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The main benefits of green spaces in urban environments

By Annie Rousseau

Parks, gardens, green alleys, living roofs and walls: within city limits, green spaces come in all shapes and sizes. Not only do these urban oases make our neighbourhoods prettier, they also have many benefits on our well-being. Here are just a few of the pros when it comes to these green paradises.

They are associated with better physical health

Research has proven that green spaces in urban environments have a positive impact on our health. According to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, these spaces create veritable oases of better health around them. They are also associated with an increase in physical activity: they encourage us to get off the couch and get moving! Indeed, isn’t jogging among gorgeous greenery much more motivating than a concrete jungle? Montreal’s countless parks also act as giant backyards for families across the city. Many of them offer play areas, sprinklers, paddling pools, and a host of other installations for kids and bigger kids to stretch their legs and expend their energy!

They are the enemy of urban heat islands

An urban heat island (UHI) is an urban zone that is significantly warmer than its surrounding areas. The difference in temperature between a heat island and a normal area can be quite remarkable, going from 5°C to 10°C according to the Conseil régional de l’environnement de Montréal. Heat islands are mainly caused by a lack of vegetation; not surprising, then, that increasing the amount of green spaces in metropolitan areas is the best way to counter them. In Montreal, a number of initiatives aiming to support the creation of green spaces are emerging, such as the Ville en vert project, whose mission is to create cool islands among low-rent housing. Wanna get your hands dirty? Espace pour la vie’s My Garden program encourages you to create a space dedicated to biodiversity and to have your own My Space for Life garden certified.

They won’t let pollution win without a fight
Not only do urban green spaces help reduce ambient noise and temperature, they also contribute to the fight against pollution. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and filter air pollutants such as dust, ozone, and heavy metals, so it’s no wonder letting nature take over is good news for our lungs!

They boost morale
According to Quebec’s Institut national de santé publique, the presence of green spaces is associated with many significantly positive effects on the environment and on the population’s physical and mental health. Indeed, vegetation not only helps appease anxiety, depression, and stress, it also reduces mental fatigue and improves general mood – all great reasons for urban dwellers to frequent green spaces as often as possible. So next time you have a difficult day, try to walk home, take a stroll around your favourite park, and take deep breaths of fresh air.

Convinced, but in need of inspiration? Here are some of my favourite spots for enjoying the benefits of greenery in and around Montreal:

Saint-Joseph Oratory gardens

No need to crawl up the stairs on your knees to appreciate the magnificent gardens behind the Saint-Joseph Oratory. Little known (and often little frequented), this spot embodies serenity. Put on your favourite playlist and let yourself be carried away. http://www.saint-joseph.org/en/sanctuary/gardens

Westmount Greenhouses

This haven of peace was created in 1923 and houses awe-inspiring flowers, fountains, and even a play area. Calm, welcoming, luminous and… tropical, this place is brimming with scents and colours. It’s an especially comforting environment in the dead of winter when greenery is nowhere else to be found!
4574 Sherbrooke West, Westmount

Morgan Arboretum

Situated on the western tip of the island, in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, this 245-hectare forested reserve is well worth the trip. Snow shoeing, skiing, bird watching, hiking: a myriad of activities take place in this enchanting decor. And for you sweet tooths out there: there’s even a maple grove!

Green alleys

One of my most beloved pastimes on a sunny Sunday afternoon is to stroll around the green alleys of my neighbourhood to the beat of my favourite music. There’s nothing better when I need to clear my mind or find new inspiration!

To see the full list of parks and green spaces in Montreal, visit ville.montreal.qc.ca!