Green roofs: the apex of easy environmentalism (Op-Ed)

The grass is truly greener on the roof. 

This work was created as a part of a project for Humber’s Professional Writing and Communication program. The goal was to write a sponsored op-ed piece to promote the use of green roofs in Toronto. 

Having environmental integrity often means tedious daily responsibilities—researching respectable brands, sorting recyclables, avoiding plastics. You commit to the motto “reduce, reuse, recycle,” yet never see a measurable difference. Businesses feel an even greater drive towards environmentalism. The public opinion, and therefore a business’s success depends on their eco-friendly choices. This may seem overwhelming, but what if I told you that developing an eco-conscience business doesn’t have to be difficult?

The answer is not found in the office green bin or as part of your daily commute, but instead atop your office buildings in the form of a green roof. Environmentalism is made accessible and improving your business made simple with green roofs. Adding a green roof to your business, or encouraging your employer to do so, will assist all

Installing a green roof doesn’t just improve customer attitudes. The benefits of a green roof are limitless. Of course, improving your planet is a moral feat in itself, but wait–there’s more.  There are measurable advantages for your office building, your employees, your community. And if keeping other people happy is not advantageous enough, no problem. It will benefit you, personally, just as much. So whether you are a devoted environmentalist, a strategic business person or a money-saving feind, a green roof is an investment into your goals.

Your office and employees are two of the most important parts of your business (along with your finances and customers, which I address later). With a green roof, your office building is protected from harsh Canadian conditions, allowing the roof to last twice as long. Also, the roof is naturally insulated for sound, which allows for a quiet working space, creating a better working environment. There is the option of using the greenery for food production by planting herbs and vegetables. Employee morale can be increased by offering freshly harvested foods, or allowing employees to tend the garden at their pleasure. The Fairmont Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver does this with their green roof, and have gained $30,000 worth of produce per year. Above all, the greenery itself benefits people. The EPA states, ‘‘An increasing number of studies suggest that vegetation and green space—two key components of green infrastructure—can have a positive impact on human health.” Your employees will notice the difference and appreciate the quiet, healthy workplace.

However, you’re not just thinking about those close to the business. The entire community will see immediate advantages. First, and possibly the most important for a business, is the improved air quality. Creating an economic footprint in unavoidable. If your company transports products, creates waste or uses natural resources, you need to do your part to try and counteract that. Green Roofs for Healthy Cities estimates that a 10-squarefoot grass roof with the correct plants can remove 4.4 pounds of particulate matter per year (Green Roofs for Healthy Cities). They also contribute to cleansing carbon dioxide from our air, providing oxygen. Another benefit is that the plants roof greatly reduces stormwater runoff by absorbing or delaying the the water. North Carolina State University proposed a study that showed up to a 63 per cent less storm runoff from a 3-inch-deep green roof. Lastly, green roofs lessen the temperature of urban heat islands.

Though I have separated the above benefits into those that impact an office/ its employees and those that impact the community, there is a common factor: all of the above features benefit the business owner. Happy employees are a blessing to any business, they work harder and stay longer with the company. Having the community stand behind a business is also a valuable achievement. It spreads the word and attracts more customers. Creating a sustainable business overall is extremely important these days. Many customers will actively search for environmental options, and since new businesses are being forced (through Toronto bylaws) to incorporate green roofs, old businesses should do what they can to keep up. Additionally, the business owner will ultimately save a large amount of money on heating and cooling costs.

The first step to installing a green roof for your business is to contact a local professional. One growing option is Green Roofs For You, a Toronto based company. The company will help you to choose the type of green roof, based on your expected outcome and your price point. The one-time inconvenience of installation results in long-term benefits for the office and employee, the local community and the environment. Overall, a green roof is a business owners duty to themselves, their customers and their future.

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