What Is Smart Irrigation and Who's Getting It Right?

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Water is too valuable for the cavalier treatment it gets today, especially in the outdoor arena. Here’s what we need to do better … and the smart people who are getting it right.

For centuries, millennia even, we’ve been tending gardens, watering lawns and growing crops. The human condition is, and has been since prehistoric times, one of settlement and husbandry of the land. While the exact methods vary according to era and culture, some of the basic principles and resources are the same across them all – and we’ve become very, very good at using one resource in particular:

Water, yo.

Today, of course, we know that water is far from expendable. Christian Bale’s The Big Short character Michael Burry famously predicted the 2008 housing bubble burst, and thereafter invested his money primarily in water. That’s how precious it’s going to become in this century.

Of course, a lot of people aren’t taking this too seriously. We love our hot showers and our green lawns. According to the EPA, “landscape irrigation is estimated to account for nearly one-third of all residential water use, totaling nearly 9 billion gallons per day.” Moreover, “In dry climates such as the Southwest, a household’s outdoor water use can be as high as 60 percent.”

This is especially devastating news given the fact that “as much as 50 percent of water used for irrigation is wasted due to evaporation, wind, or runoff caused by inefficient irrigation methods and systems.”

Time to irrigate smarter. Today, we're here to tell you all about the companies that are doing it right. But first ... what exactly is smart irrigation?

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Topics: Stormwater Management, Green Infrastructure

How Green Is the Green Building Industry REALLY?

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Raise your hand if you’re a “green builder” who sometimes doesn’t feel very green at all. Yeah, you’re not alone.

Download the PDF here to share with family and friends for free!

Every industry has its own challenges.

Mattresses have to be comfortable without being squishy. Restaurants must cater to time-honored tastes with comfort dishes, yet innovate. Dog trainers have to instill fancy tricks but also teach their dogs not to bite toddlers, which just has to be hard.

Because occasionally … let’s not lie … we all want to bite toddlers.

The green building and landscaping industry, however, has it particularly rough. While green builders try to do their part to help the environment, there are some very un-environmental practices baked right into the job. Which means, unfortunately, green builders often have to take shortcuts that work against the very benefits they’re trying to provide. Benefits such as:

  • Reduction of resource use
  • Cleaner air, water and soil
  • Better ecosystems for native plants and animals
  • Smaller landfills and healthier oceans

If that depresses you, well, it should. (Can we go back to toddler jokes?) But it doesn’t need to end the conversation, which is what it too often does these days. Instead of throwing your hands in the air and concluding that there’s just “nothing to be done here,” let’s take a deep dive into exactly what’s going wrong – and what that means about potential solutions.

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Topics: Green Roofs, Green Infrastructure

What Is Chicago Doing to Improve Its Green Infrastructure?

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Chicago is a leading presence in the green infrastructure effort, especially here in the Midwest. Here’s a closer look at what the Windy City is doing to improve environmental issues like stormwater, urban heat island effect, pollution and more.

We all love a good role model.

Whether your idea of a powerful exemplar is Wonder Woman, Barack Obama or Chris Evans (too much on the superhero thing?), it’s nice to look up to someone.

We like to think Chicago is worthy of worship as well. You know, being all green and schtuff.

Seriously, though, when it comes to green infrastructure Chicago is taking a serious stand. Whether it’s working to bridge the gap between resilience and sustainability, or redefine how we use green infrastructure in the urban space, Chicago has decades of experience role modeling for the rest of us, and we’re so proud to be a part of that effort.

Making change, of course, starts with knowing as much as possible. If you’re interested in green infrastructure Chicago style, we’ve got your back.

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

What You Need to Know About Sustainable Design

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Sustainable design is more than a buzzword; it’s a way of thinking about every action we take with the goal of reducing harm to Earth, its environment and its peoples.

Take a quick gander at the web and you’ll find dozens of firms in your area promising sustainable design. Of buildings. Of cities. Of landscapes. Of forests and wetlands.

Some of these firms really do follow sustainable design principles, prioritizing long-term resilience and the benefits to nature and people at their core.

Others, however, give the term a superficial treatment. They may source environmentally friendly products, but not ensure those products are the best for a site. They might address stormwater needs, but fail to choose the right infrastructure to manage it.

