After finishing my last essay of the year, I have now completed my Freshman year at university. And just like so many other engineers, after I finish writing, I can’t help but use my free time to keep writing! (Which is, of course, a joke. Apparently engineers who actually like to write are few and far between. And when I mean write, I mean free-write, not writing essays…I don’t know anyone who enjoys writing essay assignments) I’d like to apologize for the absence of posts, I usually stick to a weekly schedule of posts, but when Finals comes around…well, let’s just say it’s not fun.
Anyway, for this short post I’d like to talk about the benefits of Green Infrastructure. Green Infrastructure, as you probably know if you’ve read any of my previous posts, are managed natural systems that serve basic human needs such as water and wastewater treatment or waste disposal and such. A good example of Green Infrastructure would be the Arcata Marsh (which I wrote a post about) but Green Infrastructure in my opinion is really any kind of system that utilizes biological processes to serve the needs of humans. So in some ways, those swamps on the coastline of Lousiana that are quickly disappearing? Yeah, those are a good example of Green Infrastructure because the plants, land and whatnot act as a natural barrier from incoming floods. In fact, some people even think that the loss of these marshlands is partly the reason why the New Orleans Flood was so huge, and this problem is occurring in other parts of the world as well, such as India where many coastal cities suffer flooding problems because the people are living on the very land that protects the rest of the city from flooding due to a lack of affordable homes.
Green Infrastructure is everywhere, you may not know it, but it’s there. Those plants by the parking lot aren’t there just for aesthetics, there’s a good chance that it’s a bioswale. In a way, all of nature can be considered Green Infrastructure, as the ecological system has numerous benefits to our way of life. In Baltimore, artificial wetlands have been constructed and are floating on Inner Harbor as a way to clean up the water. New York City has committed 2.4 Billion Dollars to constructing Green Infrastructure to help alleviate its stormwater runoff and sewage overflow problem.
I’m really passionate about Green Infrastructure, and I can see myself being quite the advocate for its use and continual development. I see it as a path for human society to integrate itself with the natural world. Our toolkit should be made up of the tools that nature has already provided us. We’re not just utilizing biological processes, we’re making natural elements a more prominent part of our way of life, how we function. Green Infrastructure appears in many forms – not just natural parks or wildlife reserves, but also urban parks. We could use Green Infrastructure not just to clean water, but also as ways to biodegrade waste, or even as structural support. In fact, almost everything I’ve written about on this blog is in some way a form of Green Infrastructure. Tree Bridges, Plastic-eating Mushrooms, Water-treatment marshes, it’s all there. By using Green Infrastructure, our cities can be a little greener and a lot cleaner.
And it’s not just about integrating the built and natural environments, Green Infrastructure is also cost-effective. Perhaps Green Infrastructure can even be used in International Development. I’m sure constructing bioswales or water treatment marshes are cheaper than flying in a high-tech water treatment plant. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop with the high-tech solutions, I’m just saying that high-tech solutions should utilize environmental solutions/processes as well. Green Infrastructure also constantly takes in CO2, requires less energy due to its passive nature, and looks pretty awesome (Here’s a site with a list of related Green Infrastructure links). There are numerous reasons why we should use Green Infrastructure, and I think with more research and innovation, we can find many more applications and methods to integrating the natural world and its processes into the human way of life.