Green Walls Vs Green Streets – what would the Lorax choose?

Green walls seem to be all a-trendy right now, and after an article I saw yesterday – which made no mention of trees – I thought it time to put on my Lorax face and speak for the trees.

As a project advisor, if I had the choice [a choice being required due to limited funds] between a green wall or some street planting I’d be heading straight for the trees as my first option. I’m not going to attempt to de-value the benefits of green walls – there’s a right time and place for every thing, but I will put some words to why we need to get the basics right first;

Street trees –

  • create shade – evidence shows that street trees can drop local temperatures by up to 8degC
  • increase asphalt road and footpath life by up to 30% [e.g. from 20 to 30 years!] and reduce maintenance costs
  • reduce urban wind speeds
  • remove pollutants from air and water
  • buffer rainfall and storm water runoff – tree canopies can significantly reduce total runoff
  • create habitat
  • increase property values
  • sequester carbon
  • give us a sensory connection to nature
  • provide structure to our public spaces

When you add up all the financial and social benefits of street trees, it becomes apparent that we’ve got a winner with a low cost, low maintenance, low risk long life asset. Street trees need to be a core part of our early planning processes, and their economic benefits factored in.

Yes, there’s a dog’s breakfast of stuff to sort through – wires, pipes, pits, pavers etc., but again that just takes smart design and planning and the will to make it happen.

And if you’re still not convinced, think about what you hold as the nicest streets in your own neighbourhood… I bet they all have something in common…

I did a search on ‘Million Trees’ programs and got flooded with hits around the world. One that is close to my heart is New York City’s MillionTrees program. Great example of a multi-stakeholder effort that is really working. Sydney also has some ambitious targets for the same reasons.


Tree parade, MillionTreesNYC, credit: Daniel Avila

The Lorax would call us daft for not preferring green streets over green walls – no doubt he’d take both if he could afford it, but when we factor in beauty the tree needs to be first in line.

Let’s not lose sight of the basics of good design.


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