Solutions for a greener city

07/06/2020
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"We should build cities in the countryside, because the air is cleaner there! » was the tongue-in-cheek answer to the solution once given by author Alphonse Allais. Unfortunately, until we actually manage to accomplish this feat, we need to come up with other solutions to "green city".

(Picture Vignes en ville)

The city of Montreal has launched its Urban Forestry Plan, which aims to increase the city's canopy cover by 5% by 2025, for a total cover of 25%. It is estimated that the island of Montreal counts approximately six million trees, offering a current canopy cover of 20% (source : soverdi.org/foretUrbaine/montreal#montreal).

However, when it comes to green spaces, not every borough is the same. The downtown core, for example, isn't exactly brimming with gardens and parks. It's quite the opposite, in fact - covered in concrete. "There is a definite lack of space for planting trees downtown," point Malin Anagrius, Director General of the Société de verdissement du Montréal métropolitain (Soverdi). "Despite that fact, we still managed to plant 1,104 trees in Ville-Marie between 2014 and 2019. It's important to understand that a tree is not just decorative, it's extremely useful." The presence of trees in the downtown core offers multiple benefits. They help absorb air polluants, noise, and rainwater, diminish runoff into sewers, and decrease the urban heat island effect.

Since its foundation in 1993, Soverdi has become one of the most active players when it comes to greening the city of Montreal. Among its numerous initiatives, we can cite, for example, the "Un arbre pour mon quartier", developed in collaboration with the Regroupement des éco-quartiers (REQ) and which invites Montrealers to plant a tree on their land. More than 12,000 trees have been planted since 2013.

 

 

Rooftop vineyards

 

Are you familiar with the urban farms growing fruits and vegetables on rooftops? Well Véronique Lemieux, coordinator and founder of Vignes en villes, uses rooftops to practice viniculture! In her urban agriculture laboratory (AU/Lab), Lemieux and her team study the behaviour and advantages of rustic vines in an urban environment, both on the ground and on rooftops. If you happen to visit the Palais des congrès' rooftop, you'll notice no less than 80 feet of vines. Ubisoft's roof counts 40 feet and the ITHQ a little over 60. "Vines have dense canopies and they vegetate approximately six months out of the year," explains Lemieux. "This creates shade and help decrease the urban heat island effect". According to the specialist, most Montreal rooftops have the potential to go green, but says they would first need to be adapted according to irrigation, insurance and security norms.

 

" Vines have dense canopies and they vegetate approximately six months out of the year " - Véronique Lemieux

 

A downtown challenge

 

For Cristina D'Arienzo, Director of Operations at Destination centre-ville, although the challenge of greening a territory like our downtown core, where concrete dominates the landscape, is a gruelling one, she remains optimistic: "We need to continue to green our city, and add a touch of colour whenever we can. Urban agriculture exists; in fact, the portal cultivetaville.com lists the different initiatives that support this green movement, from the Queen Elizabeth's urban garden. to rooftop beehives (alveole.buzz), to other projets co-managed by us and Innovation Jeunes." Every year, the Société de développement commercial du centre-ville de Montréal beautifies our streets with hundreds of flower boxes and baskets.

One solution to greening the city would be to completely remove the asphalt in certain areas to make room for plants. Unfortunately, that's a very costly solution. Therefore. what's needed now is a collective effort - involving both the private and public sectors - as well as a global conscience to help Montreal participate in the ecological transition that will allow the ecosystem to survive and prosper.

 

 

Urban gardens

 

If you cross paths with gardeners in Montreal's downtown core, don't be too surprised; for the past two years, Destination centre-ville, in collaboration with Innovation Jeunes, has helped finance two gardens : one in Square Victoria and another one over a parking lot on de la Montagne. A dozen of young, paid interns slip on their gardening gloves for the summer and harvest indigenous plants, fresh herbs, and raspberry bushes. "In addition to these two gardens, we are also in the process of building a green corridor that runs from Square Cabot to Square Victoria," explains Jenna Smith, Director of Innovation Jeunes. "There may be limitations to how we can green the downtown area, but we do still have options; university campuses and rooftop gardens are great examples of that".

 

 

An article from David Nathan.

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