Pharmaceuticals for Fish: What Our Drug Industry Is Doing to Our Waterways

Posted by Ecogardens


Have an owie? Pop a pill! We humans rely heavily on drugs that make us feel better, kill pain and put us to sleep … but now animals are paying the price. 

What do you get when you combine aquatic animals and antidepressants?

The start of a really good joke … or at least, so it seems at first. Sadly, that’s as far as it goes. Because believe it or not, Earth’s fishy folk are actually exposed to regular (and sometimes shockingly high) doses of pharmaceuticals.

It’s not just them, either. Mammals, crustaceans, snails and other animals are also affected. And in almost all cases, it’s not an improvement.

If we want to keep our urban ecology shipshape, it’s time we take a hard look at this issue … and do something about it.

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Topics: Stewardship

How to Make Biodegradable Pots Work for Green Roofing

Posted by Ecogardens


Plastic pots are a major bugbear of the landscaping and green roofing industries, but are biodegradable pots really the answer? Today we explore what works and what doesn’t, as well as what YOU can do about it.

You’ve been there. You buy a new plant, perhaps a tomato for the garden or a dracaena for the windowsill. You grab a terra cotta pot, upend your new baby, give it a new home and …

… you’re left with a plastic pot. What do you do?

Most of us dutifully wash it and stick it in the recycle bin for municipal pickup or dropoff. Problem solved, right?

Umm. Well, no.

Unfortunately, our recycling system today is pretty broken. Municipalities might take plastic pots, and nurseries might promise to recycle them, but – not to put too fine a point on it – that’s mostly B.S. What doesn’t get thrown away can clog up sorting machines at recycling plants, or it gets shipped to developing countries, adding to their mounting problems. Needless to say, outsourcing the issue does not get rid of the issue.

No, the responsibility is on us – the American landscaping and green roofing industry – to lead the advance toward a more sustainable future.

*waves torch*

If we want to act as good stewards of the environment, it’s critical we solve this here plastic problem as soon as possible. And biodegradable pots are, in theory, a good way to do that.

But are they really? If so, what do we need to do in order to shift the industry away from chronic plastic use and toward a more sustainable alternative? Let’s take a look.

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Topics: Stewardship

Native Gardening with Compassion: An Interview with Benjamin Vogt

Posted by Ecogardens


With a 5,000-foot garden on a 1/4-acre lot and a business dedicated to "compassionate" native gardening, Benjamin Vogt is a front-runner IN multiple areas, including sustainable design, native gardening and ecology.

(Download a PDF version of the report to share with friends and colleagues for free)

Native gardening is a thing these days. It feels like you can’t throw a stone these days without hitting someone’s platinum certification or wildflower patch, and plenty of nurseries cater partially or exclusively to the cause.

While the buzz surrounding native gardening makes it seem like a widespread phenomenon, though, that’s unfortunately not the case. Nor is gardening for pollinators or taking an organic approach. While these are no longer fringe movements, neither are they completely mainstream. Even when people do care about native gardening, they sometimes promote the wrong messages.

Which is why it’s so important to have strong voices trying to change that.

Benjamin Vogt of Monarch Gardens is one such voice. In love with prairies and woodlands, promoting plants and animals, redefining the concept of native gardening … he does it all, and more.

Ecogardens was lucky enough to catch up with him recently. Let’s hear what he has to say.

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Topics: Stewardship

What Is the Most Sustainable Approach to Seasonal Plantings?

Posted by Ecogardens


While seasonal plantings are a lovely way to spruce up our urban spaces, as well as offer food and habitat to pollinator friends, we need to take a more sustainable route.

As stewards of our urban spaces, it’s up to us to ensure we take the most responsible approach to landscaping of all kinds.

Unfortunately, that’s not a duty we take very seriously when it comes to seasonal color. Our addiction to bright pansies in spring, impatiens in summer or marigolds in fall has major environmental and health costs, but the landscaping juggernaut has most people overlooking them.

Time to change that. We need a better understanding of the dangers this habit poses, just as we need better tools for creating sustainable seasonal plantings. Luckily, they do exist.

