It is not new that plants help the environment, but I’ve been trying to read more news on the internet about helping the environment in general and I must confess that I am bored. If you google any site talking about environment you will find someone talking about climate change and CO2 and another one saying that CO2 is not causing climate change. It is like have your own soccer team or political party, it is not science any more. Look this article talking about green roofs. This article talks about the advantages and disadvantages (including costs and maintenance) of the roofs (which are not cheap by the way). However, there is one last part in the last line where it says something about “cooling the planet”. Damn it! You go to the commentaries and global warming this, CO2 that. Sometimes you can find even more radical ideas as we should not eat meat because the carbon footprint. Ok, yeah, we should also breath less to release less CO2 and we also should hold our farts because of the releasing of methane (another and even more powerful greenhouse gas). So, are we missing the point? Could we please focus on the benefits versus disadvantages of green roofs? Are we saving the planet using a green roof? I doubt it. However it is an interesting idea, and could be applicable considering the costs/maintenance. They need to be adapted to each place and situation and of course for some places they can’t be economically viable because they probably need more maintenance than traditional roofs. So a balance must exist.
Another interesting idea is the use of rain gardens to help the runoff problem. Runoff is the portion of rainfall, snowmelt, and/or irrigation water that runs over the soil surface toward the stream rather than infiltrating into the soil. Each soil type has an infiltration rate (the amount of water able to enter the soil in a specified time period) and infiltration capacity (the upper limit of infiltration rate). However in urban areas the infiltration rate could be close to zero because of the impervious areas (roofs, driveways, parking lots, pavements, compacted soils). Consequently the runoff in urban areas is large and it is a major component of flash floods. In addition runoff flows can pick up soil contaminants such as petroleum, pesticides, fertilizers, trace metals, etc.
The rain gardens capture the initial flow of storm water and reduce the accumulation of toxins flowing directly into natural waterways. Thus the stormwater soaks into the ground instead of flow directly to storm drains. In addition, they help to control erosions due the excessive runoff. Similarly to green roofs, rain gardens have to be adapted to place and situation. For example, native plants are recommended (for both) because they are more tolerant of one’s local climate, soil, and water conditions.
A place which has a rain garden and a green roof is more environmental friendly and it is also helping to save the world, right? Well, it is important to remember the costs and maintenance of these products. Be green does not mean cheap or easy. However the advantages of green roof and rain garden such as energy savings, runoff and pollution reduction, temperature control should also be considered. Maybe you won’t save the world but you can save a few bucks and have a better lifestyle. Besides, it is St. Patrick’s day, so green is the official color.