Growing a Garden on Your Garage

  • David Lanfear recently ‘installed’ one on his own garage roof, so his neighbors could see the benefits (Photo by Joyce Kryszak)

When most people put a new roof on
their home they usually use standard asphalt
or tile roofing. But other people are going
for something more natural. They’re planting
grass and flowers on their houses. Joyce
Kryszak talked with one builder in
Western New York who planted a green roof on
his garage to show his neighbors how it works:

Transcript

When most people put a new roof on
their home they usually use standard asphalt
or tile roofing. But other people are going
for something more natural. They’re planting
grass and flowers on their houses. Joyce
Kryszak talked with one builder in
Western New York who planted a green roof on
his garage to show his neighbors how it works:

About 90% of all residential roofs are made out of manufactured
asphalt.

But builder David Lanfear knows that nothing tops mother nature.
He makes roofs out of gardens.

Lanfear recently ‘installed’ one on his own garage roof, so his
neighbors could see the benefits. There are beautiful flowering
plants visible over the edge of the flat roof. Lanfear says they’ve got
the whole birds and bees thing going on.

“We’ve noticed a big increase in insects, butterflies, birds all
sorts of new birds that I haven’t ever seen. They’re up there
eating something. Bugs? But its kind of nice to sit on the deck
and watch this nature in the city thing,” said Lanfear.

But the living roof isn’t a novelty. Lanfear says the roofs are more
eco-friendly. He says a living roof provides a whole cascade of
environmental benefits.

“Especially in a downtown when you get a hard rainfall the water
washes off all at once. There’s nothing to absorb it. If you had
a roof like this it absorbs the water and let’s it off slowly. So, it
not only slows the runoff, it cools the water and it starts to filter
the water. It filters some of the atmospheric crud out.
Otherwise, you get super heated water rushing off into the storm
sewer, and then out into the river or the lake and effecting the
environment there,” said Lanfear.

Once his neighbors understood the concept, they stopped thinking
Lanfear was crazy. A few even offered to give him a hand planting
his roof.

First the roof was reinforced with used lumber. Next are the
waterproof barriers – a rubber membrane, a root barrier made out of
old billboards and some old carpeting. Finally, recycled, crushed
concrete is shoveled on to be used as soil for the plants to grow in.

It’s all sustainable. And the native plants require very little water or
maintenance.

Neighbor Deborah Bach loves to garden. So, she was happy to
pitch in. Bach says the concrete soil needs to be doctored to enrich
it. But they have a reuse idea for that too.

“My son works at Starbucks and they give out free grounds for
gardens. So, we’re going to try doing that to try to balance this
out. You know, using recycled materials and things that have
already been used,” said Bach.

Another neighbor stopped by to help. Alex Sowyrda is a high school
technology teacher who’s interested in the science of green roofs.
He plans to share what he learns with his students.

“I try to bring it into my curriculum at school and, hopefully, the
kids graduating high school now take this knowledge with them
and are able to make responsible choices in the way they build
and the way they design in the future,” said Sowyrda.

The living roof builder David Lanfear says it’s a concept that can grow
on anyone. Even people who grew up with more traditional roofs. He
says to start small – with a garage roof – or maybe even smaller.

“We all have little expanses of roof in front of windows. And in
the summer you might notice that when the window is open the
hot air blows in, a lot of that heat comes from that little bit of
roof. If we could just put sections one square yard of living roof
outside of our windows on the porch roof, that would make a
drastic difference in cooling our house – simple,” said Lanfear.

And pretty cheap. Lanfear says the cost of materials is about the
same as an asphalt roof. But he says there’s savings in the long run
because the green roof can last three times as long.

And he says it’s a whole lot nicer to look at.

For The Environment Report, I’m Joyce Kryszak.

Related Links

Saving Nation’s Seed Supply

  • Multinational corporations started taking control of seeds around thirty years ago. Now, ten corporations own over half the world’s commodity seed supply. (Photo by Scott Bauer, courtesy of the USDA Agricultural Research Service)

Some small gardening businesses
are noticing more customers want organic
and heirloom seeds. Experts think that
trend might be important for the world.
Kinna Ohman reports they believe
those seeds might be the hope of future
food supplies:

Transcript

Some small gardening businesses
are noticing more customers want organic
and heirloom seeds. Experts think that
trend might be important for the world.
Kinna Ohman reports they believe
those seeds might be the hope of future
food supplies:

John Meshna points to a half empty rack of vegetable and flower seed packets in his
store.

