Nature seems to take our breath away. Whether it is the sight of the Adirondack Mountains from the summit of Dix or the sunset over the Chesapeake Bay from Thomas Point, the beauty of nature takes our breath away. Even New York City native urbanites take pride and find pleasure from the nature in Central Park. Yet in our fast-paced, technology infused, world, we find it difficult to secure time away from the 9-5 to explore and admire the natural world around us. If only there was a way to combine the beauty of nature with the constant callings of our rushed city lives…

In a city, such as NYC or DC, there are many “dead” spaces, such as concrete roofs and walls of buildings, that provide nothing but support for the building. Here, we present to you a symbiotic relationship between city and nature. Green roofs and green walls are becoming more and more popular with environmental activists and businesses looking to reduce long-term costs and improve the environment around them.

What are green roofs and walls?

Green roof on Chicago City Hall

Green wall in Paris










In a nutshell they are the product of taking inanimate flat surfaces and turning them into living, breathing, pieces of art that benefit the environment and society. They are soil based structures that can contain many different species of plants, depending on what your ultimate goal is. Most green roofs are made up of very resistant plants that do no require much attention. These plants are most often Sedum, which are small, brightly colored flowers that attract butterflies and and honey bees (oh how important!!)  as well as being drought resistant and low maintenance [1]. But don’t let that hold you back. Depending on the resources you have at your disposal, there are intensive green roofs that can contain a high variety of plants even including medium to large trees!

Not only are green roofs and walls aesthetically pleasing, but they contain many environmental, economic, and social benefits. The below list of benefits is paraphrased from page 2 of the Green Roof Toolkit put together by the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS).


– Creation of wildlife habitat
– Reduction of storm water runoff into watershed areas
– Reduction of urban temperatures in hot weather
– Improvement of the air quality


– Creation of desirable green space
– Provide an aesthetic appeal to urban landscapes
– Provide more space for growing food
– Educational space to teach young children about the environment


– Provides sound insulation for the building
– Monetary credits for storm water impact
– Increase of property values
– Decrease in energy costs
– Reduction of waste and landfill usage
– Increases the life of the roof

Wow! Such benefits! Would you believe me if I told you that not only do you and your city get to reap all of these benefits, but some cities such as DC are offering subsidies to help with the costs of green roof construction! The District Department of the Environment (DDOE) is currently offering a green roof rebate program that will pay $7-10 per square foot to

Green wall on PNC headquarters in Pittsburgh, PA

incentivize people to invest in green roofs [3]. Even better is that the Anacostia Watershed Society is working in tandem with the DDOE to increase the subsidy to $15-20 per square foot!

If you live in the district and you have an interest in remodeling your roof, contact the AWS. They will work with you to find a contractor and a price that fits your resources.

Green walls are not only for the individual household. They can also be great ways to advertise and market your company or product! As you can see on the right, PNC headquarters in Pittsburgh has taken the concept to a beautiful level with the green wall on their building. This green wall, the largest in North America, is 2,380 square feet with over 14,000 living plants! [4]

Nature is a beautiful thing LGBG followers. So, with the mounds of benefits and the lovely aesthetics of nature in our concrete jungles, let’s work as one to push for green roofing and walls throughout our country!


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Right before Mother’s Day, I posted an article on the gift of a garden as a special and unique present for mothers, emphasizing that a garden can be a great family activity and could be accomplished in spaces of all sizes. I am proud to report that I took my own advice and planted a summer garden, using both my upper deck and the bordering areas of my back yard.

Planning My Garden

In selecting plants for my garden, I decided that I wanted both vegetables and flowers.  I also knew that I wanted the flowers to include fragrant blooms that could be cut, placed in vases and used for decorations.  Additionally, I wanted flowers that attracted hummingbirds, honeybees and butterflies, as well as flowers that repel mosquitos.  As a result, I chose colorful dahlias (both plant and bulb varieties), Lantus, roses and red Salvia for the flowers, tomatoes (both bush and patio varieties, bush beans, cucumbers for vegetables and rosemary (my lonely herb).

I contracted with my neighbor to build two large planters, which I used for the tomatoes and bush beans.  I then proceeded to gather flower pots and planters that I had on hand for the rest of the plants.  I note that the key to the success of my garden was the use of Miracle-Gro© potting soil as opposed to topsoil.   The Miracle-Gro© is rich, clean and porous and a great medium for both vegetables and flowers.

