Development decisions influence our everyday lives much more than we think. These choices impact the economy, our commutes, our taxes, the environment, and even our health. Where, what, and how things are built influence not just us, but the generations that follow as well. That is why it is important to design smart, green, healthy communities.
One way the United States is working toward this goal is through the EPA’s “Smart Growth” program. According to the EPA, “’Smart Growth’ covers a range of development and conservation strategies that help protect our health and natural environment and make our communities more attractive, economically stronger, and more socially diverse.” The EPA recognizes the benefits that urban design can bring to a community and its inhabitants.
One of the most important benefits of this type of urban planning is improved health. Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease continue to rise in the United States. Much of this is due to diet and lack of physical activity. Nearly two thirds of adults and one in three children are overweight in the United States. This is a massive problem not just for health, but for our pocketbooks. Health care costs for treating obesity-related illnesses are as high as $149 billion. Smart, urban communities are easily walkable, bike friendly, and have ample recreation facilities. This encourages people to get more physical activity because more, convenient opportunities are presented to them.
Including green spaces into the design is also very important. They have been shown to decrease stress, increase productivity, and improve air, soil, and water quality. Healthy communities also have easy access to healthy foods. This can be accomplished through providing access to farmers markets, community gardens, and farm-to-school programs.
Besides the health of its residents, green design can improve the local economy. By enhancing neighborhoods and overall quality of life, local governments can create a fun, healthy place to live, work, and play. This will attract businesses and visitors to the area who spend money. This helps to boost and promote the local economy.
By providing a large amount of benefits to its residents, green communities promote healthy lifestyles and create a sense of place and belonging. It not only helps the health of its residents, it has been shown to benefit the local economy and turn their communities into a desirable place to live, work, play, raise families, and retire.
For more on sustainable home, building, and construction, check out our website: http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/sustainable_living/building.shtml
contributed by Trevor Ackerman, Sustainability Program Assistant