“We’ve emptied this thing at least a half a dozen times this year. I thought maybe
we’d have a rush in the spring and that’d be the end of it. And it looks like it’s
going to be going through the winter.”

Meshna owns and runs DirtWorks – a green garden supply business in New Haven,
Vermont. He’s been selling organic and heirloom garden seeds for more than twenty
years. Heirloom seeds come from vegetables that have almost disappeared. And Meshna
thinks people want those types of seeds more and more because they’re worried about our
food supply.

“People call us just to make sure sometimes before they order, now, ‘these are really
organic seeds, right?’ Yeah, it says it right on the label. It’s gonna make you very
happy when you get that package.”

And it’s making certain experts happy too.

Hope Shand is the research director of Etcetera Group. It’s an organization that’s
concerned about corporate control of the food supply. Shand says when more home
gardeners and small farmers grow plants from organic and heirloom seeds, that helps
keep variety in the world’s food supply.

“This is an incredibly important service. People, gardeners, small farmers, urban
gardeners, are conserving, and saving seed diversity. No one else is really doing that
job.”

Hope Shand says multinational corporations started taking control of seeds around thirty
years ago. Now, Shand says, ten corporations own over half the world’s commodity seed
supply. And she thinks that’s risky.

“The seed is the first link in the food chain. Whoever controls the seed literally
controls the world’s food supply. We can’t afford to have the level of vulnerability
and dependence that that entails when we have a handful of multinational seed
companies controlling the world seed supply.”

(sound of watering)

“I’m growing greens without heat.”

At a small organic nursery in Hinesberg, Vermont, Julie Rubaud is one of those who
wants to get these seeds and plants to more people. For her, it’s not just preserving a
strain of a vegetable, it’s trying to match up those plants with the right gardener.

Rubaud grows close to eight hundred varieties of organic and heirloom plants for her
customers. She says that helps her connect people with the right plants for their gardens
and tastebuds.

“I always start out asking, ‘how much room do you have?’ And then I ask them
how they like to eat tomatoes. It’s nice to be able to cater everyone’s garden plan to
their individual needs because we have so many varieties.”

And if next year’s anything like last year, Rubaud will have at least forty varieties of
organic tomato plants ready for new gardens by next spring.

She wonders – with the economy the way it’s been – if one plant might do exceptionally
well.

“There’s Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes. Have you heard of that
one?” (laughs)

Radiator Charlie’s tomato has been around since the 1940s. You probably won’t find it
at the big-box discount-store gardening department. It’s one of those colorful, hardy,
productive plants that many people think will help bring back variety to our food supply.

For The Environment Report, I’m Kinna Ohman.

Related Links

Lead Soil in Urban Gardens

  • The veggies in your garden could have lead in them (Photo courtesy of the USDA)

More Americans have started
planting their own gardens in recent
years. But it turns out a lot of
urban gardens are contaminated with
lead. Julie Grant reports:

Transcript

More Americans have started
planting their own gardens in recent
years. But it turns out a lot of
urban gardens are contaminated with
lead. Julie Grant reports:

Last year 22% of Americans planted a garden.

Wendy Heiger-Bernays is professor of environmental health
at Boston University.

She says if you have an urban garden, she would expect to find heavy metals, especially lead, in the soil. It comes from old garbage, dripping oil, and peeling paint.

“Older homes have been demonstrated to leach lead from the home through the drip line and into the soil.”

Even small amounts of lead in the blood can cause learning disabilities in children.

Heiger-Bernays says you don’t have to throw away this year’s veggies. Just wash them well. And peel root vegetables.

And to get ready for next year, Heiger-Bernays says have your
soil tested. If there’s lead, add a foot of clean compost to the top of the garden bed. Next Spring plant only in that top layer.

For The Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

Related Links

Growing Food – Not Lawns

  • Aileen Eilert and her plastic wagon loaded with tomato and pepper starter plants, headed for the subdivision one block over to campaign (Photo by Ashley Gross)

Many environmentalists knock the suburbs. They don’t like how

dependent suburbs are on cars. They don’t like the sprawl, the large

houses and huge lawns. They think it’s a waste of land. Ashley Gross

reports… one woman is on a campaign to see some of those expansive

lawns turned into something a little more productive:

Transcript

Many environmentalists knock the suburbs. They don’t like how

dependent suburbs are on cars. They don’t like the sprawl, the large

houses and huge lawns. They think it’s a waste of land. Ashley Gross

reports… one woman is on a campaign to see some of those expansive

lawns turned into something a little more productive:

(sound of movie music)

Ever since soldiers returned from World War II, the suburbs have been portrayed as
the family-friendly ‘good life.’

