Posts in Category: Blog

How Can You Get Involved in Green Roof Projects?

Should you ever use Google Maps to zoom in on your community from an orbital or aerial view, you’ll likely notice that most urban environments are full of rooftops made from gravel ballast, black tar, and asphalt. Heat just gets reflected off of these roofs, and water does not permeate them either.

Green rooftops are an architectural trend that is starting to bust up the monotony that is the common roof. This trend has been popular for a while in Europe, but an increasing number of American businesses, homeowners, and even governments are starting to consider green roofs as a way to bring about environmental awareness while still giving buildings shelter from the elements of weather and nature.

Green roofs can bring about an oasis of vegetation without being disruptive to the surrounding urban infrastructure. In fact, they take an otherwise unused space of available square footage, and make it into something practical and productive.

A properly installed green roof can actually prolong the life of your roof, so despite the initial investment of resources that go into it, there are long-term cost savings to be had from a maintenance perspective. Green roofs also cut down on the energy and utility bills of the structures they sit atop, as they provide a natural source of insulation. They can also reduce moisture damage, since they absorb storm waters and reduce the stress placed on drainage systems. When done on a large scale, green roofs even improve local air quality and cut back on the urban island heat effect that leaves cities several degrees warmer than rural areas.

Green roofs come in intensive and extensive types. Extensive green roofs are lighter, and hold between 15 to 50 pounds per square foot. These are usually just enough for ground cover that is native to the region and doesn’t need a lot of maintenance. The most famous green roof in America is probably the City Hall in Chicago, featuring both intensive and extensive properties.

Intensive green roofs are more interesting. Weighing up to 150 pounds per square foot, they are like elevated parks with trees, paths, and benches.

If you want to start a green roof where you live, you unfortunately have some work cut out for you. Most renters can not do this, and many single-family homes do not have a roof that will support such a project. However, there might be businesses in your area that are considering the concept or are already doing it. Reward
them with your own patronage as much as possible. Also petition your local government to get into the act with its many flat-roofed buildings and properties. Point out how this can be wonderful for schools, and volunteer whenever there is a possibility of participating in such a project.

About Grey Water Gardens

Grey water gardens are a new advancement in landscape irrigation that many feel could well be the wave of the future in gardening. A system of carefully placed pipes and irrigation tunnels, these systems are intended to provide gardens with water that has already been used rather than purer fresh water (white water) but is not quite as filled with contaminants as less fresh water, hence the term grey water.

Though many people may find this a strange idea on its surface to recycle less than ideal water, with the increasing global prevalence of droughts, such as the one in California and the American Southwest, and the increasingly difficult political situations behind the acquisition of clean water, many gardeners are finding that recycling grey water is an ideal solution to their water issues, particularly as white water becomes ever more expensive and hard to obtain. Some gardeners have even found they have no choice as local water regulations intended to deal with very long term droughts make it impossible for them to garden with white water like they used to in years past.

These systems do require a great deal of forethought, however. The pipes and irrigation systems that recycle used but not entirely dirty water can take some planning to install, ideally done by a professional, though some truly dedicated do it yourselfers can and have done it on their own. These systems must account for a number of factors, including the type of earth in the garden, the natural plane inclination of the garden’s land and the type of plants being grown in the garden. Additionally, finding a good source of grey water is essential, as not all types of recycled water are actually good for plants and some forms of recycled water are downright dangerous to plants and humans alike.

Of course, the benefits of these gardens are quite important to note as well, difficulty of setting them up aside. Water that passes through layers of either granulated rock or sand is somewhat purged of contaminants the way commercial water filters use charcoal to catch and filter contaminants in drinking water. From there, benign bacteria and other microorganisms feed on the carbon and pathogens, leaving behind nothing but water, carbon dioxide and other insolubles. However, this water is only mostly purged of pollutants, and it is not recommended that garden water all plants with grey water. There is a contamination risk of watering fruits and vegetables intended to be consumed with this water.

Finding Environmentally Friendly Food And Production Companies

 
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If you are concerned about the environment, you know how important it is that you use products made by companies that care as well. Being responsible for your consumption habits is essential if you want to reduce the damage caused to the planet.

By working together, people can alter the course of the world for the better. However, you must investigate the businesses that you work with to be certain you are making the best choices. Just as there are some great businesses out there with owners who care about the planet, there are also less scrupulous folks who take advantage of those who want to make environmentally friendly choices. (And, some fledgling entrepreneurs who do not know any better themselves.)

You can look into the reputation of a company in order to decide if it is a good fit for your values. However, you should not depend on their announcements alone. Look on their website to see what support they have.

