Greening Day: How plants make our communities greener and cooler

Plants and trees are not only making our communities greener and more livable, according to Dr Sebastian Pfautsch, Senior Research Fellow (Environmental Sustainability) but also play a crucial role in reducing the urban heat island effect as another hot summer is around the corner for western Sydney.

At its first inaugural Greening Day, Western Sydney University created a 10 meter-wide green wall at its Parramatta South campus. The event saw participants potting and mounting more than 500 plants in recycled plastic bottles, using recycled polyester mesh and composted materials.

“With temperatures soaring to 40 degrees that day, we could see a significant difference of 10 degrees Celsius in temperature between the green wall and the building behind it,” said Dr Pfautsch.

He refers to the concerning trend in western Sydney of replacing trees and natural permeable surfaces with houses, roads and other examples of grey infrastructure, which has a significant effect on heat and heat storage, acerbated by global warming.

“Through my own research, I can see changes in urban heat, particularly at the micro climate scale. Many councils are now trying to come up with strategies to combat urban heat. We need to select tree species that can help reduce urban heat, rather than just looking at their biodiversity value,” said Dr Pfautsch.

At the event, Councillor Phil Bradley from the City of Parramatta Council said it is important that the community rallies around greening initiatives to enhance the area’s liveability and address heat build-up at a local level as we are heading into a warmer, climate changed future.

“We need more green spaces in Parramatta to rein in the adverse effects of overdevelopment. I am pleased to see Western Sydney University is helping to join the dots between local residents, researchers and the next generation of ecowarriors with its Greening Day and Earth IQ campaign,” said Councillor Bradley.

Western’s Greening Day unites local community

Local children, businesses and families joined university students and Corey Harawira-Naera (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Kiera Austin (Giants Netball) and Western Sydney Wanderers star Remy Siemsen lent a helping hand building the green wall as part of #EarthIQ, a campaign arising out of the university’s research into sustainability, that brings together young Australians who want to be proactive in their daily lives, harness people power, and combat global warming.  Participants planted more than 500 plants, 56 percent more than anticipated.

At the event, Western Sydney University social change academic, grass roots activist and presenter, Dr Holly Kaye-Smith, talked about the small everyday changes we can make to make our communities a little cooler and greener.

“We want everyone to feel optimistic and enthusiastic about tackling environmental issues and making creative changes to the way we eat, travel, keep cool and buy and use things.”

Find out more about WSU’s work on Sustainability by heading to the University’s Earth IQ Facebook page and follow the conversation using #EarthIQ.


9 November, 2018

Isabel Wagner, Senior Media Officer