“And so they joined the stream of family life in the suburbs. Soon to become part of
its familiar sights. Soon to absorb its familiar sounds.”

One of the most constant of those familiar sounds is a lawnmower.

(sound of lawnmower)

That noise just grates on Aileen Eilert’s nerves. Her goal is to live a more
environmentally-friendly life in the suburbs.

(sound of opening door and walking outside)

She does have a lawn. But she and her husband are converting much of it to
vegetable garden plots.

“So I have some snow peas growing here and here’s you know four tomato plants
and Bruce planted some peppers all the way down here.”

Eilert says gardening means she drives less often to the grocery store – and she’s
not buying produce shipped in from a different continent.

That’s important to her. Eilert says she decided to use less oil after her nephew was
killed in Iraq in 2005.

“You know, we’re fighting over there and it was about oil, and so I just thought I’ve
got to do something. I mean, it’s too late for me to do anything about my nephew,
and he was such a good kid. I’d like it to be where people – oh we don’t need to buy
oil from countries that may not be friendly to us or may not be stable.”

Eilert is not alone. People in the suburbs are beginning to think about their lifestyles
in a different way.

Evan McKenzie is a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago He researches the
politics of suburbia.

“The stuff that was planned and put in place in the 60s and 70s and even the 80s, I
think in some cases is giving way to new ideas. I mean they’re selling and giving
away rain barrels in the suburbs so people collect rainwater to water their plants
with. I never heard of that before.”

Not everyone is onboard with the environmental movement in the suburbs yet. Last
year Americans spent almost 11 billion dollars on do-it-yourself lawn care just to
keep the grass green.

Aileen Eilert wants to change that. She calls her new campaign “Grow Food, Not
Lawns.”

Her approach is one-on-one. Today she’s pulling a plastic wagon loaded with
tomato and pepper starter plants. She’s headed for the subdivision one block over.

(sound of wagon)

Eilert approaches Tim Lakis as he mows his lawn. He gives him a pepper plant.
Then comes the pitch.

Eilert: “Lawns actually use a lot of chemicals if you put chemicals on your lawn and
that gets into the water system.”

Lakis: “Okay.”

Eilert: “And then also your lawn mower has way more emissions than a car would,
not that I’m saying that…”

Lakis: “Okay, I’ll look it over.”

Aside from some strange looks, that went pretty well.

But Eilert learns pretty quickly there’s way more gardening going on here in this
neighborhood she thought. She’d pegged it as a lawn-addicted wasteland. But this
subdivision’s residents are kinda green.

Eilert: “I assume you use a gas mower?”

Man: “No. Electric.”

Eilert: “Do you? Oh you are just the perfect person to talk to today.”

Woman: “I mean, every year I grow my tomatoes and peppers and zucchinis.”

Second Man: “Every year I try to get rid of more grass and put in more plants.”

Eilert even gets a recipe for cooking dandelions. She leaves the subdivision
encouraged.

“People were concerned and people did think it was a good idea to have gardens
and they’d be willing to make a little more of a sacrifice to make the earth a little bit
better.”

She’ll be visiting more subdivisions soon, trying to get more people to turn those
suburban lawns into gardens. And maybe get them thinking, just a little about other
things they could do.

For The Environment Report, I’m Ashley Gross.

Related Links

Experimenting With a Global Warming Garden

  • Todd Forrest at the New York Botanical Garden's Ladies Border Garden. (Photo by Brad Linder)

When you think about global warming, you probably think about polar ice caps
melting and rising sea levels. But climate change is also having a more immediate
effect — on gardeners. As average temperatures rise, many gardeners are finding
they can grow non-native plants in their back yards. Brad Linder visited one public
garden that’s been nicknamed “the global warming garden”:

Transcript

When you think about global warming, you probably think about polar ice caps
melting and rising sea levels. But climate change is also having a more immediate
effect — on gardeners. As average temperatures rise, many gardeners are finding
they can grow non-native plants in their back yards. Brad Linder visited one public
garden that’s been nicknamed “the global warming garden”:


Most gardeners know there are some plants they’ll never be able to grow, because
of the climate where they live. But the Earth’s climate is changing, and that means
plants that normally grow in the southern United States are thriving as far north as
New York City:


“This Japanese Flowering Apricot, prunus mume. This is a plant that’s widely
grown further south. It’s actually native originally to China, but it’s beloved in Japan.”



