Home improvement doesn’t stop inside the four walls of your house. So even if you’re someone who dreads yard work — and was born without a single green thumb — you can still make a few painless eco-friendly upgrades to your outdoor space. After all, in addition to helping nurture local plant and animal life, it will boost your property value. Here are nine upgrades to make your landscaping eco-friendly beyond the usual trimming, digging, raking, and mowing. Thanks to heightened curb appeal and lower utility bills, your wallet will thank you for it. So will the planet.
1. Grow plants that belong
If introducing new trees or plants to your backyard, pick species indigenous to your area. Not only is it an environmentally conscious choice, but it will make your life simpler, too. Why? Because they belong here. And that means they will weather the elements and pests much more naturally than non-indigenous plants. Better still, they will probably also attract local wildlife — from birds to butterflies — making your refreshed outdoor space that much more lovely.
2. Lose the lawn
If you hate mowing the lawn, now you have the eco-perfect excuse to ditch it. Grass consumes an extraordinary amount of water — a waste considering the drought conditions many regions are suffering through due to climate change. What do you replace it with? Xeriscaping is one option, which involves installing rocks or sand. If that sounds too drastic, you can opt for turf, which offers the benefit of requiring no water and, therefore, little work. Plus, you can pick out turf that consists of recyclable material.
3. Catch the rain
Looking to cut your water bill, reduce water wastage, and keep your garden irrigated? Harvest the rain. It’s not complicated — a simple rain barrel should be all you need.
4. Turn your roof green
Green roofs are exactly as described — a sloping or flat space blanketed in vegetation that sprouts over a waterproof membrane. Among the benefits? It will keep your house cool in the summer and warm during the winter months since it provides additional insulation. Green roofs also muffle noise pollution while providing shelter from the storm to local wildlife. And because plants absorb carbon dioxide, you will be shrinking your overall carbon footprint.
5. Consider putting in a terrace
Do you have a steep slope in your yard that’s impossible to mow? The news gets worse: it’s also harming the environment, accelerating erosion and runoffs during storms. One way to combat this — as well as make your landscaping life easier — is to put in a terrace. Then flatten the slope and plant flowers, gardens, or shrubs. That way, rainwater drains into the soil and not down the slope.
6. Avoid pesticides
Do the bees a favor and ditch the chemicals. In addition to being bad for human health, pesticides are primarily to blame for the diminishing bee population. And we need the bees. (Albert Einstein noted once the bees disappear, so do the people.) So, turn to natural pest control methods such as microbial insecticides — which target pests without harming beneficial insects or other animals — and insecticidal soaps, which use fatty acids to control such menaces as aphids. You can also introduce a beneficial insect to your garden. One example? The praying mantis. Let them do your dirty work for you.
7. Rely less on fertilizers
Chemical fertilizers and herbicides ultimately do more harm than good by damaging the soil and lawn. You can turn to organic fertilizers, but the most environmentally friendly option is to stop using fertilizers altogether. Instead, add compost and other organic materials to your soil. Even your lawn clippings are nutritious — instead of bagging them, let them decompose where they fell. Your lawn will appreciate it.
8. Power down
Snow blowers, lawn mowers, pressure washers, and other outdoor power tools generate a lot of noise — and emissions. If you can’t mothball the machines completely, think about wielding ones fueled by electricity, not gasoline. Ideally, you would want to utilize manual tools as much as possible. But if you must power up, why not share communal mowers and leaf blowers with your neighbors? One on the block is preferable to half a dozen, after all.
9. Enjoy your slice of nature
This is not a landscaping project as much as a tip to remember. While the prospect of outdoor work might not thrill you, studies have shown the more time you spend outside, the healthier you are for it — from reduced stress to lower blood pressure. So, do your yard and body a favor and take in the natural beauty lurking outside your door.