Green Cities work to create a movement together with people and opinion leaders who believe that city nature is a part of the solution to many of our current challenges such as climate changes, stress, loss of biodiversity and our lifestyle. Since 2018 they have encouraged the greening of public spaces through innovative campaigns, information based on scientific research, and technical expertise. The project is initiated by the European Nurserystock Association (ENA) – an organisation representing nursery stock growers and traders’ organizations.
From 2018-2020 the first campaign "Green Cities for a Sustainable Europe" took place, where seven EU countries participated. The newest campaign “More Green Cities for Europe” will run from 2021 to the end of 2023 and this time 13 EU countries have joined the campaign.
Behind the Danish department of Green Cities is a partnership of five green industry associations, one of them being The Association of Danish Landscape Architects. DL is represented by Susanne Renée Grunkin, project leader on sustainability at the Danish architecture firm Arkitema. Birte Kennedy is project manager in the Danish department of the Green Cities campaign.
The Danish part of the campaign works to inspire the industry in Denmark and their goal is clear: They want to reach awareness about the advantages of green urban spaces and city nature. They want to change the Danish law to have more focus on greening of public spaces and to protect those already there.
“In Green Cities we work for more resilient, climate safe, eventful, and attractive cities, where people thrive and want to live. Our experience is that many want to think greener and be part of the green identity”, Susanne tells us.
“In the beginning of Green Cities we started to pick up on everything we could find about the connection between green spaces and the well-being and health of citizens. We experienced a need to talk more about this”, she adds.
The Green Cities campaign addresses five overall themes that are the guiding principles in the Green Cities work: Climate, wellbeing, social cohesion, biodiversity, and economy.
“The five themes make the foundation of our work. It has been scientifically proven that green spaces and urban nature have a positive impact on these areas. To have the five themes in mind helps us underline and document the importance of city nature. They help us have the right arguments ready”, Birte explains to us.
Through the Green Cities work they experience a willingness and interest from the industry. However, things are moving slowly. To the question why this is the case, Susanne points to our overall perception of a sustainable city.
“Many say that a sustainable city is a dense city, where it’s easy to get from A to B. However, this alone doesn’t cut it. There’s lacking a holistic approach to the planning of urban spaces. A sustainable city should also make you thrive. The well-being of people living in the city is extremely important to take into consideration.”
“When it comes to the public spaces in the city, we want to bring well-being and social cohesion into the equation. The public spaces need to be greener, because in the long run this will show to be the solutions to many problems – climate protection, the social meeting place, and a better city climate to name a few. It’s the sum of all the best values we need in the future sustainable city. Getting from A-B quickly cannot stand alone in this”.
The lack of space and too many regulations in the city are two of the main reasons why many municipalities in Denmark are lacking greenery and the opportunity for everyday recreation in their urban spaces. Based on this Green Cities started to collect data and knowledge documenting the value of green spaces.
“We have several regulations in the city that we need to obey – number of parking spaces, housing and square meters of business being some of them. This makes it hard to make room for the green. We need something that can give resistance to all the regulations and push things in another direction”, Susanne explains.
Based on this Green Cities in Denmark developed Den Grønne Norm (in English: the Green Norm) which is a framework of ten methods that is thought to strengthen the quality and volume of urban nature. The norm is based upon statistics, scientific research and knowledge from professionals and corporations. Furthermore data collected from a total of 29 Danish municipalities is used as a foundation as well as policies and strategies collected from the municipalities' websites and online portals.
Its purpose is to deliver a set of tools on how to incorporate urban nature and is also thought as a way to start a dialogue with politicians, officials and green professionals.
“We talked to the different municipalities and came to the conclusion that many of them wanted to incorporate more green spaces. We developed the Green Norm so that it can inspire the municipalities and give them a set of tools in their future work”, says Birte.
Green Cities are being contacted by politicians, organizations, and municipalities that want to hear more about the project and to go into dialogue about the possibilities of putting the greening of public spaces on the agenda. Birte and Susanne experience how the pandemic has sparked this interest further.
“The positive effect green spaces have on our health and well-being has become even more clear under COVID19. We expect that the politicians will be more willing to listen to us in the future. The past year has indeed demonstrated the importance of more green spaces”, Birte tells us.
“During the past year we have experienced a “time for change” kind of atmosphere within many businesses. This is also the case when it comes to nature in the city. We experience more engagement and a willingness to do something. We sometimes get reactions from people telling us how trees have been cut down in their neighborhood and not been replaced. They ask for action. A few municipalities have taken action on this by protecting their trees. We hope we will see more of this in the future”.
When it comes to calculating the economic value of green urban spaces in the city there is still some way to go. Currently there are still no sufficient tools to measure the economic effect of adding greenery to the city. This is one of the areas that is on the Green Cities agenda.
“Once we have more tools to measure the economic value of green spaces, the municipalities will have more arguments to go to the politicians with. And this is when we can really make a difference”, Birte ends.
“It’s a long road. Actually a journey. But we’re getting closer”, Susanne concludes.
"There’s lacking a holistic approach to the planning of urban spaces. A sustainable city should also make you thrive. The well-being of people living in the city is extremely important to take into consideration.”