August 16, 2010

Ten Steps to a Green and Environmentally Healthy Backyard and Garden. ~ Jay Chua

Suburban sustainability.

Making the decision to go green and make better decisions for the environment is becoming more and more the norm in today’s society. Many people, seeing the damage being done by chemicals and pesticides and seeing how much unrecyclable trash ends up in landfills everyday, wonder what steps they can take to reduce that. Perhaps someday everything will be recycled and we can stop damaging the environment, but one step in that direction starts with the purchases we make for our homes and how we treat our furnishings. This also extends to our gardens and our backyards. Although they are supposed to be pristine natural oases, it is astounding how much waste and damage occurs there. But that can all be changed, starting with following these ten steps to making healthier choices.

1. Durability Equals Long Term Use

One of the biggest problems is our throwaway society. All too often we buy something cheaply made to be economical, only to throw it away and buy a replacement. In the long run, this actually cost us more. Instead, when making purchases for the garden and backyard décor, try to buy quality furnishings and accessories made of quality materials. This will allow you to keep them longer and perhaps even give them away when you are done with them instead of simply adding to the local landfill. In addition, before you go shopping, instead if throwing out what you’ve decided you don’t want, arrange a sale or giveaway instead.

2. Cook Outdoors For a Pleasant Change of Setting

Cooking outdoors isn’t just for when company comes calling or during special events. When you cook outdoors, whether with a gas or charcoal grill, solar oven, or portable fire pit, you save energy and money. While you cook outside, you don’t have to run your AC inside. Another benefit to occasionally treating the family to dinner outdoors is that you get to enjoy the wonderful furnishings you’ve purchased more often.

3. Quality Wood Means Quality Furnishings

Use wood that has been raised responsibly, either in a sustainable fashion or from actual tree farms. Both ways will ensure that the habitat damage is minimum, and provide you with furnishings made high quality wood that will last a long time. In fact, some like Red Cedar are especially resistant to rot and damage and most high quality woods age very well, leaving you with beautiful accessories for your garden and backyard.

4. Grow a Beautiful Lawn

You can have an outstanding green thick lawn easier than most people realize. While most people use grass that may require more care and watering and use chemicals to control weeds and pests or make the grass grow greener, there is a more environmentally sustainable alternative. By using grass native to the area, you reduce water waste and by allowing plants like clove and plantain to grow alongside the grass instead of treating them like weeds, you can create a beautiful green lawn with much less work, waste, and harmful chemicals. And you can still trim as desired for your own décor.

5. Don’t Neglect Natural Materials

Furnishings and accessories made of natural materials add a beautiful touch to the garden, backyard, and patio. By using items made of durable wood instead of plastic or other environmentally harmful materials, you can also avoid the harsh chemicals you would use for cleaning, sealants, etc. Cedar especially is a good choice as it ages well and adds a silvery touch over time and is resistant to rot and decay as well. Make sure the wood has been grown in a sustainable fashion, of course, so shop around if necessary. Finally, don’t overlook the value of natural stones to add trim or highlights to an area, depending on the décor you’ve chosen.

6. Make Sure Your Chosen Décor Won’t Go Out of Style

Choose classic designs for your garden and backyard to make sure that you won’t end up having to redecorate after only a few short years. The ideal would be to create a relaxing outdoor environment that can be enjoyed for many years perhaps even generations. Certain items are of course timeless, including the patio porch swing which is a favorite in any time or place. Other accessories include candles for soft lighting, cushions used as accents, and even flowers can be added for affect. Cool colors could be used for a more subdued effect while brightly colored flowers arranged around a festive area like the outdoor dining area and barbecue can add a nice touch. And of course well tended flowerbeds never go out of style.

7. The Five R’s Point the Way

In creating as light an environmental footprint as possible, we should waste as little as we can. The five R’s, reduce, reuse, recycle, repair, and redecorate are the best guidelines to follow for a greener lifestyle. When shopping keep an eye out for accessories and furnishings that can be taken apart for recycling purposes. Also look for easily repairable items, since they will have a longer use life. If all it takes to fix something is replace a cushion that is less expensive and preferable to throwing something out. And when it is time to throw out furnishings and accessories you no longer need, try donating or selling them instead of adding them to the land fill.

8. Natural Landscaping is Better For the Environment

Instead of looking for exotic plants for your garden or backyard, trying using the flora that is native to your area. The best thing about this approach is that the native plants are used to the climate and level of rainfall so they will require less maintenance on your part. Another good thing is that they will also provide a habitat for the local wildlife and your décor can only be enhanced when small birds and butterflies visit your garden.

9. Water Helps Create a Soothing Environment

Water can be an effective way to create areas of peace and tranquility in a garden, an oasis away from the patio, gazebo or barbecue dining area. A solar powered fountain is energy efficient and can quickly become a conversation piece and a gathering point for more quiet conversation. Another good idea is to install an inexpensive fish pond, especially near a seating area. It would be very relaxing and also a quiet place for talking or just spending time alone.

10. Use Natural Sunlight to Save Energy

A vast resource ready to be used, sunlight can cut your outdoor energy cost dramatically if you install solar powered lamps. Able to store energy during the day for use at night, they can provide the perfect lighting according to your needs. There are many styles to choose from, from lamps that can be placed on a patio or in the dining area, to strings of lights that can be used to adorn gazebos or other places in the backyard. They can even be made to look like natural rocks so you can maintain a natural beauty where you prefer it.

These are but a few ideas of how you can make your home and outdoors more environmentally healthy and safer for your family and pets. As the global trend towards greener living continues, everyone will contribute to not only making the world just a little better, but we will pass these skills on to our children, ensuring a greener legacy for generations.

Jay Chua lives a green lifestyle in Vancouver, Canada, along with his wife Deisy. He is also a nature enthusiast and outdoorsman so he knows all about the environment and living a more habitat sustaining lifestyle. The fruit trees in his organic garden are a testament to his desire to do so, as is the website he publishes, PorchSwingSets.com. Just as he has a pawley’s island hammock to relax in after tending to his garden, you can also find many durable and sustainable furnishings on his site, including single hatteras hammocks. Visit today to see the huge variety of furnishing available to make your garden, home, and backyard more beautiful. Naturally.

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