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Is it greenspace?

December 1, 2010

Last week an article in Grist posed the question, “Why do you love the place you live? We want to know.” Journalist Sarah Goodyear quoted a recent Gallup survey called “Soul of the Community” that was all about the attachment we feel to the places we live, and what drives that attachment. Then she invited readers to respond in their own words about why they love the place they call home.

The Gallup survey results were very interesting, and naturally, got me thinking about where Green Cities fit into all this. In every one of the 26 communities surveyed, social offerings (“the availability of arts and cultural opportunities, availability of social community events, the community’s nightlife, whether the community is a good place to meet people, and whether people in the community care about each other”) were the most important factor in attachment. What about volunteer events? Time and again, we hear that what motivates people to volunteer is the social aspect, just as much as the environmental. Work parties are great places to meet new people, or spend time with those you know already. And a whole neighborhood of people coming together to make their local park or natural area healthier says a lot about how much we care about each other.

The second most important was openness (“This is regarding whether residents view their communities as good places for different groups, including older people, families with children, young adults without children, racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, gays and lesbians, and young, talented college graduates looking for work”). I was happy to read this one too. What’s great about environmental restoration is that almost anyone can take part. Young or old, all experience levels, backgrounds, lifestyles, everyone is welcome to help keep our urban environment thriving, again for the benefit of everyone.

The third most important driver of attachment was a no-brainer: a community’s aesthetics (“its overall physical beauty and the availability of parks, playgrounds, and trails”). We’ve been reading a lot, especially lately, about how important it is to have access to well-maintained, healthy natural open space, both for mental and physical well-being.

Reading all this, it’s no wonder that volunteers donate hundreds of thousands of hours a year towards restoration work parties in parks and natural areas through the Green Cities Network. It’s one of the reasons we love living where we do.

Goodyear posts that the response to her article was “tremendous” and published an edited selection in a follow-up article today. Many of the responses cite open space, natural features, and parks specifically. The Gallup survey results also found that people who feel strongly about the place they live are more likely to “actively participate in its success.” Meaning that it’s a positive feedback loop: if you feel good about where you live, you’ll do more to make it better, and then feel even better about it.

Get into that positive feedback! Participate in the success of your city by volunteering to keep the parks and natural areas that make it great to stay healthy. If you live or work in Seattle, Tacoma, Redmond, Kirkland, or Kent, there are opportunities for you to get involved.

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