In response to pressure from French environmental activists, France passed a law requiring the rooftops of new buildings to be at least partially covered with plants or solar panels. This was after smog readings from Plume Labs revealed that Paris briefly had the worst air quality in the world in 2015.
Studies have shown that plant-covered roofs can significantly improve air quality in heavily populated cities. Green roofs can reduce the amount of energy needed to cool a building in the summer or heat it in winter. They also curb the effects of acid rain by altering the PH value of rainwater and enrich urban environments with biodiversity.
France is not the first country to pass such a law; green roofs are already quite popular in Germany and Australia, and in 2009, Toronto became the first city in Canada to adopt a by-law requiring all industrial and residential buildings to have plant-covered roofs. Paris is following suit with a commitment from Mayor Anne Hidalgo to add 247 acres (100 hectares) of green land in the city by 2020.
To achieve this goal, the city passed a law allowing residents to plant urban gardens. Residents can obtain renewable three-year permits to grow fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other plants. The catch? The gardens must be maintained using sustainable methods without pesticides.
Residents who get a permit receive a “planting kit” containing topsoil, seeds, and other goodies to help them get started. Paris has always allowed flowerbeds and potted plants, but this new law encourages people to get creative and build things like living walls and rooftop gardens.
The overall goal of these forward-thinking laws is to build a greener metropolis while bringing the community closer together, and with the effects of climate change slowly becoming apparent, anything to improve the environment helps.