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Is your roof living up to its full potential? The city of Utrecht in the Netherlands is proving there’s a lot more we can do with this overlooked space. The town’s central district recently announced a “no roof unused” policy, an initiative aimed at having every building covered in greenery or fitted with solar panels. Utrecht tested it out by installing plants at its 300-plus bus stops last year, and is planning on building a vertical forest tower covered in 10,000 plants by 2022. While blossoming flowers and fresh grass are a whole lot nicer to look at than asphalt, this movement isn’t just for aesthetics. Here’s what you need to know about the eco-friendly update: 

  1. Sedum, a plant with multicolored flowers that attracts birds, bees, and butterflies, is the key ingredient for green roofs. The spongy, CO2-absorbing succulents that make up its surface rarely need replacing, help capture particles of air pollution, provide cooling on hot days. and are super-resilient (the stuff can even survive harsh winters, one expert told The New York Times). 
  2. While a green roof delivers the most benefits, creating a lush living garden is no simple feat (permits alone can take more than a month to get approved, and the allover vegetation has to go on top of a waterproof membrane). Inger Staggs Yancey of Brooklyn Greenroof told Curbed that the process is like putting together a complicated puzzle. 
  3. If you’re not ready to commit to the real deal, you can still create a mini oasis by installing a partial garden, complete with potted trees, raised beds, and containers filled with herbs. Don’t have a roof to call your own? All you need are hanging planters and window boxes to turn a balcony into an urban jungle. 

See more stories like this: Fleetwood Mac and Sageing Make Up This Plant Lover’s Greenery RoutineHome Buyers Agree: This Is the Most Important Eco-Friendly FeatureThe First Step to Going Low Waste Is Surprisingly Simple