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Green roof of the Denver Environmental Protection Agency. Denver Green Roof Initiative

Denver Becomes Latest City to Require Green Roofs

Denver is the latest city to mandate rooftop gardens or solar installations on new, large buildings, joining San Francisco, New York, Paris, London and other cities around the world with similar green roof measures, the Associated Press reported.

The Colorado capital ranks third in the nation for highest heat island and eighth in the nation for worst ozone/particulate pollution, according to the Denver Green Roof Initiative, a grassroots group that advocated for the city's green roof ordinance, Initiative 300.


Although the official tally is not in, the ballot initiative had 54 percent approval as of Thursday, signaling that the measure is headed towards victory. The vote will be certified on Nov. 24.

Initiative 300 creates a new building code that requires green roofs or solar panels for most buildings 25,000 square feet or larger that are constructed after Jan. 1, 2018.

The Associated Press noted that the measure is more stringent than other green roof mandates, as it requires many existing buildings to be retrofitted with green roofs when the old roof wears out. Older buildings that cannot support the load of a green roof can get an exemption.

"These required building improvements would significantly reduce long term operating costs by lowering energy consumption and increasing the longevity of a roof," the Denver Green Roof Initiative stated on its campaign website. "A green roof lasts 2-3 times as long as a traditional roof because the waterproofing membrane is protected from damage by the elements and workers by covering it with a growing medium and plants."

The measure did not have an easy road to passage. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock opposed the initiative over worries that it could drive up the costs of construction projects. Also, several Denver businesses spent $250,000 in an advertising push against the plan.

Department of Community Planning and Development spokeswoman Andrea Burns told the Denver Post in March that the department would prefer to give architects and engineers "the flexibility to design a roofing system that works best for their needs and their budgets."

Following the vote, however, Burns conceded to CBS4 that "it will be a little bit of work in the next few weeks, but green roofs are already possible in Denver. It's just a matter of making those agreements that are part of Initiative 300 work with our system now. We're going to make this work for the people of Denver."

The Denver Green Roof Initiative admits that green roofs cost about $15 more per square feet than a traditional black roof but pointed out that the green roof will pay for itself in about six years.

"Even though the extra cost would be offset in as soon as 6.2 years, most developers choose not to incorporate them because they build the building then sell it," the group said. "They don't see those energy and storm-water savings. They don't save the money from roof longevity. Yet they are still able to sell the building for more money with these improvements!! We believe that the developers of Denver could be doing more to negate their footprint in our beautiful city. We believe green roofs are the answer."

The initiative was endorsed by several green builders and environmental groups.

"Initiative I-300 will contribute to improving Denver's air quality, increasing the energy efficiency of its buildings, mitigating the urban heat island effect, managing storm water runoff, and creating habitat for pollinators and other insects," said Lauren Petrie, Food & Water Watch's Rocky Mountain Region Director. "We are dedicated to a more sustainable future in Denver and believe that passing this green roof initiative will be a vehicle for asserting our human desire for cleaner air and water, and cooler urban temperatures.

The Denver Green Roof Initiative stressed in a Facebook post Friday that even though Initiative 300 passed, there are still "tremendous hurdles to overcome due to push back from those in power."

"This is a battle won against climate but the war doesn't stop here," the post stated. "We must all get active and fight for our values, because we are stronger together. Thanks again for the overwhelming support. The citizens of Denver have a healthier, more sustainable future because of YOU!"

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Earth Day Tips From the EcoWatch Team

At EcoWatch, every day is Earth Day. We don't just report news about the environment—we aim to make the world a better place through our own actions. From conserving water to cutting waste, here are some tips and tricks from our team on living mindfully and sustainably.

Lorraine Chow, reporter

Favorite Product: Dr. Bronner's Castile soap

It's Earth-friendly, lasts for months and can be used as soap, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner and even mouthwash (but I wouldn't recommend that).

Essential Tool: Blender

It has paid for itself in homemade smoothies, soups, sauces and dips. It also means I don't have to buy those individual foods in unnecessary plastic containers. Blending scraps helps your compost, too!

Earth Day Tip: Skip the straw

If you feel weird about saying "no straw" at restaurants, just tell the waiter that you're allergic to plastic.

Olivia Rosane, reporter

Favorite Product: Seventh Generation products

Their household cleaning and personal care products are a great way to take care of yourself and your home in a way that is safe both for your health and the planet. Plus, their packaging is made from recycled materials and is designed to be recycled again.

Essential Tool: My portable thermos

I bring it with me when I order coffee or tea to go. That way I don't have to use paper cups, which are not actually recyclable, and some coffee shops even offer me a discount for bringing my own container!

Earth Day Tip: Get involved

In 2012, researcher Brad Werner ran a computer model and found our best shot at combating climate change was for people to form a mass social movement to demand it. So if you're worried about the environment, reach out to other people in your community and talk about what you can do together to make a difference!

Tara Bracco, managing editor

Favorite Product: Collapsible water bottle

Whether you're traveling or running errands, a reusable water bottle that's light and compact will help keep you hydrated and keep you from buying bottled water.

