It's 2019, thousands of studies have been done, many articles written, and many broadcasts reported about the benefits of putting down the screen and stepping outside. By this point, we are each all too familiar with the idea that getting outside in nature is good for us.
So this isn't a blog about why getting outside is so great for our mind, body, and overall health, it's about how landscape professionals can actually help make this happen and what we are doing about it!
Specifically, we are going to talk about an amazing event that has been going on this week as part of Canada Blooms (Canada's largest garden and flower festival).
Now aside from the obvious connection you've probably drawn about why a garden show and getting outside is related, it goes beyond flowers existing in gardens, which as you know exist outside. The event we're talking about is called the Green Street Play Zone. Essentially, we've sodded a large section inside of an exhibition centre. Inside! Why? you might ask. Well, this is part of a series of events called the Green Street Challenge led by an organization called Come Alive Outside (no hidden meanings there).
The Green Street Challenge is an event held in communities across Canada and the United States. The city or town will lay sod on a section of a prominent street to create a temporary park to raise awareness about our sedentary lives and inspire individuals, families, and children to #getoutisde. This particular event is hosted inside because aside from the fact that it is still Winter in Canada and the event requires grass, Canada Blooms and the Green Street Challenge are both aiming to bring people outside to explore, discover, and immerse themselves in nature and reap the benefits of a more outdoors lifestyle!
The Green Street Challenge has seen incredible growth over the last few years. The first event was hosted in 2011 in Picton, by yours truly, and started with just a few hundred square feet of sod and a modest game of pick-up soccer with collapsable nets. Last year there were 14 events across North America, including one downtown Toronto on Bloor street! Yes, you read that right, Bloor at Yonge was closed off, sodded, and turned into a park. Kids played, yogi's yoga'd, parents got on their hands and knees with their children, the energy was palpable. The one in Picton has since grown to nearly 6000 square feet of sod and has become highly anticipated by the community as a staple of our town's July 1st celebration. Aside from space and size it has grown in features too. Seriously! Check out Picton's Green Street Challenge in 2018 here. There was a hobbit hole, a micecraft climbing area, a craft station, just to name a few features. And of course we left room for soccer with collapsable soccer nets which always draw a crowd!
You might be asking yourself, what is the connection between Come Alive outside and the landscaping industry. Again, aside from the obvious connection that landscapers build outdoor spaces and Come Alive Outside is eager to get people out into those spaces the storyline I promise you, runs deeper than that.
As landscapers, we are in a unique position where we not only understand the importance of spending time outside but we can actually design, build, and maintain spaces that draw people into the outdoors. And we can establish that influence among homeowners, commercial landowners, and municipalities. Come Alive Outside partners with professionals in the landscape industry (among healthcare and outdoor recreation professionals) for exactly this reason; we have a direct line of communication to people who are prepared to make a change in their own lives by investing in a backyard or public park that beckons them outside.
So what are we doing and how are we doing it? We are partnering with Come Alive Outside to run events like the Green Street Play Zone to reach an even bigger audience all at once. As many of us tend to be a bit more hermit-like in the winter this event, in particular, is happening at an opportune time. The weather is just starting to warm so it serves as a kickstart the spring season and to spread the message to as many municipalities as possible! Canada Blooms also fell over March Break, which has been a perfect opportunity to engage a lot of young people and their families and highlight the fun and beauty of being outdoors.
"The theme for Canada Blooms this year is 'A Family Affair' and the Green Streets Play Zone is just that! It is a place that takes the beauty of the gardens that we see at Blooms and creates an interactive feature garden that kids of all ages can live out the 5 principles of Come Alive Outside!" says Lissa Schoot Uiterkamp, Education and Youth Engagement Coordinator at Landscape Ontario.
Five Principles of Come Alive Outside:
Get active outside
Grow something you can eat
Learn with your hands in the soil
Connect with nature
To get involved visit https://comealiveoutside.com/ and engage your community influences to consider hosting a Green Street Challenge! Follow Come Alive Outside on Facebook and come out to events near you!