How Can Nature-Based Solutions Support All 17 Global Goals?

Micène Fontaine, May 13, 2021

Earth day 2021. 5:30am. The appeal of freshly brewed coffee guides me down to the kitchen. My husband is there, big smile, fully awake, and ready to take on the day. The only words I can utter at that time are always the same: Bonjour mon amour. How did you sleep? The answer usually doesn’t register (he knows I am not awake or listening or ready to have a conversation), but this time, his answer stuck with me as I poured my first cup of coffee: I don’t know. I have not looked at the app yet.

Being the data-driven person that he is, the answer did not surprise me. Yet, it is a timely reminder - on Earth day no less - of how easily we can lose sight of our relationship with nature (often with good intentions and the promise of better outcomes, such as better sleep). The same tendency plays out in the built environment. Rather than checking in with nature to solve common challenges, we tend to favor human-made solutions over nature-based ones. It’s tempting even though nature-based solutions (NBS) are often not only less expensive to roll out but also offer benefits well beyond the scope of the primary problem they are meant to solve.

With so much potential, what are nature-based solutions (NBS) exactly? Are we talking about biophilia, or is it about using sustainable products? (Spoiler alert: no and no.) What can NBS help design professionals solve? Air pollution, water quality/scarcity, climate adaptation, socio-environmental justice, biodiversity loss, urban regeneration, etc.? And, to what extent? Is this greenwashing or the real deal? Can you show me examples?

These questions were answered by architect and urban planner Daniela Rizzi, who lead our Change by Design session on Nature-Based Solutions. Here are a few of the takeaways Daniela shared with the architects and designers who attended:

  1. "The biosphere is the basis for all Sustainable Development Goals, as it will permeate upwards to support the other challenges".
  2. For a solution to be considered a NBS, it must "simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience." (European Commission, 2015)
  3. NBS are being implemented globally and include a wide range of solutions from tree-lined streets, floodable parks, green façades, urban forest, rooftop farming to mangrove ecosystems, etc.

Interested in learning more? Check out these resources:

Here is to leveraging the power of design and nature-based solutions to solve today’s most pressing societal and environmental issues.  Think about it :-)



:Change by Design