Living near a park or other green space appeared to benefit city kids with severe asthma, especially older kids who were more likely to play outside on their own, according to researchers here.
For every 305 meters (about 1,000 feet) between home and park, children had 1 extra day of asthma symptoms. In addition, children who lived next to a park averaged 5 symptomatic days and children living 305 meters from the park had 6 symptomatic days, reported Kelli DePriest, a PhD candidate at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore, and colleagues.
Among older children (ages 6-12), those living next to the park had an average of 5 symptomatic days, they said in a early presentation at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress.
Urban living is a known risk factor for asthma in children, as well as poorly controlled disease, but it is less clear if having access to a park or other green space, and utilizing these spaces, benefits city kids with severe asthma that is poorly controlled, DePriest noted.
“According to health department statistics, Baltimore has the highest pediatric asthma hospitalization rate of any city in the United States,” she told MedPage Today. “That made it a good place to look at the impact of living close to a park or green spaces on asthma severity in children with pretty severe asthma.”
Baltimore is a city of around 620,000 people, with levels of pollution similar to New York and Los Angeles, but slightly lower than those in London and Milan.
The study included 196 children, ages of 3 to 12 years, who had either visited emergency departments at least twice or had asthma-related hospitalizations during the past year.
“This group of children are predominantly African American, Medicaid insured, and their families are from a lower socioeconomic status, which means they represent a population at high risk for asthma-related mortality,” DePriest said in an ERS press statement.
The children’s parents were asked how many days their child had suffered with symptoms such as being short of breath, chest pain, and wheezing.
Researchers also mapped the distances between the children’s home addresses and the closest green space.
The average length from home to the nearest park averaged around 250 meters, or about two city blocks. While some children lived immediately next to a green space, others were more than a kilometer (about 3,300 feet) away.
The effect seemed strongest for children ages 6 years and up, DePriest noted. “This might be because they have more freedom to choose where they want to go compared to younger children. These results are important because they provide further support for the benefits of city parks, and they suggest that the right building policies can improve children’s health.”
Mina Gaga, MD, PhD, ERS president-elect, said several possible mechanisms may be at play to explain the findings.
She noted that previous research has shown the air in urban parks, and other urban green spaces to be cleaner, than surrounding areas with few trees or plants. There is also the “hygiene hypothesis,” that playing outside, and/or in the dirt, may help protect kids from allergy and asthma.
“It’s also clear that getting exercise is beneficial to kids with asthma, so it appears to be a win-win situation to have parks nearby,” said Gaga, who is with the Athens Chest Hospital.
Finally, she noted that time spent outdoors is “also very good for children’s spirits. The definition of health includes happiness. So I think it is very important to be in an environment that is sunny, green, and nice.”
40% of food in America goes uneaten—it’s an almost unbelievable fact. Here in New York City, around 20% of our waste stream is food waste. For decades, this food waste has been sent to landfills where it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas and large contributor to global warming.
Instead of sending all this food to landfill we want to first prevent, then recover, and finally recycle any remaining food.
In recent years, New York City has shown incredible leadership on food waste recycling, and our apple cores and potato peels are starting to meet a better end.
Back in 2013, City Council passed two laws to jump start the recycling of food waste. These laws established a curbside organics collection pilot and organics diversion requirements for businesses. My colleague Eric Goldstein has written about the residential program and commercial requirements, if you want to learn more.
In the years since, New York City Department of Sanitation has been hard at work implementing these two laws. And it shows—with three great examples in the last few weeks alone.
First, as of yesterday, the New York City curbside organics collection program serves 2 million people, making it the largest program of its kind in the country. By the end of this year it will serve 3.3 million people and by the end of 2018, all NYC residents will have access to curbside organics collection or to a convenient drop off location. This is no small feat and the city’s leadership and dedication on this issue will help drive development of food recycling infrastructure and hopefully inspire action by other cities as well.
Second, just last week, the NYC Commissioner of Sanitation Kathryn Garcia announced a proposal to dramatically expand the number of commercial food establishments required to separate their organic waste and send it for beneficial use. Currently the largest 350 or so commercial food establishments are required to separate their organic waste, but this new proposal will add approximately 2000 businesses. Department of Sanitation estimates this will increase diversion of organic material from the commercial sector to 50,000 tons a year.
Third, New York City’s Department of Sanitation’s Foundation for New York’s Strongest hosted the first NYC Food Waste Fair yesterday. The Food Waste Fair—with more than 1000 people in attendance—sought to equip NYC businesses with the tools to address food waste. There was a great panel on food waste policy (including my colleague Mark Izeman, city staff, and experts), workshops for businesses, and dozens of exhibitors.
With the city’s dedication on this issue and so many interested stakeholders, we look forward to building on good food waste recycling leadership and making similar strides on prevention and recovery to holistically address food waste. [NRDC]
Hurricane Harvey: What does it Mean for New York City?
