Thursday, April 28, 2016

Being Green Isn't Always Easy



Immigrating into the U.S. and being raised in a completely different culture/lifestyle - caring to live a sustainable lifestyle for the benefit of the environment isn't something that is always prioritized. Almost everyone, if not, a huge percentage of people living in poverty or in close proximity are more concerned with how much money they can bring back home for the family rather than planting trees and preserving for the environment. Cultural influences as well as environment and social norms have considerably huge impacts on the views of people about sustainable practices.

So how does one convince an individual or even a whole group of people to live in more environmentally conscious ways? According to an article from Stanford University, Behavior change doesn't happen overnight. People usually move through several stages before converting a belief in energy savings into an action, such as driving less or recycling more. The transtheorotical model of health psychology suggests that there are usually five essential stages to help an individual achieve behavior change:
  • Awareness
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance
More on Stanford's article, How to Convince Someone It's easy Being Green:Nitty-gritty in the following link:
https://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=29368

To enable one to practice sustainably, one will have to keep an open mind. There are people of varying knowledge and experiences. Participating and volunteering in your community/organization (support network) will reinforce the actions they are committing to. In the end of it all, its the individuals actions that counts that makes a huge difference in the future. 



Sunday, April 24, 2016

Landscaping without Grass

   Unless you've been living in a bubble the last 30 years, you've probably heard environmentalists speak about the dangers in owning and caring for a lawn. Aside from the dangerous chemicals that are found in grass seed, fertilizers, and pesticides, lawns require mass amounts of water; which in many areas of the country comes at a premium. While America might still be known for it's iconic 1950's white picket fence homes with perfectly manicured lawns, a new generation of no-grass landscaping is starting to emerge.

   Landscaping enthusiasts don't have to hassle anymore with tedious grass and harmful fertilizer. Instead they can choose a variety of gravel, river rock, low maintenance shrubs, and drought resistant succulents and cacti. 


ZEN RETREAT: This stunning Palo Alto, CA Zen garden is
filled with Japanese Maples and shrubs that are drought
tolerant.

SUCCULENT SPLENDOR: This San Diego, CA home is
covered with a variety of succulents which are able to hold
water for long periods of time.

NEW MEXICO PARADISE: This beautiful Albuquerque backyard doesn't
require one drop of water. The variations of rock and drought resistant

The Psychology of Landscaping and Lawn-Care



Understanding why individuals choose to engage in landscaping and lawn-care in the first place might help to direct attention and efforts when attempting to build a campaign against the practice. An important study on this specific topic was put forth by AR Carrico, which controlled for age, education, and property values. His findings suggested that fertilizer use was associated with individual concerns over one’s property value, reputation, lawn appearance, social pressures as well as recreational use of the lawn by children and pets. Concerns such as environmental damage and even physical exposure to chemicals were unrelated to fertilizer use. These findings speak to what truly motivates individuals to pursue and maintain a lawn. The social pressures that shape lawn-care decisions, pressures that appear to be independent of personal, aesthetic, and economic considerations but that are as powerful as those concerns. This study is not the first to make this conclusion. These results highlight the complex assemblage of social, economic, political, and ecological factors that converge to influence lawn care practices. Anybody hoping to change the view of lawn owners needs to understand that lawns are not maintained for their environmental benefits, but as an avenue for engaging with one’s neighbors, for fulfilling expectations of what it means to be a positive member of a community, and to communicate a willingness to cooperate in creating and maintaining a shared space. Only by understanding the social implications of landscaping and lawn-care, can a truly successful marketing campaign can be started.

For anyone interested in digging deeper into this topic a link is provided below.

http://eab.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/05/10/0013916511434637.abstract

Do You Know Anyone Who Uses More Water Than The Average Bear?

Ever walk through a nice neighborhood and wonder why it looks like a lush tropical jungle when you're in the middle of a drought?  Ever see a hose this big?  Check out the annual Willamette Week's 'Hydro Hogs' issue to find out who are the largest private consumers of water in the Portland Metro area.

WaterWise Gardening

Oregon State University Extension Service offers several educational outreach programs to local communities in the state of Oregon. Part of the extension programs mission is to share research-based knowledge with individuals to improve the quality of their lives. They create partnerships with businesses, youth, foresters and community leaders. One of their many great programs is to help homeowners create water efficient gardens. 


