Ask Betty: Green roofs and textile recycling


A green roof was installed on a portion of the Albemarle County Office Building in 2008. File photo. A green roof was installed on a portion of the Albemarle County Office Building in 2008. File photo.

Teri Kent runs Charlottesville’s Better World Betty, a non-profit organization and online resource for locals looking to shrink their impact on the environment. Every month, Betty—Kent’s ’50s-housewife-meets-earth-goddess alter ego—answers the most burning eco-questions from our readers about energy use, water, waste and recycling, transportation, and green buying.

Q: I am looking to find out if there is any local guru who can guide us through installation of a green roof.  Also curious if there are any city or state incentives to help with money. 

A: Have you seen the amazing green roof installed in Chicago spurred on by former Mayor Richard M. Daley who wanted to see his town be the nation’s “greenest city” ( I’m so glad you’re considering this “cool” project.

There are many variations of green roofs, and what type is desired would be important in identifying necessary resources. If you can get more information about the type of green roof, I’m sure Betty could find a local resource for you. In the meantime consider the following:

  • What type of plants (sedums, tall grasses, edible foods, etc.)? 
  • Do you want to build it yourself or buy pre-fab? 
  • How much additional weight can the building and roof hold? (The age of the building and building materials might provide good estimates.) 
  • Do you want to be able to walk on the green roof, or only around the edges for maintenance? 
  • Is the existing roof going to be replaced at the same time?

I suggest checking out the wealth of online resources that can provide information around these points to help you  think through what end product you’d like.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find any state or federal level incentive, but the City of Charlottesville does have a reduced permit fee for green (solar or vegetative) roofs. There’s also a special energy efficient tax rate for buildings that meet Home Performance with Energy Star and other green building certifications, which could help financially if the roof meets those performance goals.

Keep us posted and send pictures!

Q: Do you know where in the Charlottesville area I can recycle textiles?  It would be nice to find a home for my various scraps of leftover fabrics that are not suitable for anything else. What about clothing that is not suitable for resale?

A: This is a local question Betty has been grappling with for years. Although we have a ton of consignment and secondhand stores in the Charlottesville area that buy gently-used clothing, few take textiles that cannot be used for resale.

However, Goodwill will take your stained, ripped clothes and send them to a warehouse where the clothing will be recycled in bulk. Also, the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Charlottesville takes all non-donated clothing and sends the recycled rags to missionary areas in Africa. (One of Betty’s volunteers was actually a Peace Corps volunteer who vouched that yes, indeed, they do end up in Africa’s developing nations.)

Another idea closer to home: there are select artists and art teachers who like to use them in their work and classes; it’s just a matter of finding these people. Ask around. I would suggest calling your nearest or favorite local school and see what they say. Cheers for seeking a second life for unwanted fabrics!—Teri Kent