Todd Forrest is vice president for horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden:


“And so what we’ve found with climate change is that this plant survives, because
the winter temperatures are on average warmer. But because there’s variability in
our local climate, it will often have its flowers burned by frost.”



Forrest is walking through the Ladies Border Garden, an experimental section of the
Botanical Garden designed to demonstrate the impact of climate change on plants.
Forrest sometimes calls the Ladies Border “the global warming garden,” because
most of the plants are species that couldn’t have grown in this area a few decades
ago.


Climate change probably has been affecting plants and gardeners for years. But
Forrest says it’s only recently that people have put two and two together and realized
that unpredictable weather patterns are affecting their herb gardens:


“Gardeners at times suffer the sort of head in the sand syndrome. They’re so
obsessed with and attuned to their individual garden and climate. And we’re all used
to being frustrated by the weather. I think for a long time we all just sort of ascribed
whatever change there was or variability to that darn weather again. Acting up.
Raining when it should be dry. Dry when it should be raining. Cold when it should be
warm.”


In some ways, the Ladies Border Garden shows how exciting global warming can
be for gardeners. You can grow all sorts of exotic plants in your backyard if you don’t
have to deal with the long cold winters you’re used to.


Forrest has been able to get dozens of unusual plants to grow in New York, including
Choysia and even a Himalayan Fan Palm. That’s right, a palm tree growing in New
York City.


But just because you can grow non-native plants doesn’t mean you should. Because
foreign plants can easily become invasive species, killing off local plants.
Marielle Anzelone is a botanist and garden designer. Her specialty is working with
local plants. Today she’s planting a native-species garden in a public park:



“All the plants are going to have little signs in front of them that say what they are,
because it’s meant to be educational. People should see a plant, say oh, it’s
gorgeous. Want it. Oh, it’s vibernum nutem. And then run out to their nursery
and get it.”


Anzelone says many people don’t realize how beautiful local plants are. For
example, she says people often buy wreaths made of Asiatic Bittersweet vines —
even though it’s an invasive species that’s been killing off American Bittersweet:


“And people maybe then who hang the wreath outside on their door. A bird comes
and eats the berries and poops it out in Prospect Park or Central Park. I mean, that
is how these things get around. So it’s not just your world in a vacuum and nothing
comes to your garden. I mean, birds travel, insects travel.”


That’s why, under normal circumstances, gardeners have to be careful what they
plant in their backyards. Because non-native plants have a way of spreading and
competing with local plants, and climate change complicates things by making it
easier for invasive species to spread:


“The thing that keeps me up at night is not global warming. It’s extinction crisis. And I
think people think a lot about extinction as being this big dramatic thing. It’s a fire, it’s
an oil spill. But actually it doesn’t work that way. Extinction happens on a small scale
all the time.”



As the climate changes, Anzelone says she understands that gardeners will want to
try new things. But she says they shouldn’t forget about native plants, which feed
native insects and animals.


The New York Botanical Garden’s Todd Forrest admits that the Ladies Border
Garden is both exciting and disturbing. While he can demonstrate that new plants
will grow in New York, he knows that global warming is also killing off plants that
have lived here for thousands of years.


For the Environment Report, I’m Brad Linder.

Related Links

Recycling Christmas Trees

Environmentalists are hoping people’s Christmas trees end up in parks or gardens after the holidays, rather than the dump. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:

Transcript

Environmentalists are hoping peoples’ Christmas trees end up in parks or
gardens after the holidays, rather than the dump. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:


According to the National Christmas Tree Association, between 25 and
30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. every year, and the
majority of those trees are recycled after the holidays.


Jim Corliss is with the National Christmas Tree Association. He says the
group made a big recycling push about 15 years ago.


“We gave a recycling award each year to a municipality or entity which
did a good job of recycling Christmas trees, and according to our surveys
that we did as the years went by we raised the number of recycled trees
in this country from somewhere in the 30 to up to the 70 percentile.”


Corliss says municipalities use wood chips from Christmas trees on park
pathways, in planters or sell the chips as compost.


For the GLRC, I’m Erin Toner.

