What is Green Infrastructure?

We’re so glad you asked.

“Infrastructure,” is, frankly hard to define. Infrastructures bring to mind bridges, roads, and sewage systems, but some very smart people are also bringing into the mainstream the idea of infrastructures of care. There’s hostile infrastructure, collective infrastructure, clean infrastructure, green infrastructure.

Recently, cities around the world have come to realize that covering all the natural lands in our urban areas with concrete and buildings misses out on all the natural solutions nature has come up with to manage large volumes of water from rain or snow. As the climate changes, rain events are becoming less frequent but more intense, meaning our sewage system will be asked to handle huge, overwhelming amounts of water during storms. 

Green infrastructure handles water like nature does: it filters it through soil, roots, and rocks, then stores it for later use. Now that’s infrastructure.

Learn more below, and better yet - send us your definitions of green infrastructure at maitlyn@culturehouse.cc! 

From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

Runoff from stormwater continues to be a major cause of water pollution in urban areas. It carries trash, bacteria, heavy metals, and other pollutants through storm sewers into local waterways. Heavy rainstorms can cause flooding that damages property and infrastructure.

Historically, communities have used gray infrastructure—systems of gutters, pipes, and tunnels—to move stormwater away from where we live to treatment plants or straight to local water bodies.  The gray infrastructure in many areas is aging, and its existing capacity to manage large volumes of stormwater is decreasing in areas across the country. To meet this challenge, many communities are installing green infrastructure systems to bolster their capacity to manage stormwater. By doing so, communities are becoming more resilient and achieving environmental, social and economic benefits.

Basically, green infrastructure filters and absorbs stormwater where it falls. In 2019, Congress enacted the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, which defines green infrastructure as "the range of measures that use plant or soil systems, permeable pavement or other permeable surfaces or substrates, stormwater harvest and reuse, or landscaping to store, infiltrate, or evapotranspirate stormwater and reduce flows to sewer systems or to surface waters."

From the City of Boston: 
“Green Infrastructure” (GI) is an umbrella term for stormwater management features that mimic nature. GI features use plants, soil and other natural materials to remove pollutants and allow stormwater to absorb back into the ground. These features help prevent flooding and reduce the amount of water that goes into the City’s storm drains. GI also has lots of other environmental, social and economic benefits.”