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How Green Are You?

Jan. 16, 2014|715 views


A few months out of the year I love Minnesota, spring and summer in Minnesota have this rebirth sensation, the water in the lakes melts, the mosquitoes become alive (that’s how we know winter is over…) and the green trees and vegetation cover every corner of land as far as your eyes can see.

It’s such a contrast because during the winter months it all seems quite dead in this northern part of the earth. These last couple of weeks with temperatures lower than 20 degrees below zero and a wind-chill of 50 below, being in Minnesota was an interesting experience that I gladly missed and replaced by my temporary stay in the Enchanted Island of Puerto Rico which unlike MN is green all year round.

Green has taken on new meaning in the past few years. It used to describe a color. Lately it has been used to signify environmental awareness. Product manufacturers use “green” in marketing and product labeling to hint that their products are somehow better for the environment, or less likely to be toxic, although it’s not always clear if these claims are reliable. Driving a car that uses less gas is considered “green” because it presumably pollutes less, and that’s better for the environment. These days “green” sells.

Of course, it all stems from the vibrant green color of plants. If nature can be said to have a favorite color, it’s arguably green. And according to a new five-year study, green spaces in cities are associated with significant--and lasting--improvements in mental health. It seems like common sense: People tend to feel better when they are surrounded by green spaces, featuring trees, grass and other plants, than when they have to look at concrete, glass, and asphalt all day. Just five minutes spent exercising in a natural, green setting has been shown to improve mood and self esteem.

But the study underscores an important element of public living spaces that has often been overlooked in the past. Of course, urban planners have long recognized the benefits of parks. Manhattan would be unthinkable without the calming, verdant oasis that is Central Park. But this new research underscores the significant, longterm public health benefits of providing ample greenery and open spaces. Exposure to nature fights depression, and depression was cited as the leading cause of disability in 2012 by the World Health Organization. So including green space is not just an aesthetic issue; it affects everything from mood to productivity and health care spending.
If you live in the northern states and fight seasonal depression try to find a weekend getaway deal to a warm place during the winter. Just a few days away from the cold and able to enjoy green color nature and sunshine will help you replenish your vitamin D levels and enjoy the calming views of some greenery.

Ian Alcock, Mathew P White, Benedict W. Wheeler, Lora E. Fleming, Michael H. Depledge. Longitudinal Effects on Mental Health of Moving to Greener and Less Green Urban Areas. Environmental Science & Technology, 2013; : 131209122554002 DOI: 10.1021/es403688w

Jo Barton, Jules Pretty. What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis. Environmental Science & Technology, 2010: 100325142930094 DOI: 10.1021/es903183r

Tags:  cancer risks, chemicals beware, health tips