People tend to have a lot of misconceptions about living an eco-friendly lifestyle. Most think it’s expensive, time-consuming, inconvenient and may even require one to wear Birkenstocks. Simply put, they lament, “It’s not easy being green.” We’ve gathered some ideas that are truly worth it to the environment to implement. These suggestions can reduce your carbon footprint, create a healthier living environment and save you some money indoors and out.
Create a compost bin or pile.
You can always head to your local home improvement store to buy soil, but nothing beats compost. It is both eco-friendly and the best supplement for the soil in your lawn and garden. It stimulates healthy root development and improves soil texture, aeration and water retention. It provides these advantages and it’s quite easy to get started. Gather ingredients such as fruit and vegetable peels, egg shells, weeds, shredded paper and coffee grounds. You can even help speed up the process by adding earthworms. Make sure your compost site is situated in a warm, partly sunny area on top of some soil. The rich, nutritious compost will be ready for use in six to nine months. The more you compost, the healthier your plants will be and the healthier you will be too.
Grow your own food—or at least some of it.
Organic produce is pricey, so consider adding a garden to your landscape. Harvesting your own fruits and vegetables is a great way to save money and live in a more sustainable way. Gardening is both relaxing and rewarding. An added benefit—you won’t find fresher produce than the stuff growing in your own backyard!
Choose native plants for your landscape.
Native plants are naturally adapted to local conditions, making them easier to grow and maintain. They generally require less water, fertilizer and pesticides. Check with your Naylor Landscape sales expert or a local garden center for ideas on how and what to implement in your yard.
Entice butterflies and bees to spend some time on your property.
Provide a pesticide-free sanctuary for these pollinators by growing a diverse variety of the native flowers they’re particularly drawn to, such as wild lilac, goldenrod and lemon balm. Gardens with 10 or more species of attractive plants have been found to entice the most bees. We’re in the throes of a major bee epidemic. These departing pollinators affect 35 percent of the world’s crop production and increase the output of 87 percent of the leading food crops worldwide. Inviting these helpful insects into your landscape benefit you, the bees and mankind.
Harvest rainwater by adding a rain barrel.
It is inexpensive and doesn’t require a lot of effort. Use that free, naturally soft water for your lawn and garden and washing your car as well. You’re sure to notice a marked reduction in water costs, but also a reduction in municipal stormwater runoff, which in turn helps prevent erosion and flooding. Place a screen on top of your barrel to keep out insects and debris, and make frequent use of your water supply to keep it moving and aerated.
Stick to smart watering habits, especially during the dry, hot summer months. Add mulch and compost to your soil to retain water and cut down on evaporation. Using soaker hoses or drip irrigation can save up to 50% of the water used by sprinklers. Water deeply, giving your lawn a weekly soaking to encourage plant roots to grow down in search of water. Water early in the day to avoid evaporation from the heat.
Plant trees strategically.
The location of trees outside your home can make a discernible difference in your utility costs. Planting deciduous trees (they shed their leaves in winter) on the south and west sides of your home provide cooling shade and breezes in the summer and allow plenty of sunlight and warmth in the winter.
Use natural and organic products.
Reducing or avoiding chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides benefit our water, air and wildlife. Try out a few organic pesticides or fertilizers and see what works for you. Even if you switch to just a few organic products, you’ll be helping by reducing harmful wastewater runoff and creating a healthier environment for your family and pets. If your soil needs nutrients, consider adding compost and other organic materials to improve the quality of your lawn and garden soils. Healthy soil nurtures healthy plants. Try using the smallest amount of nitrogen-based fertilizer required. Apply fertilizer to your lawn only in spring and fall when it is most beneficial to the grass.
Hardscaping materials can be green.
Permeable pavers are a more environmentally friendly choice than concrete for driveways because they allow water to flow into the ground instead of run-off into storm sewers, lakes, rivers and other bodies of water. Recycling or reusing bricks, stones, glass, concrete pieces and other materials is a green alternative to buying or creating new materials for landscaping. It reduces waste and saves money. Recycle plastic pots and flats. Choose recycled plastics or sustainably-harvested materials for fencing and decks.
Check your engines.
Emissions from lawn mowers, snow blowers, chainsaws, leaf blowers and other outdoor equipment are a significant source of pollution. Use manual tools such as reel push mowers and hand tools. Mow your lawn less frequently. You save time and energy, and your lawn benefits. Remove no more than one-third of the grass blade length at any time. Keep your grass at least 3 inches long in summer to cool the soil, preserve moisture and maintain a healthy root structure. Research shows that mowing higher means fewer weeds because taller grass shades and out-competes the weed seedlings. Instead of bagging lawn waste such as twigs and leaves, add them to your compost. Use a rake instead of a blower if you feel compelled to gather up leaves.
When it comes to being environmentally friendly both inside our homes and out, there are a lot of useful and practical ideas to consider. Going even a little green in your home and yard can make a big difference to the environment, your health and your wallet.