By DR Anthory  Kachenko

These days, going ‘green’ appears to be a prominent position for any business to take. It is a phrase that certainly enhances the environmental credentials of a product or service.

What about the ‘living’ green- that is trees, shrubs and indeed all vegetation?

These days, the living green is often dismissed or poorly regarded. It should be made clear that living green is an essential component that improves our health and well-being, as well as the live-ability of communities.

Indeed, living green should be considered as important as roads or public transport in terms of how cities function.

Of importance are the effects of living green on our health and well-being and these effects cannot be underestimated.

Not surprisingly, this data is supported in a report commissioned in 2010 by Beyond Blue Australia which confirmed  the natural environment improves health  and well-being, as well as preventing disease and helping people recover from illness.

The authors indicated that efforts must be made in Australia to improve quality of life in all neighbourhoods and cities through increasing access to natural environments. In other words, improving the living green in our urban cities. It was noted in the report that people living in towns and cities should  have access to natural green space of at least two hectares in size, located no more than  300 metres (or five minutes  walking distance) from home.

In November 2011, a News-poll survey conducted for NGIA indicated 89% of Australians want local government to increase the amount of green space in their communities. This figure has remained at this level for the past three years and should be seriously considered by everyone who is involved in town planning including engineers, architects and developers.

Local government across Australia should take heed of this and consider how they can implement plans and policies to maintain and enhance the living green.

On a positive note, a significant effort by several local governments to recognise the role of living green is happening. In late 2011, the City of Melbourne launched the Urban Forest Strategy 2012-2032.

Urban forest is a term used worldwide as the descriptor for all trees and vegetation on public and private land in urban landscapes.

The Urban Forest Strategy 2012-2032 vision is for a healthy and resilient urban forest that contributes to the health  and well-being of the community and to a liveable Melbourne city.

At the same time, the City of Sydney released The Street Tree Master Plan 2011, which is a blueprint  for the provision of street trees across the City of Sydney. The objectives of this Master Plan are to improve and develop the number, health, longevity and form of street tree species owing to their ability to provide numerous environmental, aesthetic, cultural and economic benefits. These benefits are interrelated and together feed into the creation of resilient, sustainable and thriving urban landscapes.

More effort and attention should be spent on the living green to ensure we meet the challenges associated with future urban sprawl, such as the urban  heat island effect which will see cities warm as a result of large expanses of grey infrastructure that trap heat during the day, making cities warmer. Although the buzz words surrounding a ‘green’ product or service mean well, the real benefit and lasting legacy will be the living green- the green we need that gives us life.