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In defence of the bench: why walkable cities are important

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The humble bench: a place to rest your feet or a catalyst for urban renewal where community happens? Robert Dalton argues the case for the latter.

Often when considering the expansion of a large city, the first thought in regards to transportation is most often towards accommodating more vehicle traffic.

Alternately, it’s only during ‘urban renewal’ or similar projects that the idea of walkability is addressed.

Typically, a city grows and expands because it is doing something right; doing something that causes people to want to move there.

Charles Wolfe, an urban writer and land use and environmental lawyer, argues, “Successful community is among the first principles of what makes humans feel happy.” If that is the case, then the expansion of a city should build and enhance the environments where community happens, grows and exists in a safe manner. Towards this goal, pedestrian areas are essential and benches can make or break the deal.

What is the purpose of a bench?

First and foremost, benches are used for sitting, but that’s obvious. They are also used to help increase conversation, rest, tie a shoe and increase the amount of time a person spends in a single area. More shopping happens, people chose to spend time in public instead of in their home and more investment in the community is developed. This means there is more of a chance for a celebration of community to happen and be deserved.

Beyond just providing seating, benches can change the tone of an area, making it safer for the public. The broken windows theory hypothesises that a building that has broken windows will have a rapid increase in vandalism. However, if those broken windows are fixed, the building doesn’t get vandalised as much and the quality of the environment as a whole increases. Less vandalism and crime creates an increased interest in the area.

Benches can have the same effect as fixing broken windows. Effective placement of quality, convenient benches can help revitalise the interest in an area and create a place for community to happen. The ability to sit with style, comfort and safety increases the worthiness of investment for an area.

Now benches aren’t panancea that can be placed and suddenly the entire neighborhood becomes Pleasantville. However, they are an integral part in creating the mind set of the people for the new development.

Benches change a walkway into a meeting place, a rest stop and most importantly, a communal area to mingle. To increase this effect, other things can be used to further designate the area as a pedestrian-only area and encourage people to linger.

Solar bollards are a great durable way to increase the usable time of an area by providing light after dark and are a very resistant to vandalism. In addition to providing light, increased street lighting can decrease crime, and increase investment in the community much the same way as benches.

The application of these elements to one area, say a park or new pedestrian-only area, in a neighbourhood has a wavelike effect and can help improve the value and investment of the community far beyond the immediate area of the renewal.

Providing more than a walking path or area, benches are vital to urban renewal, city growth and community development because they encourage people to interact, linger, shop and increase their commitment to the area. Utilising them as part of urban renewal increases the effect of the project through decreasing the broken windows effect, increasing the chance for interaction and for a community to gather around.

In addition to other elements to increase the safety of the area, the mindset of the renewal or growth area is set from the beginning and can have widespread and very positive effects on a neighbourhood or small city. These factors make them imperative to a city growth plan or an urban renewal project beyond their function as seating.

Robert Dalton moved from Boise Idaho to Portland Oregon, a very walker-friendly city. His passion for urban renewal and community building started after he became frustrated with the lack of interaction and visibility of the hundreds of people in his apartment complex.

Further reading:

Green spaces in cities positively affect mental health

Thriving, livable and green, Melbourne walks the talk as a sustainable city

Existing city infrastructure can be ‘reprogrammed’

Report: green spaces ‘central’ to successful cities

Future Cities: a blueprint for sustainable urbanisation

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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