With the assistance of my husband, I was able to prepare the lower backyard borders for planting.  After planting, we watered our garden areas and plants diligently and  fertilized a couple of times.  Most importantly, we deadheaded the flowers to keep them fresh and beautiful.

Lessons Learned From My Summer Garden

As stated previously, I learned that it was well worth it to use the Miracle-Gro© potting soil, rather than cheap topsoil.  Everything that we planted grew very well in the Miracle-Gro©.

A second lesson came as a result of my tardiness in starting this project.  Secondary to other obligations, this garden project was not initiated until the third week of June, which, in the middle Atlantic states where I reside, is “very late” for planting.  When shopping for plants, I found the inventory to be paltry in both volume and appearance.

Turning to seeds, the only thing available was seeds from Renee’s Garden, a small company committed to organic gardening for over 25 years.  I selected this company’s bush bean seeds and was very pleased with the crop.  While visiting my area Farmer’s Market the following week, I spoke to a farmer regarding the scarcity of vegetable and fruit plants and seeds.  He graciously agreed to bring me some cucumber plants on his return visit the following week. Most importantly, he cautioned me to pay attention to nature, not commercial businesses.  As hard as corporations try to harness the seed and plant industry, they cannot dictate the growing season.  That is Mother Nature‘s job.  He said, “keep planting, and your seeds and plants will grow.”

So even though I planted out of season by Monsanto and Burpee‘s definition, my garden was (and still is) hardy and beautiful.  Everyday we enjoy colorful fragrant flowers and visits by butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds.  We are surprised on regular intervals by bursts of color from beautiful dahlia bulbs.

Gardening presents a unique opportunity to celebrate nature and its gifts of beauty and food.  Hopefully, many of you will try a garden next year or maybe a winter garden this year.  Please remember that no space is too small.  A garden can be one plant, a windowsill planter or an entire yard.  This really is a wonderful chance to live green, be green.

Pictures From My Garden

God’s Garden by Robert Frost

“God made a beauteous garden
With lovely flowers strown,
But one straight, narrow pathway
That was not overgrown.
And to this beauteous garden
He brought mankind to live,
And said “To you, my children,
These lovely flowers I give.
Prune ye my vines and fig trees,
With care my flowers tend,
But keep the pathway open
Your home is at the end.”

If you are ever in San Francisco, be sure to visit the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. This beautiful place has been around for over 100 years and thanks to First Lady Hilary Clinton, in 1998, The Conservatory was placed on the 100 most endangered world monuments. It currently exists as the oldest public glass and wood greenhouse in the United States!



English: Placing honeybees for pumpkin pollina...

English: Placing honeybees for pumpkin pollination, Mohawk Valley, NY (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The steadily increasing disappearance of honeybees since 2006 has farmers, beekeepers, scientists and government officials all abuzz, largely because of the impending economic disaster that would occur without bee pollination.  This really is a major problem because “one-third of all food and beverages are made possible by pollination, mainly by honeybees.  The agricultural industry attributes more than $20 billion of its worth to pollination.[1]

Currently, the USDA, scientists, beekeepers and growers are working frantically to identify the cause of death of bees or “colony collapse disorder” (CCD).  It appears that there are several factors contributing to this problem, including the parasitic Varroa mite and pesticides.  Researchers are very familiar with the Varroa mites, noting that they attach themselves to bees and feed off of their fluids, thereby weakening them.  A potential solution posed for the mite problem is to breed bees that can withstand these mites.  Recent research also has pointed to the adverse effects of neonicotinoids, a pesticide that has few adverse effects on mammals, but are shown to damage the brains of bees.  Additional causes of CCD listed by the EPA and the USDA include “poor nutrition, reduced genetic diversity, the Nosema gut parasite, emerging viruses and a bacterial disease called European foulbrood“.[1]

It is interesting to examine the potential impact of the loss of honeybee pollination on our food supply.  It it important to note the special and unique role of some pollinators in seed production, but not in the growth of the germinated seeds.  The loss of these pollinators would trigger the disappearance of these seed, the very origin of these plant species.  Some examples include carrots,onions, celery, mustard, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, turnips, caraway, coriander, buckwheat, fennel, alfalfa, sesame and several variety of beans.  Many of the fruits and vegetables that we eat require honeybee pollination and would be adversely affected by the loss of pollinators, resulting in increase cost due to shortages or even total lack of available crops.  Imagine no strawberries, peppers (several varieties), apples, kiwifruit, watermelon, cantaloupes or squash, just to name a few. [2]

