Archive for the ‘Eco-Friendly Landscaping’ Category
June 4th, 2009
Happy June everyone! We’re eager for summer to arrive– aren’t you? There are many things we can all do to ensure that we have a fun, eco-friendly summer. Read on and get that barbeque apron at the ready!
What You Need to Know Before You Mow
As the grass grows longer, we get the mower ready to go to work. You will probably be shocked to learn that gas mowers are MAJOR environmental offenders. According to the California Air Resources Board, lawn mower engines contribute 93 times more smog-forming emissions than do cars on a gallon-for-gallon basis. The pollution from a year’s use of an average gas-powered lawnmower is equivalent to the pollution from driving a car 86,000 miles. YES, it’s that bad. And some chainsaws and trimmers are even worse.
So please consider ditching your gas mower and getting either a battery powered or push mower. This Brill Luxus 38 push mower gets great ratings for usability and effectiveness. And there are some great cordless electrical mowers here, too.
Don’t Be an Enviro-Hog at the BBQ
When we have a summer BBQ, most of us generate a pretty impressive amount of waste. You can cut down on the trash going to the land fill in several easy ways. First, make sure to put out two trash cans: one for the food junk and one for recyclable glass & cans. As you know, if you don’t have a separate can, people will dump all of their cans and bottles right in with the other trash. If you don’t have a second can, then put out a cardboard box and write RECYCLE on it. Then you can toss the whole box in the recycling bin after the party!
Next, don’t use traditional paper plates and plastic utensils. Get yourself some compostable and biodegradable alternatives. These are just as functional as the plastic/paper kind but will decompose over time. Or if you don’t want to go that far, look for paper plates and napkins made out of recycled materials.
And what about the left-over veggies, salad and buns? You know where those go–right into your handy composter, to make healthy mulch for the garden.
Be Water-Wise this Summer
Don’t forget that water is one of our most valuable natural resources. In the Western US this summer we’ll be facing a fierce drought, given what little rainfall we’ve had so far this year. Please be sure to conserve water by 1) watering only in the early morning when the sun and evaporation are lower and 2) adjusting your sprinklers so that they only water your yard and not your driveway or street.
With all of the outdoor recreation and beach trips, showering can increase over the summer. Save as much as 40% of your water and energy per shower with this new Delta Fluidics showerhead that offers low-flow efficiency and high-flow comfort.
Cool It with a Ceiling Fan
Energy Star ceiling fans are much more efficient than air conditioners and can cool your house by a few degrees or more. Run a ceiling fan instead of AC whenever you can, and even if you do run AC, run it at a higher temp and use the ceiling fan to recirculate the cool air. See our selection of Energy Star ceiling fans here.
Kids at Loose Ends? Here is a Great Game!
Get the Bioviva board game and teach your kids about our global environment. This award-winning game will help instill in your kids, and yourself, an interest in learning more about nature and our planet. Multiple choice question cards cover topics such as solar systems, plant/animal behavior, evolution, and environmental protection. Kids earn eco-points by correctly answering questions, with the winner being the first player to collect the required eco-points for the locations listed on his or her destination card. Find the Bioviva game here.
Don’t Put Toxins on Your Family’s Skin - Sunscreen and Insect Repellant
Standard insect repellants contain chemicals that not only repel bugs but also are toxic to humans. And sunscreens also often contain harmful chemicals. Protect your family with toxin-free insect repellant and healthy sunscreens.
We hope you all have a wonderful summer! Keep your mind on relaxing– and protecting the Earth at the same time.
Popularity: 4% [?]
May 15th, 2009
Summer is just around the corner, and this is the time of year when we really ramp up our lawn activities– watering, fertilizing, mowing, etc. And all of these can have major negative environmental consequences. Did you know that over 50 million Americans mow their lawns each weekend, and that mowing contributes as much as 5% of the country’s air pollution? And it’s staggering to realize that the average American grassy lawn can use over 20,000 gallons of water each summer! So, a major part of any green home strategy should be to embrace eco-friendly lawn and garden care.
Here are 12 ways you can make sure you have an eco-friendly lawn this summer
1. Collect rain water and use it for your plants. Getting a rain barrel or two for your yard is a simple way to collect and reuse Mother Nature’s water. Just put it under your gutter’s down spout and you’ll be amazed how fast it fills up. Click here for rain barrels.
