ReGeneration Road Trip: Shouting Green from the Rooftops of Chicago

The ReGeneration is on the move! To make it easier for customers, Dell employees and stakeholders to find and participate in our conversations about the environment, we’re moving the best of our ReGeneration.org blog over here to Direct2Dell.  You’ll find the same great posts about what’s news in "green" business and technology, along with the green tips so many of you tell us you love. Join the conversation!

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. 

DSC05501 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, with the City’s Department of Environment.  Fortunately for us, Larry was a very mellow guy, with a calming persona that allowed us to stop, catch our breaths and enjoy what the city had to offer.

bee flower detail 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. (Update/Correction: Mayor Daley’s trip to Germany occured in the late 90s, not the late 80s).  He began the city’s ambitious planting programs very soon afterwards, and pledged to make Chicago the greenest in the country.  Here are some excepts 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.

DSC05541 When we walked out of the building after our garden tour, we were greeted by one of the farmer’s markets Larry told us about right in the middle of the city.  I was so blown away by it, I took loads of pictures.  I’ll share just a few of the pics I took in Chicago at the bottom of the article (the rest can be found on our Flickr page).

We wish the City of Chicago success in their mission to become the greenest city in America.  Sarah and I have been to a bunch of places on this tour, and I must admit, I’d be hard pressed to find a city this size so thoroughly committed to good environmental stewardship.  Keep it up, Chicago!  Here’s hoping more cities step in and give you some real competition.  With a contest like that, the whole planet wins.

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About the Author: Todd D