Q. I know that green roofs cut down on CO2 and filter pollution and contaminants out of the air in cities, etc, etc. That’s all great. But—and I hate to sound selfish here—what’s in it for me? Building a green roof isn’t cheap; will I benefit directly in any way? – Philippa, DE

A. Yes—big time. First of all, your roof will actually last longer if it’s covered in plants. Crazy, but true. The extra layer of vegetation (if properly installed) will absorb solar radiation and protect the underlying construction material from deterioration. In fact, it’s estimated that a green roof will last twice as long as a conventional roof.

And green roofs provide such superior insulation that you’ll burn through significantly less energy (money) on heating and air conditioning than you otherwise would. That means that whether you live in Texas and pay out the ears in summer, or in Maine and pay out the ears in winter, a green roof is a good investment for you.

You’ll even reap the rewards of a green roof in rainy weather. Because green roofs absorb rainwater (then filter and release that moisture back into the air naturally), they take strain off of rainwater runoff sewage systems, which can often be overburdened during big storms. That may not seem like a huge deal to you, but try sludging through dirty, flooded city streets after a big pour, and then get back to us.

And what if you live in an area that somehow magically is never hot, cold, or rainy? No problem—you’ll still make out like a bandit: Just the way laying down carpeting will reduce echoes in a long corridor, green roofs cut down on noise pollution, making your home/office look and sound more peaceful. How does the idea of lounging on your own personal, lush, green rooftop deck with a pina colada strike you?

Lastly, is it fair to presume that in ten years you’ll still be breathing air and living on Planet Earth? And to presume, if you have children, that they will in turn breathe air and live on Planet Earth for some years following? Well, the ability to breathe clean air and live in a climate tolerable to human beings seems to be about as direct a benefit as you could ask for. Just saying. Visit the EPA’s green roofs website for more details.

Story by Tobin Mack. This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in May 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008