2. Make sure you’re not over-watering. Most of us over-water our lawns. Do you have moss growing on your driveway or sidewalk or in your garden? That’s a sign you’re watering too much. Do you have pools of standing water anywhere? Another sign. You can buy a very inexpensive lawn moisture meter that will tell you if you’re over-watering. You might also consider getting an intelligent irrigation control system that attunes your watering to the weather and your lawn’s needs.
3. Don’t hose down your sidewalks and driveway. That water is a valuable resource and the water you send into the gutter is carrying oil and a host of chemicals out as run-off that go on to pollute our rivers, lakes and oceans.
4. Get a push mower for your lawn. Traditional gas mowers are horrible for our air quality and contribute to global warming. They are major environmental offenders. A good-ole push mower is the eco-friendly solution. (Or if you can’t go all the way to push style, get a plug-in electric model– better than gas.) Find mowers here.
5. Say no to leaf-blowers! The gas-powered leaf blowers some people use are major carbon emissions culprits. Say yes to a broom! Your waist-line will thank you too.
6. And when you’re done mowing, leave your clippings on your yard. Those grass clippings make great mulch and will help you save water as well.
7. Be sure to compost your other yard waste. If your city doesn’t collect green waste for composting, please get a composter and do it yourself. It’s super easy and the composter will turn your waste into great mulch for use throughout your yard and garden. Find composters here.
8. Embrace native plants. Plants, flowers and grasses that are native to your region are the most atuned to soil, climate and water particularities. They are great water savers and will thrive with less care than tropical and other imported varieties. And they are gorgeous! Learn more about native landscaping here with our book collection. Or contact a green professional landscape designer or maintainance provider from our green services directory. We have eco-minded landscaping experts listed across the United States.
9. Are you addicted to the look of grass but live in a high-drought area? You may want to consider synthetic grass. It uses no water, lasts over ten years, and looks & feels surprisingly real. Learn more about synthetic grass here.
10. Why not start your own organic food garden? Nothing could be better for the planet or your health. Learn how to get started with organic gardening here.
11. Use non-toxic fertilizers and pest-control agents for your garden and lawn. Not only are these better for your plants (particularly any food you might eat), they reduce the amount of toxins that run-off into our waterways. Find safe alternatives here.
12. Use solar or LED lighting in your lawn. Solar lighting is obviously an energy-saver. If you don’t find solar lights bright enough, check out LED lights—they are very bright and use very little power. They will last 5-10 times as long as standard outdoor lights. Find energy-efficient lighting options here.
Popularity: 5% [?]
May 1st, 2009
In many parts of the country, we’re going to be in for a dry, dry summer this year. Huge swaths of the country are already in drought territory, and for many areas summertime doesn’t offer much hope for change.
Increasing demands on scarce water resources will almost certainly lead to lower caps on water usage (and even rationing in some areas) and/or higher water rates to stimulate conservation efforts. Many Californians are already facing the prospect of higher water rates this year - Los Angeles just announced a 15% reduction in the amount of water that a family can use before triggering higher “second tier” water rates, AND a major increase of those second tier rates as compared to last year.
Over-watering of lawns and gardens is usually one of the greatest sources of water waste. There are many reasons why: some people apply too much water, water at the wrong times thereby increasing evaporation, or don’t adjust their sprinklers and end up watering the street / driveway instead.
One of the best ways to control irrigation water use is to use “smart” irrigation controllers. They not only save you money, but they’ll save an incredible amount of hassle by taking the guesswork out of setting your irrigation schedule correctly. In many water-starved parts of the country your local water agency might offer rebates on these systems, sometimes nearly paying for the entire controller!
Smart controllers come in a couple of flavors: controllers that monitor the conditions in your yard (soil moisture, etc) and set irrigation accordingly, and controllers that base your irrigation schedule on weather data received from satellite, radio or internet feeds. Here’s a run-down on some of the best options available right now.
Weather-Based Irrigation Controllers
Cyber-Rain XCI. The Cyber-Rain XCI system hooks up to your computer and downloads weather reports from the Internet. If it’s an especially hot/sunny day, irrigation times will be increased. Cool and cloudy? Times are reduced. And if rain’s in the forecast, the XCI will stop irrigation for 24 hours. The XCI also does other cool stuff like calculating before/after savings and enabling you to develop simple zone descriptions that anyone can understand - and all via wireless connection direct to your computer. It’s a bit on the pricey side at $399, but if you have a big yard with lots of zones it’s well worth it.
Irritrol SmartDial Controllers. Irritrol SmartDial controllers adjust your irrigation based on weather conditions and evapotranspiration data from the day before, so your plants are truly getting only what they need. The data for these controllers is downloaded daily from a satellite, and you’ll probably have to spring for a data subscription (usually less than $100 / year). The cost of the entry-level six-zone controller will be around $225.
