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Rain barrels collect rain water and provide a free source of fresh water for your lawn. | Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/schulzie

Rain barrels collect rain water and provide a free source of fresh water for your lawn. | Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/schulzie

Sustainability at home relates to all things in and around your home.  The things you do to prevent waste, such as turning out the lights when you leave a room, taking advantage of a local recycling program, or taking a shorter shower, help you achieve sustainability in your home. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability around my home.  Especially after the last of the snow melted away and revealed the amount of yard work that needs to be done. So I went in search of ways to fix up my lawn in the most sustainable way possible.

Did you know that on average, well-designed landscaping saves enough energy to pay for itself in less than eight years?  Choosing the right landscaping for your climate will lower maintenance costs, cut your heating and cooling bill, protect your home from cold wind and hot sun, lower noise and air pollution, and reduce your water use.
Water is a topic on everyone’s mind lately, or at least it should be. The recent headlines about the four-year drought in California have been as plentiful as the water is scarce.  Last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order requiring cities to reduce water use by 25% in less than a year.  This is the first time a mandatory statewide water reduction has been put in place due to the drought’s magnitude, and it’s affecting areas beyond just California.  So, what can you do?

Know your plants

If you know how much water your plants really need, you will not over water them. The best time to water your foliage is early in the morning because less water is lost to evaporation. Evaporation is at its highest rate around mid-day.

Know your climate

Strive to landscape using plants native to your region to cut down on the amount of water to supplement between rainy days.  If you live in an arid region in the southwest, you will likely not plant the same greenery as you would in the cool, wet climate of the Pacific Northwest.  Be sure to consider your home’s microclimate as well!

Know your option

Rain barrels are a small investment with big benefits.  About 40% of the average Mid-Atlantic home’s summer water use comes from watering the lawn and garden. That’s huge.  The water captured by a rain barrel runs off your home’s roof, and can be used to water your garden.  It is not safe for humans to drink because it has not been treated, but it is safe for plants to drink!  By installing a rain barrel you will have access to a free source of fresh water for outdoor use, saving you money on your water bill and giving you access to water between storms. Since rain barrel laws can differ from state to state, make sure you are following local policies on gathering rain water.

First on my list for this season is to install a rain barrel. What are some ways you are saving water (and energy!) around your home this spring?

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