WaterWise Gardening utilizes plants that thrive on little to no water in a landscape, saving our natural resources and saving you money by reducing the costs associated with watering requirements. The WaterWise Gardening page has many resources where you will find water-efficient garden design techniques, lists of WaterWise plants and everything you need to get started gardening wiser. These effcient plants can save you gallons of water every year! Click here to read how. 



Friday, April 22, 2016

Alternative Eco-friendly Landscape Suggestions

Ecopol Project continues with it's alternative tips and suggestions for having the lawn you want without putting the environment at risk. While investigating alternative solutions I stumbled across a video in which horticulture expert Melinda Myers shares 5 easy steps that make environmental and financial sense. The five steps are:
  • Be water wise
  • Recycle yard waste in your landscape
  • Make your own compost
  • Manage pest in harmony with nature
  • Energy wise landscape design
Melinda Myers goes into great detail with each step and will be sure to give any lawn care enthusiast a tip they can use to support your environment and ours a well.

If you would like to learn more about Melinda Myers check out her at: http://www.melindamyers.com/

Lawnmowers, more like Ozone-mowers.

We've all used lawnmowers before, I think that is safe to assume, correct? Whether we get up early on Sunday morning to mow the lawn or we were an innocent teenager just trying to earn some extra cash to pay for a soda, we've all done it before. Back in the day, I used to go around my neighborhood to help mow their lawns, pull their weeds, wash their cars, etc. I've used practically every single type of lawnmower, from the push mowers of the olden days to the modern ride-able mowers, I've used them. Back in those days, I never understood gas emissions and energy costs, but as I grew older and became more environmentally aware, I quickly realized how much these universal lawn maintenance machines impact us economically and especially environmentally.

I found this article from National Geographic. The article itself is rather short, but super informative about how much these lawnmowers can hurt us. "In 2009, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found that an hour of gas-powered lawn mowing produces as much pollution as four hours of driving a car." The Environmental Protective Agency estimates around 50 million people use their mowers on any summer weekend. That's 50 million hours worth of pollution entering our atmosphere and depleting our ozone layer. Talk about mood killer, right?

How much is too much?

When we think of replacing our natural lawns with artificial lawns and grasses such as turf, we don't realize how much turf grass can hurt us as well as the wildlife. It seems that we've become obsessed with this idea that my grass must be greener than my neighbors. This competitive mentality quickly spreads from one person to the next, and soon, the entire neighborhood has artificial lawns. And it's not even residential areas that this is happening to. We see it every weekend in the fall when our favorite football team hits the gridiron. You ever hear the expression, "The grass is always greener on the other side." What they don't realize is how much impact that greener grass is costing us in the long run.

After looking around online for some articles, I ran across THIS ONE from the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. In it, they discuss the impact that turf lawns have on wildlife, water consumption, and maintenance costs. But, what really stood out to me was the sheer amount of turf lawns in the United States alone. Roughly 62,500 square miles of ground is covered by turf, which is 31 times the size of Delaware! People don't seem to realize how much turf and artificial lawns have taken over our own natural earth just here in our own backyards.

Landscape Planning is Environmental Planning

Landscaping is the act of improving or changing the natural features of the terrain. Landscape planning is akin to environmental planning. The areas with priority in the landscape planning include water management, transport, waste management, as well as design for sustainable development.

One of the best ways to ensure sustainability is landscape planning. The best way to ensure that future generations are able to enjoy the environment later is to employ good planning techniques today. This is an interesting study that explores landscape planning and sustainability planning.

http://eujournal.org/index.php/esj/article/viewFile/2586/2447

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Economic Impact of Landscaping and Lawncare on US Latinos

While searching the net for articles relating to the economic impact of lawn care, this interesting article came up. It appears that in the US the lawn care industry is a decent stepping stone for first generation Latino immigrants into the US. The share of Latino employment in the Landscape and Lawn Care Services Industry amounts to 2.3 percent of total Latino employment. This is 2.6 times  higher than the national average and 3.4 times higher than the share of total employment that the Landscape and Lawn Care Services Industry represents for whites.

