May 1, 2011

Old news to green industry

New message about green infrastructure

Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition coordinator

In fall of 2010, a new coalition that is closely aligned in focus and mission with the horticulture and landscape industry was launched. In fact, Landscape Ontario is a founding member of this coalition. Executive director Tony DiGiovanni has contributed his expertise and creativity to the project from the start and continues to do so. Other founding members include, Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests (LEAF), Ontario Parks Association, Toronto and Region Conservation, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities  and Evergreen.

Since its inception, over 25 more organizations and companies have joined the coalition. Members share a common vision of a healthy, green Ontario in which the economic, social, environmental and health benefits of green infrastructure are fully realized.

The coalition defines green infrastructure as natural vegetation and vegetative technologies that collectively provide society with a broad array of products and services for healthy living and a strong economy. Specific benefits include:
  • Green roofs are a prime example of green infrastructure providing multiple benefits to society and the environment.
    water and air purification
  • energy savings for buildings
  • a reduction of the urban heat island effect
  • climate change mitigation and improved adaptation
  • health care cost savings because of active recreation opportunities, air and water quality improvements, etc.
  • capital and operational cost savings for traditional gray infrastructure

Green infrastructure takes many forms, such as natural areas, including forests, prairies, wetlands and riparian zones; parks and landscaped areas; private, public and community gardens; rain gardens, bioswales, engineered wetlands and storm water ponds; green roofs and green walls; urban forests; greenbelts; and meadows and agricultural land.

Green infrastructure also includes soil in volumes and qualities adequate to sustain leafy green infrastructure and absorb water, as well as technologies
like porous paving, rain barrels, cisterns and structural soils.

The Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition is building a strong and convincing case for a shift in public and private policies and investment formulas. Current practices, policies and formulas overlook the immense benefits of green infrastructure and the contribution that it makes to the performance and life expectancy of grey infrastructure. 

The work of the coalition includes a consultative process to gauge challenges and opportunities for green infrastructure work in communities across the province, a review of existing legislation and policy, and development of an economic framework to estimate green infrastructure benefits.  Results will be compiled into a report along with a list of recommendations for change at the provincial level, due out in late-summer 2011.

In essence, the coalition is asking government to acknowledge what gardeners, landscapers and growers have always understood — that green infrastructure provides society with a broad array of products and services for healthy living and economic prosperity, and therefore requires legislated protection and financial investment.

If this message rings true to you, visit the coalition's website to learn  more about green infrastructure, access supporting research, sign-up for a monthly e-newsletter and become a coalition member. Members will receive logo recognition on the website.