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July 2010
guest feature article

Green Roofs at Boston GreenFest 2010

By Demetria Spinrad, Foundation for a Green Future, Inc.
Photos Courtesy of Boston GreenFest Unless Otherwise Noted

Boston, Massachusetts is one of the densest cities in the United States.  Built largely before the automobile allowed cities to sprawl across thousands of kilometers, Bostonís 600,000-plus residents live in an area of only 18.6 square miles.  The larger metropolitan area, known collectively as Greater Boston, is home to over 7.5 million people.  With an average density of 12,166 people and 5,203 housing units per square mile, maintaining green spaces can be difficult in a city where every square foot is valuable real estate.

Since many of the millions of residents in the Greater Boston area commute to jobs in the city, Bostonís weekday population swells to over 1.2 million and can balloon to 2 million during special events.  Despite Bostonís public transportation options, many commuters choose to travel by car; air quality is a major concern in the city.  Heating and cooling are also pressing issues.  During a recent heat wave, thermometers in normally temperate Massachusetts topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit. City officials warned residents to stay inside and EMS workers braced for a surge in heat-related ailments, while the electrical grid was strained by an increased demand for energy to power air conditioners.  In the winter, Bostonís variable climate necessitates the use of indoor climate controlóbut a great deal of heat is lost by older buildings that have not been treated with modern weatherproofing techniques.

The Rowland Institute at Harvard in Cambridge has an extensive greenroof, just one of several at Harvard; Photo Courtesy of Apex Green Roofs.

Extolling the virtues of green roofs here would amount to preaching to the choir.  We know that vegetation can scrub harmful chemicals and particulates from the air, insulate buildings to keep inside temperatures stable, and prevent materials like concrete from soaking up heat in the summer.  Bostonís high-rise, flat-roofed apartment buildings and offices are fantastic spaces for green roofs; the regionís steady rainfall keeps irrigation to a minimum, and many hardy plants can thrive on a well-maintained roof.  Our next step in adding a touch of green to Bostonís skyline must include a campaign to educate home and business owners about the importance of green roofs.

Foundation for a Green Future, Inc. is a Boston-based 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to providing environmentally focused programs to the Greater Boston community.  Throughout the year, we run a series of programs focused on greening the urban space through gardening and green roofs.  We also provide green jobs training and promote environmentally friendly business practices.  One of our chief concerns is improving the health of our community by promoting healthy eating, improving air quality, and creating parks and recreational areas for children and adults.  Foundation for a Green Future, Inc. has collaborated with local public schools, community centers, e-inc., Boston Youth Education Network,, and many other organizations to provide programs.

Boston GreenFest in 2009

A view of Boston GreenFest 2009.

For the third consecutive year, our Foundation will run Boston GreenFest, a three-day multicultural environmental festival located at Boston City Hall plaza.  Last yearís festival attracted more than 200 exhibitors and 50,000 visitors.  This year, we anticipate over 100,000 visitors to Boston GreenFest, and the festivalís attendance is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years.  In addition to providing educational opportunities about healthier, more ecologically friendly lifestyle choices, Boston GreenFest will allow members of our cityís diverse neighborhoods to work together towards a greener, healthier, more sustainable future.

Boston GreenFest in 2008, its first year

One of the goals of Boston GreenFest is the greening of our urban environment.  A space with plenty of living vegetation is a space with cleaner air, better living conditions, and a more pleasant environment for work and play.  Many Bostonians grew up in the inner city, and serious problems like polluted air and energy wastage are taken as a matter of course; business owners expect to spend a fortune on heating and air conditioning, doctors expect asthma and obesity in young children, and health services brace for the worst when a heat wave arrives rather than encouraging people to walk and bike during more tolerable weather.  Boston GreenFest seeks to provide solutions to problems that most people have written off as unsolvable.  Many of our exhibitors are specialists in green roof and living wall technology, green design, and urban gardening.

The Greenroof atop WGBH Boston.

An extensive greenroof combined with solar panels atop WGBH Boston;
Photo Courtesy of Apex Green Roofs.

Property owners who have never heard of green roof technology will be able to learn about the benefits of a green roof at Boston GreenFest.  Since our exhibitors are also local organizations that specialize in green roofs, prospective owners of a brand new green roof will be able to connect instantly with design firms and consultants who can provide them with exact information about structural surveys, pricing, aesthetic options, available vegetation, and more.

The Ledge Food and Drinks in Boston, an intensive, food production greenroof by
Recover Green Roofs and Highview Creations.

Our extensive childrenís section will also include information about green roofs and urban gardening.  When it comes to environmental activism, the old saying about how children are the future is especially true; the kids who may be exposed to environmental issues for the first time in their lives at Boston GreenFest will grow up to be the next generation of architects, business owners, designers, consultants and consumers.

 Simmons College in Boston has an extensive & intensive greenroof;
Photo Courtesy of Apex Green Roofs.

Letís make sure that they grow up in a cleaner, greener city.  Please join us for Boston GreenFest 2010!

Demetria Spinrad

Demetria Spinrad is a Summer Intern with Foundation for a Green Future, Inc. and an undergraduate at Wesleyan University.

In 2007, Dr. Karen L. Weber co-founded the nonprofit organization, Foundation for a Green Future, Inc., to increase awareness and education about the need for greening our urban spaces.  Under its aegis, she has since organized Boston GreenFest, a grassroots environmental festival that takes place at City Hall annually.  Boston GreenFest has quickly grown to be the largest festival of its kind in the Boston area.

Karen adds:

"Our three-day multicultural festival begins with a kick-off concert, a One Gallon Challenge and Green Jobs Forum on Thursday, August 19th and continues with exhibits, live concerts, ecofashion shows, films, and more through the 21st.

We are now accepting registrations for the Green Jobs Forum on August 19.  If you would like to be a part of our forum, you can sign up here.  There is no fee for participating in this event."

To learn more about Boston GreenFest, visit their website or please contact Karen Weber at:  


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