People who live in built up urban areas, and spend little time with nature are less likely to make eco-friendly life choices like recycling, compared to those living closer to green spaces, a new study says. According to the researchers, including those from the University of Plymouth in the UK, public policies which preserve and develop urban green spaces, and incentivise urban citizens to connect with nature, may help reduce carbon emissions across the world. The study, published in the journal Environment International, revealed that many environmentally friendly life choices were common in people who lived in greener spaces or at the coast, and among those who regularly visited natural spaces.
These life choices, the scientists said, were the same for men and women, young and old, and for rich and poor.
"People in high (versus low) green urban neighbourhoods seemed to be more pro-environmental due to greater cognitive and emotional connection to the natural world as opposed to simply spending more time in it," the scientists wrote in the study.
"Our results suggest urban greening could help reduce the damaging behaviours which cause environmental problems in the first place by reconnecting people to the natural word," said study co-author Ian Alcock from the University of Exeter in the UK.
However, the scientists cautioned that the findings were only correlational, and not a cause-effect relationship.
"The results are correlational so there is always the issue of untangling cause and effect, but our results based on a very large representative sample are consistent with experimental work which shows that people become more pro-environmental after time spent in natural versus urban settings," said Matt White, another co-author of the study.