As the technological realm continues to encroach on our daily lives, so have the tech hubs that house Silicon Valley’s largest companies. In the 1990s, Silicon Valley was transformed from relatively untouched wilderness into a maze of sprawling office parks. And as with any large construction project, natural habitats were disturbed and animals were displaced.
Now, Google is trying to do its part to rebuild these areas and create viable habitats for some of the Valley’s most vulnerable species.
Millions of Americans go camping every year, and according to a survey conducted by The Outdoor Foundation, 67% of campers said they most often visit public campgrounds. However, no matter how much they enjoy camping or backpacking, most people live a few steps removed from the natural world.
Until now, there’s been a disconnect between offices and their relation to the natural world around them as well. But three years ago, Google expanded their company focus to include the concepts of sustainability and overall health. While there were plans in the Bay area to restore the wetlands and expand parks, no one had proposed any ideas about how to improve the natural environments that exist in urban and suburban areas.
Google ecology program leader, Audrey Davenport, wanted to see how resilience science could apply to the Google campus. Resilience science studies how wild creatures are able to adapt to a climate that’s changing all around them. The team decided to take a closer look at how this study could work in the area around their own offices.
The ecology team created a set of principles to follow. Davenport explains, “Those get down to a much more detailed level, detailing the exact species of plants and trees we’d like to see planted, the structure and diversity of how to plant them, even down to the detail of the spacing between plants, so that we get habitat value out of our landscaping effort.”
Through a series of projects, the team worked to build up a willow grove. These trees, in particular, help animals survive during tough California droughts.
They also took on another tree-centric project involving valley oaks. Google actually removed 134 parking spaces in order to make room for new oak trees. A single urban tree will not only serve as shelter for wildlife, but it can also provide up to $273 worth of air conditioning, pollution control, and protection against erosion and storm water.
All told, Google has converted 50 acres of its campus to native landscape environments, and the effort, like nature, continues to grow.
Google hopes that its efforts will inspire other businesses, nonprofit organizations, homeowners, and even the city itself to adapt a similar landscaping practice. Not only will it beautify the region and provide a much-needed antidote for climate change and species endangerment, but it will also bring the community (and its creatures) closer together. Ultimately, their vision is that the restoration will allow all species to live and work in harmony.