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Why LA’s White Streets are Actually Green

LA's White Streets are Actually Green
image via LA Street Services

Although solving global warming is complicated, all of us can do small things that make a big impact.

And one city that’s doing a seemingly small thing that could have a large, positive impact  is Los Angeles.

Heat islands

Cities are hot spots for more than entertainment and food. They also are significantly warmer because of something called the Urban Heat Island Effect. This “effect” means that cities tend to get warmer than other towns. Cities also tend to suffer from higher temperatures during heat waves.

So, what’s a city planner to do?

Get to a hardware store and buy a lot of paint, apparently.

Put on a fresh coat of paint

LA Street Services workers are taking to the city’s streets and painting some of them a light, off-white or grey color. This may seem strange, but according to an Environmental Protection Agency report, covering 35 percent of a city’s streets — specifically LA’s streets, in this case — with “reflective surfacing could cause air temperatures to drop by one degree Fahrenheit on average,” Curbed Los Angeles reports.

And so far, it appears that this resurfacing scheme may work. Encino recently completed a similar project. The project helped reduced surface temperature in a city parking lot by 25-30 degrees.

LA's White Streets are Actually Green
image via LA Street Services

Other city cooling tricks

Although this resurfacing project is a great start, off-white paint alone won’t reverse climate change. So, we’ve done a bit of research to see what other city-cooling tricks are out there.

  • Urban tree planting: “Urban forests,” areas, like parks and streetways that are lined with trees, can help reduce air and water pollution by “capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide during photosynthesis”, and alter heating and cooling costs, the U.S. Forest Service reports.
  • Cool roofs: Cool roofs are made from coated materials that help the roofs reflect sun and heat away from a building.
  • Green roofs: Similar to cool roofs, green roofs are “coated” with a vegetative layer. These plants help reduce roof temperatures and manage stormwater.
  • Reclaimed parking lots: Some cities are “depaving” some of their parking lots. For example, Depave, a Portland-based non-profit, “promotes the transformation of over-paved places to overcome the social and environmental impacts of pavement,” the organization explains. “We engage communities and reconnect urban landscapes to nature through action-oriented projects, education, advocacy and stewardship.”

To follow the resurfacing work LA Street Services is doing, check out the city’s Twitter account.

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