It is a big problem nowadays: people make their backyards into stone area’s, ideal for the lounge chairs, couches and for the barbecue. It has become fashionable to see your garden as an extension of the living room. And why not? Plants and trees are messy and birds make a lot of noise. Also a green garden seems to take more work, you get dirty, and which urban inhabitant does still know anything about plants anyway?
Who cares what people do with their own backyard right? As it turns out, we should care. Every inch of ground in the city is important for the bigger picture. Cities face many challenges because of climate change. In the Netherlands the average temperature will rise, the number of hot days will increase as well as the amount of rain and the frequency of heavy rainfall. Cities warm faster than rural areas because all the stone absorbs a lot of heat. The buildings also create a secluded area, which makes it harder to get rid of the heat. This phenomenon is often described as the Urban Heat Island. For some people this is inconvenient, for others it is even dangerous. Vulnerable groups have a higher chance of diseases or even dying during periods of extreme heat. Also cities have to cope with lots of water. Rainwater has to be taken in by the ground but if there are only hard surfaces, the water doesn’t get through as much, which puts a lot of pressure on the sewer system.
These challenges would all benefit from more green in the city. Green absorbs water, has a cooling effect and provides a habitat for different animals (biodiversity). Green reduces the temperature in a city as surfaces with plants don’t warm as fast and don’t hold the heat as long. Water damp from plants also cools the air. Moreover green roofs for example isolate, which results in a better indoor climate and savings on heating and air-conditioning.
Translated to your own interests, when the water can’t get away properly there will be flooding. This can cause a lot of damage to your house for example. When the city warms a lot in the summer, it can be very unpleasant and even have a negative effect on your health. The overall living conditions in a city benefit a lot from vegetation. However, more or less 40% of the surface of cities is privately owned. That is why it really matters what you and I do with our little (or big) backyards.
Enter Operation Steenbreek! Operation Steenbreek has made it their goal to make citizens enthusiastic to put green in their gardens. Leiden is one of the cities involved in this project. Check this video for a short impression.
This initiative allows you to give your own interpretation to climate adaptation. Get in to the new trend of ‘de-stoning’. Take out a few tiles of your orderly terrace and enjoy the benefits of a little green area.
If you need some inspiration, you can design your own garden very easily on the fun website of CouldBee.
If your garden is already an oasis of green and butterflies, you can always expand to your street and/or neighborhood! You can have nice plants, your very own harvest and herbs right in front of your house. There is even a workshop coming up in Leiden to help you get started!