The Benefits of Landscaping
Human existence has been tied to nature for millennia. Only recently has urbanization and technology put us at arm’s length. Much research has been done in the last century that shows there are a multitude of environmental, economic, and lifestyle benefits provided by well-maintained landscapes. Connecting with plants and trees provides measurable health and emotional benefits, and we don’t need to travel to the rain forest or the woods; we can get them from our house plants, our backyards, and our tree-lined city streets. Just looking out a window at a tree can provide health benefits.
Science has long documented the positive impact that plants have on the air we breathe, on temperature, and on water runoff.
Turfgrass, like that found in our lawns, is much cooler than asphalt or cement. It acts as an “air conditioner” for the surrounding area (lawns can be 31 degrees cooler than asphalt and 20 degrees cooler than bare soil.)
- Trees shading homes can reduce attic temperatures by as much as 40 degrees.
- Turfgrass plays a vital role in capturing dust, smoke particles and other pollutants, and it produces oxygen.
- A NASA study showed that many varieties of indoor plants remove harmful indoor chemicals and pollutants.
- Turfgrass slows down and absorbs runoff into bodies of water.
Benefits of Urban Landscapes
A growing body of research is demonstrating how important it is to incorporate tree canopies and parks into cities and towns. They provide a wide range of lifestyle benefits that improve the quality of life for residents.
- Parks and tree canopies help reduce noise.
- A recent study by the U.S. Forest Service found that neighborhoods with tree-lined streets and larger yard trees have reduced crime rates.
- Studies show that just looking at plants and trees, even through a window, can reduce stress and lower blood pressure (Housley and Wolf, NatureSacred.org).
- Walking in a natural environment with plants and trees, even when located in the middle of a city, has been shown to improve attention and memory, according to a study by Marc Berman of the University of Michigan.
- Neighborhoods that incorporate community green spaces have lower incidences of stress, have lower health care costs, and have an improved quality of life (Housley and Wolf, NatureSacred.org).
Benefits of Commercial Landscapes
Businesses are more successful when they provide clients with landscaped areas around buildings and plants inside buildings. The University of Washington’s Urban Forestry/Urban Greening Research website created by researcher Kathleen Wolf, Ph.D., lists some of the economic benefits of commercial landscapes:
- A study found 7 percent higher rental rates for commercial offices having high-quality landscapes.
- Shoppers claim they will spend 9 to 12 percent more for goods and services in central business districts that have high quality tree canopies.
- Shoppers indicate they will travel a greater distance and a longer time to visit a district with a high-quality tree canopy, and spend more time there once they arrive.
Companies that provide their employees with interactions with nature also benefit. Research conducted by Rachael Kaplan, Ph.D., showed that workers who could view nature from their desks had much better job and life satisfaction and better health.
Physical and Psychological Benefits
The benefits of human interaction with plants, trees, and grass are also well studied and documented. Research has found that people find stress relief and healing when interacting with nature or even when just viewing nature on a computer screen or through a window. Children with ADHD seem to focus better after being outdoors (Harvard Health Publications). Workers are more productive as well when working in environments with plants, and cognitive function is improved.
But, perhaps more important than what science tells us, is what people instinctively feel about the plants and green spaces in their lives–that the connection makes their lives better, and they want to make an effort to incorporate it into their lives.
Research from the Husqvarna Global Garden Report 2012 showed that “63% of respondents reported being willing to pay more for an apartment or house if it was located in an area with good green spaces, compared with, for instance, 34% willing to pay more for an area with good shopping and 33% for good cultural venues.”
As the world changes and we have a greater reliance on technology, the affect of Nature Deficit Disorder will increase, and as populations increase, challenging resources and expanding urban and suburban areas, the landscape industry will play an ever more important role in helping connect people with nature in their homes, in their backyards, at schools and parks, and at workplaces, helping them reduce stress, relax, and sharpen the mind.
There are many organizations researching and documenting the affect of plants and green spaces on the environment and on our lives including:
- University of Washington, Center for Urban Forestry, (www.naturewithin.info)
- Nature Sacred (www.NatureSacred.org)
- Project Evergreen (www.projectevergreen.com)
- Green Plants for Green Buildings (www.greenplantsforgreenbuildings.org)
- American Society of Landscape Architects (www.asla.org/healthbenefitsofnature.aspx).
- The Lawn Institute (www.thelawninstitute.org)
Click here for an article by Charles R. Hall and Madeline W. Dickson of Texas A&M University that provides a literature review of studies about the benefits of plants.