Ecogardens

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How to Make Outdoor Holiday Decorations More Sustainable

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Sadly, the most wonderful time of the year is not always so wonderful for the environment. There are, however, steps we can take to minimize the impact of holiday decorations.

We hate to Scrooge things up, but holiday decorations are a serious bugbear when it comes to urban ecology and environmental stewardship as a whole.

Sure, that giant glowing Santa in your neighbor’s front yard may look cute (when it’s not keeping you up at night), but it’s definitely not an environmental win.

Actually, we just realized that giant glowing Santas don’t have any redeeming value.

But what about evergreen bunting? Wreaths? Twinkle lights? After all, what are the winter months without these charming touches of holiday cheer?

We feel you. Truly, we love a good winter wonderland just as much as anyone else, which is why we’re tackling this problem head-on.

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Topics: Stewardship

SPOTLIGHT on Net Zero Buildings: Saving Energy, Saving the World

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Net Zero is here to stay - as a need, that is. Unfortunately, we're not meeting that need by a long shot.

These days, “consumption” is a dirty word, and for good reason.

Yes, we all have to eat. We need heat and clothing and energy to power the cloud that will one day take over the Earth and rule us all, for good or ill.

Circle of life and all that.

But what we don’t need to do is produce all our energy offsite, which is more expensive and less efficient than powering buildings right where they’re at.

Enter net zero buildings, also called zero energy buildings and net zero energy buildings. If you’re not in on this green infrastructure trend yet, you need to be.

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

What Is the Living Building Challenge Red List?

Posted by Ecogardens

 

The more information we collect about materials that are harmful to the Earth, and the more we put that information into effect, the safer our planet will be. Enter the Red List.

Download a free PDF version of this report to share with your colleagues and friends!

We’re all about transparency. The more you know, and all that.

Distressingly, transparency is often hard to find in the building industry – especially when it comes to materials on which designers, architects, contractors and builders rely. Too often, this leads to throwing one’s arms in the air and crying “Uncle!” rather than making an informed choice.

Boo.

Many organization have tried to clarify the subject, but confusion still remains. In order to combat it, the International Living Future Institute designed the Declare label, which they explain as “the nutrition label for products.”  Now green builders and green roofers can look for that shiny sticker when purchasing materials for their projects.

But what is that sticker based on? What exactly is allowed ... and perhaps more importantly, not allowed when building green infrastructure?

That’s where the Red List comes in. Recently we were lucky enough to catch up with Alex Co from the International Living Future Institute, and he gave us the rundown.

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

Transforming the Landscape Ethic: An Interview with the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association

Posted by Ecogardens

 

The landscape industry is rife with environmental problems, but several big organizations are stepping up to change that. Prime among them is the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association (ILCA), a leading voice since 1959.

Download a free PDF version of this report to share with your colleagues and friends!

It’s no secret that the landscaping industry is one of the most problematic for the ecosphere, though it is sadly less talked-about than it should be. Even green roofing, ostensibly a purely environmental effort, adds to the issue.

Among the leading troubles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are higher pesticide concentrations in urban and suburban areas than agricultural ones. (If you’re gobsmacked by this, you’re not alone.)

Pesticide exposure – affecting non-target plants and humans alike – is also a major concern. As the EPA says, “more than 31,000 pesticide exposure incidents related to the use of pesticides on lawns were reported from 1995 to 2002.” And because people don’t know enough about these issues, they don’t know what to do instead.

For decades, the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association has striven to be a voice of change, fighting for the rights of the environment. Today, that message is more important than ever.

Recently, we were lucky enough to catch up with several members of the ILCA Sustainability and Ecological Landscape Committee to talk more about it.

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Topics: Stewardship

Should You Use Nativars in Your Garden?

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Nativars are all the rage these days, even if you’re not aware that you’re using them. Let’s take a look at what this classification means … and more specifically, what it means for your garden.

When someone says “Irish potato famine,” what do you think about?

We guarantee that, whatever the Rorschach test result in your mind may be, the answer is not “awesome” or “good times” or “NBD.”

More like “Well, that’s terrifying – thanks for bringing it up.”

