The Foundation for an Eco-Friendly Property
When building a green home, it is important to consider the natural landscaping which will be affected by construction. What trees will have to be torn down? How will the soil be altered? Making the effort to control the destruction of the natural flora around the work site will build a foundation for an eco-friendly property.
Take advantage of the trees which already exist for shading, and don’t knock them down (although in some cases this is necessary). A temporary fence or border can be used to differentiate the work site and the protected natural environment. This will help keep as much topsoil in tact as possible. Then decide on the green landscaping design plans early on; use the existing area to find efficient ways to conserve energy, increase diversity, and create edible landscaping.
The placement of existing or planned trees and shrubs can have a huge impact on the energy efficiency of a home. Shading for example, especially in warmer climates, is an ideal way to save on air conditioning energy use and costs. Foliage can effectively prevent an excess of solar heat gain through windows. The most important direction to have shaded is the west, followed by the east. Another way to make a property more eco-friendly with green landscaping design is to plant hedgerows so that the flora will funnel summer breezes in from the west.
On the other hand, particularly in colder climates, it is important to pay attention to passive solar heating. Even in the winter months, when most or all of the foliage is gone, tree branches and trunks can still block sunlight. In the green landscaping design plans, avoid shading from the south to allow for passive solar heating. Also, a row of evergreens and dense shrubs planted on the north and west sides of the home can help to block out some of the cold winds.
Biodiversity is essential for an eco-friendly property. Variety in nature is the key to strength and resilience. Creating a biodiverse environment is a way of providing a much-needed haven for wildflowers, rare plants, butterflies, songbirds, and other wildlife.
The most basic step towards biodiversity is having an alternative to conventional lawns. Traditional green grass offers nothing for biodiversity, and requires a huge amount of gas-guzzling maintenance from lawn mowers. Alternative lawn options aside from grass enhance the biodiversity of the property, and require negligible maintenance, minimizing long-term cost and energy use.
Native grasses are one option, such as Buffalo grass, which is drought resistant, and grows to a maximum height of six inches. In wetter and cooler climates, a combination of ferns, mosses, clover and wildflowers can substitute for green grass. In some cases a regular grass lawn is necessary, or simply highly desired – try minimizing the size of the grass lawn for less lawn care and more space for other flora.
Another tip for increasing biodiversity in green landscaping design is to plant trees and shrubs that will both feed and shelter wildlife, such as birds and small mammals. When purchasing plants, always made sure to buy from a responsible nursery.
The Benefits of Edible Landscaping
Edible landscaping is another way to make an eco-friendly property more sustainable. Commercial food is generally grown with the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Also, the energy used to transport food can become an enormous use of fuel, especially when produce is shipped from abroad. Whatever food can be grown in the front yard minimizes the need for commercially grown food, therefore lessening the environmental impact of the food you eat.
Try a row of fruit or nut trees, almond, walnut, pears, cherries — whatever is most suited for a particular climate. Plant berry bushes, herbs, and a vegetable garden. All of this edible landscaping adds biodiversity, nutrients for the soil, and of course, food.
The front and backyards of a green home are more than green grass; they are an opportunity for an entire biodiverse microcosm, providing ways to lessen energy use, shelter for wildlife, and nourishment for you and your family.
Wilson, Alex. “Your Green Home: A Guide to Planning a Healthy, Environmentally Friendly New Home.” (New Society Publishers, 2006).
photo credit: Eggybird