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Nature Matters

By: Sandra Nelson; Images Sandy DeFoe

As part of our on-going commitment to excellence, Embassy Landscape Group and I would like to invite you to join us in exploring current topics and considering vital issues important to the Landscape Industry.  Check Embassy’s website for our semiweekly blogs; we welcome your feedback!

My name is Sandra Nelson, and I will be your blog host.  I come from a relatively diverse background, having been a social worker, a greenhouse and garden center owner/manager, an English and social studies teacher and now a writer.  Throughout the past 40 + years of my professional life, I have maintained an avid interest in plants and garden design, making sure that my family and I were always immersed in the natural world.   Though seemingly disconnected, each of these experiences has made an important contribution to my conviction that green space is essential not only for each individual’s well-being, but also the health of our society.


In that vein, I would like to begin with a two-part posting that explores the crucial reasons for and benefits of green space in our lives.  

hidden garden gate

A gate entering a hidden garden.


When I was teaching American history, one of the first things that I asked my students to do was to create a snapshot of the American people.  I would provide them a list of basic statistics to track down, but then would ask them to add their own ideas to the list to add to the discussion.  One enterprising young lady added the following as part of her list. (Her parents were doctors.)  I’ve updated her numbers to reflect present trends.


Consider the following snapshot of the American people in 2017:

  • 32.8% of American adults are overweight. (CDC)
  • 37.9% of American adults are obese. (CDC)
  • Per capita medical spending is $2,741 higher for obese individuals than for non-obese individuals. (CDC)
  • On average, 1 out of 64 adults experiences depression. (CDC)
  • 80% of Americans experience extreme stress at least once a month. (APA)
  • 8.9% of adult Americans have impulsive anger issues. (Harvard/Duke)
  • Mental health issues expenditures and losses are estimated to be in excess of $300 billion per year. (NIH)
  • An estimated 34% of the population have high blood pressure. (ACC)
  • 1 in every 4 American deaths is related to heart disease.(ACC)
  • 23.4 million Americans have diabetes. (ACC)
  • The average medical expenditures for people with diabetes are about $13,700 per year, or about 2.3 times higher than for people without diabetes. (CDC)
  • Life expectancy is decreasing for the first time since 1993 (CDC)

These statistics paint a dismal picture of today’s average American.  Too many are physically unhealthy and emotionally suffering.  Now, consider this:

A study conducted by the EPA shows that the average American adult currently spends 93% of their life indoors — 87% inside and 6% in a car. The Harvard School of Public Health generally concurs, but their research shows adults are spending less than 5% of their days outside. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study reveals that the average American spends 17 minutes or less in outdoor recreation per day.  In contrast, Americans devote an average of 10 t0 11 hours a day to screen time.

For generations, wisdom has said that human beings and nature are interconnected.  In earliest times, human beings depended on nature both to survive and to thrive. In the past two decades that attitude has changed.  Americans are disconnecting from nature and as the numbers show, are suffering the consequences.

Besides being health concerns, each of the issues presented above has serious economic implications for both the individual and society.   With health care costs rising at a rate of 5% – 6% or more each year, medical expenses are becoming beyond the reach of more than 40 million people, which often shifts the direct and indirect costs of care to the community.   

path in woods

Entering the path to wellness.

A growing body of research indicates that by re-establishing connections with nature, Americans could in the short term improve their physical and emotional health, and in the long term achieve a longer lifespan.  Additionally, the benefits of interacting with nature begin to occur immediately, are long-lasting and unlike so many drug therapies, costs are minimal.  As Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods:  Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, The Nature Principle:  Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age, and Vitamin N:  The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life, succinctly points out “We suffer when we withdraw from nature; (but) Nature heals.”

Please join me on Thursday as we look at some of the specific benefits that spending time in nature provides.


Sandra Nelson is the Social Media Community Manager for Embassy Landscape Group.