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What is Green Infrastructure?

When you think of infrastructure, you usually think of things like roads, sewer systems, water supply, power grids, etc… It is the basic physical structures needed for a community to enable, sustain, or enhance a certain standard of living for its residents. It enables the buying and selling of goods and services at a more efficient level. Could you imagine your workplace without internet, electricity, or even roads connecting you to your clients?

Wetlands and riparian buffers are green infrastructure
Wetlands and riparian buffers are green infrastructure

Wetlands and riparian buffers are green infrastructure.
But what does it mean when “green” is placed in front of the word infrastructure? Green Infrastructure is a concept that can, and should, be applied to all different scales of planning and design. Basically, it includes everything from strategically planned and managed networks of natural lands, to working landscapes, to recreational landscapes, and other open spaces that conserve ecosystem values and functions. In other words, greenways, parks, riparian buffers, wetlands, floodplains, rivers, and even stormwater Best Management Practices such as rain gardens, porous pavements, green roofs, and trees are all part of Green Infrastructure. It recognizes the importance of natural systems and processes within our communities.

Green roofs and rain gardens are green infrastructure
Green roofs and rain gardens are green infrastructure

Green roofs and rain gardens are green infrastructure.
Why has Green Infrastructure become so important in the last 10 or 20 years? Well, because it is beneficial for the environment, human health, the economy, and our society as a whole. Working with and using natural processes ensures that we’ll have resources for future generations. Stormwater BMPs reduce flooding, pollution, and the strain on our storm sewers. Street trees beautify our neighborhoods, increase property values, reduce the urban heat island, and absorb air pollution and stormwater. Greenways help protect steep hillsides from being developed and eroded, protect wildlife habitat, and offer recreational opportunities. Constructed wetlands not only provide wildlife habitat but filter pollution and even human waste.

So the next time you step outside, try to identify what types of green infrastructure are present and how they help to make your community a better place.

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