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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Living in New York, and more specifically for the past four years in New York City, air quality was always a concern. Whether it was the plumes of smog or the beautiful eminence that was city bus exhaust, breathing felt more like a chore than anything else. That being said, the  Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) just released its newest report of its top twenty “toxic” states according to emissions in the US sector from the year 2010.  Pollution statistics were broken down by state into their most prevalent types i.e coal in Ohio. To our delight, the study found a, “9 percent decrease in all air toxins emitted from power plants in 2010, in comparison to 2009 levels.” This was due in large part because of the emphasis on clean energy, and more specifically natural gas. Comparably, the top two states occupying the list, Kentucky and Ohio, ranked so highly because the majority of their emissions were in the form of coal-fired power plants. So take a look and see how your state ranks, if at all, on the “Toxic Twenty”, and be sure to check out the NRDC report below.

The “Toxic Twenty″ list (from worst to best) are:

  1. Kentucky
  2. Ohio
  3. Pennsylvania
  4. Indiana
  5. West Virginia
  6. Florida
  7. Michigan
  8. North Carolina
  9. Georgia
  10. Texas
  11. Tennessee
  12. Virginia
  13. South Carolina
  14. Alabama
  15. Missouri
  16. Illinois
  17. Mississippi
  18. Wisconsin
  19. Maryland
  20. Delaware


NRDC report:

The National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration confirmed that the record-breaking warmth in July was part of the warmest 12-month period experienced by the lower 48 states since the 19th century. In fact, this past July was the hottest month on record for the continental states since such record keeping started in 1895. Additionally, the drought conditions caused by the heat has expanded to cover 63% of the continental United States (

Now we are witnessing some unexpected effects of this year’s hot weather. First of note is a major bear problem across the country. As a consequence of lack of availability of their normal diets of greens and berries because of failed production, bears are out in record numbers seeking food by rummaging through garbage, ripping through screens on houses and even crawling into cars in search of food. Problems with bears invading human space have been noted all over the country. Fortunately, no injuries to humans have been cited. The bear problem also could further hurt farmers, who already have been negatively impacted by the harsh drought conditions, especially corn farmers. As the hot weather has negatively affected the availability of acorns and beechnuts, on which bears typically rely, these animals now are forced to fatten up on corn. In some states, such as Vermont, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has recommended that farmers bring in their corn crops as soon as possible.

A second adverse effect of harsh summer weather is poor air quality and its resultant increases in heat-related illnesses. Heat waves lead to heat strokes and dehydration, representing the most common cause of weather-related deaths. Warmer temperatures in urban centers place an increase demand for electricity, which in turn results in increased air pollution and greenhouse emissions from power plants. Extreme heat conditions trigger severe storms that threaten human life and health in numerous ways, including, but not limited to:
• Reduction of available fresh food and water;
• Interruption of communication, utility and healthcare services;
• Contribution of carbon monoxide poisoning from the use of portable generators during storms;
• Increases stomach and intestinal illnesses among evacuees;
• Contribution to mental health problems, such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.

Thirdly, the economic impact of harsh summer weather causes overwhelming energy demands resulting in brownouts and blackouts that threaten business operations and daily lives of citizens. Sea level rise and frequent intense storms disrupt energy production and delivery. Extreme heat negatively affects travel and tourism with the loss income completely destroying seasonal businesses that totally rely on the summer months for their survival.

While these excruciating hot summers may represent an inconvenience to some people, the reality is that severe heat and drought conditions threaten our very existence. As scientists work to find solutions to these problems, we all need to be mindful of the steps we can take to reduce our environmental footprints. In other words, let’s strive to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Let’s live green, be green.

Farmers face huge loss in corn production as a result of drought conditions.