, Newburyport, MA

May 25, 2013

Planting seeds of change

Port sophomore is growing awareness for green roofs

By Jim Sullivan

---- — NEWBURYPORT — Ever since she got a hold of her first Legos, Newburyport high school sophomore Lauren Healey has always had a knack for putting things together and she’s about to leave her mark on her hometown.

“I like building things,” says Healey.

Harboring an interest in engineering and biology, Healey found a perfect outlet in the Newburyport High School’s science fair in March, where she took first place for her green roof project, competing against 20 other students.

“I was really happy,” Healey said. “I had really been looking forward to the fair and it was cool seeing all the other projects. I felt a little intimidated by some of them but in the end, I was really happy that I was able to win.”

With her first place win, Healey was able to represent Newburyport amid 400 students from across Massachusetts at the state science fair held at MIT earlier this month. Healey took fourth place and won a full tuition to MIT’s high school program.

“It was really cool to meet all the different people,” Healey said. “I was really happy to be able to go on stage. It really made me motivated to get my act in gear.”

Growing more popular in Europe these days, a green roof is simply that, a roof that can support life such as plants, sod and grass. A slightly sloped roof is optimal but a green roof can be built on a flat surface or a sloped roof as well, Healey said.

“I actually built two mini-houses,” Healey said of her project. “I had one with an asphalt roof and one with a green roof. And simply with the scale I was doing, I went very simple with moss because it is able to latch on very quickly. But other than that, I followed the normal procedure.”

She may have followed the normal procedure, but it was good enough to catch the eye of the city’s recycling coordinator, Molly Ettenborough who approached Healey at the fair. Ettenborough told Healey she was interested in building a green roof at the city’s new yard waste facility and asked her if she would be able to help do so over the summer.

“She was really interested in the subject and had spent a lot of time researching it,” Ettenborough said. “And when I asked her if she was interested in showcasing what she had learned at our yard waste facility, she was very excited about that opportunity.”

Hoping to educate locals about more sustainable lifestyles, Ettenborough said that having one, or perhaps two, demonstration units at the new facility — a place that sees up to 500 visitors on a Saturday — will attract a lot of attention.

“That feels really great,” Healy said. “It would make me really happy to see green roofs all over the place.”