<i>Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks from the canals of Venice who are on a mission to educate the community about the dangers of global warming and the importance of practicing sustainability, all while surfing the most gnarly waves possible. </i>

After 108 sun salutations, we were trying to remember exactly how Richard talked us into going to Santa Monica Yoga to welcome the summer solstice. With a final “Om,” Richard opened his eyes feeling invigorated, renewed and bouncing with energy. He found me resting in child’s pose. Rusty, also known as Mr. Dramatic, crawled toward the door on his hands and knees. With some embarrassment we allowed Richard to wheel us home in a borrowed grocery cart.

Once home, we fell through the front door, sprawled on the couch and immediately fell asleep. Moments later our snoring duet, in two part harmony, drove Richard from the room.

About an hour later we awoke, stiff and achy. Richard was ready to hit the beach. He was sure a little sun and salt water would fix us right up.

 The waves were small, 2-3 feet, but perfectly formed and glassy. Richard caught wave after wave. After catching one or two, Rusty and I paddled out just beyond the break and lounged on our boards. The gently rocking motion of the swells soothed us. The salt water and the warm sun worked its magic on our sore muscles.   

 As we walked home, Richard said while we were busy composing the snoring symphony he was reading an exciting article on living roofs. He told us they were also called eco roofs, green roofs and roof carpets. He thought they were new inventions but discovered the meadow style cottage roofs had been around for centuries in Europe. We had never seen a living roof but loved the mental picture it created.

Richard said the living roofs were another great tool to fight climate change. They save energy and money by reducing air conditioning and heating costs. The living roofs create shade and add insulation, making buildings cooler in summer and warmer in winter. By removing particulates and ozone producing compounds, they clean the air. They also add oxygen and sequester carbon.  Last but not least, they provide habitat for birds, butterflies and other airborne wildlife.

He also said that in a downtown setting, like Santa Monica, planted roofs could radically reduce heat absorption. They would lessen the heat island effect that often causes cities to be 10 degrees hotter than the surrounding countryside.

We were not far from home when we saw a man replacing a roof. Richard got that, “I have a great idea!” look on his face. Before I could stop him he had climbed the ladder and joined the man on the roof. Richard must have sounded like a typical salesman when he asked the man if he had considered putting on a living roof. Clearly, he did not want to be bothered. He wiped sweat from his brow and told Richard, “Son, just get off the roof before you hurt yourself.”

Richard, not ready to give up yet, said, “ Did you know a sheet of plastic, soil medium and some plants on your one story house could reduce your summer electricity use for cooling by 25 percent?”

The man, looking tired and hot, told Richard, “Get down, now.” As Richard climbed down he shouted up, “My brothers and I could help you!” The man uttered one word, “Down!”

Richard was disappointed but not defeated. He wanted to put his new found knowledge to work. It wasn’t time to replace our roof, but he had an idea.

We gathered up all the scrap wood we could find. I drew up some simple blueprints while Rusty and Richard gathered nails and began cutting the wood. We were going to make bird houses and bird feeders with living roofs. We would give them to people so they could see how a living roof worked and how it could help with global warming.

We made birdhouses and feeders with both flat and sloped roofs. We installed a sheet of heavy plastic and soil medium. On the sloped roofs we added a piece of nylon soil erosion netting with the soil. Then we added plants. As recommended in the article we chose sedums for their toughness and adaptability. On some we also planted milkweed, poppies, yarrow and red thistle. These plants would provide food as well as act as a roof. Rusty thought it was totally awesome to have birdhouses with built in rooftop restaurants and bird feeders with penthouse parks.

Our project turned out beautifully. We gave our neighbors a copy of the article and a birdhouse or feeder. Not only did they love them, they came up with more creative ideas. They thought they would also be perfect on top of mailboxes and dog houses. Now that is what we call innovative.

Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com

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