As awareness increases, more property owners are "greening" their neighborhoods by taking action on their properties. There are many practices to choose from, all of which will help create a sustainable environment. Some cities and towns offer installation assistance or reduced costs as an incentive for residents who install green practices.
Actions for Homeowners
Many municipalities offer recycling services at little cost to homeowners. Recycling everyday products like paper, glass, plastic, and metal helps reduce the amount of waste being hauled to landfills, while saving energy and natural resources. If municipalities do not offer a recycling service, residents can take these same materials to their local collection center.
Composting refers to the practice of combining kitchen scraps, yard waste, and paper products into a pile to decompose. The decomposable materials can be stored indoors or out and in any type of receptacle, or in a heap on the ground. In about three to four weeks, the waste will have broken down into a rich organic material that can used as garden soil or fertilizer. Homeowners can feel good about re-using products and sparing landfills, while simultaneously saving money on gardening materials and improving the health of their lawn.
Planting a tree
Planting a tree on residential property will aid in the reduction of the urban heat island effect, which is caused by the release of thermal energy from hot pavement. Trees that shade pavement from the sun's rays are reducing the amount of heat absorbed and therefore reducing the amount of thermal energy emitted. If placed appropriately, trees can also reduce energy costs for heating and cooling a home. In addition, trees improve air quality and provide a habitat for birds and wildlife. They require little maintenance once established.
Using native landscape vegetation
Vegetation that is native to the region will be well adapted to the local weather, water, and soil conditions, and will therefore be of less time and financial cost to homeowners and have better survivability. Planting native species will require less watering, fertilizing, and maintenance. As with planting a tree, native vegetation will help reduce the urban heat island effect, reduce energy costs, and provide habitat for birds and wildlife.
Constructing a rain garden
Rain gardens are attractive lawn additions constructed for the purpose of slowing stormwater runoff and allowing it to infiltrate into the soil. It is best to use native perennial plants, which are more durable and longer-lasting. These gardens should be located where they can catch runoff from impervious surfaces, such as roofs, sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots. A common location is at the base of a downspout. Rain gardens help control localized flooding by reducing the rate and quantity of stormwater entering the sewer system, which in turn means that less pollution will end up in receiving waters.
Installing a rain barrel or cistern
A rain barrel or cistern can be used to collect rainwater from a roof and store it for non-potable uses such as watering plants or flushing toilets. This practice helps reduce the rate and quantity of stormwater runoff entering the sewer system. Residents can feel good about conserving and recycling rain water while saving money on their water bill.
Using permeable pavement
The use of permeable pavement for a patio, walkway, driveway, or parking area allows rainwater to pass through the surface and stone base material and infiltrate into the soil below. This recharges groundwater while reducing the rate and quantity of stormwater runoff, filters silt, pollutants, and debris.
A green roof, which is also called a vegetated, living, or eco roof, is a roof that is partially or completely covered with vegetation, soil, and a waterproofing membrane. Most residential green roofs are comprised of low-lying plants such as succulents, grasses, and mosses. Green roofs reduce the urban heat island effect by reducing the amount of thermal energy released from a roof. They help reduce energy costs for cooling and heating a home, and they increase the longevity of roofing materials.
Using naturalized detention
Homeowners can help control stormwater runoff by creating natural detention areas designed for the temporary storage and subsequent slow, controlled release of stormwater. Intended to look and function as native wetlands, these practices should include native vegetation that grows both above and below the average water level. This attractive amenity helps reduce the rate and quantity of stormwater runoff while providing a habitat for birds and wildlife.
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