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The world is in need of cleaner air. Could green cities be the answer?


Climate change is just around the corner

While our political and civil society leaders are crucial players in protecting our planet, we are all guardians of the world we live in and need to do our bit. Climate change knows no borders; its impact is felt everywhere by everyone – and our health is especially vulnerable to environmental issues like dirty air. Perhaps without realising it, most city-dwellers are becoming accustomed to seeing, smelling and tasting toxins every single day.

The Paris Agreement came into effect in November 2016. Its aim is to foster a united global response to the threat of climate change. This high-level action is urgent and necessary as carbon emissions continue to warm our planet and oceans. Scientists forecast that a rise of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will impact.

Cities are hotbeds for airborne toxins. Densely populated with people, traffic and buildings, our lungs, skin, eyes and overall well-being are constantly being ‘attacked’ by pollutants. What’s more, half of the world’s population is living in urban spaces with number set to increase: 69 % of the global population is projected to live in cities by 2050. As cities grow, they need to do so consciously, and pay attention to sustainable development rather than industrialization at any cost. This has led to the rise in ‘green cities’, a term that acknowledges the need for growth with as little damage done to the environment as possible.

Urban landscapes traditionally favour function over form, efficiency over aesthetics. While some innovative urban planners and architects have in the past managed to blend attractive design with purpose-built structures, the natural environment is often sacrificed for financial gain.

Green cities are thinking differently. There is an increased understanding that not only is a healthy environment key to a healthy society, but that a healthy society is crucial to business success and economic growth as within this society are your potential employees.

People who live in cleaner cities enjoy greater wellbeing and make for healthier, more productive employees. In other words, sustainable development can have a positive effect on a company’s bottom line as well as a country’s GDP.

Here are some more benefits of green cities – and how to enjoy them:

Plants reduce heat

Cities act like urban islands that can trap heat for days with no respite. On particularly hot days, buildings and roads just absorb and radiate heat, pushing up temperatures relative to surrounding less-developed areas. As urban populations grow, this problem will only get worse.

Plants can cool cities significantly by absorbing sun, shading buildings and streets, and through the process of evaporation. In Singapore for example, the CapitaGreen office tower uses a plant-filled façade to reduce heat levels by 26 %.

Plants absorb pollution and carbon dioxide

Green walls are beautiful and industrious features that can transform the look and health of a city. Plants absorb all sorts of toxins from the air such as carbon dioxide, heavy metals, dust, car fumes and other pollutants. They sweep the air clean and create a far healthier environment for humans to live and work in.

To put it in numbers, one tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year. This equates to 11,000 miles of car emissions. An acre of trees can remove 13 tons of particles and gases annually and 2,500 square feet of grass can release enough oxygen for a family of four to breathe. The power of green is not to be underestimated!

The power of indoor plants

Many people assume that toxic air can be avoided by heading indoors. As a result, most people in industrialised countries spend more than 80 % of their lives indoors. However, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor pollution in work environments can be two to five times greater than outdoor pollution.

 

In a famous NASA experiment published in 1989, indoor plants were found to clean the air of cancer-causing compounds like formaldehyde and benzene. And the bigger and leafier the plant, the better.

Plants can help you breathe better and give you an emotional boost for the day. It’s not all that surprising to note that exposure to nature can significantly reduce stress, as well as alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Urban areas with green, leafy, shady spaces are much happier places to live in.

An added layer of protection for industrial work environments

A greener world is a world that considers our present needs as well as our civilization’s future requirements. Growing urban populations and increasingly polluted air are challenging our planet’s infrastructure and its ability to sustain life. We need to think and act fast to reduce the negative effects of climate change as quickly as possible – and one way to start is to make our concrete environments greener. In an industrial environment it can be challenging to use enough indoor plants to have a substantial impact on the air quality. Installing industrial air cleaning units can be an added layer to protect your employees, extracting dust from the source.

Like air purifying plants, Zehnder’s air cleaning systems can improve your indoor air quality and help you breathe easier by reducing pollution caused by dust and other harmful airborne particles. What’s more, the units are hardly noticeable due to their roof installation, reducing heating costs with ceiling to floor circulation. In short, with Zehnder Clean Air Solutions you will achieve quick, measurable and substantial results whilst protecting employee health and improving productivity.

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