As homeowners, each of us has the opportunity to help improve the environment we live in, and in the process make our own lives more comfortable. By reducing waste, many “green” living techniques also save us money. So I’d like to offer these ideas about how to make our homes environmentally friendly while enhancing our lifestyles.
Perhaps the biggest environmental impact from any home comes from its energy use. I outlined some easy, money-saving ways of improving a household’s energy efficiency, without sacrificing comfort, in an article last month.
A home’s other biggest environmental impact comes from its landscaping, and how we use water and chemicals on our lawns and gardens.
Avoiding unnecessary or wasteful water use is good for our waterways. It’s also good for our budgets. Most of us pay twice for every gallon of water we use: first for the water itself, and second for wastewater treatment charges, even if that water never gets into the sewer system. So it’s smart to make sure the meter isn’t running unless we truly need the water.
Automatic sprinkler systems should be programmed to turn on only when necessary. In hot weather, water the lawn only in early morning. It’s better for the grass, and you lose less water to evaporation. And why waste money by running your sprinklers when it’s raining – or right after it’s rained?
Aim your sprinkler heads away from driveways and other pavement to avoid waste and runoff.
Do you wash your car at home? If possible, park it on the grass so the water and soap you use soaks in instead of running down the driveway, and into our waterways. (Soaps and detergents are pretty good fertilizers, so they’ll actually help your lawn!)
If you’re interested in catching rainwater to use later in your garden or lawn, consider installing rain barrels under your gutters. Or develop a rain garden as part of your landscaping. This is a low-lying area, filled with attractive water-loving plants, where excess rain accumulates before settling into the ground, instead of rushing down a storm drain. For details about how to set up rain barrels or rain gardens, consult your county’s Agriculture Extension office.
Don’t over-fertilize your lawn. That just wastes your money and degrades nearby creeks, lakes and sounds. If you use a lawn-care service, ask your provider about how they ensure your lawn and garden gets only the fertilizer it needs, and that it stays on your property. If you apply fertilizer yourself, carefully follow the label’s instructions to avoid overdoing it.
If possible, check the forecast so you can apply fertilizer before a light, steady rain is expected. That helps to naturally water it into the soil.
Choose pesticides wisely. Be sure the product you’re using is labeled for the problem you’re tackling, and that you use the correct amount – at the right time. Some products won’t work correctly if applied at the wrong time of day, or in the wrong season, or in the wrong weather conditions. And if a pest-control chemical isn’t accomplishing what you want it to do, it’s probably having unintended consequences on the environment.
Much of the overuse of water, fertilizers and pesticides comes from trying to grow plants that aren’t well suited to our climate. When making landscaping decisions, selecting native or other well-adapted species can reduce your work, your expense and any negative impact on the environment. This is another area where the folks at the Ag Extension offices can give you expert advice.
Consider planting shade-loving ornamental plants in place of grass under large trees if those areas of your lawn don’t get enough sun to thrive.
A beautiful, well-maintained lawn adds value to your house and is a lifestyle amenity, especially if you and your family use it for play, relaxation and socializing. Think about whether you have the right amount of lawn for how you use it, and for how much effort you put into maintaining it. Well-chosen plantings and shrubs as an alternative to grass will maintain your home’s “curb appeal” but may reduce its impact on the environment. Best of all, smart landscaping choices will reduce the impact on your time and your wallet.
Have a question about buying, selling or any other real estate matter? Let me know and I’ll address it in a future article.
Michelle Clark is a broker with Intracoastal Realty, based at the Wrightsville Beach office. She is an Accredited Luxury Home Specialist, ALHS and also a Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource. Whether you are buying, selling, or investing, know that Michelle and her team will go the extra mile for you. To learn more about Michelle and Intracoastal, go to www.intracoastalrealty.com. You may contact Michelle at [email protected] or 910-367-9767. Like Michelle’s team on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MichelleClarkTeam.
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