According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) more than 40 British and Irish towns and cities breached the safety levels for a measure known as PM2.5 (particle pollution). The top four most polluted cities in Britain were Glasgow, Scunthorpe, Leeds, Eastbourne, and Salford. This is why it is essential, for the environment and for the health of the communities living in these cities, that more effort is made to improve green areas.
Hospitals and plants
Plants and flowers have been banned in many hospitals across the country due to health risks. According to some members of the NHS, flowers can trigger and aggravate patients’ allergies as well as spreading germs.
Although some argue that plants can boost healing, a study conducted at Kansas State University confirmed the health benefits and therapeutic value of plants and flowers in hospital environments. According to the research, patients in hospital rooms with plants and flowers experienced lower rates of anxiety, pain, and fatigue than patients in rooms without them. Patients also said that plants brightened up the room, warmed the environment, and reduced stress.
One solution could be using artificial plants instead of real ones, as they pose no risk to patients. Artificial foliage like plants, flowers, and topiary may not have all the same health benefits as authentic ones, but they can help brighten up a room and improve wellbeing with their vibrant colours. Plus, they require minimum maintenance as they don’t have to be watered. As long as they are dusted now and then, they can last for years.
Cities and parks
City parks can also be a great benefit to the environment, as well as providing health benefits to communities.
Two studies that were conducted in areas of metropolitan Perth, Western Australia concluded that people who had good access to large, attractive public open spaces were 50 per cent more likely to achieve high levels of walking and exercise. Furthermore, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), physical inactivity is a major public health risk, which is why green areas are a necessity in built up areas.
As well as improving physical health, access to green areas can affect mental health in a positive way. Encounters with nearby nature in built up areas are thought to help restore the mind from mental fatigue and reduce stress levels which is why it’s important to keep a balance between urban and natural living.
Cities like Vancouver, Sacramento, and Frankfurt are all great examples of how other cities can incorporate nature with the confines of urban areas. With 25.9 per cent of the Vancouver dominated by trees, Sacramento with 23.6 per cent, and Frankfurt with 21.5 per cent, these cities are home to the highest number of trees in the world.
Trees can also help improve air quality because they have the ability to remove pollutants from the air. They can reduce levels of benzene, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon dioxide levels as well as reducing the amount of airborne dust. In fact, according to American Forests, the forests in Atlanta remove about $19 million worth of air pollutants each year. This figure emphasises how important green areas are, especially for Britain’s urban cities which ranked 21st out of 92 countries for the “most polluted urban areas”.
Buildings with green roofs
Buildings with green roofs are becoming increasingly popular as shown in cities like Chicago and Toronto in the US and Canada respectively. As well as helping clean the air of pollutants, green roofs can serve as a habitat to wildlife such as birds, and can retain rain water. It is also thought that green roofs can reduce heat build-up, save energy, and reduce noise levels. For instance, heavy vegetation such as trees and bushes can block out noise from busy streets and roads. Indoor plants can have a similar effect, reducing noise levels including the background noise of air conditioning and computers in office buildings.
It is clear that green areas and vegetation not only improve the environment, but also offer a great number of benefits towards the improvement of physical and mental health. From cleaner air and reduced noise levels, to reduced stress levels and relief from mental fatigue, it is important to incorporate more natural areas within built-up cities in Britain and across the world.