|The City of St. Louis aspired to become a partner city with the Biophilic Cities Network as an extension of a citywide effort to promote eco-literacy and advance urban vitality & ecology throughout the city in ways that maximize social impact and economic benefits. Under the leadership of former Mayor Francis G. Slay and Sustainability Director Catherine Werner, the City of St. Louis has made urban ecology a priority through expanded greenspaces, higher quality natural areas and opportunities to better connect people with urban natural resources. At the heart of the city’s approach is the belief that people need nature, and nature needs people. The St. Louis model seeks to cultivate mutually beneficial outcomes for people and nature, both. Within the last few years, the city has instituted a broad commitment to biophilic urbanism as a component of its overarching Sustainability Plan. This has included the adoption of a series of innovative programs that assert a triple bottom line in approach; balancing social, economic and environmental considerations.
“For St. Louis, this is more than just greening the city for ecological purposes, as we know there are numerous social and economic reasons why it makes sense. With enhanced green spaces, we anticipate that people in St. Louis will enjoy improvements in their health and well-being. Children are likely to experience better educational outcomes with access to natural spaces and environmental learning. And the city stands to benefit economically, such as by using green infrastructure to address stormwater concerns and urban trees to help achieve climate resilience,” said Catherine Werner, Sustainability Director.
Biophilic Cities Executive Director, Tim Beatley, joined Mayor Slay and Catherine Werner recently in St. Louis for a full day of events and meetings to celebrate the city’s successful sustainability programs. The urban ecology celebration at the Missouri Botanical Garden featured the city’s new status as a Network partner city, and remarks by both Beatley and Dr. Peter Raven, who presented a compelling case for taking action to address global biodiversity and climate considerations.
Because enhancement and expansion of the quality of natural resources within the city requires residents understanding and experiencing the value of the resources, St. Louis embarked on an eco-literacy campaign as an element of Mayor Slay’s five-yearSustainability Action Agenda. Specifically, one sustainability goal for the city is to double the current eco-literacy rate during the period of 2013 to 2018 through a program that fosters an enhanced connection between people and urban natural resources. The eco-literacy program is viewed by the city as a critical step in supporting its larger Sustainability Plan; identifying that informed and engaged residents are at the heart of a sustainable future for the city.
As part of this effort, the city has partnered with the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Saint Louis Zoo to develop a tool to measure eco-literacy. The eco-literacy survey was administered in 2014 by neighborhood improvement specialists across the city to develop a baseline assessment of eco-literacy that can be used to benchmark the impact of the city’s urban ecology programs.