This is a guest post from my travel partner, Todd Dwyer, head blogger for Dell’s ReGeneration.org.
Even as Sarah and I ran frantically down LaSalle Street in downtown Chicago in a desperate attempt to make it to our appointment with the Mayor’s office in time, it was apparent that there was something different about the city.
Every business and office building we dashed by had flowers and ornamental plants prominently displayed outside. The traffic medians were oases of green flora in the middle of an otherwise chaotic downtown scene. Trees sprouted out of the sidewalks in regular intervals, stretching their branches out to catch any sunlight that broke through the buildings. It was almost enough to get me to stop and smell the roses, as the man said, but no time! The city waits for no one!
We arrived at City Hall wiping sweat from our brows (hey — spending 10 days straight in a car seat doesn’t exactly get you in sprinting condition) just in time to meet with Larry Merritt of the city’s Department of Environment. Fortunately for us, Larry was a mellow guy, with a calming persona that allowed us to stop, catch our breath and enjoy what the city had to offer.
Larry led us to the roof of the building to show us Chicago’s first green roof. What we saw there was a serene meadowland landscape planted in the heart of one of the busiest cities in the world. Birds flew overhead. Bees were everywhere, buzzing from flower to flower. I guess they hadn’t received the memo that they were supposed to be experiencing colony collapse. With a workspace like this, I’d be relaxed too.
The green roof is one of many in Chicago, and was inspired by a trip Mayor Daley made to Germany in the late 80s. He began the city’s ambitious planting programs very soon afterward, and pledged to make Chicago the greenest in the country.
Here are some excerpts from our conversation with Larry about Chicago’s green roofs and the city’s other environmental efforts:
I’ve got more videos from our adventures in Chicago on ReGeneration’s Qik site. Check them out. They go up live as I shoot them and are stored on the site afterwards.
Below, a couple images from the rooftop garden. (More photos can be found on our Flickr page.)