City life is busy life: the concrete jungle is an environment full of people, buildings, and businesses that are constantly moving and evolving. For some, this feeling of non-stop action is the ideal living environment.
Yet, no matter how much an individual or family might love urban living, we also need an oasis. The beauty and calming effects of green spaces have a large impact on our living experience; parks, gardens, and nature trails help us find solace when we’re stressed, unhappy, or just in need of a break from the verve of city life.
This is why there is a lot of talk going on about sustainable and eco-friendly cities. Eco-friendly cities embrace nature and the well-being of the city (and by extension, its citizens!) as part of urban planning and city management initiatives.
Why is Green So Important?
According to the National Recreation and Park Association, all green space—no matter how big—is beneficial for our health and wellness.
Parks and walking trails encourage the community to be active and take steps (literally) to good health. The NRPA reports in the story that mental health also gets a boost from the outdoors, because being in nature may make us feel better and help lower stress.
And think about all we do in those areas. Parents might meet other parents; kids could find new friends. Parks and gardens bring people together. And events are hosted in these areas, too, like local egg hunts, community picnics or sports games.
Parks also could serve as a meeting place. Many parents host play dates at local parks and outdoor areas. The NRPA calls this benefit “building social capital.”
Unfortunately, not every neighborhood or residential development offers urban green space or open common ground for residents. After all, if green space isn’t required by the municipalities or local codes, why then would a developer want to waste space for grass or trees when it can be used as more livable space?
This is a place where REALTORS® can play an important role:
- By educating yourself about the benefits of green space, you can talk to buyers about why these urban retreats are a beneficial neighborhood amenity.
- This, in turn, raises demand for green spaces.
- Developers cannot be forced to include a park or garden, but REALTORS can communicate that demand and stress the importance that buyers place on seeing green in their living area.
In this way, REALTORS can have an indirect yet big influence on development in your community.
Want to get directly involved? Check out these programs and initiatives that aim to add more green spaces to communities.
Urban Land Institute: 10-Minute Walk Campaign
The emphasis of this campaign headed up by the Urban Land Institute (ULI), is that everyone should have a park within a 10-minute walk from their home.
Why is this important? Everyone needs physical activity. But walking is important for other reasons too. Walking implies quick access. So if residents don’t have a car, they still can retreat to your local park without worrying about paying for a bus or other mode of transport.
The ULI also notes that “parks are essential to the physical, social, environmental, and economic health of people and communities.” Yet the ULI points out that there is a green access disparity; 100 million people don’t have easy access to green spaces like parks.
A recent study shows that just spending 20 minutes in a park, even if you are not exercising has a positive impact on your health. The calm of nature can help reduce stress and make people feel happier.
So how can REALTORS help spread the word? Visit the web site to the 10-Minute Walk Campaign, and click the Get Involved button. This will direct you to ways that you may be able to help…or maybe just spread the word about the initiative.
Environmental Protection Association: G3 Initiative
Nearly a decade ago (2010), the EPA began its G3 initiative; G3 refers to “Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns.” According to the EPA’s web site, the initiative’s purpose is “to provide support for small to medium-sized communities in urbanized watersheds working to reduce stormwater runoff through the use of green infrastructure.”
Stormwater runoff is one of the leading causes of water pollution in cities. The G3 initiative is designed to mimic nature, capturing rainwater where it falls and thereby treating it at its source.
The benefits of this approach to the community are multifold. With this green initiative, the aesthetics of the community is improved, local flooding reduced and in general decreases the economic and community impacts of flooding.
All these environmental, social, and economic benefits are attained by increasing urban green areas. In particular, the G3 initiative aims to unite the community in order to transform streets into green streets of an eco-friendly city, that eventually makes it more attractive and valuable.
One of the easiest ways to encourage green space in a neighborhood is by starting a community garden. Each city or municipality may have certain guidelines or codes to be followed.
If buyers or residents are interested in starting a community garden, you can refer them to the American Community Garden Association (ACGA). The site gives tips and advice to those
who want a garden in their neighborhood or community.
One of the tips is for residents to “plan for children.” Many kids will be drawn to or interested in the garden, so the Association notes that gardeners may wish to create a kids’ garden, too.
One program that’s also accessible across the country is Project Evergreen, which provides ideas for community members to care for the green in their area. The main objective of this project is “a greener, cooler Earth. Healthier, happier people.”
So how can REALTORS and homeowners get involved? One way is to nominate a green space for revitalization. But Project Evergreen also lists projects that have been completed throughout the country; see if your area is on the list.
Community leaders and organizations can use the “Community Playbook” to help guide green efforts.
Research Local Efforts
Not every green initiative may be online or openly visible. REALTORS should be aware of local organizations in your area that are helping to push for more green space or that encourage revitalization efforts that preserve or restore parks and other urban oases.
So how do you find these organizations? Be active in your local community government and parks/rec departments, if you can. Networking is key to staying on top of developments that could affect your buyers.
Of course, REALTORS should also be aware of which developers embrace green endeavors. Some buyers really push for park access and desire open areas. Others don’t care nearly as much. Know which neighborhoods include parks and lots of common ground, so you know where to take potential buyers who favor these amenities.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Dirty
By dirty, we mean literal dirt! Get gardening. Or, at least, understand how to garden and how to develop a garden. Knowledge is power that you can pass along to buyers.
So why on Earth would you need earth on your hands? One of the best ways for buyers to embrace green spaces is to grow their own! Whether the house sits on a full acre or just a tiny strip of land, where there’s grass, there’s the potential for green growth.
Homeowners can start a porch garden, too. Even if soil conditions prohibit plants from taking root, pots can be filled with fertile soil for a homegrown green oasis. Many homeowners also grow produce in pots.
Small gardens can be planted almost anywhere. And this can help add a sense of soothing green to any area.
But be sure to understand local ordinances and green space law, too. Some municipalities or homeowners associations may have limitations on gardens.
Improving Your City—And Your Client’s Lives
As a REALTOR, your days are spent helping buyers find their dream home. Sometimes, that means giving them insights on a dream they might not even think possible. While few buyers would turn their nose up at a local park, many city-dwelling homebuyers might not be aware of all the potential green spaces available to them in their area.
Becoming familiar with the proximity of local parts and gardens is a must. But you can go the extra mile by researching green revitalization efforts in your community. This could be a big selling point for prospective buyers and showcases your knowledge of the neighborhood.
And, by getting directly involved with efforts to green up urban areas, you’re not just improving your city, you’re also demonstrating to prospects and current clients that you are a dedicated and conscientious REALTOR who is looking out for them. It’s a powerful tool to win their business and encourage them to use your services again!
When we go green, we all benefit!
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