More greenery in schools provides better air quality and reduces stress

By: Adriaan van der Giessen 13 Dec, 2017

On 21 September 2016, seven educational institutions received a cheque for 5,000 euros from Rotterdam Food Cluster to green their school buildings. Greening is playing an increasingly important role due to the growth of cities and the resulting increase in CO2 emissions and particulate matter. Plants purify the air. What’s more, looking at greenery unconsciously reduces your stress level and improves your ability to concentrate. These are important results for education. The first ‘green’ schools will be visible in February.

Greenery vouchers

Better air quality, reduced stress, improved ability to concentrate

Adriaan van der Giessen, project manager at Rotterdam Food Cluster explains what is involved in the ‘Greening the Schools’ project: ‘Greening schools is about more than simply installing some plants or trees. It involves vertical greening, meaning placing greenery against walls. This means the plants can be installed in any position without losing any space. Another advantage is that plants inadvertently have a major impact on people. Green walls reduce stress and improve concentration. Earlier research performed by the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam revealed that students need a green environment. ‘In association with the VU we are going to research the effects of the greening on schools using baseline measurement and effect measurement. We hope this will create awareness in schools of the effects and that they will increase greenery in the buildings.’

Multifunctional applications of greenery

The continuous growth of cities means ever increasing emissions of CO2 and particulate matter. Partly due to this, the air quality in schools is often lower than desired. Fortunately, greater attention is being devoted to improving air quality in education. However, the role of greenery in this is often underestimated. Plants not only reduce CO2 levels but can also filter harmful particulate matter from the air. Fresher air improves students’ concentration.

Large cities not only face the challenge of improving air quality, the range of fresh food is an important focal point too. The use of greenery in schools puts students in contact with both themes. Therefore, a number of schools are consciously opting for edible greenery. Schools that offer food study programmes can use the greenery in multiple ways: to improve air quality on the one hand and for food preparation on the other. ‘We want to show students the multifunctional aspect of greenery, so that in their future working lives they are aware of its diverse applications and positive effects. Moreover, greenery is also a cheap and natural solution for improving your health’, explains Adriaan van der Giessen.

Green economy

‘The great thing about green walls is that all the plants and materials can be supplied by companies in the Rotterdam region. There are lots of companies involved in the horticultural sector based near Rotterdam that grow all kinds of plants and flowers. Their products are often sold all over the world. With this project we also hope that entrepreneurs will see the opportunities of using greenery close to home, and that students are introduced to the green sector around the city’, says Adriaan van der Giessen.

‘We want to show students the multifunctional aspect of greenery, so that employees of the future are aware of its diverse applications and positive effects.'

Adriaan van der Giessen Projectmanager Rotterdam Food Cluster

Diverse plans for greening schools

Van der Giessen on plans by Erasmus University Rotterdam, Inholland University of Applied Sciences, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, Lentiz Life College and the Albeda College, who have now submitted their plan: ‘InHolland is going to green a meeting room. Vertical greenery will be used and they are also experimenting with growing vegetables in water and under LED lighting. Lentiz Life College is installing a herb wall in the workshop restaurant so that it can be used by students from the Food study programme. Erasmus University Rotterdam is installing a greenhouse in the Sustainable Food Lab with three cultivation levels, where edible vegetables will also be grown. It is connected to a climate computer that can be operated by a smartphone. It will be used to perform scientific research into the crops that can be incorporated in new dishes for future consumers. In addition, a green wall will be installed and greenery will be placed on the façade. The aim of the green wall is to attract the attention of passers-by and demonstrate the versatility of greening. Greening in the external environment also reduces heat stress and insulates the property naturally.

wall greenery

The first ‘green’ schools in February

The first ‘green’ schools will be visible in February 2018. In addition to all the positive effects for students the greening is a unique element for attracting new students. When it comes to healthier cities, Rotterdam Food Cluster wants to use greening in education in the Rotterdam region to make a contribution and serve as a model for other regions and cities, nationally and internationally’, explains Adriaan van der Giessen.

Food for the Future

The cheques were handed out during the signing of the ‘Food for the Future’ cooperation agreement. This is a collaboration between Erasmus University Rotterdam, Inholland University of Applied Sciences, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, Wellantcollege, Lentiz education group, Albeda, Wageningen University & Research Centre and Zadkine.