Green Shores: A Shoreline & People-Friendly Solution


Green ShoresTM is LEED for the shoreline. Its rating system and guidelines promote practices that restore and protect the natural shoreline in developed areas. Not only does Green Shores benefit ecosystems, and maintain beautiful shorelines for communities, it is also a cost-effective and resilient way to address projected 1 metre sea level rise by 2100.

overview of the idea

Why choose Green Shores (GS)? Natural shorelines are living and dynamic, providing rich habitat for diverse species. They also help to regulate floods and pollution, and improve community quality of life. What’s more, new research shows that natural shorelines can also provide a buffer to protect against projected levels of sea level rise for the Vancouver region.

Development in coastal areas has often meant that that native trees, shrubs and grasses are cleared to make way for houses, lawns and views. Bulkheads, docks and piers displace beaches and erode sub-tidal sediments. Miles of dikes and individual sea walls eliminate foreshore habitat and cut off the connection between foreshore and upland areas, disrupting ecosystems. The loss of upland vegetation allows contaminants to flow directly into the water and affects water quality. Prime wildlife habitat has disappeared, along with birds, mammals, fish and insects.

Faced with sea level rise, public discourse in our region has to date been focussed on building bigger, better walls. While sea walls and dikes provide protection, they’re very expensive. They result in loss of habitat and community shoreline amenities, can increase wave height by up to 10 times, and negatively affect unprotected, adjacent shorelines. All of these costs and impacts will be greatly magnified with 1 m of sea level rise.

Instead, if we think like a shoreline, can we preserve habitat and community benefits and meet the challenge of rising sea levels with resilience using Green Shores.

how it works

Land owners and community partnerships can work together to re-create healthy and functional systems by using the four GS guiding principles:

  • Preserve or restore physical processes – the natural actions of water and sediment movement that maintain healthy shorelines.
  • Maintain or enhance habitat function and diversity along the shoreline.
  • Prevent or reduce pollutants entering the aquatic environment.
  • Avoid or reduce cumulative impacts – small individual effects that add up to large impacts on shoreline environments.

GS can work for five types of shorelines – boulder/cobble, coastal bluff, estuary/mud flat, sand/gravel and rocky. Using science-based designs, it can dissipate wave energy, reduce storm surge and lessen flooding at the same time that it restores habitats, improves sediment transport processes and creates natural areas. Site specific engineering and assessments are required and it may not work everywhere.

The current program includes a GS rating system (with credits like LEED for Green Buildings), sample bylaw language, and outreach to communities and professionals.

A new study (Lamont et al 2014) indicates that GS provides a significant cost advantage over hard alternatives like sea walls. The cost saving varies from approximately 35 to 75 % of the cost of the hard alternatives and, in all the cases studied, the soft alternatives proved neutral or better opportunities for ecological resilience of the shoreline. The report also demonstrated that “soft shore approaches, as outlined in the Green Shores program, can provide effective flood protection against climate change related sea level rise and related issues.”


GS Evaluation Case Study

For a higher resolution version of the Green Shores evaluation case study, click here.

supporting information

Green Shores Additional Information

While Green Shores has been around since 2005, the benefits for adaption to sea level of 1 metre have only recently been identified. Building on the collective expertise and publications by our team, we identified a new use for an existing tool. This document provides background information and links to documents for further understanding of our RISE submission - Green Shores: A Shoreline and People Friendly Solution. Download here.

How to Make a Green Shores Model

This powerpoint demonstrates some of the Green Shores principles using a beach model in a tray. Download here

How communities will adapt and thrive

Green Shores presents an opportunity to…”engage more residents and communities to get involved in shoreline protection and ‘do away’ with their hard seawalls.” - Local Government

GS was a finalist in the 2010 Real Estate Foundation Land Awards and the GS Gold-Rated project, Jericho Beach Restoration, was a recent winner of the City of Vancouver’s 2014 Urban Design Awards in Landscape, Public Space, and Infrastructure. GS is also referenced in the SLR Adaptation Primer and Preparing for Climate Change – An Implementation Guide for Local Governments.

Our 26 partners recognize the value of GS as it is:

  • A voluntary program that motivates through incentives rather than regulation 
  • A marketable opportunity because the certification enhances land value
  • An education and outreach tool
  • An approach that can be supported by local government in policies and bylaws.

In a new pilot project, “Green Shores for Homes”, four communities (West Vancouver, Powell River, Cowichan Lake, and Thetis Island), will identify barriers and incentives. They will investigate how to shift from valuable, voluntary, individual projects to integrated, community, and possibly sub-regional or regional scale approaches.

Green Shores works. Using it can help Metro Vancouver adapt and thrive while thinking like a shoreline. We envision it as a way to: integrate community processes and provide for improved shoreline governance; improve shoreline health and function; and it has the added potential to increase private and public accessibility and all for less cost! Green Shores: A Shore and People Friendly, Cost Effective Approach – it’s the right choice!

Community Summit Premier Sponsor

SFU Public Square Founding Council Member

Stephen A. Jarislowsky

Community Summit Media Sponsor

Community Summit Supporting Sponsors


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