For instance, are the products labeled organic in accordance with the federal government guidelines? Are they approved for the organic label by one or more states, such as Oregon or Washington? The criteria for organic labeling is different for each label. Understand what is behind the label supporting any product you are investigating.

In addition to organic, you may want to purchase products that are cruelty free and that have not been tested on animals. There is a specific label that you can look for. Remember that it is vital that you have third party verification for all of the claims made by a company.

You should also be aware that sometimes a business will add a phrase to their products that does not have any real value. For instance, a product may not be graded according to the general analysis. While the industry standard might be to adhere to a certain percentage of purity, a company might claim to be of a grade-A class. Since this is an in-house classification, it is meaningless for comparison.

You can find plenty of companies out there that adhere to high standards of production. Depending on what you are looking for, you can likely find anything you need with adequate research. After all, you and your family deserve to know that you are getting the very best in food and other products you use daily

Using Bamboo As A Natural Resource

 

bamboo-forestAt this point in history, just about everyone has some idea that humanity is consuming the world’s resources faster than Mother Nature can replenish them. Sustainability is something that is growing more and more popular. Some feel they should be good stewards of the Earth for religious or spiritual reasons; others wish to do it to be good examples for others or even their own kids. Regardless of someone’s individual motivations, making increased use of renewable resources is a kind thing to do for the world, and humanity.

Using bamboo as a renewable resource is a very common choice, and for good reason. Humanity has had a strong relationship with bamboo for thousands of years, as it has been used for everything from building bridges to providing food. Some people even make clothes out of it, but it’s getting a fresh look by many today who are hoping to save the world, or at least change it for the better.

A big part of the appeal of bamboo is the fact that bamboo is able to be harvested within a year to only half a decade. This depends a lot on the species, but that is far faster than most trees grow. Hardwood oaks need four decades to mature, and the world sees a million acres of forest lost each week thanks to deforestation. The versatility of bamboo makes for a powerful alternative.

fast-growth-bambooCertain species of bamboo grow over three feet in one day. No other plant on the planet has been documented at a faster growth rate. Also, bamboo takes in greenhouse gases just like other plants, but also puts out a third more oxygen than hardwood trees. Finally, when harvested for a shoot, the extended root system can regrow a new one!

Once harvested, bamboo can be used for a tremendous number of purposes. A single bamboo plant can be turned into chopsticks, furniture, or even soil-enriching mulch. Manufacturers can make anything from charcoal to flooring to paper and even building materials from it. The fibers in bamboo are actually stronger than wood fibers, and they’re also less susceptible to warping from changes in the weather.

Bamboo grows everywhere from low-lying wetlands to arid climates suffering drought to high elevations. Bamboo’s versatility in planting locations, quick growth, and versatility in use has made it something war-torn, poverty stricken countries have used to stimulate economic activity after political turmoil or civil upheaval.

Green Lawn Alternatives For States Facing Drought

As it stands there are 8 states with incredibly high drought percentages. Oregon and Washington are at the top of the list as they battle a lack of water in virtually every area. In 2015 it saw the level of extreme drought reach 67% in Oregon, while Washington peaked at 68%. These states are joined at the top by California, Nevada and Idaho.

In such dramatic circumstances the garden isn’t much of a priority for obvious reasons. But that doesn’t mean residents within the above mentioned states can’t have attractive yards. With some creative landscaping ideas anything is possible, and this article will bring states that are in drought and green lawn alternatives together.

When there simply isn’t enough water to keep the garden green, the best place to start is by getting plants that don’t really require regular watering. Cactus plants will probably be your first guess, because if arranged correctly it can look amazing and they only need to be watered once a month.

As for the native plants option, it basically means using plants that thrive in the harsh environment. Just a stroll through some natural areas will give you a good idea of plants that can possibly work for your garden. Now, combining native plants, or even the cactus garden, with a stone or gravel covering can produce a very attractive display.

Not everyone appreciates the modern rock garden, even though it can look very appealing. But how can you effectively replace grass with a low-maintenance alternative? The answer comes in natural ground covers such as moss, elfin thyme and mountain valley growers. Apart from the refreshing display they provide, they maintain the natural feel associated with lush green grass. The best part is that they need very little help from you.

For homeowners who can’t let go of the green grass, you can always opt for an artificial lawn. They look exactly like the real thing, and they don’t require anything other than a good cleaning once every month or so. In states with such drought extremes, it’s a very environmentally friendly choice to make. When they are installed the seams are skillfully covered, making it impossible to spot, and you’ll have a green lawn all year round.

