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Benefits recognized by agents, not enough by citizens

The Green Cities Observatory recently presented the results of its eleventh survey. The city’s green space services recognize the beneficial role plants have on health, but raising awareness is still essential.

This article is part of the file

When nature takes over the city

Thirty-four landscape managers out of more than a hundred cities surveyed, from October 19 to November 12, 2021, responded to a survey conducted by the Green Cities Observatory. It’s not a quantitative survey on the principle of mass collection from a representative sample, but “an objective study that highlights good practices and the implications of cities most committed to a policy of revegetation in ‘urban space’,” says Laurent Bezot, president of the National Federation of Landscape Companies (UNEP) and President Participant of the observatory The objective here was to measure the consideration of the criterion of “health” in landscaping projects.

The beneficial role of green spaces in health

Healthier air, carrots of urban freshness, proven positive effects on physical and mental health, etc. The beneficial role of green space on health has been widely recognized by the nature services of municipalities questioned by the observatory. 74% of them state that the protection of public health is an element of the policy of developing green spaces in their city. “It’s even a priority criterion for one in five cities,” says Laurent Bizot. “The health crisis has given strong legitimacy to our approach because it has shown how important it is for everyone to be close to green spaces.”

The survey shows that two years into the crisis, the needs of citizens have changed. “People need to communicate with Green to feel better. It has become more of a priority than the need for security in the city (1)Laurent Bizot commented. Several cities have taken initiatives in this direction. For example, the city of Limoges (Haute-Vienne) has set up a communication campaign to encourage citizens to go to green spaces in order to combat the psychological risks associated with certain diseases. Likewise, the cities of Cholet and Angers (Maine-et-Loire) are solving the allergy problem by experimenting with specific parks to prevent it.

Communicating about plants

The investigation also reveals shortcomings. “Citizens demand the color green but are not sufficiently aware of the health benefits of plants,” explains Laurent Bizot. “Communication efforts must be made by elected officials.” According to the survey, 68% of landscape officials surveyed believe that public decision makers are not sufficiently aware of the links between plants and health either. The president insists that “increasing the awareness of local elected officials as well as citizens is therefore an important issue in order to multiply good practices”. In particular, in 2019 the city of Amiens (Somme) launched a local council dedicated to mental health. It is a space for exchanges between elected officials, user representatives, caregivers and professionals in the Region that highlight the health benefits of green spaces.

Another topic was identified: the fact that few services work together. The survey shows that the majority of cities are operating internally without the respective services through the redevelopment meeting (school, sports, etc.). Laurent Bizot asserts that “only a quarter of cities reported very strong links between services.”

Green Cities Observatory

Green Cities Observatory was born in 2014 from Unep and Hortis, an organization that brings together those responsible for the city’s natural areas. “The main objective of this observatory is to promote the green environment in the city by identifying good practices in cities to attract others,” explains Laurent Bizot. To do this, it conducts thematic studies (two per year) and opinion polls on topical topics. Greenery has always been viewed only from an ornamental point of view. Today, they are also synonymous with good health and improved health,” concludes Laurent Bezut.

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