This project is examining, for the first time, if increasing greenness in an urban community reduces the levels of air pollution in the neighborhood, decreases the risk of heart disease, and increases outdoor activity and relationships between neighbors. Green Heart will help us discover:

  • How to plant trees in urban communities to maximize the removal of air pollution
  • If increasing green space affects the risks of developing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease
  • If increasing urban green space reduces mental stress, enhances social cohesion, and increases physical activity
  • If urban green space affects crime rates, property values, storm water runoff, energy use, and heat island effect

Read More about environmental and urban greening.

Green Heart neighborhoods.

To find the ideal location for Green Heart, we evaluated existing tree cover, major roadways, population density, plantable space, and neighborhood characteristics throughout Louisville. From this assessment, we chose a three-square-mile area in South Louisville encompassing the following communities:

  • Beechmont
  • Hazelwood
  • Jacobs
  • Oakdale
  • Taylor-Berry
  • Wilder Park

Timeline.

Starting measurements in 2018 and 2019

  • Monitor levels of air pollution around roadways and residential areas
  • Recruit hundreds of people for the HEAL Study to record baseline health, stress levels, lifestyle and relationships, and disease risk
2018–2019
2018–2019

Greening in 2019 and 2020

  • Plant thousands of trees, shrubs, and grasses to create a robust and sustainable ecosystem maximized to remove air pollution
2019–2020
2019–2020

Monitoring in 2020 and 2021

  • Track changes in pollution, physical and mental health, and social change
2020–2021
2020–2021

Comparison in 2022

  • Compare the neighborhoods from before planting to two years after planting for any observable changes
2022
2022

Louisville’s tree canopy.

Research shows that people living in neighborhoods with busy streets and high levels of roadway air pollution have a higher risk of heart disease than people living in neighborhoods with more green space. Louisville’s trees currently remove more than four million pounds of ground-level ozone and more than one million pounds of particulate matter annually from the air we breathe. The health value of removing that much air pollution is estimated at more than $10 million every year.

However, Louisville’s urban tree canopy is 37% – lower than the 44% recommended canopy for a healthy city. Each year Louisville loses an average of 54,000 trees, and Louisville has lost more than 6,500 acres of trees since 2004. If this trend continues, our tree canopy may decrease to 31% in the next ten years.

Through Green Heart Louisville, our researchers will assess the health and social benefits of increasing green space and tree canopy by:

  • Discovering new relationships between nature and health
  • Discovering new ways to help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and obesity without medications
  • Developing of a scientifically validated blueprint for greening urban spaces to reduce air pollution that could be replicated in cities around the world
  • Creating a new model for healthy urban development
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