Vertical gardens or living walls may be considered luxury items that are primarily used as interior design features. Yet, their impact on the environment remains priceless, so we need to ask ourselves, what is at stake if we do not introduce these walls into buildings and living spaces.
There is no doubt that urbanisation has removed a great deal of the natural greenery from towns and cities. Where lush, green gardens once lay, high-rise buildings and concrete structures now dominate the sidewalks having removed the fresh and needed open spaces. If lockdown has shown us anything, it is that there is an innate need for us to be outside amongst nature, breathing in the fresh air and soaking up life from our surroundings.
Our own experience from being isolated for over 4 weeks showed just how much we, including our children, needed to be in open spaces, surrounded by nature. The cabin fever had well and truly set in when we received the news that we would be able to go for a walk, and following our hour-and-a-half-long walk that glorious morning, the difference in our moods and headspaces was so evident. Our children were happier and more ready to engage in play and we were able to focus on our work more than we had been able to the days leading up to that.
Biologist, E. O. Wilson, suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to see connections with nature and other forms of life. This hypothesis, namely Biophilia, is defined as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”. As a human race, we have a tendency to desire and move towards things in nature. Living walls introduce plants back into build environments, bringing life into spaces from which they were once stripped. Psychologically, we tend to feel happier and more positive when surrounded by natural greenery and, according to Erich Fromm, people experience joy when they are around “organisms, species, habitats, processes and objects in their natural surroundings.”
The environmental impact of re-introducing plants into concrete spaces is well-known – reduction in carbon dioxide (air filtration); noise reduction and building protection. Yet the impact on our mental, emotional and physical well-being is arguably just as great. Bringing plants back into our living spaces is a powerful movement and something we can no longer do without – the stakes are just too high.