The Landscape and Lawn Care Services Industry is very important for first - generation Latinos. Nationally, the percentage of Latino workers who are foreign - born is close to 55percent. That percentage is over 80 percent in the Landscape and Lawn Care Services Industry. By comparison, the proportion of foreign - born whites and African Americans in the Landscape and Lawn Care Services Industry is lower than in other industries.

Who is actually performing lawn care is part of the overall fabric of issues that are related to lawn care, and therefore it is interesting subject.

https://latinostudies.nd.edu/assets/95362/original/ushccnational_report_novermber_21_2011_final.pdf 

Please take a second out of your day to take this short survey about yardcare. You might find out something about yourself or your yard that you did not previously know.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Recycle the Clippings

We are talking about the impacts that lawns and landscaping continue to have on the environment and it goes beyond your front lawn. As someone who used to live on the coast, I love the beaches and the ocean. But did you know that even leaving your grass clippings out instead of recycling them can have harmful effects on both the atmosphere and the water quality near your home. Grass clippings release carbon when they decompose which just get released into the atmosphere. Also, when you recycle grass clippings, it reduces the amount of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, which is good for coastal towns because the excess nitrogen is a major source of pollution. The excess nitrogen also helps those algae grow in the summers, which prohibits anyone from being able to swim in the ocean. Even if people don’t stop landscaping and tending their lawns, there are ways for each and every person to help the environment a little more, even if it simply using less water or recycling those darn grass clippings. For more information, check out this site.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"Brown is the new green"

Want to know if someone is sustainably taking care of their lawn?

 We will find out soon enough, and we won't even have to spy on our neighbors to see what they are putting on their lawn. Once the hot and dry weather gets here we will see one of two things change. Our water bill is going to get much higher or our lawn is going to get brown. This is where the phrase "brown is the new green " comes from. For the last couple of summers in the pacific northwest we have had record heat and most of the area was in some sort of drought. Not to mention that NASA declared that 2014 was the hottest year on record for Earth. Until after 2015 when it was even hotter. Who knows what to expect for 2016. As I sit here right now we are setting another record for the warmest it has ever been on this day in April, and it was the same case for yesterday. It has been recorded that the Earth is getting hotter, which in my head, means that water is going to get more sparse and we are going to continue to have to think of more sustainable ways to live. So, why not start by just letting our lawn turn brown for a couple of months. Seems like a pretty easy task to me.

I for one will not be watering my lawn again this summer. Yes, it gets brown and doesn't look to appealing. However, believe it or not, it turns green again! Who would have thought? This VERY interesting and helpful WEBSITE can teach you ways to have a healthy lawn without damaging the environment. Enjoy.

Why So Many Invasives?

If you find yourself wondering why nurseries are still able to market and sell invasive species even though we know that invasive plants cause damages of up to $100 billion annually, the simple explanation stated in this article might be surprising.  Like many things that we come to realize are environmentally harmful or non-sustainable (or just need to be changed for other reasons) it is often a question of the lack of legislation as opposed to common sense that is needed to make a positive change.  Check out the Nature Conservancy website for more stories like the one linked above.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Where's the Sense in that?



Water conservation is an issue you have likely heard, read, or even talked about as it is a topic that exists at a global level. Water is used in a myriad of ways that affect us all on an individual level, the city we live in on a local level, and on a much bigger global scale.

Landscaping and lawn care is an industry that accounts for a staggering amount of water consumption, "Nationwide, landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly one-third of all residential water use, totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day" (https://www3.epa.gov). We can help conserve water resources by learning how much water we use and how we can use that water in more sustainable ways, particularly in regards to lawn care. Inefficient water use in land care causes more harm to soil quality and the environment in many ways. Understanding proper lawn care techniques and practices is one the best steps we can take to become proactive in taking care of the land we live on.

WaterSense is a program the EPA began in 2006 and has "helped consumers save a cumulative 1.1 trillion gallons of water and more than $21.7 billion in water and energy bills." Their website has a host of tools you can use to see how much you know, calculate your use, learn how to take care of you lawn sustainably, and much more access. Though the WaterSense program, you can find certified contractors that are trained in sustainable water practices and can help you find ways to reduce water use and improve the health of your lawn. Check out their website for more information and access.



Toxics Action Center!


