Do you work in one of those numerous drab and dreary industrial or enterprise zones sited outside a town or city? Are you sick of the tarmac and cement vista, only obscured by metal and brick partitions? Is your building surrounded by dead space? Does the view when you enter the gates of your factory or when you look out your window depress you? Even if you are fortunate to have some greenery surrounding your workplace, it is often simply over-manicured lawn.
Why not create green industrial zones and, in the process, provide a welcome haven for the native fauna and flora that has been systematically exterminated from such areas. Similarly to how a recent SBT article promoted the use of city rooftops to mitigate climate change, adapting neglected or unused corporate spaces in industrial parks by judicious planting could have multiple benefits.
1. Such areas would certainly be much more interesting to look at than the multiple shades of grey and rust or concrete/steel/glass combinations typical of such zones.
2. Providing workers with green areas to pass their coffee breaks or for taking short walks would promote well-being and, ultimately, improve productivity.
3. Compared to lawns, naturally planted areas require less maintenance and are more cost-effective in the long-term.
4. Naturally planted areas can help limit localised flooding – the preponderance of tarmac and cement in industrial zones tends to concentrate water run-off to poorly drained areas.
5. Natural vegetation provides a valuable habitat for all sorts of fauna; both invertebrates (bees, beetles and butterflies) and vertebrates (lizards, birds, bats).
Such green industrial zones do not have to be very extensive – even one tree with an area of undergrowth can provide a viable habitat, and if all enterprises in such zones agreed to create one such pocket of greenery, then the network would form an island system of meta-populations that would ensure long-term survival. Even small poorly drained areas, typified by flooding, could be converted into ponds that are suitable for amphibians and aquatic invertebrates, which would attract other wildlife. In that way, those monstrous fountains and clinical pools that punctuate the lawns outside large corporations and often seem so out-of-place could be turned into something a lot more beneficial. Boxes adapted for bats or birds could be placed strategically to provide suitable roost or nest sites.
Of course, it is not simply a case of rushing off to your local garden centre to pick up some pretty trees and shrubs and sticking them in the ground. Obviously, some planning will be involved and if you are not the boss in your company, well then clearly you will need to get permission. If there is an unused corner of the company site that could be adapted for this purpose, perhaps some groundwork will be needed to prepare the site, e.g. removal of tarmac or other debris, addition of topsoil or compost, deepening of a natural depression and lining it for a pond, etc. Even this could be used as a team-building exercise by the company. In terms of supporting biodiversity, the best approach would be to use native plant varieties – native trees and shrubs are widely available and packets of native flower seeds are increasingly common. If very good soil is available for use, then an alternative would be to create a communal garden, where the produce grown by the employees could be used by them or in the staff canteen (if one exists).
Ultimately, having a green oasis in a sea of concrete will not only help local biodiversity regain a foothold in long-lost territory, but it will provide a welcome respite from the typically drab vistas of industrial and enterprise zones that blight many European cities.
Dr. John O’Brien is a zoologist with significant experience in Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Industrial Microbiology, Medicine, Pharmaceuticals and Mathematics. John has worked extensively in both the academic and animal conservation fields. John holds a Ph.D. in Conservation Genetics from University College Dublin, Ireland