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Sustainable Landscaping (USA)

Credits: ©2016 Danielle Hegedus / Modernize

by Danielle Hegedus - If you’re an eco-conscious person, you may be doing all you can to reduce your environmental footprint. You bring your own bags to the grocery store. You compost to keep useful organic materials from ending up in landfills. Maybe you’ve even installed solar panels on your home. Have you thought about your landscaping, too? Traditional landscaping can eliminate natural habitats for beneficial insects and animals, disrupting an already fragile ecosystem. The chemicals that are used to fertilize and maintain a lawn can pollute our groundwater supply. Gas-powered mowers spew pollutants into the air. Additionally, with many parts of the country experiencing severe drought, the amount of water used to keep non-native plants thriving can put an undue strain on already limited resources.

 

Sedums by Modernize

When implemented effectively, the xeriscape (or water-wise landscaping) method can cut outdoor water use in half by installing native plants that use no or very little water in addition to natural rainwater. ©2016 Modernize

At Home Improvement Leads, we know that environmentally-friendly, sustainable landscaping is not only possible, but it can also be strikingly beautiful, making your home stand out among homes with traditional landscaping, while decreasing the cost (financial and environmental) of maintaining your outdoor areas. Read on for tips to revamp your landscaping to be a better steward of the Earth.

Collect Rainwater
Looking to save money? In the U.S. 30% of consumed waters goes to lawns. This water diversion harms the environment, while also driving up your water bill and perhaps requiring you to invest in an irrigation system. Start collecting rainwater to maintain your landscaping instead. You may not think it rains often enough to meet your watering needs, but the rooftop of your typical 1,500 square foot home can actually collect up to 500 gallons from just a half-inch of rain! Harvesting rainwater can help preserve water for drinking, even more so when combined with native plants or desert-adapted plants. The most common way to collect rainwater is by using above-ground barrels, but you can also experiment with bioswales—carefully crafted channels that move throughout your landscape to rain gardens—which direct rainwater to where it is needed most.

Take Advantage of Native Plants
 Native plants often get a bad rep, sometimes being referred to as weeds, but native landscapes are dynamic. Instead of a having a static lawn that you requires extensive maintenance to keep it looking the same throughout the entire year, native landscapes change with the season, bringing new colors and vitality to your outdoor areas, while requiring very little maintenance as native plants are evolved to grow in local conditions and to predictable sizes. Native plants do not require watering (except during initial planting), chemical pesticides and fertilizers, or frequent cutting. They also create a natural habitat for birds, insects, and animals. Check out American Beauties Native Plants to find out what plants are local to your area and to help you plan a native landscape that meets your needs—whether that be creating shade to relax outdoors or growing fresh herbs, berries, or vegetables for your family to enjoy.

Explore Xeriscaping
The term xeriscape describes a landscape that demands very little water. These landscapes are composed of naturally drought resistant plants from North America and dry climates around the world. Xeriscapes do not have a single look, so forget any preconceived images that you have of just cacti and pebbles, because almost any landscaping style can be achieved. Additionally, the principles can be applied to all or part of a yard. When implemented effectively, this water-wise landscaping method can cut outdoor water use in half while providing beautiful surroundings that can be enjoyed throughout the year, regardless of the weather.

(As an aside, the term “xeriscape” was coined in 1981 by the Denver Water Board. It is actually a trademarked term by Xeriscape Colorado, a program of Colorado Waterwise, although it has become a commonly used term for low-water landscapes.)