Reducing Air Pollution in Cities by Going Green

Fagjun | Published 2017-05-21 00:20

Researchers have found that creating strategies for the best green infrastructure can be an effective technique for reducing air pollution in urban areas.

More than half of the world's population lives in cities. This number will probably grow higher in the coming decades. Thus, urban air quality is a major health concern. Cities are notorious for having poor air quality, which can impact the health and quality of life of people living in urban areas. Adding more greenery to the landscape is a good way to address urban air pollution.

We're used to considering air pollution to be almost like a fixture of urban life. However, it doesn't have to be. We can definitely take steps to make city air cleaner and thus better for our health.

Reducing Air Pollution Through Green Infrastructure

Clumps of trees won't effectively address air pollution in cities like this.
[Photo by Vincenzo di Giorgi]

The study on improving urban air quality points out that low hedges may be more effective than tall trees. However, this isn't true for all cities. In some cases, wind conditions can make trees prone to concentrating pollution in one area. Trees can improve air quality in areas with more open spaces and buildings that aren't quite too close together. However, many cities don't fit into these criteria.

Urban planning for the future needs to include green infrastructure. Green infrastructure is an urban planning solution that works toward sustainability and reducing air pollution. Making a city “greener” isn't just about planting hedges or trees by the road. It entails making a city quite literally green. This means planting trees or hedges on the streets as well as creating green “living” walls and roofs. Structures like these can remove pollutants from the air, thus making it cleaner and safer to breathe.

As mentioned above, green infrastructure isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. Some strategies will work in certain kinds of city layouts, but not for others. In areas with tall, closely situated buildings, planting trees will only concentrate pollutants in one place. Low hedges work better at reducing air pollution in setups like this. However, tall and dense trees work best along open roads. The tree line acts as a barrier that keeps pollutants from dispersing into areas beyond the road.

Green Strategies

Tall and thick lines of trees along an open road prevent pollutants from spreading to residential areas.
[Photo by Aidan Meyer]

While the study is more geared towards benefiting urban planners, even ordinary citizens can benefit from the ideas therein. You can be more discerning of which places are more likely to have cleaner air based on the present greenery. You'll be able to know which places are better to live in and which places to avoid. Also, you can scale down these ideas and adapt them to your own living space.

Reducing air pollution isn't a simple task. Simply planting a tree or some shrubbery isn't the best way to go out about using green infrastructure as a solution. Knowing things like how pollution works, air flow patterns, and how certain kinds of greenery will benefit the space is crucial. Urban planners and residents alike can benefit from creating a strategy that takes all factors in the space into consideration. This way, green infrastructure can work to its full potential.

Hey! Where are you going?? Subscribe!

Get weekly science updates in your inbox!