From Atlanta News First
By Savannah Louie
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 7:28 PM EDT
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) – A solution to metro Atlanta’s growing pains has taken root at DeKalb County libraries with “productive urban landscapes,” or green spaces.
DeKalb County Super District Six Commissioner Ted Terry said six of the county’s 23 libraries have transformed their landscaping into green spaces for the community.
“We actually have a lot of space outside the library,” said Terry. “During the pandemic, there was a real emphasis on outdoor learning spaces.”
A green space contains grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. While green spaces provide a range of socio-economic benefits for communities, development poses a threat to natural ecosystems.
80 percent of DeKalb County is already developed with no sign of slowing down. According to the Urban Land Institute, the Atlanta region is expanding faster than any settlement in human history.
The DeKalb green space revitalization comes at no extra cost to the community.
“We’re already spending a lot of our taxpayer money on [public landscaping], but we’re shifting it to a more ecologically and sound system,” Terry explained.
Research from NASA finds green space exposes the body to good bacteria and can help improve mood, depression, neurological behavior, and stress.
Green spaces are also associated with lower rates of crime and can reduce the cost of public services, like police protection, sewer, and road maintenance, according to DeKalb County.
“We’re shifting the paradigm. We’re creating a more organic productive landscape,” said Terry.
The landscaping project in DeKalb County is facilitated by Georgia landscaping nonprofit Roots Down. Roots Down provides opportunities for local government and businesses to improve sustainability within landscaping.
Roots Down CEO Jamie Rosenthal said the pandemic highlighted the need for activating more green space.
“People are sad. They’re riddled with anxiety, depression, mental illness – and a lot of that can be helped by being outside and connected to nature,” said Rosenthal. “Nature is one of the best healing forces on the planet.”
Rosenthal said landscaping, a $140 billion industry, holds a lot of room for improvement.
“I would say people give it really little thought,” said Rosenthal.
Productive urban landscapes, also called edible landscapes or permaculture landscapes, contain pollinators and native plants that don’t require watering. Many of the plants produce edible fruit for the public.