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

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

How to Increase Genetic Diversity Through Native Gardening

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Genetic diversity is critical to the long-term health – and even survival – of the ecosphere. Here’s how to make a difference through native gardening.

Native gardening.

If it hasn’t yet fired your imagination, we don’t blame you.

For one thing, smelly hippies talk about like all the time.

Also offputtingly, it seems to fuel a whole new spendy sector of Big Horticulture, and who wants to give their dollars to that?

And perhaps of greatest concern for the devoted gardener, it just seems so … leafy. I mean, can we get a flower once in a while?

These are some of the most prevalent myths about native gardening: that it’s crunchy, that it’s expensive, that it’s boring.

That’s not necessarily true, though. Native gardening is much more than a dry fad promulgated by back-to-the-landers who have no real concept of the urban environment; it’s one of the most important things you can do to help the world, reduce monoculture in cities, create broader-sweeping green infrastructure on roofs and in built environments, and increase genetic diversity today.

And you can do it right at home.

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

What Is the Difference Between a Native, Nativar and Cultivar?

Posted by Ecogardens

 

When deciding what to plant in your garden or on your green roof, there’s a lot to choose from, and a lot of classifications into which those plants fall. Here’s a look at natives, nativars and cultivars to help you make better decisions.

Figuring out what to plant in your garden is a chore, that’s for sure.

For some of us, it’s a joy. The winter calm, during which we can pore over gardening magazines and pick the old favorites and new experiments, is always a welcome respite.

For others, though, it’s an existential nightmare: The bees are dying and I need to help them! Which plants don’t require chemicals? Can I find specimens that meet my aesthetic needs while still helping the planet??

If this is a frequent freakout for you, you’re not alone. Dire news about the environment gushes from the media, while garden centers are simultaneously promoting an increasing variety of “native” options. The whole time, experts are giving those “natives” the side-eye … but why? And what is their place in gardening, green roofing and green infrastructure in general?

The confusion boils down to a new invention of the industrial botanical complex: the nativar.

This is distinct from natives and cultivars, both of which you’re likely familiar. In order to make the best possible decisions about what to plant in your urban garden, you need to understand the difference between the three.

Lucky you: We’re here to help.

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

How to Make Our Cities More Like Sponges

Posted by Ecogardens

 

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

What Are The Top Benefits Of Urban Gardens?

Posted by Ecogardens

 

If you’ve heard the phrase “urban garden” once, you’ve heard it a thousand times. But what exactly do these little microsystems involve, and what are their benefits? We’re so glad you asked.

We were going to ask if you’d prefer a lush patch of native greenery or a scrubby quarter-acre of dirt, but then we thought maybe our enthusiasm for rhetorical surveys had gone too far.

Sometimes you just gotta lay it on the line:

We all love dirt.

Well, no. Well, yes. Soil is amazing and important and full of miracles. But also it’s super nice when things are growing on top of it, à la urban gardens. In addition to being just plain pretty, city greenspaces can provide a huge range of benefits to us and our non-human compatriots here in the urban arena … which is why we need to prioritize them today.

But first, juuuuuust so we’re on the same page, what exactly are we talking about here?

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

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.” Plus, extra untenanted water running through our streets only adds to the stormwater problem.

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 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