As I write this article, Tropical Storm Harvey, downgraded from a category 4 hurricane just a couple of days ago is pummeling south Texas with torrential rain. The residents of Houston and the surrounding area are suffering from catastrophic flooding. Other than watching the drama unfold on TV, giving money to rescue efforts, and praying for the lives and the well being of everyone affected, what can we do here in New York City? What conclusions or lessons should we draw from this tragedy?
First of all, it is important to note that the City of Houston has grown tremendously over the last 25 years or so. In a very short period of time, the city has been paved and built up in a manner that is unsustainable. Houston is surrounded by many rivers and bayous. When it rains, the water should drain into the rivers and bayous and go into the Gulf of Mexico. However, because of all the building in recent years, excess water has no place to drain and it just sits in the streets, causing flooding. Scientists predict that storms like Harvey will occur more frequently and be more devastating than ever in the coming decades.
Is New York City vulnerable to a storm like Harvey? What is NYC doing to reduce the chances that we would suffer the same kind of flooding and devastation that Houston is suffering? Fortunately, New York City is doing a lot of good things to make it less vulnerable to storms in the future. There is a massive green infrastructure program going on throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Things like green streets, bioswales, green roofs, expanded tree pits, and similar structures are being built in areas that tend to flood easily.
For more information on the NYC Green Infrastructure Program, visit www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/stormwater/using_green_infra_to_manage_stormwater.shtml
The NYC Green Infrastructure Program is not only helping to make NYC more green in a literal sense, but it is also helping to make NYC more resilient and resistant to flooding.
You are invited to the Green City Challenge Back to School Party on Monday, September 25 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at Raymour & Flanigan, 1961 Broadway at West 66th Street in Manhattan. We are excited to introduce a revised version of the What’s the Watts Challenge and to tell people about our new initiative to bring Green City Challenge into Middle Schools in the Bronx and Manhattan.
Please make your reservation now at www.greencitychallenge.org/rsvp or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-530-5074.
In the United States, green-certified building development has become more and more common. But did you know that China is actually the world’s largest green building market? In fact, China eclipsed the United States with more than 1 billion square feet of certified green, sustainable building space.
What’s also interesting is that China did this in half the time it took the U.S. – 10 years compared to 20 in America.
This is good news, considering that China is not only the world’s largest construction market, it’s also the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses. With a focus on meeting green building and other environmental standards, China has the potential to make steady progress toward meeting its Paris Climate Agreement commitments. Key to that is a big goal by the Chinese government to achieve 50% commercial green building certification by 2020. Big goals lead to big results. If met, China will represent half of the world’s green building floor space by 2020.
Building owners have been choosing wisely. In 2005, green buildings were just 2% of commercial construction in the U.S. Today, they are closer to 50%. We see a similar trend in China, with impressive adoption of the China 3-star rating system for green buildings.
More buildings will be needed to meet the massive influx of people moving into cities. In China alone, 300 million more people (equivalent to the entire U.S. population) will move to cities in the next 15 years. Since buildings consume 40% of the world’s energy, we also know that these buildings need to be green. Clearly, the future of buildings and the future of sustainability go hand in hand.
New China Focus
This week, I traveled to China to attend the 13th Annual International Conference on Green and Energy-Efficient Building. I learned about new focus areas from Dr. Qiu Baoxing, president of the Chinese Society for Urban Studies and former vice minister for the China Ministry of Housing and Urban and Rural Development.
Dr. Qiu has been one of China’s earliest and strongest visionaries for green building. He’s now calling for more vertical gardens to be designed into Chinese city buildings. Imagine building facades that incorporate plants and trees as tall as they rise. No matter if you live or work on floor 1 or floor 40, you would see nature outside in the form of natural vegetation. This type of design would be as much be eco-cool and eco-beautiful as it would be eco-functional. Vertical gardening would introduce nature into otherwise concrete urban centers. More vegetation would naturally absorb CO2 pollutants and convert them to oxygen and according to Dr. Qiu, help address the outdoor air pollution issues in China.
The “Human Spirit” in Green Buildings
Throughout the years, the China conference has been a valuable convening point for green buildings. This year, Dr. Qiu proclaimed that green buildings must embrace the “human spirit.” I couldn’t agree more, and was pleased to present to the nearly 1,000 people gathered that we have new scientific evidence from The COGfx Study* series that green buildings not only save energy and water, they also improve human performance – they improve the health and productivity of people working in those buildings. This research by Harvard is changing the global conversation in the buildings industry.
By focusing on the human performance benefits of green building, in addition to the valuable energy and water savings, we can greatly expand the value proposition of green buildings. This can help accelerate sustainable building development in China and everywhere else. [HuffPo]