Wherever you look, you can find an inexplicable link between humans and the environments in which we live. Thousands of sick and recovering individuals in hospitals and care facilities all over the country have discovered this firsthand in recent years through the use of healing gardens.
What are Healing Gardens?
The term healing gardens – also known as therapeutic gardens – is applied to gardens and green spaces that are located in or around medical buildings. Specifically, “Therapeutic gardens are found at hospitals, skilled nursing homes, assisted living residences, continuing care retirement communities, cancer centers, and hospice residences,” Family Resource Home Care explains. “Each is designed with such elements as wooded pathways for walking and quiet private sitting areas near a pond or fountain.”
The gardens are designed to be a place where patients, their families, and staff members can retreat for relief of stress, anxiety, and symptoms. It’s also the perfect place for promoting a positive sense of wellbeing and encouragement. Spiritual individuals find healing gardens good for prayer and meditation.
People often ask about the difference between traditional gardens and healing gardens. Generally speaking, the difference is that healing gardens are designed in such a way that everyone can passively enjoy them. From a functional perspective, they typically fit in small spaces and are adapted to the topography of the area. Healing gardens should also be easy to maintain and visually pleasing, which is why simplicity and symmetry are at the heart of most designs.
One of the keys to designing a good healing garden is balancing the ratio of hard spaces and green spaces. According to one expert, the perfect ratio is 7:3 in favor of green spaces. More greenery signals a priority of nature.
The Link Between Humans and Nature
As humans, we’re intrinsically wired to feel a connection with nature. This idea of tapping into nature for healing and well-being has been heavily researched over the years. One recent study shows that 95 percent of people interviewed believe their mood improves after spending time outdoors. They said their mood changes from stressed, depressed, and anxious to more balanced and calm.
One theory – especially in our technologically advanced 21st century – is that time in nature forces us to pay attention to things that we otherwise gloss over when we’re staring at screens. When we’re in nature, our overactive minds get a break and we’re able to slow down and think about the things that truly matter.
While healing gardens are only designed to serve as short respites for patients who are receiving care from medical professionals, some believe nature has the ability to provide long term sustainable healing. Dr. Martha Twaddle, who calls this horticulture therapy, is one such believer.
“Horticulture therapy has the potential to be a powerful adjuvant in the care of the patient receiving palliative-care support,” Dr. Twaddle says. “The engagement of the senses through the immersion in the aesthetics of nature, the therapeutic benefit of physical movement and activity, and the therapeutic guidance to promote reflection and find meaning in the circumstances of illness are among the many benefits.”
Nature-Based Therapy Leads the Way
While you’ll be hard pressed to find traditional medical doctors who prioritize horticulture therapy over traditional medicine-based care, it’s clear that a palpable connection between humans and nature does exist and should be leveraged.
Healing gardens have been around for centuries and it’s great to see them used so extensively in modern medical communities all over the world. While every healing garden is different, the purpose is always the same. The goal is to provide patients with mental and spiritual relief that will hopefully spur physical healing.
Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations
Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?
The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.
New Construction Options
One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.
In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.
The Simple Retrofit
From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?
Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.
Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.
Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.
In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.
Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.
It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.
How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions
Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Public Health Crisis
It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.
It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.
Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.
With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.
The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.
With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.