Essential Tool: Backpack

It's great for carrying your groceries home from the store, and you won't have to use plastic bags. If you have a long shopping list, try a rolling suitcase.

Earth Day Tip: Don't waste water

Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. It can save eight gallons of water a day!

Chris McDermott, news editor

Favorite Product: Clothes from Patagonia

Patagonia makes a wide range of inspired products and their environmental policies are world class. They use only organic cotton in their clothes, and they even offer trade-ins, recycling and repairs at any time.

Essential Tool: RIVER mobile power station and solar generator

This powerful piece of mind is always ready regardless of storms and travel, for as long as one can tap the sun.

Earth Day Tip: Savor something vegan

There's no nutritional substitute for fresh, unprocessed food, but food science has revolutionized the taste and texture of vegan alternatives. For the pure delight of it, celebrate with Miyoko's Kitchen vegan cheese, Tofurky Italian sausage (30 grams of protein per serving!) and SoDelicious non-dairy dark chocolate truffle frozen dessert made with cashew milk.

Irma Omerhodzic, associate editor

Favorite Product: Living Libations's Everybody Loves the Sunshine

Unlike sunscreen, this skin product works with the sun and helps absorb the nutrients from the sun's rays while giving skin protection at the same time.

"Rather than being afraid of the sun, harmonize with it," Living Libations says. Love it!

Essential Tool: My bike

Not only is this an emission-free way to get around town, but it also gives my body the activity it needs.

Earth Day Tip: Start small

Your one "small" action isn't small at all.

Jordan Simmons, social media coordinator

Favorite Product: Sustainable clothing by Amanda Sage Collection

Designer Lana Gurevich uses patterns from Amanda's transformative paintings to create an ethically and environmentally conscious clothing line. While supporting local businesses and an eco-friendly printing method, the fabrics are made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles.

Essential Tool: My paintbrush and set of mineral paints

I found the all natural, biodegradable mineral paints at a local farmers' market in the Sacred Valley of Peru. I used to favor working with acrylic paints until I learned about their high carbon footprint and harmful substances.

Earth Day Tip: Honor Mother Earth

Gather some of Mother Nature's gifts such as stones, beautiful dried leaves and feathers. Set them in a special place in your home to create a unique "altar" to remind you to honor your Mother each and every day. Find peace and blessings in loving our home—the earth.

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Will Rose / Greenpeace

7 Things You Can Do to Create a Plastic-Free Future

By Jen Fela

We're celebrating a huge moment in the global movement for a plastic-free future: More than one million people around the world have called on big corporations to do their part to end single-use plastics.

Now we're taking the next big step. We're setting an ambitious new goal: A Million Acts of Blue.

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5 Environmental Victories to Inspire You This Earth Day

Planet Earth is at a crisis point. Researchers say we have to begin reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 if we want to meet the temperature goals outlined in the Paris agreement and avoid catastrophic climate change.

The work to be done can seem overwhelming. A survey published this week found that only 6 percent of Americans think we will succeed in reducing global warming.

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A fin whale surfacing in Greenland. Aqqa Rosing-Asvid / CC BY 2.0

Iceland to Resume Killing Endangered Fin Whales

By Kitty Block

Iceland seems to be the most confused of nations when it comes to whales. On the one hand it attracts international tourists from all over the world to go out and see whales as part of their encounters with Iceland's many natural wonders. On the other hand it kills whales for profit, with some portion of the kill even being fed to some of the same tourists in restaurants and cafes.

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A.millepora in the Great Barrier Reef. Petra Lundgren, Juan C Vera, Lesa Peplow, Stephanie Manel and Madeleine JH van Oppen

Hope for Great Barrier Reef? New Study Shows Genetic Diversity of Coral Could Extend Our Chance to Save It

A study published Wednesday had some frightening news for the Great Barrier Reef—the iconic marine ecosystem is at "unprecedented" risk of collapse due to climate change after a 2016 heat wave led to the largest mass coral bleaching event in the reef's history.

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Lyft Announces Carbon Neutrality Drive

Lyft will make all of its rides carbon neutral starting immediately by investing millions of dollars in projects that offset its emissions, the company announced Thursday.

The ridesharing service, which is part of the We Are Still coalition, provides more than 10 million rides worldwide each week. "We feel immense responsibility for the profound impact that Lyft will have on our planet," founders John Zimmer and Logan Green wrote in a Medium post.

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Scroby Sands Wind Farm. Martin Pettitt / Flickr

UK Goes 55 Hours Without Coal Power, Breaking Record

Coal, which was once king in Great Britain, has continued its evident decline.

Absolutely zero coal was used to generate energy in UK power stations between 10:25 p.m. on Monday until 5:10 a.m. on Thursday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That's a history-making run of 55 hours.

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Indonesia Calls in the Army to Fight Plastic Enemy

In March, a diver's video of masses of plastic floating off the Indonesian coast went viral. But that plastic often reaches the ocean through the country's rivers, clogging them to such an extent that Indonesia had to call in the army, the BBC reported Thursday.

The BBC spent time on the ground in Bandung, Indonesia's third largest city, and observed a concentration of bottles, plastic bags and styrofoam packaging so large it looked like an iceberg.

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