The beauty of your garden is only limited by your imagination, even when there are water restrictions involved. Don’t be scared to think outside the box and experiment with what you have.

Investigate Which Solar Panel Programs To Use

When it comes to green energy, solar panels are at the top of most discussions. For homeowners, it can be a great way to reduce the amount of money spent on utilities each month. There are a number of programs that can be utilized in order to keep the costs down and increase the benefits of adding this form of energy to your property.

The price of solar panels is far more affordable than it once was, making it easier for people of all income brackets to take advantage of this all natural power source. When you own the home and live in it, you will benefit each month when your power bill is mailed out.

At the very least, you will have a reduction in your monthly spending for power. However, if you have sufficient panels and minimal usage, you can actually receive a check back for the extra power your panels created. Wouldn’t it be great to get paid by your local utilities company instead of being charged.

Although the prices are far less than when solar power first became commercially available, it can be a challenge to pay for it. One of the options available across the country is to take advantage of programs offered by the government that will help to cover the expenses. These might be in the form of reimbursements or deductions related to your taxes.

You should find out what your options are at the federal, state and local levels prior to making your solar panel purchases. By investigating beforehand, you can make sure your decisions will be the most beneficial for you now and in the future.

In fact, you will be happy to know that in the middle of 2016 the federal government announced a new program to make solar energy even more readily available for the general public than ever before. You can learn more about the Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative to see what portions apply to you.

It is vital that everyone begin to make wiser choices regarding energy consumption. For those who own property, adding solar panels and taking advantage of solar panel programs is a must. This will help to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and benefit the planet.

As a responsible member of society and a frugal homeowner, you owe it to yourself to prioritize solar panel installation to your property.

Landscaping Ideas That Use Little To No Water

It’s well known that a green lawn consumes a lot of water. With so much of the country in a drought, environmentally conscious people are moving away from the typical mowed green cookie cutter lawn and are trying out new landscaping techniques that conserve water.    An added benefit to a lawn free yard is that you’ll save money on your water bill.

So what do you do with all that space if there’s no grass to fill it? You could experiment with a rock garden. For some, this might mean replacing the entire lawn area with pretty rocks instead. If you’re not ready to go full-on stone-age however lots of landscaping designs incorporate large areas of rockscaping with  a few bits of sod or grass placed strategically for an aesthetic pop.

The more you use rocks, the less water you will need. Fortunately, there are some great decorative rocks that you can buy that will look great for decades in your yard. You can also find decorations that will coordinate well with a rock garden.

For instance, you might want to put a concrete bird feeder in the middle of the garden. You could use several stepping stones in the rock yard to create walkways to different areas of your yard.

The plants that you choose will have a large impact on your garden water usage. Choose to plant cacti and similar plants that are able to thrive in desert landscapes. You might also look into using mulch and other means to reduce the amount of water that escapes from your soil.

You might want to place a meditation ball somewhere in the yard along with comfortable seating. Done right, this will look great and not take any water!

For your walking path, you can use premade steps or you can design your own. Whether you want to make mosaic tiles, cute ones with kids hands or some other fun design, this is a great way that you can personalize your garden and make memories at the same time.

Check out your favorite decorating sites to see what others have done with their yards. Use the designs you see to inspire your own creativity. Use some software for landscapes if you want to help you see what your ideas will look like.

You can have a great looking yard that does not consume a bunch of water if you take the time to plan well!

Can You Reduce Your Environmental Impact By Eating And Buying Local?

It’s been over a decade since the term ‘locavore’ was first bandied about – however the idea that consumers can source food locally (less than 100 miles from where they live) in order to reduce the environmental impact of their eating habits has taken the world by storm.

In short the theory behind becoming a locavore is that it reduces transportation distances and also reduces much of the negative environmental impacts that have become associated with large scale agricultural production, as well as increasing the health benefits (and safety) of the food that we consume.

There are two main thrusts to successfully converting to a locavore lifestyle – these are to grow your own food or to alternatively source your raw ingredients form a farmers market where products are produced in a sustainable and preferably organic manner.

The issue of transportation distance is key. By reducing the amount of time and distance that are required in order to get produce to market the environmental impact of those products is minimized. Less fossil fuel is used and the impact of refrigerants is also minimized. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that locally produced, small scale farming produce is also tastier – and more healthy.

The increase in the popularity of farmers markets and cooperative efforts to produce agricultural products has also decreased the impact of fertilizer and pesticide us. Consumers are demanding fresher and more organic choices when they visit a farmers market. Market forces dictate that those producers who are able to meet this demand will become more successful – and a cycle reducing the use of harmful chemicals is started.

