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Entrepreneurs Seek to "Greenproof" Harlem

A group of New York college students are working to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
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The legion of entrepreneurs intent on protecting the environment has continued the grow in recent years. Now, entrepreneurs at the college level are finding creative ways to address the impact of global warming in their local communities.

As part of an interdisciplinary program in Environmental Engineering and Entrepreneurship at the City College of New York, a group of students has started a business consulting venture called Greenproofing, with the goal of helping Harlem residents and property owners install green roofs on their buildings.

The concept of green roofing, which involves replacing standard roof materials such as gravel, shingles, and tiles with beds of soil and plants, is a procedure that can reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by helping to keep urban buildings cool in the heat. Green roof covers can also help to eliminate storm water runoff.

The Greenproofing venture is an example of how local businesses are attempting to contribute to bigger, citywide initiatives to combat global warming. Greenproofing's recent announcement about its plans to help Harlem "Go Green" comes on the heels of a pledge by New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, to reduce New York's greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030.

Two weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg released the first comprehensive inventory of greenhouse gas emissions for New York, which shows that citywide emissions have increased by 8 percent over the past decade. However, on a national scale, New York's emissions account for only 1 percent of the national totals and less than a third of the average U.S. level per capita. New York is currently one of 240 other American cities that have completed a carbon-emissions inventory.

Recognizing the opportunity to contribute to a growing industry of sustainable business, the Environmental Engineering and Entrepreneurship Program at CCNY was started in 2004 with a grant from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, and a mission to encourage the next environmental business leaders.

"Our objective is to support the development of environmentally conscious engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs of the future," Kevin Foster, a CCNY assistant professor and faculty adviser to Greenproofing, said in a statement. "At the same time, we are dedicated to increasing diversity in the field of environmentalism and sustainability."

In preparation for its major Harlem initiative, Greenproofing began installing green roofs on City College and five local high school buildings at the start of the 2006 academic year. In early April, Greenproofing received a $2,000 grant from Lowe's, a national home-improvement chain, to add a native plant garden to the Manhattan Hunter Science High School grounds and to assist with the roof work there.

CCNY students who are working as part of the Greenproofing venture are also going into classrooms to educate high school students about the environmental benefits of green roofs. "We are using the opportunity of working with the schools to gain more experience and refine our business model before we go out and market our services to members of the Harlem community," Katie Cole, a senior involved in the program, said in a statement.

This semester, Greenproofing began with a preliminary awareness campaign in Harlem and is meeting with community groups in the neighborhood to explain the green-roof process. In addition to creating a more environmentally sustainable community in Harlem, Greenproofing plans to make green roofs affordable for other low-income communities in the future.

Last updated: Apr 23, 2007




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