Now that we recognize the need to reduce our consumption of red meat and to increase the use of fresh fruits and vegetables in our diets for purposes of healthier lifestyles and environmental protection, it is a matter or urgency to address this threat to our food supply.  We all can do something to help.  For starters, we have to educate ourselves on the process of pollination.  An excellent resource on this subject is the Pollinator Partnership at  This site has wonderful suggestions on planting fruits, vegetables and flowering plants that attract pollinators.  Also, you can find information to get involved in the celebration of Pollinator Week 2013 coming up in June. [3] Secondly, keep in mind will not try to sell products that we refuse to buy.  To that end, please make every effort to buy local and organic.  These fruits and vegetables do not contain harmful pesticides that harm the soil, the air, water or pollinators, such as honeybees.

The pollination problem is a complex one that has several causes and will take time to solve.  The relationship of honeybees to the earth is simple:  Bees equal food.  With that said, we have a duty to protect the honeybees.  Our lives depend on it.  To do so is to live green, be green.


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The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated as a worldwide day of events to demonstrate commitment to the environment, and as such, it is a day that everyone can celebrate, big or small.  We here at LGBG urge all of our readers to get involved and plan some activity for  the day.  Of course, we have a few suggestions.

1.  Plant something.  It could be a garden, large or small, or maybe a balcony garden.  Also, it could be one vegetable or flowering plant.  This could be a fun project to do with children.  They will love caring for a flower or vegetable plant, and imagine their pride when they see the end result, a beautiful blossom or a vegetable that they can consume.  If time is too short  or the weather is not amenable to planting something, consider joining the National Arbor Foundation ( and donating seedling trees to be planted in designated areas sorely in need of reforestation.
2.  Use recyclable bags.  If you go shopping on Earth Day, refuse to use a plastic bag.  Take a recyclable bag from home or purchase one for the articles you purchase.  Try storing these bags in your car to be used for future shopping trips.
3.  Park the car.  Turn off the television.  Take a walk.  Play games outside.  Relax and celebrate Mother Nature.
4.  Pledge an act of green.  There are many environmental and green organizations that would appreciate your financial support.  We here at LGBG ask that you consider supporting Africa Inside ( in its drive to rid the African countryside of plastic bags and No Water No Life (, a wonderful organization that “documents North American and African watersheds to illustrate degradation of fresh water resources and stewardship solutions“.
5.  Reduce your carbon footprint starting tomorrow.  This can be done by skipping meat at a meal, taking public transportation, and turning off the lights when leaving a room.

These are just a few suggestions to get engaged in tomorrow’s Earth Day Celebration.  Others can be found on the Internet and on community boards.  Also, once you choose an activity, make sure you upload a picture of it on “The Face of Climate Changephoto mosaic at

Earth Day is an annual celebration open to anyone interested in the protection of the environment and sustainability.  To join in this global movement to protect our natural resources and to ensure a healthy world for future generations is a great path on the journey to live green, be green.

Make your HOA dues count!

Make your HOA dues count!

As we march, rally and cajole our elected officials to address the issues of global warming and climate change, it is important that we include our homeowners associations (HOA) in the group of elected bodies who must be committed to this effort.  According to data by the Community Associations Institute, [1] there are more than 323,600 homeowners’ associations in the United States, resulting in jurisdiction over 63.4 million Americans.

HOAs have quasi-political powers over its residents.  In many cases, they represent “government among friends,” where rules and covenants are adopted and enforced regarding upkeep of facilities to ensure that these communities look good and function well.  The HOA is an excellent source to incorporate sustainability practices, but some serious nudging by residents is needed to accomplish this.  In fact, HOAs in the past have been notable for employing restrictive practices that are contrary to a green lifestyle, all in the name of aesthetics.  Some of these practices include the prohibition of outside organic gardens that feature edible flowers and fruit, banning the use of outdoor clothes-drying and prohibiting the use of solar panels.

