Franziska KRAINER

Institution: Austrian Research Centre for Forests – Austria

Contact: franziska.krainer@bfw.gv.at

Keywords: Forest, Green Care, Health, Well-Being, Social Forestry, Social Sustainability, Austria

Introduction

Forests offer many opportunities for relaxation and leisure activities. Nowadays, the challenges in the work environment are increasing and people often lack physical and mental balance in their everyday lives. Forests can counteract this development and become an important resource for recovery and resilience. The Austrian Research Centre for Forests strongly focuses on identifying and releasing the potential of forests to improve the health and social aspects of today’s society. The project Green Care FOREST deals with social sustainability, health and well-being in the forest.

Method

Green Care FOREST is a communication project funded by the Austrian Rural Development Program 14-20. We connect people from the forestry, health, education, tourism and employment sector. Our goal is to act as communicative interface between these different stakeholders in order to initiate green care activities and pilot projects in the forest. Green care stands for projects and activities that take place in nature. The goal is to maintain, foster or improve the health of our target groups: children, adults, people with mental/physical problems, socially disadvantaged people. Green Care FOREST aims to find forest based solutions to societal challenges related to health, education and work. Forest owners play a key role: Innovative Green Care FOREST simultaneously develop diversification and new income opportunities for forest owners.

Result

The project Green Care FOREST acts as an interface and mediator between forest owners and stakeholders from the above mentioned sectors. The basis for our communication work are best-practice pilot projects, which we initiate and lead to realization in tight collaboration with our partners, practical and/or scientific experts and stakeholders from different sector. Our pilot projects deal with social forestry and work integration, forest therapy for people with addiction problems or chronic pain, recreational forest trails, forest kindergartens, forest education for school kids and elderly people.

Conclusion

With Green Care FOREST, we strengthen the role of forests as places for health and well-being, education, employment opportunities and social integration. We present case studies and share our hands-on experiences. We encourage fruitful discussions on yet untapped possibilities forests provide for health and well-being, especially in the face of societal challenges.

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