Nature in grey zones: More nature for the city

Take a good look at the asphalted areas around the city! You can probably see many areas where it’s not necessary: entrances to buildings, driveways, loading areas, rear courtyards, fire engine parking spaces ... so many of these places could be improved environmentally and visually. The “Nature in Grey Zones” project of the Bonn Science Shop (Wissenschaftsladen Bonn e.V.) tests out and presents options for greening inner city commercial areas.

The Bonn Science Shop coordinates the project and the city of Duisburg is the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) representative among the three model cities. Together with its local partner, the Bürgerstiftung Duisburg civic trust, it has already won over the first set of companies with areas being “unsealed” and vegetated.

Engine for progress:

  • positive effect on climate protection and adapting to the consequences of climate change
  • very high potential: many suitable areas
  • visual enhancement of towns and cities
  • the entire population is catered for
  • easy to copy

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Photo: ALB-GOLD Teigwaren/Trochtelfingen

An example of how to design larger areas – these are also often sealed and unused, and can be transformed into zones with considerable amenity value. An area on the premises of ALB-GOLD Teigwaren GmbH.

The greening of cities is climate protection

The project not only helps to enhance the visual appearance of the city, but its biodiversity as well. The greening of many areas makes a significant contribution to climate protection and helps with adapting to the consequences of climate change. Foliage plants trap CO2, uncovered areas and green roofs are good temporary storage during heavy rainfall, and many small green areas provide important means of cooling down heat-afflicted towns and cities.

Green business card for companies

Companies likewise benefit from such greening. It is precisely because these areas have been sealed unnecessarily, that their return to nature is perceived so favourably. Employees also value the green, restorative relaxation areas. It’s possible to find areas to green on almost all commercial premises. Be they sunny or shady, dry or damp, narrow, round or wide – there’s a solution for everything. It’s also possible to green walls and roofs.

The companies that have joined in are also enthusiastic. Constance Drews, Managing Director of Im-mobilis GmbH is particularly pleased with the newly planted oak in the centre of the asphalted square of the company’s parking area: “... it’s a head-turner. A small drop of nature can have a big effect.”

A project for the whole city

Companies were approached in the first instance, but the city’s residents were also included early on. For example, they can take part in excursions and plant festivals, and they can find out more in workshops and presentations on city greening. The greening projects that have already taken place are documented in a series of exhibitions in prominent locations such as the City Hall. No wonder, then, that the next round of companies is already lined up in the starting blocks.

Photo: Anke Valentin

“Many of the sealed surfaces in the city could be broken up and greened without affecting their function, which not only helps conserve biodiversity, it also creates an infiltration area for when it rains. The “Nature in Grey Zones” project of Wissenschaftsladen Bonn e.V. shows just how willing numerous companies and communities are to join in and get their hands dirty, provided someone is coordinating their efforts.”

Dr. Anke Valentin, Managing Director of Wissenschaftsladen Bonn e.V. and “Nature in Grey Zones” Project Manager

Partners and sponsors

  • Wissenschaftsladen Bonn
  • Bürgerstiftung Duisburg
  • Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, Bau und Reaktorsicherheit (BmUB)
  • Stiftung Umwelt und Entwicklung
  • Stiftung Umwelt und Entwicklung