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Paris Becomes One of the Most Garden-Friendly Cities in the World

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By the year 2020, the City of Paris wants to add 100 hectares of vertical gardens and roofs, with a third dedicated to urban agriculture. Photo credit: The Vertical Gardens by Patric Blanc / Flickr

Earlier this summer, Paris quietly passed a new law encouraging residents to help green the City of Light by planting their own urban gardens.

Although the measure was adopted on July 1, the news has only recently made headlines in France and on U.S. sites such as Inhabitat and Condé Nast Traveler.

The initiative, "permis de végétaliser" (or "license to vegetate"), is part of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo's 2020 target of adding 100 hectares (247 acres) of vegetation on the city's walls and roofs, with a third dedicated to urban agriculture.

To encourage citizens to become "gardeners of the Parisian public space," any resident can now apply for a renewable three-year permit to start their own urban garden project. Participants can green the capital in various ways, from planting fruit trees to creating living walls to a rooftop garden. Upon request, the city will also provide a planting kit that includes topsoil and seeds.

Gardeners can get as creative as they want with their greenery, but they are instructed to maintain their installations sustainably and to keep the city's aesthetics in mind. They are not allowed to use pesticides and can plant only local species. Also, as Condé Nast Traveler noted, "the city has also expressed the need for 'local honey plants,' presumably to help grow the world's diminishing bee population."

The city of Paris says that its new urban gardening program is designed to encourage biodiversity, meet the need for green spaces, mitigate "heat island" effect and climate change, improve air quality and improve the thermal and acoustic comfort of buildings.

Penelope Komitès, who is in charge of green spaces, nature and biodiversity for the city of Paris, said the initiative allows Parisians to help beautify the city while improving their own quality of life at the same time.

The urban garden initiative is only one part of Hidalgo's ambitious plans of greening the French capital. The greening program also involves the creation of 30 hectares (74 acres) of public gardens, the planting of 20,000 new trees, 200 revegetation projects and the development of educational farms, orchards and vegetable gardens in schools.

In its continued efforts to fight pollution, the first Sunday of every month is a car-free day in Paris. In March, French Parliament passed a new law mandating that all new buildings constructed in commercial zones must be partially covered by plants or solar panels. France also recently banned plastic plates and cutlery, making it the first country in the world to take this step.

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