The Bridgeland-Riverside Community Association’s rooftop community garden showcases nature-based solutions in action. Courtesy of the Land Stewardship Centre

At a time when community stakeholders care more about the environment than ever before, a newly updated Green Communities Guide from Canada’s Land Stewardship Centre highlights the environmental, economic and health benefits in nature-based solutions (NBS).

“Nature as a solution is something that, as a society, we haven’t done a great job of tapping into in terms of working with it as opposed to just taking from it,” said Milena McWatt, Green Communities Guide co-ordinator with the Land Stewardship Centre.

“This is central to the philosophy the Land Stewardship Centre is founded on – working with the land to build on what’s readily available as solutions to issues we face.”

Originally developed in 2009 to help communities plan and implement strategies to conserve and protect water quality, agricultural land, open spaces and wildlife, the guide is a free online resource based on utilizing NBS to support community resiliency in the face of climate change.

“Considering the current global pandemic, that idea of building things back better for improved community health, sustainability, the economy and overall resiliency is more critical than ever today,” said McWatt.

“The new guide brings these components together, with the environment and the economy working together for a common goal rather than being in opposition to one another.”

In its new format, the guide helps municipalities, developers and real estate professionals to demonstrate that NBS are smart long-term investments in communities and people.

“Becoming familiar with the benefits nature-based solutions provide residents and communities as a whole is a great start for real estate professionals to begin using the guide.” – Milena McWatt, Land Stewardship Centre Green Communities Guide co-ordinator

Municipalities can use the Green Communities Guide, especially the planning section and business component, to mainstream NBS into their policy, budgets and decision making. Meanwhile, developers can work these solutions into practical applications.

“They can look at the long-term resiliency provided by these types of solutions, the business case for those interventions, and the included sections that focus on community livability,” said McWatt.

“This can help developers who are planning NBS into new developments or re-developments, while better marketing those properties to prospective buyers.”

REALTORS® can share information on the improved livability and risk reduction green communities provide with their clients.

“Becoming familiar with the benefits nature-based solutions provide residents and communities as a whole is a great start for real estate professionals to begin using the guide,” said McWatt. “Understanding this value can help in the marketing of developments and properties to prospective buyers.”

The Green Communities Guide was developed with the support of several partners, including the Alberta Real Estate Foundation and the City of Calgary.

“(The Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s) continued support demonstrates their commitment to helping organizations like ours and, at the same time, helping to advance the real estate profession by providing additional tools,” said McWatt.

The City of Calgary is also directly aligned with the Land Stewardship Centre and the Green Communities Guide.

“Nature-based solutions have a significant role to play for human and ecological health, as well as food and water security,” said Ivy Campbell, City of Calgary manager of governance and strategic planning in climate change and environment.

“Our work considers approaches that specifically support climate mitigation and adaptation, including the value of natural assets and the role they play.”