Let These Green Neighborhood Projects Inspire You

Jane Marsh - July 9, 2024

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What does it mean to live in a green neighborhood? The answer varies depending on who responds and their perspectives. The definition’s flexibility also highlights how residents can make their communities greener in numerous creative and impactful ways. Let’s look at some innovative initiatives. 

Improving Access to Green Spaces

It can dampen someone’s mood if they look out their windows and only see concrete and bricks. Many leaders have invested in projects that make green spaces more accessible to nearby residents. Then, people can stroll in the fresh air, find places for picnics, become more acquainted with local plants and wildlife, and more. 

One 2024 study suggested that people don’t necessarily need large green spaces to enjoy the associated benefits. The research examined the outcomes for older people who could use those areas, showing that just a 10% increase in forested spaces near their homes caused mental and physical benefits. 

More specifically, such individuals were less likely to have severe psychological distress, including mental health challenges that interfered with their work, education or social lives. Additionally, better access to green spaces made people less likely to report being in poor or fair general physical health. 

Research conducted elsewhere in 2024 also showed that people who spent more time in urban green spaces were less likely to need mental health services. The team used a special scale to calculate the amount and quality of nature characteristics in various ZIP codes in urban Texas. One of the main takeaways was that people had fewer engagements with mental health services as the nature scores increased and were sometimes less likely to develop depression or bipolar disorder. 

These examples show why city planners and others may decide that having more green spaces is in everyone’s best interest. Residents enjoy them, and the areas may decrease health service burdens.

Making Green Neighborhood Improvements 

One Texas program called the Dallas Green Initiative shows the benefits of taking evidence-based approaches to invest in community members. Research indicates that 300,000 Dallas residents live more than 10 minutes from parks. However, in 2022, the mayor requested a list of unused, city-owned land to redevelop into green spaces. 

Community members can give input about what they’d like to see in those facilities as they get created. Sometimes, green spaces address multiple needs. Consider how a New York City project supports more than 550 urban community gardens across the five boroughs. The people living near them can enjoy more food security and the enjoyment of helping to grow what they eat.  

In the United Kingdom, the Southsea Green Community Garden also had an important skill-building aspect. Volunteers led workshops to teach teenagers growing and cooking skills to use for the rest of their lives. Many participants lacked space elsewhere to grow things, making the community garden essential for their real-world experience. Those involved with the program hoped it would help the new gardeners better understand the farm-to-table process.

Fostering Self-Sustainability Efforts 

Living in a green neighborhood is a great start, but it’s also important for people to practice sustainability at home. That’s the goal of the Keney Park Sustainability Project, located in Hartford, Connecticut. 

In one example, people could sign up to get free home garden kits. There were three types, including grow bags and raised beds. Showing residents that living sustainably is more manageable than they may have thought is essential for encouraging them to build long-term habits.

This initiative’s founder and executive director said it came about from a brainstorming session about how to give community members more opportunities to make positive impacts and serve the park.

Those taking part can also better understand the processes required to make many of the products they love. One day at the park allowed people to scrape for beeswax they could use to make candles. 

Bees and chickens live at the park, and the birds even became part of a theater performance in the local area. The more people know about and spend time in the park, the more they can learn about bringing sustainability home and practicing it daily.

Creating a Green Neighborhood Attraction

A well-planned green neighborhood effort can become an example for residents, visitors, and the wider world. Such was the case with Chicago’s Green Campus, located in the Greater Auburn Gresham Neighborhood. The Campus features an anaerobic digester that turns tons of food waste into compost, biogas, and commercial-grade fertilizer. 

Other phases of this ongoing project include an urban farm and greenhouse, a store, nursery, and a community education center. Such large-scale efforts will encourage residents to get more involved in sustainability and could increase visitors’ tourism dollars. Many people are eager to learn more about modern and thoughtful projects, and this one is an excellent example of what’s possible. 

People can shop in the store to buy things grown on the property’s farm, and then go to the community education center to take part in workshops led by community practitioners. Some content is also available virtually, expanding opportunities for those who cannot or don’t want to visit the Campus in person. 

Offering Free and Educational Experiences

People are much more likely to embrace living in a green neighborhood if they can do so without spending lots of money. That was one of the driving factors behind the Mullagh Biodiversity Walkway, which recently opened in the Irish county of Cavan. 

It borders two football fields and a stream, and the strategically placed lighting makes the area safe to use anytime. Features such as the interpretive signs and the outdoor classroom emphasize that learning can occur anywhere, and nature is a fantastic teacher. 

Design considerations for people with disabilities ensure they can enjoy this area without accessibility barriers. Other strategic decisions relate to how Ireland can get large amounts of rain in some seasons. The area around the walking path includes permeable pavement and a rainwater garden. 

When authority figures plan to create new green neighborhood features, they must do so in ways that remove or substantially reduce the economic, social, and other barriers that may otherwise discourage people from engaging with their communities. The team behind this project did that, and everyone living nearby will benefit. 

Starting Small and Expanding

Although these are outstanding examples of green neighborhood initiatives, even they started with small ideas that grew into exciting realities. If you want to participate in or launch a similar project, don’t be afraid to start small and let things grow gradually as your time and budget permit. Motivation and a desire to change things for the better are all you need to begin.

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About the author

Jane Marsh

Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.