Realty Insites: True green homes go beyond the lawn
Updated: May 11, 2012 1:53PM
In eco-friendly homes, the focus on green goes beyond verdant lawns. Landscaping becomes a functional, sustainable system, while also enhancing the home’s overall aesthetics.
According to the National Association of Realtors’ Green Resource Council, plants, trees, gardens and even the soils and materials beneath them integrate with other systems to conserve water, condition the indoor environment efficiently and preserve natural habitats. Among the considerations for homeowners seeking a greener environment:
• Use the existing site: When building or adding on to a home, avoid disrupting wildlife corridors and maintain as much of the natural landscaping as possible. Retaining deep-root native plants prevents water run-off.
• Use native plants: These plants integrate with the ecosystem and require less irrigation and pest control, and many landscape centers now have special sections dedicated to them. This spring, the Lake County Forest Preserve is having a Native Plant Sale, May 12-13, at Independence Grove Forest Preserve in Libertyville. (Visit lcfpd.org/plantsale for details.)
• Group plants: Putting plants with similar irrigation needs together in groups conserves water.
• Employ xeriscaping: Some plant species do not require irrigation beyond normal rainfall, thus helping to conserve water. Seek landscapers who specialize in this type of garden/yard design for different climates.
• Use mulch: Layering several inches of mulch in landscaped areas helps storm water management and protects root systems. Also, choose mulch that is made from recycled-content or reused materials, like wood chips.
• Compost and Rainwater: Yard and foodwaste can be composted, reducing materials sent to landfills and providing an eco-friendly way to fertilize soil and mulch. Collecting rainwater for garden use is also a savvy conservation effort. Compost bins and rainwater barrels are available at many landscape and home improvement centers, and online. There will also be a Compost Bin and Rain Barrel Sale, $50-60, on May 12 from 9 a.m to 3 p.m., at Libertyville’s Independence Grove Forest Preserve on a first-come, first-served basis. Compost aerators, thermometers and kitchen scrap pails will also be available.
• Use organic fertilizers: These environmentally-safe fertilizers prevent pollutants from seeping into the soil.
• Incorporate passive solar design strategies: Planting deciduous trees on the south and west sides of a home or building provides shade and summer cooling, reducing demand on HVAC systems.
• Green roofs: Those building new or retrofitting flat-roofed residential or commercial buildings might consider installing a green roof — a “smart garden” on the rooftop, which absorbs storm water and then slowly evaporates it, reduces ultraviolet degradation which extends roof life and provides a higher insulation value.
Sarah Danielson, an environmental writer for Talking About Green and Landscaping Ideas, also suggests replacing your old garden mechanical mainstays.
“When deciding on which lawn-maintenance tools to use, choose the ones with the least impact. There are plenty of alternatives to gas-powered machines that are better for the environment and more energy-efficient,” commented Danielson. “Switch to solar-powered [outdoor] lamps. Although they may be more expensive initially, you’ll see the difference when you pay no recurring fees to use them.”
Julie Morse is a green-certified Realtor.