The Vertical Forest in the Porta Nuova area of Milan is an understated marvel and an innovative prototype for how modern cities with deep historical roots can help humans, animals, and plants cohabitate for everyone’s benefit.
The two residential buildings create space for 800 trees, 15,000 plants, and 5,000 shrubs. This is the same number of plants you’d find on ~90,000 square feet of woodland on just ~9,000 square meters of urban space. The Vertical Forest reduces heat when it’s warm, regulates humidity, provides insulation when it’s cold, and cleans the air. And by the way, plants help humans by lowering our stress and anxiety. This greenery has provided a home for 1,600 species of butterflies and birds. An added bonus—if we building our cities vertically, we prevent them from sprawling horizontally which saves more land and the species that call that land home.
This kind of living architecture is a financial and health win for people and nature, and one we cannot afford to ignore. Cities across the world can adopt the ethos of the Vertical Forest and we will all benefit.
A lot of my writing life revolves around science, environmental sustainability, and biomimicry. This Fall, I’m starting a graduate program in Sustainability Leadership at University of Cambridge. As I prepare for that program, I’m researching different programs around the world that are restoring land and protecting species from the effects of climate change.
I recently learned about a project called the Great Green Wall. From their website:
Growing a World Wonder The Great Green Wall is an African-led movement with an epic ambition to grow an 8,000km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa. Once complete, the Great Green Wall will be the largest living structure on the planet, 3 times the size of the Great Barrier Reef.
A decade in and roughly 15% underway, the initiative is already bringing life back to Africa’s degraded landscapes at an unprecedented scale, providing food security, jobs and a reason to stay for the millions who live along its path.
The Wall promises to be a compelling solution to the many urgent threats not only facing the African Continent, but the global community as a whole–notably climate change, drought, famine, conflict, and migration.
Improving Millions of Lives The Great Green Wall is taking root in Africa’s Sahel region, at the southern edge of the Sahara desert – one of the poorest places on the planet.
More than anywhere else on Earth, the Sahel is on the frontline of climate change and millions of locals are already facing its devastating impact. Persistent droughts, lack of food, conflicts over dwindling natural resources, and mass migration to Europe are just some of the many consequences.
Yet, communities from Senegal in the West to Djibouti in the East are fighting back.
Since the birth of the initiative in 2007, life has started coming back to the land, bringing improved food security, jobs and stability to people’s lives.
A Global Symbol The Great Green Wall isn’t just for the Sahel. It is a global symbol for humanity overcoming its biggest threat – our rapidly degrading environment.
It shows that if we can work with nature, even in challenging places like the Sahel, we can overcome adversity, and build a better world for generations to come.
Growing More Than Trees More than just growing trees and plants, the Great Green Wall is transforming the lives of millions of people in the Sahel region.
The Great Green Wall makes a vital contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (known as the SDGs)—a global agenda which aims to achieve a more equitable and sustainable world by 2030. It’s rare to find a project that impacts all of the SDGs and the Great Green Wall does just that.
For the next two months, a sustainability series I’m writing for the site InnoLead will be published and we’re kicking it off today with an interview I did with Shannon Carroll, Assistant Vice President of Global Environmental Sustainability, for AT&T. We talked about how to structure a sustainability team within a large company, stretch goals, and building for resiliency in an ever-changing world. I’d love to know what you think!
I want to talk to you about something that I’m very passionate about. I grew up on a farm in the Hudson Valley and spent the majority of my childhood outside. That experience gave me a healthy respect and passion for our planet. It also instilled in me a deep love for science, animals, and our role in the ecosystem.
When I was in high school, I had a summer internship at our local power planet, Central Hudson, as a part of winning the Rensselaer Medal. There I learned so much about energy production and consumption, and it’s remained a supreme area of interest for me.
This week’s climate change report and the news of Hurricane Michael hit me like a ton of bricks so I did some digging about what I could personally do. 90% of NYC’s electricity is generated by coal. Today, I switched to 100% renewable wind and solar energy. The switch took 1 minute online. My service and provider stay the same. Con Ed will just source all my electricity from wind and solar.
I might pay a little more or less than I do now. Rates are variable no matter what their source; they’re based on how many people are using how much power at any given time. Here’s a link to learn more. This is a national program and can be used by anyone in the country with any electricity provider.
I have to give a big shout out to Philly’s Rooster Soup Co. Recognized today as one of the best restaurants in the U.S. by Food & Wine Magazine, this tasty place produces zero waste and donates 100% of its profits to charity to help vulnerable Philadelphians live a better life. This is the kind of business we need to celebrate – good product and service, good for the planet, and good for the community. This is a triple bottom line we can all believe in and support.