Built to Last

Built to Last

“You don’t have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one,” says Majora Carter, who has made it her life’s ambition to both practice and teach what she preaches. In the process, she’s inspired a new generation of environmental leaders to do the same.

Pictured above, Ashon Leftenant applies the skills he learned in the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training Program to install a green roof on Carter’s home in the South Bronx (which, incidentally, is located across the street from her childhood home). Leftenant and his fellow green roofers prepare a wall-to-wall bed of approximately 4 inches of specially mixed soil that doesn’t stress the roof when it’s wet. After laying down the drainage mats and root barriers, the workers clip succulent plants called sedums into 1-inch pieces and spread them over the roof. The sedums take root independently, covering the entire area within two years.

This project is a shining example of what Carter calls “horticultural infrastructure,” or sustainable development efforts with interrelated environmental and economic benefits. Along with extending the roof life by two to three times that of a traditional system, green roofs clean the air, manage storm water runoff and counteract the “urban heat island” effect. All this, while creating jobs—and a better quality of life on the whole.

Photo: James Burling Chase