Check out our new friends on Facebook or on their official website to find out how they are helping to clean up their communities.

Honey, I Killed the Bees

photo credit: pixabay.com
photo credit: pixabay.com

It's becoming very well know, honey bees are an essential part of the ecosystem. Did you know your lawn care techniques could be killing them?

Dandelions are an essential food source for honey bees. Pulling this yellow weed from your lawn reduces the available nectar a honey bee can take back to its hive. Manually eliminating this weed from your lawn is one thing but who “pulls weeds” anymore when it’s so easy to drench your lawn with herbicides and pesticides?

Let’s imagine for a moment, you have just spent all day outside pulling those pesky yellow weeds. Realizing you could avoid all of that manual labor next weekend, you simply spraying the same area.

It’s time to take a break and enjoy your beautiful lawn.

You sit down and sip your refreshing honey-sweetened tea as you notice a bee find that lone dandelion you didn’t pull but made sure to spray. This bee just harvested chemical-laced nectar he will dutifully take back to his colony to convert into more honey.

How is that tea tasting now?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Healthy Lawns, Healthy Environment.


Traditional lawn care has high costs, excessive waste and harmful effects on the environment.  The website eartheasy, solutions for sustainable living, offers tips for sustainable lawn care from soil improvement to limiting water usage.   I particularly found that the advice on ‘spot—treating’ weeds with vinegar to minimize herbicide use is a simple, low cost, eco-friendly alterative than broadcasting methods.   When I found out that 60% of water used on the west coast is from watering lawns, I instantly became more conscious about leaving the sprinkler on.  They recommend that everyone should water deeper, less frequent and early in the morning.  It is amazing how simple changes to our behaviors can make a lasting change for the future.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Alternative Solutions to Traditional Lawn Care, Landscaping, and Gardening.

For the next few months, a group of like-minded environmental focused collaborators will address the issues that surround America's compulsion with lawn-care, landscaping, and gardening. As a collective we will addressed the environmental impact of pesticides, the economic impact of maintaining the socialized standard of the neighborhood lawn, and the ineffective use of natural resources such as water and fossil fuels. For my part, I intend to begin looking for alternative solutions to these concerns. If we are not trying to reshape the thinking behind the taken for granted methodology of our yards then we will continue to teach the next generations the inefficient ways that are taught to us when we are young.
My first entrance is a video by Larry Hall that introduces the idea of rain gutter gardening as a way of rethinking the garden and the use of water. I added links to his Facebook page that will introduce you to a community of people willing to share and teach their ideas, enjoy!
Here is the Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/144745362329424/

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Interesting and Informative Article About Pesticides and Community Health

This is a brief article about the realities of pesticide use and how these chemicals damage the environment and the risks of exposure to humans.  The article also lists some solutions to the problems that we face in our communities due to rampant pesticide use and the truth about safe and legal usage.  This website, called Toxics Action Center is generally a great resource and focuses on the pursuit of clean air, clean water and sustainability in our communities.  Check out the article "The Problems With Pesticides" here.

Monday, April 11, 2016

What a Difference a Difference Can Make


As humans our power to consume resources is growing exponentially as our global population increases.  Because of this it is important to spread awareness about sustainable approaches to industries that are consuming at a faster rate than our environment can replenish these resources.  While we have seen the green-building initiatives gain traction in the last decade, we still have a long way to go.  Lawn care and maintenance might seem like an industry where the sustainability issue is irrelevant, but just because the plants are green does not mean that the methods used to achieve our desired lawn aesthetic do anything at all to conserve or maintain important resources.  The basic economics of lawn care show that while around $45 billion is spent annually in the US to manicure and maintain lawns, about another $100 billion in damage is caused by invasive species.  Additionally, the nurseries that market and sell these aggressive and harmful plants are not liable for any of the damages.

If this seems counter-intuitive it’s because it is and certainly not sustainable.  It seems odd that an industry that generates this much revenue from lawn care also incurs expenses for damage more than twice the maintenance cost.  While certain states like New Hampshire do have legislation regarding invasive species, many do not.  While this could change at some point in the future, for now the government has little say in the matter and therefore it is up to us to spread awareness and do our part.  Check out this website to see what a difference a difference can make and think about adopting some of these habits as your own.