Fear not, gentle eco-reader: We bring it up for a very good reason.

The Irish potato famine, you see, was a direct result of the loss of genetic diversity. In order to feed themselves and their [unwelcome] British masters, they turned from cereal crops to potatoes – specifically one or two kinds. When a blight hit, it killed almost all of the potatoes, and therefore many of the people who relied on them. Directly or indirectly, the famine was responsible for a population drop of nearly 25 percent.

What on Earth does this have to do with ecology, you’re wondering?

Actually, it is far more relevant today than you might think – both to the environment in general, and specifically to what you plant in your garden.

So let us ask you a question that you might or might not be asking yourself: Should I use nativars?

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

SPOTLIGHT on Antifragility, a Concept with Sweeping Environmental Implications

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Never heard the word “antifragility” before? You’re not alone, but if you’re in the green space, it’s time you change that.

Antifragility (or anti-fragility) is a relatively new concept. Thus far, thought leaders have applied it to both business and personal development settings.

But it is our humble (read: expert) opinion that we need to put this idea to work stewarding the planet stat.

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Topics: Stewardship

What Are the Biggest Benefits of Composting?

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Composting is more than a sixth grade science project; it’s one of the most valuable ways that the Everyperson can help the Earth.

Look, we don’t know much about you. But we do know one thing: You’re an Everyperson, and that means you should compost.

... Is that offensive?

Okay, let’s try again. Um, if you have a pulse and four square feet of space anywhere in your house or yard, you should compost. You don’t even have to do the composting yourself. We will offer alternative solutions in a later post, and will briefly cover them here, so don’t worry about that yet.

Instead, today, let’s focus on why it matters in the first place, and how composting can help you make the world a healthier place.

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Topics: Stewardship

What You Should Know About Monarch Butterfly Recovery, Part II: Taking Action

Posted by Ecogardens

 

The monarch butterfly is a threatened species that serves as a litmus test for the environment. Is it possible that they could make a recovery? And if so, what does that say about our environmental efforts? Join us for the second installment of two-part series.

Download the free PDF to share with your friends and colleagues here!

The monarch is a quintessential butterfly. From grade school classroom projects to bestselling books such as Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior, this North American species has made a significant impression on those of us who live there.

Yet not significant enough. With population numbers down 80-90 percent in the past two decades, monarchs are in major peril. We’re not helpless, though. In fact, there’s a whole lot we can do for these orange-and-black beauties, according to Plant Ecologist Elizzabeth Kaufman of Pollinator Partnership, with whom we were lucky enough to score an interview.

If you missed the first part of the series, we highly recommend you go check it out now and get the brief low-down about why monarchs are struggling and what the means for humans and the environment. If you’re all caught up, read on and learn how to save this important pollinator today!

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Topics: Pollinators

Imagine a Day Without Water: Shining a Spotlight on Earth’s Most Precious Resource

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Imagine a Day Without Water has rolled round once again. While to many of us envisioning a day without water is as mind-boggling as contemplating the grandeur of the cosmos, it is for billions of people an all-too-present reality.

The problem is manifold, although there are two basic prongs to this century’s coming “water wars”:

  1. Water scarcity: Some populations simply don’t have enough water to drink, bathe, hydrate their animals and irrigate their crops.
  2. Water quality: Some regions do have enough (or at least some), but it is filthy and fouled from human and animal waste, trash and pollutants.

Neither situation, needless to say, is desirable. It’s time we did something about it and became better stewards of the Earth today.

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Topics: Stewardship

What You Should Know About Monarch Butterfly Recovery, Part I: The Science

Posted by Ecogardens

 

The monarch butterfly is a threatened species that serves as a litmus test for the environment. Is it possible that they could make a recovery? And if so, what does that say about our environmental efforts? Our two-part series explores just that.

Download the free PDF to share with your friends and colleagues here!

The iconic monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), with its black-and-white-edged wings and bright orange, stained-glass window centers, is synonymous with America. Traveling from Southern Canada all the way down into Mexico on the annual migratory route, these bright and cheerful pollinators truly are airborne royalty.

Sadly, monarch butterflies are also in terrible danger.

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Topics: Pollinators