including natural bushland and wilderness areas.
What Can You Do?
Those who are aware of the importance of green spaces can promote them to friends, family, and others. But you might want to do more.
When you realise just how many professions are involved with green space, you realise that there may be one that suits your own aspirations.
Probably the best place to start is by doing some formal learning.
There are many online courses that can fill the void.
Perhaps it’s time to take the plunge and explore how you can work with green spaces.
Why not contact us today?
We have a range of study courses to suit the needs of different people in different situations.
eg. Ecotherapy Course - see https://www.hortcourses.com/courses/ecotherapy-practice-2819.aspx
Don’t have much time? Take a short course.
Want something more in depth? We have 100-hour courses and certificates.
Just fancy reading? Why not consider an eBook.