Adopt-A-Median: Better for our planet, better for our mental health

Exploring the impact of Madison’s Adopt-A-Median Program on participants’ mental health and wellbeing

What are Medians? 

The little raised beds or islands with concrete borders separating opposing lanes of traffic on roads have a name, and it’s a median.  It is not uncommon to find medians filled with flowers and other plants, but the upkeep and maintenance cost of tending to these beds can prove challenging to a city on a budget. Instead, medians might be full of compacted dirt or completely filled in with concrete, becoming quite the eyesore and losing environmental benefits, like pollinator habitats, decreasing urban heat, and preventing floods

What is Madison’s Adopt-A-Median

Being resourceful and innovative, Madison’s Engineering Department has managed to create a program that keeps costs low while still creating green spaces in our city’s medians. Citizens are invited to care for and maintain their own assigned median. Once citizens sign up for a particular median, the city can help them choose plants based on seasons, location, soil composition, and pollinator benefits. 

What is our lab curious about? 

The Environmental Design Lab is curious to know how the Adopt-A-Median program has transformed our community. Building on existing research that shows the mental health benefits of gardening and greening formerly vacant space, we want to know how this program impacts the wellbeing of participants and their community. 

How does this go beyond Madison? 

There are larger implications for this research. We can discover if the Adopt-A-Median program can be used to create happier communities and improve residential wellbeing. Knowing benefits beyond financial and environmental, the city could use our findings to expand its model. Secondly, having a better understanding of the mental health effects of the program, other cities can develop their own Adopt-A-Median program to maintain their infrastructure, connect residents to nature and improve the overall mental health of their city. 

Where do we go from here?

We have been in contact with Madison’s Engineering Department and are looking forward to their partnership with the study. In the coming months, we hope to meet with participants and learn more about how the Adopt-A-Median program has impacted their wellbeing. 

Article by Emma Castiblanco