The first step to engage the HOA in going green is to get involved in the election of officers to the board of directors.  Often the individuals who serve on these boards are cajoled by the current officers to simply be a warm body to fill a vacant seat or they are individuals who join the board to fulfill a specific agenda– approval for a new playground or installation of speed bumps are immediate examples that come to mind.  Imagine the impact that a board of directors who are committed to climate change,  living green and sustainability would have on the community.  In addition to working to have a beautiful neighborhood, the community could adopt a plan for eco-landscaping, [2] which promotes a healthy environment with the selection of flowers and deciduous trees that save the soil, require fewer pesticides and herbicides and need less water to survive.

Those “green voices” on the board of directors of the HOA also encourage discussion on green technology.  The board could then make informed recommendations regarding sustainable products, and they may be able to get group discounts for some items.  This alone will spike residents’ interests in programmable thermostats, hot tub timers, CFL bulbs, motion sensors and green appliances.  Also, those “green voices” on the board could rally the residents to force the HOA officers to review restrictive covenants and remove the provisions that thwart sustainability, such as the prohibition of the use of solar panels.

The point to be made here is that the HOA should represent the community.  After all, the residents pay dues to live in these neighborhoods, and they should have a voice in the management of their developments.  The residents have the right to property management companies which truly look out for their interests, and the companies selected to do this should be versed in green living and capable of directing the board on instituting policies and procedures which help the developments they serve to be healthy communities in addition to being clean and beautiful.[3]

As we approach the season for HOA annual meetings and elections, we here at LGBG hope that each of you who live in communities served by homeowners associations use this opportunity to elect officials who will truly represent you and promote your agenda to live green, be green.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released a new report which concludes that there is “no evidence that organic foods provide nutritional benefits that children cannot get from conventionally grown foods”.  The report does acknowledge that organic foods have lower pesticide levels, but parents should ensure that their children are getting a healthy diet, organic or not.

While it is understandable that parents have to consider the cost of foods and that many organic foods typically cost 10% to 40% more than conventional foods, there are some other alternatives to getting wholesome fruits and vegetables.  The first of these is to buy fruits and vegetables from local farmers.  These products are readily at hand and do not have to travel long distances to get to market, thereby reducing their carbon footprint and not requiring harmful preservatives.  Secondly, most farmers markets have rules for participants enacted by state legislatures to control the runoff of pesticides and fertilizers into lakes and rivers.

Interestingly, I see another issue here that concerns acceptable farming practices.  Despite the long history of farming and gardening in America, which predates industrialization and the growth of mega-businesses and regionally located supermarket chains, we have come to the point where “conventional” defines the manipulated and engineered products as oppose to the natural products, which now are made to be the exception.  Moreover, although we know that pesticides and fertilizers are chemicals, and specifically that the purpose of pesticides is “to kill or destroy” things, we choose to debate the level of destruction our bodies can “safely” tolerate.  I find it disappointing that so many people are willing to relinquish control over their bodies and their children’s health based on the levels of tolerable damage possible for the sake of convenience and cost.  This is making our health through good nutrition a crap shoot.

I know that it may not be possible to only buy organic fruits and vegetables, but we do not have to totally throw caution to the wind.  Maybe buy organic berries because they are easier to clean for consumption.  Another alternative is to only buy the organic versions of the products that our families consume in large supply.  Also, please do not forget the local farm stands and farmers markets.

The effort to maintain a healthy diet can become difficult if you let it.  However, with the use of some research from green initiatives and a little common sense, it is possible to have a healthy diet and save money.  Let’s stick with the green movement to make sure we live green, be green!

The source for this article came from

This week’s Good News Monday features Luscher Farm in Lake Oswego, just outside Portland, Oregon.  This farm was suggested to blogger, Julie Brothers, as a great example of an innovative effort by a group of people who truly are making a difference in the quality of our food supply.  A visit to the farm confirmed the area’s excitement over the program.

Perhaps the most profound fact about Luscher Farms is that it is owned and run by the Lake Oswego Department of Parks and Recreation for the benefit of its citizens.  It includes an organic demonstration garden and teaching facility, a living flower museum, 180 community garden plots and indigenous insectaries.  This farm provides classes in sustainable practices.  It promotes a real-time connection to the land and encourages local food production and preservation of rural open space.

