As families are still gathered for this long weekend, many are gearing up to hit the shops to find the best deals that follow Thanksgiving Day and kick off the new holiday season. However, the long weekend can be better spent enjoying some of the best natural spots the country has to offer.
In California, a new tradition has taken hold—Green Friday. A collaboration between Save the Redwoods League, California State Parks Foundation and California State Parks now makes entrance and parking to California’s 116 state parks free to the public on what is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.
The effort by the state to get families out into nature, and to appreciate the wonders of California’s green spaces is a noble one. But the benefits go further than many realize, and embracing parks and green spaces within city limits can help build better communities, while simultaneously improving the climate.
- Greener Cities for Cleaner Cities: Research has shown that the increased incidence of trees and parks can serve to filter out harmful air pollutants. Community gardens and locally grown food help to reduce the number of carbon miles associated with items from grocery stores.
- Increase Parks for Increased Happiness: Significant research suggests that being in and around natural spaces and parks can help to reduce anxiety, and increase overall happiness. Walking and biking paths in parks are associated with numerous health benefits, along with decreasing traffic congestion, commute times, and pollution. Parks, gardens and green zones are also associated with better educational outcomes for children—who are given access to living laboratories.
- The Economics of Parks: Tree lined streets and closer proximity to parks can raise home values for residents. Increased canopy coverage can help cut the need to air conditioning, thereby slashing energy costs of homeowners and businesses. More green zones help decrease the urban heat-island-effect, and further reduce the need for energy dependent cooling and heating.
Mayors and community leaders must embrace the spirit of Green Friday, and work to incorporate the benefits of parks and green spaces within city limits. Parks, green zones, and urban canopy are powerful tools for improving communities, and addressing the causes and consequences of a changing climate.
To meet these green goals, city leaders can work with nonprofits that specialize in increasing access to parks. They can support local, state, and federal initiatives that help fund parks programs, like Measure A—which just passed in California and will go far to improve the county’s parks programs. And finally, leaders must interact with residents to communicate the benefits of natural and green spaces.
These tasks can be facilitated by utilizing the resources and joining with committed leaders at Path to Positive Communities.
Stuart Wood is a writer at Path to Positive Communities and an adjunct professor of political science and environmental politics. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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