The Benefits of Modern Landscaping: A Review of Contemporary Strategies and Possible Improvements

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Modern landscaping relies heavily on turf and the inputs and activities needed to maintain it. Despite an automatic urge to denigrate those methods, the question that the environmentally conscious and sustainably-minded should be asking is this: Does traditional landscaping have a role in maintaining a healthy Earth? The answer is more complicated than you think.

Not much is simple these days, and nowhere is that truer than in landscaping.

On the one hand, environmentalists decry the use of fertilizers in lawn and grounds maintenance, citing eutrophication (the uncontrolled growth of plants and the death of wildlife) and pollinator die-off. They also point to poor stormwater management and urban monoculture, among other negatives. Each of these represents a clear and present danger to the environment.

On the other hand, more traditional landscapers and industry leaders point out that all plants, agnostic of type or origin, are better for the environment than the alternative of barren manmade surfaces like concrete and asphalt.

Unfortunately, disagreements and partisanship mean that various factions often have little to say to one another. Those who believe in traditional modern landscaping – well-shorn and bright green grass is the usual example – are irritated by those who insist that native gardening is the only way to ameliorate the many ills plaguing the planet. The opposite, of course, is just as true.

Andrew Bray, Vice President of Government Relations at the National Association of Landscape Professionals, doesn’t like that state of affairs. In this charged era, he calls for a bit more open-mindedness when it comes to landscaping and the environment.

We recently caught up with him to get his take on human health, stormwater management, the urban heat island effect, green infrastructure – and perhaps most importantly, the role of turf in all of the above.

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

The Climate Apocalypse, Lukewarming and The New Science Of Climate Change

Posted by Ecogardens

 

The climate debate is turning heads, but is it changing minds? New climate “lukewarmers” argue that there’s a better way to think about the so-called climate apocalypse.

Turn on the television or head to your newsfeed, and you will eventually, inevitably, stumble across the climate debate.

Apocalyptic rhetoric blankets the news. Various groups claim various disasters, up to and including that billions will die within the next few decades. Greta Thunberg and President Trump shout at whoever will listen, engaging in a private (read: not private) Twitter war the rest of the time.

If you’re thinking Hmm, this doesn’t sound like a healthy way to make change, then you are correct. It’s not.

We need a new approach to the science of climate change. And if we want to take the right approach to environmentalism and green infrastructure, we need it now.

(Want a free PDF download to share with your friends, family, colleagues and pets? We promise, they care too. Click that link!)

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

What Is a Floating Wetland and Why Should You Care?

Posted by Ecogardens

 

You’ve heard of a wetland, and you know what floating is. But how can a wetland … float? We’re here to answer that question, so grab that coffee and start scrolling.

No one needs to tell you that water pollution is a big issue.

(Or at least, we hope they don’t. Because it’s Kind of a Big Thing these days.)

The trouble is, water pollution is astoundingly common. Our lakes, rivers and oceans are devastated by chemicals.

We’re not just talking the toxic runoffs from water treatment plants or industrial factories, either. Nutrients from fertilizers, which are seen as “good” by the agricultural sector, also wreak havoc on waterways. They’re poisoning our drinking water and even dosing our fish with antianxiety drugs.

Why? Because those fertilizers that make plants grow also make algae grow, which then uses up all the oxygen and chokes out other plant and animal life. You know all those green lakes you see when you fly over Florida? Yeah, that’s what’s going on.

The result: Bodies of water that are chemical-ridden, inhospitable to wildlife and sometimes straight-up poisonous. And that’s before stormwater rushes in, carrying toxins and disease with it.

We need to clean our water bad … but which types of green infrastructure can get the job done?

Enter the floating wetland.

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

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

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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