People are willing to volunteer to help maintain green infrastructure if the benefits will directly impact their local community, according to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.
According to researchers at the University of Illinois, green infrastructure, including features such as rain barrels, green roofs, rain gardens, and on-site water treatments can provide an affordable and environmentally sound way to manage water.
However, green infrastructure presents a challenge because it is difficult to maintain, so the researchers set out to find out how willing citizens were to help manage this infrastructure.
The researchers presented a choice-experiment survey to 334 people in Chicago and 351 people in Portland.
Each person was presented with a hypothetical scenario around flooding, and the respondents were asked to choose between different scenarios of water management.
According to the survey, people were willing to make considerable contributions to green infrastructure, both in terms of time and money, especially if the infrastructure directly benefited their local community.
Amy Ando, professor of agriculture and consumer economics at the University of Illinois, said: ‘Our research indicates that these environmental goods produced by green infrastructure have significant monetary value and that people might be willing to volunteer a significant amount of time to help provide these goods.
‘We were surprised at the largely stated willingness to volunteer that people indicated.
‘For example, the average respondent was willing to spend 50 hours a year on an ambitious project to restore aquatic habitat to excellent condition and water quality to be swimmable.
‘The results of our paper seem encouraging to cities, indicating that they might well be able to put together a network of people that could help with decentralised management of green infrastructure.
‘It encourages them to think about systems of harnessing the energy of community volunteers to help maintain the green infrastructure that’s put in place to provide some of those environmental benefits.’
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