Aside from the undoubted environmental impacts of the farming methods themselves, as well as the reduction in transportation miles and time there is a knock on effect on the behavior of consumers. The locavore community will spend less time in cars due to the proximity of local farmers markets – or in cases where they have engaged in small scale production themselves will almost eliminate this behavior.

It is also becoming apparent that waste is reduced when consumers shop locally for fresh produce. These consumers tend to by fresh and use produce rapidly – almost eliminating waste, which is great news for the country’s overburdened landfills.

The locavore movement is therefore contributing directly to the reduction of consumer environmental impact – hopefully it continues to thrive.

Doing Your Bit For The Planet – Reducing The Amount Of Garbage You Produce

 

It is no exaggeration to note that societies across the world have become addicted to the idea of a disposable culture. Today we generate more trash than ever before. The old problems have also not got any better – disposable nappies still clog landfill, plastic waste remains a challenge and disposing of technology has become a headache across the globe.

It has been estimated that American consumers generate approximately 1,500 pounds of waste each year – that’s problematic, especially seeing as there are some common sense ways that this figure can be significantly reduced.

Obviously recycling can go a long way towards limiting the amounts of waste that we generate, however we simply can do more through fine tuning our shopping habits and the way that we simply think about waste.

One of the ways that we can change our habits is by getting into the mindset of deciding whether we actually need the product that we are about to purchase. Although fast food containers have gotten more ecologically friendly in recent years they are still responsible for generating huge volumes of waste. Giving up on the off Super Sized meal may be a small price to pay for making the world a better place to live in – and this is only one example. Consumers need to ask themselves if they really need multiple examples of a product in their homes as well.

When purchasing an item we should also be thinking about the quality of the product. Not only is it unnecessary to be upgrading each and every time a new and shiny consumer durable reaches the market we can make sure that the items that we have in our homes simply last longer. Make sure that you’re buying goods of great quality. You’ll save money in the long run and generate far less waste.

Chances are that you’re also throwing things in the trash that still have some use. Consider passing the item on by either donating it to a thrift store or a charitable organization. If more people get use out of a single object it simply means that there’s less reaching the overburdened landfill sites every day.

These are only a few simply ideas that we should all keep in mind if we’re going to reduce the amount of waste that we generate – and protect our increasingly fragile planet.

Is Cloth Diapering Really Better for the Environment?

There’s plenty of things people talk about when you become a new parent. Everyone has all manner of different parenting tips. And unfortunately, no one wants to hear it when you tell them you’ve got a handle on it.

One of the most common bits of parenting advice is to use a cloth diaper. People say that cloth diapers reduce the environmental impact. The use of cloth diapers means you won’t have to spend so much money on disposable diapers, as well. But is all that true? Is it really true that you can reduce your impact on the environment by using cloth diapers?

That’s a point that’s in a bit of contention. A study conducted by Britain’s Environment Agency found no significant difference in carbon footprints. Cloth diapers created 1,232 pounds of carbon dioxide over 2.5 years, where as disposable diapers caused 1,380 pounds. More than cloth diapers, but not enough to be worth the time and effort.

However, those studies used slightly outdated technology, specifically in the realm of washing machines. The study used washing machines produced in the late 80s, based on the average household. In 1985, an 11 pound load used up 34 gallons of water and 1.68 kilowatts of electricity per hour. Washing machines these days have become much more efficient. Namely, 12 gallons of water and .95 kilowatts per hour. That’s a huge difference.

So that’s the question answered, right? Not necessarily. Most cloth diapers are made of cotton and not polyester. Cotton is a crop that’s rather harsh on the environment. When you take into account the amount of water necessary for growth, harvest, processing, and washing, thirty cloth diapers wind up using 1,221 cubic meters of water over 2.5 years. Meanwhile, disposable diapers use only 141 cubic meters. That’s not even considering the pesticide use for the crop, as well as other environmental impacts.

So the question comes down to which is more damaging to the environment; petroleum manufacturing or cotton. The environmental damage of drilling for oil, manufacturing things out of plastics, and the length of time disposable diapers take to biodegrade is difficult to compare to the damage of commercially growing cotton. The two situations are simply too different to have an easy answer.

What this means is that cloth diapers are probably better in the long run, even if they’re not that impressive short term. Cloth diapers can biodegrade, meaning they can become dirt and soil, which can then be used to grow new crops. Oil, on the other hand, is a non-renewable resource. And disposable diapers don’t biodegrade, either. So once that oil is in the shape of a diaper, it’s never going to be usable again.