Sunday, December 19, 2010

Why Does Santa Love DC? Ask Rudolph

According to estimates on, Santa and his reindeer have to cover approximately 178 million miles on Christmas Eve hauling a sleigh filled with about 660 million pounds of toys. Even the most magical of reindeer appreciate a good resting spot during that arduous journey.

It’s no wonder, then, that the Washington DC area, which currently rates second in the nation for square footage of green roofs, is one of their favorite hangouts.

Green roofs, which are partially or completely covered with vegetation planted in a growing medium, provide excellent resting spots for Santa’s weary reindeer.

In the wild, reindeer live in the cold arctic tundra, where food is hard to come by. During the winter, there is often no plant life at all, and the reindeer must sustain themselves solely on lichen.

Green roofs, however, are often covered with sedums and other plants that survive through the winter, presenting a wonderful dining spot for ravenous reindeer.

The District Department of the Environment has a great webpage entitled Green Roofs in the District: RiverSmart Rooftops . Although it fails to mention the fact that they are reindeer magnets, the site does describe some of the other benefits of green roofs:

Benefits of Green Roofs 

Green, or vegetated, roofs help to manage stormwater. Stormwater runoff is rainwater that flows off impervious surfaces such as rooftops, driveways, roads, sidewalks and sometimes even lawns. Stormwater runoff travels from these surfaces to our streams, picking up pollutants such as oil and grease from our roadways and driveways as it goes. Nutrients from lawn fertilizers and bacteria from pet waste may also be picked up by stormwater and carried to our streams. Once in the stream, stormwater causes erosion, poor water quality and destruction to habitat for fish and other wildlife. 

Green roofs hold and delay rainfall, effectively preventing rainwater from becoming stormwater and reducing combined sewer overflow events. In addition, green roofs filter air pollutants from the rainwater and save energy in buildings. 

Green roofs are especially effective in cities such as the District, where so much surface area is taken up by rooftops. Green roofs are most appropriate for flat rooftops of commercial and residential buildings; modern systems are lightweight but roof structures must be checked for adequacy.

Other environmental benefits of green roofs include reduced heating and cooling loads, the filtering of pollutants and carbon dioxide out of the air, and the creation of agricultural space. And of course, they provide natural habitat areas for any type of flying wildlife, including (ahem) reindeer.

There are many government and private buildings in DC with green roofs including the US Department of Transportation Headquarters, the American Society of Landscape Architects Headquarters Building, and the Franklin D. Reeves Center.

But if I were a reindeer, I think I’d head right over to the new green roof on the World Wildlife Fund Headquarters that is touted as being the third largest green roof in the city. After all, every young child may know that cookies and milk are the favorite snacks of Santa Claus. But the World Wildlife Fund would certainly be one of the best sources to know what snacks are favorites of reindeer.

And it’s not just the reindeer that appreciate the green roofs. Santa loves anything that helps to keep his aerial view as beautiful and as pristine as possible, and green roofs go a long way in helping to reduce stormwater pollution that could affect some of his favorite water bodies such as the Anacostia River and its watersheds.

But don’t worry, as a homeowner, there are plenty of ways for you to stay on Santa’s “nice” list when it comes to protecting local water supplies, such as staying away from “naughty” landscape products like harsh chemical fertilizers and weed products and installing rain barrels to help reduce storm water runoff.

And if you aren’t quite certain whether something falls into the naughty or nice category in your garden, just stop on back at the Metro DC Lawn and Garden Blog and we’ll help you figure it out. After all, we like to do our best to keep Santa happy.

For more information about Green Roofs in DC,visit : Green Roofs– Anacostia Watershed Society and Green Roofs in the District

Happy and Safe Holiday Wishes from the Metro DC Lawn and Garden Blog


  1. What a great story! Go, DC – lots of green roofs = a good thing for Santa and the world.

  2. Thanks very much DC for your great support of Green Roofs and your recognition of private companies and organizations leading the Green Roof movement. My Green Roof company, Greensulate LLC, was featured last year at the Innovation Economy Conference in Washington DC, sponsored by Intel and the Aspen Institute, and received a warm response by all in attendance.

    It's important to have a qualified Green Roof Professional (GRP) design, install and maintain your Green Roof to make it a successful and long-lasting project for decades to come. If you have any questions or would like to see your roof transformed into a Green Roof, please contact Greensulate at

    Keep well.

  3. Great picture!!

    I have read several articles about green roofs, even the ones in DC at

    What I find interesting, is that New York City has a storm water runoff tax, but DC doesn't. Maybe DC should enact one and that might encourage more federal buildings to put on green roofs!


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