In this column, staff at the Center for EcoTechnology offer advice on easy ways for people — and businesses — to introduce green changes in their daily lives.
Q: Winter's about over and I'd like to get working on my yard. You guys always have some green, money-saving tips. What can you tell me about getting my lawn ready for spring?
A: Glad you asked! We do have a few tips for you.
• Compost yard waste. You're going to be removing all kinds of carbon-rich "browns" from your yard.
Thatch (a layer of dead organic material between the root and green parts of grass), dead leaves you didn't clean up in the fall and similar materials are great additives for your compost pile. You want three parts "browns" to one part "greens" (more recently alive, nitrogen-rich materials, such as plant clippings) to keep everything decomposing well. You can add the finished compost to your garden soil or lawn later in the season to promote growth.
• Don't use a powered lawn mower. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the average lawn mower emits as much smog-causing pollution in one hour as the average car does traveling 200 miles. Instead, use a push mower. Using a push mower is considered moderate-intensity aerobic exercise by the Centers for Disease Control, so you can decrease your carbon impact and increase your general health at the same time.
• Leave the clippings. If you've had a workout pushing a lawn mower, the last thing you want to do is pick up grass clippings, right? Good news — it's better to leave them.
A study by NASA's Earth Observatory found that by leaving grass clippings on your lawn, you can cut the amount of fertilizer you need almost in half (which means fewer chemicals on your lawn and more money in your pocket). The clippings will decompose quickly, getting the nutrients they hold back into the soil and keeping your lawn healthier.
• Water with rain. Your lawn and gardens need water to live, but that doesn't necessarily mean you need to use the hose. You can capture rain water from your roof using a downspout and a barrel, like the Sky Juice rain barrels sold at the Center for EcoTechnology's EcoBuilding Bargains store). Capturing this water reduces demand on your local water supply, and if you water is metered, can definitely save you some money.
• Plant now, save later. By making smart choices with your planting, you can reap rewards in the future.
The obvious reward is saving money by growing your own produce. However, planting some trees on the west of your property now could be a useful way to shade your home in future summers, resulting in lower cooling costs down the road. Trees help reduce carbon in the atmosphere too, so it's a win-win.
Look for this column every two weeks, and send your go green questions to GoGreen@cetonline.org.