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It's Not Easy Being Green...Or Is It? Green Roofing Series - Part 1

While at a 4th of July parade this weekend watching the strangest, little 100% electric car parade past, it hit me: the movement towards "Going Green" is here to stay. Roofing manufacturers are offering more and more "Green Roofing" Systems. Tiny little Smart cars and hybrids are around every turn boasting impressive mpgs. 100% locally sourced restaurants are thriving. Low-VOC paint options can be found from every paint manufacturer. The incandescent lightbulb is practically extinct. And, almost everyone I know walks around with a re-usable shopping bag or water bottle.

But, I still think Kermit the Frog said it best, "It's not easy being green".

This is the first in a series that will look at what it means to “Go Green” – both in general and as it pertains to your roof – and what "Green Roofing" options are available to you should you choose to consider a Green Roof for your next roofing project.

To start with, one must answer the following question: what does "Going Green" mean to you? Is your goal to be “Green” or is it to be “Sustainable”?

Both terms – “Green” and “Sustainable” – refer to environmentalism and are often used interchangeably, though they mean vastly different things. Yes, both refer to living in ways that are less harmful to the planet, but “Green” products aren’t necessarily “Sustainable”, and sometimes, may not even be that much better for the environment.

Let’s look at what each means:

“Going Green” means implementing certain lifestyle changes or using different products designed to reduce the amount of pollution and waste generated, i.e. reducing your carbon footprint. The term is often used in relation to products, with buzzwords like “Earth-blended”, “All-Natural”, “100% Recycled” and “Enviro-friendly”, and has the phrase “Reduce – Reuse – Recycle” often used in tandem.

“Sustainability” refers to products that reduce the impact on the environment by using responsibly-sourced products – those that are renewable or are harvested in a way that does not harm the surrounding area, pollute the air or permanently reduce the supply.

Here are two examples:

  1. Some paper towels may be made from recycled material (Green – yes), but are still wrapped in plastic, shipped around the globe and ultimately end-up in a landfill (Sustainable – no).
  2. Organic food may contain less chemicals and pesticides (Green – yes), but if it was shipped a long distance, it isn’t sustainable because of the fuel required to get it from Point A to Point B (Sustainable – no). Now, grow that food in your backyard, and it becomes both Green AND Sustainable.

What are the materials and where did they come from? Is the production process damaging to the environment? How far was the product shipped? Could it be produced locally, or replaced entirely with a reusable product? These are the questions one need ask oneself when determining an item's "Green" factor.

And there lies the difference between “Green” and “Sustainable”: what is considered “Green” may not be “Sustainable”.

So how does all this relate to your roof? You've heard the term "Green Roofing", but what does it mean and what are the options?

Our next post will delve into the topic of "Green Roofing" in detail.

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