I love to come up with creative Do It Yourself (DIY’s) ideas to solve issues, and this one is not only environmentally friendly, but it is also beautiful and beneficial! How we landscape can solve a lot of problems with storm water runoff and drainage, helping to recharge aquafirs, filter toxins and generally reduce pollution of our waterways and oceans.
The main purpose of those rain gutters on your roof are to get the water off your roof and away from the foundation. Similarly, road gutters and storm drains main purpose is to remove the water from the city streets to prevent flooding. As long as you keep that in mind, what you can do with the water before and after it drains is almost limitless. Here are my favorite tips to conserve, recycle and reuse water.
- Rainwater Collection Tubs
- Porous driveways and surfaces
One of the best tools for water conservation and to reduce runoff is to collect rainwater from your roof with a rain barrel collection tub. These have become so mainstream now, you can usually find them at your local hardware store complete with drain faucets at the base and mosquito screens at the top. Place these under your drainage gutters around the house to collect rainwater to use for irrigation during dry periods.
Reducing the amount of impermeable surfaces is another way to decrease runoff and pollution, just think of all the areas around the house this can be done. Driveways, walkways and cement patios all reduce the amount of absorbable surface area, creating more runoff. Green your driveway with alternate materials, or just get rid of the surfaces all together. There are many options for replacing these surfaces with permeable solutions which can perform and look even more beautiful with little to no maintenance.
A perfect example of green re-purposing- turning an aging and abandoned elevated railway into a public greenspace. The High Line Park in New York city is probably my favorite urban walkway (with Seattle’s SAM Sculpture Park not far behind) with it’s architectural elements, art displays, and multi-use abilities.
Originally opened in 1934 to reduce the on-street crossing accidents and deaths, this 1.45 mile stretch of railway runs along the lower west side of Manhattan. The increasing use of trailer trucks to deliver goods eventually shut the tracks down in 1980 and was slated for demolition. It sat unused until re-development began in 2006 and the first section opened in 2009 to the public as a walkable greenspace.
Currently it spans a little more than a mile with another half mile slated for re-development and features all sorts of plants and trees paying homage to the hearty and resilient sproutings of neglect before it was redeveloped. › Continue reading
A while back, I wrote about Green Driveways and Paths, which ended up being a pretty popular article. I figured that it would be helpful to see your options when it comes to porous surfaces, permeable paths and eco-friendly driveways.
Green driveways not only are more pleasant to look at, they also can reduce urban heat retention, reduce CO2, reduce runoff, improve drainage and aquifer recharging, provide some water filtration and more! They can also be cheaper in the long run over asphault (resurfacing costs and crack repairs) and concrete (repairing cracks, staining) not to mention preventing washouts and pot holes.
Systems already embraced in Europe typically last over 20-30 years, with little to no repairs or maintenance. The main options for green driveways are using some sort of permeable surface along with turf, gravel or ground cover to enhance the beauty and green factor.
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If you have a composting pile or bin for your home garden, then you should head down to your local cafe and pick up these compost boosters. Coffee shops throw away tons of used coffee grounds each year, grounds which are better suited for your garden. Many cafes offer these grounds to their customers if you just ask. Some Starbucks cafes even have them bagged and waiting for you in their Grounds for your Garden bin.
Coffee grounds are excellent for home garden composting, providing your plants with a rich source of nitrogen. You can even add them to rose beds, azalea beds, or any acid loving plants, just spread a thin layer over the surface of the bed. Typical acid loving plants thrive in areas where summer rains are common. Unfortunately, due to salt levels, you should not add coffee ground into your container plants.
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Harvesting rainwater is a great way to reuse the free water from the sky, however, unless you have a lot of rain barrels and a lot of rain, the dry season will cut your supply short- or will it? Grey water is another great source to recycle from since it is just being wasted by going down the drain.
Greywater is non-sewage waste water from your sinks, bathtub and laundry drains that is safe for your yard. The benefit to recycling or reusing this water is that it recharges aquifers and waters your plants while nature cleans the water. It is even better if the only thing going down the drain are natural cleaners, detergents and soaps. An individual may produce 15,600 gallons of greywater a year, all of which is wasted by going down the drain when it can be safely used on landscaping. Buckets have been used to collect this water from bathtubs, but can be cumbersome and labor intensive and there are easier ways.
Flotender has a great automated system that acts as a collection, storage and irrigation system all in one. Available for your rain collection devices as well, this system gathers your rainwater or greywater and pumps it out to your landscaping through a drip irrigation system. They have other systems available so you can customize the irrigation system to your needs, but they all use the same principle- collect the recycled water and distribute it to your plants. Hook it up to your rain barrels, tap it into your greywater drains and never have to water your yard again!
I have always been a fan of permeable driveways (except in my younger skateboarding days). They allow for absorption of runoff, recharging aquifers, and naturally filters the water before it reaches ocean, lake and river outfalls, improving water quality. It reduces the dangers from flooding and the need for huge storm drains and channels. Additionally, it can help with the ‘heat island’ effect where the heat of the sun is stored in all of the concrete and asphalt of urban areas, thereby trapping the heat and altering the micro-climate of the area.
There are several methods out there from just using a permeable porous concrete type mix if you prefer a solid looking surface, to a brick style where water can run through the cracks, a basic gravel, or just go all the way and create a green live driveway of grass, turf or native plants. The really easy (and somewhat common) way to create a green driveway is to plant an area and provide a solid surface (such as bricks or concrete strips) for the tires only. No matter what style suits you, there is a greener driveway option out there. Professionals are out there who can help you plan and execute your eco friendly driveway, or you can just do it yourself (DIY). Lets start with the variations on what is available in the way of environmentally friendly driveways.
Porous pavement is a permeable pavement surface which contains a reservoir underneath. The reservoir holds the surface runoff, allowing it to slowly infiltrate into the subsoil. This allows the water to receive some natural filtration treatment. Porous pavement can mimic traditional asphalt or concrete but is manufactured without the fine, dense materials and incorporates hollow spaces that allow for water infiltration. This is not the greenest option, but is a great alternative to a traditional concrete or asphalt driveway. Because of many homeowner association rules and aesthetic considerations, this may be the best option for you.
To make it even better, you can make it a green driveway by adding grass or some type of low growing hearty foliage to help with the absorption of runoff and automobile leaks. There is a great tutorial of a DIY green driveway on frankejames.com where the homeowner actually did all the work themselves, and there are commercially available products from sources such as Invisable Structures. Most living driveways incorporate several layers, starting with a compacted sandy surface to maintain grade, followed by a sandy loam filled support structure (commonly a plastic honeycomb grid) to support the root system and maintain the solid surface to drive on.
If you own or know of companies with green driveways, please leave a comment below for our readers.
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