Sensor-Based Irrigation Controllers
Hunter Pro-C With Solar Sync. Hunter’s Solar Sync system nearly does it all - it measures rainfall, temperature and solar radiation, and then adjusts your irrigation schedule accordingly. It even delays your irrigation program if it detects there’s a freezing risk. The system requires three parts: The Solar Sync outdoor sensor and calculation module (purchased as a unit), and a Hunter irrigation controller such as the Pro-C. If you are starting from scratch, the entire unit should cost around $250 ($125 each for Solar Sync and Pro-C controller).
Weathermatic Smartline. The Weathermatic Smartline system along with the optional SLW On-Site Weather Station monitors temperature and rainfall and, coupled with an internal database of solar radiation in your area, will adjust your irrigation levels accordingly. The controller will set you back about $120, and the weather station another $150 or so.
All of these models have been tested under a third-party testing program of the Irrigation Association called the Smart Water Application Technologies protocal, or SWAT. You can review the individual testing reports for each of these (and more) models here.
Popularity: 3% [?]
March 28th, 2009
If you’re one of those folks out there who is suffering from a bit of carbon fatigue, then a post in the NY Times’ Green Inc. blog this week could either provide additional motivation for green projects or increased fear of another jargon-laden debate. Green Inc highlighted the growing trend of striving for “water neutrality”, as highlighted at the Fifth World Water Forum in Istanbul last week.
The idea is gaining ground within a group of companies looking to understand and reduce their consumption of water, including Coca Cola, whose chairman has pledged to eventually balance out all of the water used in its products and manufacturing processes through conservation elsewhere (over 80 billion gallons worth!).
This got me to thinking: what would it take to be water-neutral in our own homes, meaning that we don’t import any net water? If we include all of the water that goes into our food and the products we consume, then it gets ugly real fast (see this post on the water content of food, for example). But what about our direct water use - showers, irrigation, toilets, etc?
Now, this would require some significant changes to a home and to local building/health/safety codes, since the only way to go water-neutral is to reuse graywater and harvest/store rainwater. Both of these options now face numerous permitting and legal obstacles around the country (including some pretty counterintuitive ones, like Utah and Colorado bans on capturing ANY rainwater at your home). Assuming we could, though, how much rain would it take to provide a family’s annual water needs?
After some pretty simple calculations, it turns out that the home of a typical family of three could be water-neutral in climates receiving roughly 25″ of rainfall or more per year under the following assumptions:
- Three-person household;
- Rainwater captured, stored and reused;
- Graywater system used;
- Indoor water efficiency measures employed: low-flow showerheads, toilets, faucets and appliances;
- Outdoor water efficiency measures employed: smart irrigation control, rain shutoff, soil moisture sensors, climate-compatible landscaping.
This basically means that home water neutrality is feasible if you live in the Midwest, anywhere along the US Atlantic or Gulf Coasts, in the Northwest and in higher rainfall areas of the West and Mountain West (here’s a set of maps to review for your area). The detailed calculations are shown below. You can use our Environmental Impact Calculator to make similar calculations for your home and region.
Popularity: 7% [?]
March 19th, 2009
Working on green home upgrades or repairs? Giving your yard or garden a green revamp for spring? With the economy being the way it is, many homeowners are tackling home improvement projects themselves to save money. Savvy DIYers save even more money by borrowing tools instead of renting. After all, why buy an expensive piece of equipment you’ll have to make room in your garage for — when you’ll only use only rarely at best?
Now, tool-borrowing Low Impact Living readers who’re ready to roll up their sleeves can save even more money on their home improvement project — by entering the “What’s Your Pro Project?” contest to win a $200 gift certificate to Home Depot!
To enter, just visit the Home Depot Tool Rental site and pick out a tool you’d borrow for your green home improvement project. Then leave a comment on this post, letting us know what green project you plan to tackle in or around your home this year — and with what borrowed tool.
Since Home Depot lets you rent more than 325 types of professional tools at more than 1,200 Tool Rental Centers, you can pick from a very wide variety of home, garden, or yard projects. Let your ecomagination be your guide!
Start planning your project now — and leave your comment by the end of the day on Sunday, March 28. We at Low Impact Living will then select the most interesting project lined up for the year — and award the $200 gift certificate to one luck Low Impact Living reader. Good luck!
Popularity: 5% [?]