We’re certainly not claiming that green products and stormwater management are bad things; far from it. But until we look at the complete picture, we’re failing in our goals of creating sustainable green infrastructure for the future.

Want to avoid that? Of course you do.

Here’s a better way to think about it.

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

The Difference Between Looking Green and Being Green

Posted by Ecogardens

 

While we assume the color green automatically indicates environmental aid, that’s not necessarily the truth. We need better metrics for telling between what is green and what merely looks it.

People tend to simplify:

Cake = delicious. Vegetables = gross.

Yet caramelized onions are amazing, and banana cake is an absolute crime against humanity. So clearly oversimplification is a problem from which we humans tend to suffer.

The same holds true in the green-iverse.

Let’s face it: We’re just suckers for the color green. Show us a succulent-clad green roof and we’re going to believe the best in it, even if it doesn’t necessarily add to the surrounding environment in any meaningful way.

On the other hand, we assume a bare patch of ground is worthless – even though a completely dead green roof still performs about 60 percent of the stormwater management services of its fully functional, vibrant counterparts.

So if we can’t trust the color green to provide automatic indication of environmentalism, what can we know? What do we look for?

Here’s a brief primer on separating the wheat from the chaff.

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

London: The World’s First “National Park City” and What It Means

Posted by Ecogardens

 

While Yellowstone was the first national park in the United States and is widely held to be the first national park in the world, London is now set to break the mold that was established back in 1872.

How? By becoming the world’s first “National Park City.”

If you’re among the almost 100 percent of people who have no idea what the hell that means, cool. We’re here to clear it up today … and while we’re at it, enjoy a hefty dose of inspiration from this truly unique move.

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

How to Bridge the Gap Between Resilience and Sustainability

Posted by Ecogardens

 

While sustainability and resilience should mean the same thing in urban ecological design, they too often do not – leading to misunderstandings that work against both.

The word “sustainability” conjures up everything from reusable grocery bags to solar panels to biofuel to green roofs … but how many of us actually use the word correctly in reference to any particular system?

Moreover, how many of us ensure, when we use it, that we’re actually contributing to the overall resiliency of the system in question?

We recently had a chance to speak with the inimitable Keith Bowers, president of Biohabitats and a renowned landscape architect and restoration ecologist. One of his most interesting ideas, in our humble opinion, is that resilience and sustainability should amount to the same thing, but too often they do not.

The question is, where did this divide come from, and what can we do to heal it for the sake of understanding urban ecology and creating meaningful programs to foster it in cities?

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Topics: Urban Ecology, Green Infrastructure

How to Improve Property Values with Green Infrastructure

Posted by Ecogardens

 

We often think of green infrastructure as a duty or burden we “should” take on, but in truth, implement GI systems leads to major cost savings for individuals and cities.

“Hmm, wouldn’t it be great if I could spend more money for fewer environmental benefits?”

… said no one ever.

But the truth is, today’s property values often suffer deeply for lack of environmental planning and management. This is true for properties of all types, from residential to commercial, condos to office parks, hospitals to schools.

That’s good news, though: It means that with proper green infrastructure planning, we can substantially increase both property values and levels of urban ecological stewardship at the same time.

So, how do we improve property values with green infrastructure? Here’s a brief overview.

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

What to Know About Green Versus Gray Infrastructure

Posted by Ecogardens

 

The first step in choosing the best type of infrastructure to manage stormwater and safeguard the environment is to understand the major differences between green versus gray infrastructure.

Stormwater is one of the world’s most pressing concerns. Whether to use green versus gray infrastructure one of the most pressing questions associated with it.

Today, the increase in global climate change brings odder and odder weather, while the expansion of cities ups the square footage of impermeable surfaces by the day. Managing stormwater is difficult but possible … as long as you understand your options: green versus gray.

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

What Is Green Infrastructure and What Does It Mean for You?

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Understanding green infrastructure is the first step in leveraging its awesome power toward a better future

Sometimes remakes just aren’t as good.

Seriously, ask anyone who’s ever loved a movie from the 80s if the new version is better. (Spoiler alert: They’ll say no.)

The same goes for nature’s ability to handle the vast gallons of stormwater that pour down from the sky during every shower and blizzard – versus our ability to manage that water on our own.

That’s where green infrastructure comes in. 

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Topics: Stormwater Management, Green Infrastructure