Even if Montréal has not been famous for its strategy towards sustainability so far (according to the study 'US and Canada Green City Index' 1), the city obviously takes advantage of the abundant presence of vegetation in its downtown area.
Indeed, as well the trees planted alongside the streets as the countless private ‘pocket-gardens’ that invite themselves on the sidewalks at the foot of the town-houses, or the various public parks… everything immerse the visitors in the ‘green side’ of Montréal.
This is obvious indeed in Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood, which kept away the biggest Real estate developments, thanks to the mobilization of some very committed local organizations.
This central neighbourhood is not only surrounded by the Mont-Royal itself (a 192 ha forest on the west side) and by the Parc Lafontaine (on the east side, including an outstanding outdoor theatre and a lake), but it’s also the junction of many verdant alleys filled up with unmaintained vegetation (numerous birds and insects clearly enjoy the place).
Another example is the ‘Hochelaga-Maisonneuve’ neighborhood, fulfilled of town-houses which come with small gardens between the façade and the sidewalk (see the pictures below). These open places of transition between private and public space offer a double benefit: welcoming nature in the city, and helping to make the streets more welcomng when it comes to the cocktail hour in this residential neighbourhood!
Even in the heart of the hyper-central Sainte-Catherine street, a very densely built-up area filled with shopping offers, the nature found a way to install itself, as an educative garden developed by the association Sentier Urbain on a former wasteland.
Actually, one can find more and more projects relative to urban farming in Montreal. If you want to know more about this, we'd recommend you to check this program broadcasted by Radio Canada (on March 17, 2012).
However, as most of the main agglomerations, Montreal (3,7 million inhabitants for its ‘Metropolitan Community’, including about 1,65 million for the single City of Montreal) still has much to do to offset the negative impacts generated by its built environment.
For instance, Montréal is riddled with Urban Heat Islands2, as one can view on this mapping published by the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec:
And beyond the diagnostic, what’s possible to do? The CEUM (Centre d’Ecologie Urbaine de Montréal) is one of the local actors who has got involved in developing practical solutions to face this challenge.
TerriStorias met them and will soon offer you a report about their program ‘La ville en vert’ (in english it could be ‘Greening the City’), for which they teamed up with the Municipal Office of Housing of Montreal. This program aims at upgrading practically the situation by adding vegetation exactly where the Urban Heat Islands damage the most the living environment, and thus the quality of life of people.
1 : According to the study 'US and Canada Green City Index', which benchmarks 27 of the most populous metropolitan areas in Canada and USA in relation with their commitments to reduce their environmental impact, Montréal only ranks #19 (out of 27).
This research, conducted by the new-yorker team of the ‘Economist Intelligence Unit’ for Siemens, was published in 2011.
2 : The 'Urban Heat Islands' are defined as spaces which present higher temperatures compared to the average ones in the area, because of Urban developments (when they transformed the surfaces that were once permeable and moist in impermeable and dry ones) but also of the Energy resulting from human activities (e.g. airports, elevated presence of air-cooling installations or industries).
These elevated temperatures, particularly in summer, can affect a community's quality of life and health (with respiratory difficulties, heat cramps…) while increasing energy consumption (because of the rising demand of air cooling), emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases….
Various practices are well-known for helping to limit Heat Islands: vegetalization, passive cooling, humid areas, lighter-colored surfaces...