Here’s to a greener, more sustainable world, and we can thank a novel idea from Europe to get it started. France has declared that all new rooftops in commercial areas across the country must be covered with either plants or solar panels.
Though the new law approved by Parliament is not as all-encompassing as the original which was intended, the new aim to make buildings more environmentally friendly shines as an example to cities throughout the world. It arguably shouldn’t have to be enforced through law, as people should want to take these measures naturally, but that’s a whole other conversation.
Here’s why this decision should have measurable positive impacts:
- Buildings covered with solar panels take advantage of ambient heat, which would otherwise cause the building to be more expensive to heat or cool. Using solar power on the roof also eliminates the use of petroleum-based fuels for powering what’s going on inside.
- Plants on rooftops help to absorb extra heat – heat which makes a building more expensive and energy-consumptive to cool. Along with adding to the aesthetic beauty of a city, plants also absorb rain water which would otherwise run off the roof and into a city’s municipal water system often only after running through the streets, and being contaminated with other pollutants.
- A plant-topped rooftop also gives birds and other wildlife a welcome reserve, often in the middle of urban landscapes that are begging for some life.
In addition, the law makes it easier for businesses to comply since only part of the roof has to be covered with plants. They can also choose to use solar panels instead to create energy, and while this is an initial investment, it should lower business costs in the long run.
The next step? Hopefully businesses will consider not only greening their rooftops, but growing edible, organic food too. The Chicago Botanical Garden has a 20,000 acre vegetable garden atop McCormick Place West, as a perfect example. Edible rooftop food could be used in company cafeterias or sold to local food co-ops, or even given to the homeless as part of a more socially sustainable future.