What Is a “Green Neighborhood,” Really, and What Are the Benefits?

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“Green” neighborhoods aren’t necessarily a new concept. In the Sixties droves of people headed out West to live in smaller communes. These camps, farms and ranches grew their own food and developed an awareness for the environment and its conservation long before it was mainstream. These nomadic folks were labeled by the majority of the population at that time as “tree-huggers” and “hippies.” What the majority of the population didn’t realize, though, was that those folks were on to something. They may not have called it green living, but that’s exactly what they were doing.

Times have changed, and now going green is not only popular, it’s a necessity if the 7 billion of us that share this planet hope to make it last. The good news is that it’s not just the occasional commune that’s embracing green living. Entire communities in some of the busiest cities in the world are creating green neighborhoods, and the results are extremely positive.

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Ten major communities throughout the country were researched for this article, from Texas to Washington State, and there were some common threads among all of them. What follows is a look at what to expect from a green neighborhood.

Construction

Most green neighborhoods researched either have on property, or are located very near a public park space of some sort with nature trails and hiking paths. Many of these parks have been beautified with transplanted trees from surrounding communities.

Green neighborhoods are made up of like-minded people, and the majority of the homes, retail shops and restaurants in these communities are built using the most efficient building methods available, as well as locally attained resources and materials. Community areas are normally designed and built using native, non-invasive material, from landscaping to actual pavement in some areas.

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Many green communities have sprung up in lower income areas that have traditionally been riddled with abandoned buildings. Rather than leave these eyesores in place, materials are salvaged to use in the construction of newer, greener buildings. Once available resources have been depleted, the old buildings are removed, and many of these locations are then filled in and turned into public parks or productive community areas.

Energy and Food

The vast majority of the green communities that were researched harvest some sort of solar, wind or geothermal energy to cool and heat buildings, as well as storm water reclamation processes. Many of the neighborhoods have community composting sites to aid with the gardening efforts.

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Some of the more rural neighborhoods have developed certified organic commercial farms, providing a healthier food source as well as revenue for the community. The more urban communities utilize rooftop orchards and gardens to grow food, and they save on energy by utilizing car sharing programs. Neighborhoods that offer community swimming pools have begun to install saltwater pools instead of traditional freshwater to cut back on costs of maintenance and chemicals.

Green neighborhoods provide a wide range of benefits to the community, including healthier living conditions, higher property values, reduced day-to-day living costs and a lower impact on the environment.


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