Luscher Farms has local partners who support the project financially, and they use volunteer labor to work the farm.  They endorse innovative farming practices to accommodate successful organic farming, such as straw bale gardening  (a technique used for gardening in limited space)  Additionally, this farm has developed a sustainable community farming model that other cities can follow (

This successful community gardening project is indeed good news.  It is evidence that it is possible for communities to control what they eat and to ensure that any effort to produce food does not harm the environment.  Practices such as these help us to live green, be green.

Luscher Farms is an innovative effort in sustainable gardening.

Source for this article is

A recent New York Times article notes that farming, the second oldest profession in the world, is making a comeback.   Many liberal arts college graduates seem to be avoiding the extreme and intense competition for entry level office jobs with its accompanying drudgery and taking up organic farming.  The consideration of farming as an occupation after college for today’s graduates is logical because this generation generally is more eco-conscious.  During their college years, many of these students were active in campaigns concerned with climate change, as well as the quality of food served on campuses.  As a result, sustainable farming is in vogue.

An interesting article by activist, Ellen Freudenheim (Sustainable Farming, Organic Food:  8 Lessons for America from Anatolia, Turkey) is a great starting place to get involved in sustainable farming.  This article presents eight valuable tips that the author learned about organic farming while visiting Turkey “where such ideas as ‘small farm,’ ‘organic,’ and ‘locally grown’ are so old hat that they predate the fez.”  These lessons are as follows:

  • Plan ahead.
  • Keep it simple.
  • A college education isn’t enough.
  • If you want to eat what you sow, think systems.
  • Sustainable gardening takes multiple hands.
  • Plan a winter vacation in Florida to recover from making hay while the sun shines.
  • Don’t underestimate how much skill and knowledge are needed.
  • God’s gifts—faith and optimism are important ingredients in a lifestyle in which food for sustenance depends on the sun, rain and natural elements beyond one’s control.

In conclusion, Ms Freudenheim offers a recipe for change that combines traditional farming techniques with modern technology, guided by savvy college students committed to address the current problems of quality of food supply and the obesity epidemic.  Hopefully, this sustainable farm movement will grow and appeal to the public at large so that we all can live green, be green.

Fall is a great time for true gardeners.  The weather is cooler, making a day in the garden a more enjoyable experience.  While fall is the best time to plant trees, shrubs and perennial plants, it is also the optimal period to save on purchases of gardening equipment and nursery stock.  During the autumn season, the soil is warmer, thereby promoting root growth, unlike the spring season, which is unpredictable and generally is followed by a potentially long, hot dry summer period which could be detrimental to young roots.

For those interested in growing vegetables, there are several perennial varieties that flourish during this time of the year.  They include asparagus, bamboo shoots, bunching onions, garlic, horseradish, kale and collard greens, radiccio and rhubarb.  These are hearty vegetables that can be easily grown.  A fall harvest of these items provides the opportunity to eat fresh vegetables well into the cold season.  For those interested in fall flowers, there are several choices available, including chrysanthemums, marigolds, dusty miller and aster, just to name a few.  As a bonus, autumn presents a wonderful landscaping opportunity.  Combinations of pumpkins, flowers, bales of hay and wreaths and arrangements made with corn and cornstalks create a festive mood for any lawn or garden.

Autumn also is the time to divide and plant mature perennial plants and flowering bulbs.  A little research now on how to handle each plant species will ensure that you properly divide and plant so that you will enjoy a dazzling display next spring and summer.  It is also important to mulch garden beds in the fall to retain ground moisture and protect plants while they sleep over the winter.  Building a compost pile for mulching using lawn and garden debris is a great way to be both economical and eco-friendly.

Maintenance of garden tools and equipment should be a priority during the fall.  Now is the time to give those shovels, hoes and other metal tools a good scrubbing and polishing prior to storing them over the winter.  Gas-powered equipment should be cleaned thoroughly and filled with gas containing a stabilizer to prevent condensation and deposits from developing in the engine.  After completing equipment maintenance, an inventory can be taken of useful equipment, followed by a shopping trip to replace items if necessary.  The best deals on garden equipment and tools often can be found during the Fall.

The work is now done, and it is time to enjoy your fall bounty.  Then get rested up and start planning your spring garden.  Live green, be green!

Beautiful flowers with a fall color schem