Related Links

Seneca Children Learn to Preserve Culture

Almost forty years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a dam in northwestern Pennsylvania. Hundreds of Seneca Indians lost their land, homes and traditions to the dam’s reservoir. Now a new generation of Senecas is trying to preserve a way of life that many believe was nearly inundated by this federal project. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Ann Murray has this story:

Transcript

Almost forty years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a dam in northwestern
Pennsylvania. Hundreds of Seneca Indians lost their land, homes and traditions to the dam’s
reservoir. Now a new generation of Senecas is trying to preserve a way of life that many believe
was nearly inundated by this federal project. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Ann Murray
has this story:


(students playing outside school)


It’s a sunny day in Salamanca, New York. Young Seneca students lurch and lunge in a game of
keep away.


(students playing game: “Let go! Let go!”)


Although they look like any group of kids
at recess, they share a big responsibility.


(kids playing ball outside)


“My Indian name is Gayanose. My English name is Brooke Crouse- Kennedy. I’m here because
I’m trying to be one of the ones to preserve our culture and just learn.”


Brooke and 12 other students are here at the Faithkeepers School to learn the Seneca language
and the teachings of the Longhouse religion. The health of these cultural benchmarks declined
after the Kinzua Reservoir flooded one-third of the Alleghany Reservation and scattered tribal
families. The cedar wood school now rests on the upper reaches of the reservation – a narrow strip
of land that follows the Allegheny River from Pennsylvania to New York.


(Dowdy and kids in classroom)


“What kinds of things do you need that’s growing on earth?”


“Food.”


This morning, longtime teacher Sandy Dowdy, works with very young students. In 1998, she and
her husband Dar rallied the community and started the school. They’re two of only 200 Senecas
who can still speak their language.


“Now do you see why Yoedzade is so important? Everything we need is on Yoedzade.”


Thanking Yoedzade, the earth, and its creator for the bounty of nature is the building block for
learning the Seneca language and ceremonies. Today, this handful of students learns a shorter
version of the thanksgiving speech. The speech stresses the interconnection between the natural
world and the well being of individual people.


(Dowdy and kids recite thanksgiving speech in Seneca)


“We cover just the ceremonial part and the giving thanks part in the morning and then in the
afternoon, we study things. We look into erosion and pollution and all of those things
that we can do to protect those things we just gave thanks for.”


These lessons have a real life application in the school’s small gardens. The early Senecas
depended on gardens to survive. Fruits and vegetables were so important to the tribe’s existence
that they appear in many of their stories and ceremonies. Senecas continued to farm until their
fertile bottom land was flooded by the Kinzua reservoir.


Following the traditional cycles of their
ancestors, Landon Sequoyah and the other kids now help with planting and harvesting.


“The corn’s right there. A long time ago they used to have big things of corn and beans and squash. That’s the Three
Sisters. That’s the Three Sisters. Guindioth and the Three Sisters. He was going back
up to the Skyworld and they grabbed onto his legs and they told him not to go or
they could go with them but he was like,’No, you have to stay down
here to feed our people.'”


Murray: “If you hadn’t been in school would you ever had a garden?”


“I don’t think so cause I was going to a public school and I didn’t know hardly anything about our
culture.”


Many Senecas on the Alleghany Reservation believe their culture was nearly lost when the
Kinzua Dam was built. The Senecas and others strongly protested this project. But their
arguments were turned down in the courts and the U.S. Congress. Tyler Heron is an elder and
Seneca historian. He says that the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794 guaranteed that Seneca land
would remain untouched by the United States government.


“But the politics change over 200 years. We weren’t the threat. We weren’t the political power
any more. The threat, I guess, was the river itself to Pittsburgh …the flooding. It was the
threat to the economy.”


Major floods along the lower Allegheny prompted the federal government to act. To make way
for the dam, 600 Senecas were moved from their homes along the riverbanks. In 1964,
contractors burned and bulldozed Seneca houses, trees and public buildings. Churches and
cemeteries were moved. Heron, who was 17 at the time, says life as he knew it has changed.


“Even the ecology of the river itself has changed. My wife, for instance, used to make her extra
money as a teenager by catching soft-shelled crabs and selling them to the bait companies
but I don’t think there’s a soft-shelled crab in the river anymore.”


Aquatic plants were lost as well. The reservoir also inundated hardwoods used for carving
ceremonial masks and many medicinal plants. Heron, whose grandchildren attend the
Faithkeepers School, says these children are learning to identify the remaining plants. They’re
learning to speak the language and lead the ceremonies and carry on for a community that lost its
ancestral home along the Allegheny.


“Our existence is dependent on us …dependent on us only. And we have to keep our identifiers.
How do we keep our identity? Well,language. It starts right here.”


(Kids playing in front of Faithkeepers school. One child speaks in seneca. Fades into traditional
Seneca chant.)


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Ann Murray.

Cooling the City With Green Rooftops

  • The City Hall in Chicago is topped with plants and trees to try to cool things down. The city is working to reduce the heat island effect caused by so many blacktop roofs and parking lots. Photo by Lester Graham

On the nightly TV news in large cities, the meteorologist sometimes talks about the heat island effect. That’s where all the blacktop roofs and asphalt parking lots soak up the heat and increase the temperature on a hot summer day. One major U.S. city is trying to do something to reduce that effect. To set an example, the mayor decided to start with City Hall. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

On the nightly TV news in large cities, the meteorologist sometimes
talks about the heat island effect. That’s where all the blacktop roofs
and asphalt parking lots soak up the heat and increase the temperature
on a hot summer day. One major U.S. city is trying to do something to
reduce that effect. To set an example, the mayor decided to start with
City Hall. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


Standing on the roof, eleven stories up, isn’t really far enough to escape
the noise of the city below. But this rooftop is an escape. It’s a garden, a
big one. There are even trees. Not in pots, but actually planted on… or…
in the roof.


Marcia Jiminez is the Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Environment. She says Chicago wants building owners to
do what they can to cool the city down… and planting gardens on the
roof is one way to do it. So that’s what the city did on top of City Hall.


“Well, the garden on the rooftop is addressing what we call an urban heat
island problem. By putting the garden with light colored pavers and the
green plants on top of the roof, we’re actually helping to use less energy
inside the building and it actually helps to keep the building cooler.”


Cooling down the building is just the beginning of this garden. Despite
being eleven stories up in the middle of downtown, the roof is alive with
bugs and butterflies.


“Actually birds and all of the insects, many of them, have found their
way up here. We’ve actually put up birdhouses to study what kind of
birds are coming to the rooftop garden. This is a place of
respite as well as a place to feed.”


The whole rooftop has become something of a lab. Scientists research
what animals have made a home here… and they’re monitoring how the
plants are spreading.


Kimberly Worthington worked on the City Hall project to see it go from
the drawing board to rooftop. She says they chose plants for color, form
and for survivability.


“The design that we went with was low maintenance, was what we were
looking for in our plant selection. And the landscape architects that were part of the design team focused on plants that would require less water. And they also wanted to keep as many native plants as possible. So, there are a lot of prairie plants up here.”


The Chicago City Hall rooftop project also reduces rain water runoff. 75-percent of a one-inch rain will be soaked up right here in the garden. That’s good because too much rain overflows sewers into Lake Michigan. If enough buildings in the city had rooftop gardens, stormwater runoff problems would be curtailed a bit.


While the city is touting the environmental benefits of its rooftop garden, in another part of the city a planned rooftop garden is all about people.


Brenda Koverman is with the Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital in Chicago. We’re up on the roof where she’s showing me landscape renderings of how the surrounding area will look once the planting begins. Stone paths, fountains, flower gardens and shrubs.
It’ll look beautiful. And it’ll probably cool things down up here. But Koverman
says this is for the patients who are learning to be mobile after disabling injuries. The hospital hopes that patients in rehabilitation will find the rooftop garden more pleasant and helpful than institutional tile floors and plastic obstacles as they learn to
manuever…


“You know, so, are patients more able to maneuver their wheelchairs in the community? Are patients able to use their hands better so they can cook better at home? Are patients able to stay out of the nursing home and go to their home? So, if we can get any kind of
those outcomes, then it’s a huge success.”


It might be more interested in the patients, but the hospital will still be helping Chicago reduce its heat island effect.


There aren’t very many of these projects in the city, so it’s hard to say whether the rooftop gardens could cool things down all that much. But Environment Commissioner Marcia Jiminez says all you have to do is go up on the roof on a hot day. City Hall sits right next to the County Building. In fact they look like the same building. But not from the roof. Only one side is garden.


“In last summer in 2001 on the hottest day, while it was about a hundred degrees on the city hall side, it was 165 on the opposite end of the building where’s there’s a blacktop roof.”


Even if you’re not interested in planting a garden on your roof, the city still requires some effort to cool things down. City ordinance calls for light colored material when a roof is replaced. And parking lots have to plant some trees before they can get a permit to resurface. Rooftop gardens aren’t mandated… but city officials say they’re learning first
hand that it’s a much better use of space in the city.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.