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Topics: Stewardship

What Is Peat and Why Should We Protect It?

Posted by Ecogardens


Peat is a nonrenewable resource that we’re using at alarming rates, wreaking havoc on the environment as we do.

Peat is one of our main gardening staples. It’s used in applications ranging from potting plants to amending soil to starting seeds.

Inarguably, it’s an awesome tool in the landscaping and gardening fields. Its comparative cheapness compared to composts and other amendments makes it appealing right there. Add in excellent water and nutrient retention, soil lightening capabilities and pH adjustment, and you have a shoo-in of a gardening material.

The problem? Peat is not a renewable resource, no matter what some stakeholders might claim. And that’s really bad for the world.

If we want to be better environmental stewards, we need to understand the consequence of peat’s use, as well as what we can do to fix the issue.

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Topics: Stewardship

Why We Need a Better Stewardship Meaning Now

Posted by Ecogardens


We need a better approach to ecology if we’re going to pull our world back from the brink on which it’s currently teetering, and that means a better stewardship meaning.

We humans have a tendency to simplify. While we think of ourselves as deep thinkers – and we often are, happily – we are also very good at Glossing Over Important Things and Reducing Complex Meanings to Shallow Understandings.

Take a look at any ecological buzzword and you’ll see what we mean:

  • Green
  • Sustainable
  • Stewardship

These are words that have deep, multilayered connotations, but we toss them around as though they’re quite simplistic. The last one, especially, gets a surface treatment – and that’s a problem. Because until we understand the true important of the word stewardship we have very little chance of applying it properly.

We need a better stewardship meaning.

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Topics: Stewardship

5 Ways Regular Stewardship Impacts Green Roof Health

Posted by Ecogardens


Many people assume that green roofs are self-sustaining systems, but in fact they need continuous care to remain healthy and efficient.

It takes more than rainfall and prayers to ensure green roof health.

Unfortunately, while our sense of environmentalism develops by the day – and we’re seeing an explosion of green roofs as a result – too few people are talking about what it takes to keep a roof green after it’s built.

As in, once we implement a living system, how can we ensure that it remains balanced over time?

The overarching answer is stewardship: routine check-ins that ensure a green roof is performing as expected, that plants are safe and protected, and that animal communities are flourishing. Do this, and you’ll see major benefits from green roof health.

Without further ado, here are five benefits of regular stewardship:

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Topics: Stewardship

How Initial Green Roof Design Impacts Stewardship

Posted by Ecogardens


While good stewardship helps keep a green roof sound throughout the decades of its life, you’re fighting a losing battle without good design.

On the surface, green roof design and stewardship might seem like two wholly different aspects of the green roofing process.

Design and installation are completely done by the time stewardship takes over, after all. They exist in two distinctly separate phases, leading some to believe that the one doesn’t impact the other. Design is one-and-done. Stewardship comes on later, and if it’s good, can keep a green roof healthy no matter what.

… Right?

Not necessarily.

Truth is, design and stewardship are inextricably intertwined. Yes, good design – based on sound scientific concepts and artful creativity – should set a roof up for life. And yes, excellent stewardship does help any green system weather the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

But without good design, stewardship is set up for a fall. Let’s talk about why the right approach is so important from the very beginning.

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Topics: Stewardship

How Does Regular Stewardship Impact Stormwater Retention?

Posted by Ecogardens


Keeping your green roof in great shape is the best way to reap maximum stormwater benefits.

Forget Snuggies, fast food and terrible teen pop.

Stormwater is the real crime of this century.

Combined sewer overflows, the result of rainwater overloading the sewers and spitting filth into the streets, carry disease into our cities and waterways. It sheets over asphalt and concrete, sweeping pollutants right along with it.

Rural areas suffer from stormwater troubles as well, but it’s really the cities that desperately need better methods of keeping rain and snowmelt out of the sewers.

That’s where green roofs come in, trapping and detaining stormwater during rain events. They keep water there for hours or days, relieving the sewers of undue pressures resulting from all that water entering all at once.

Of course, they only provide those benefits if stewarded well.

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Topics: Stewardship

How to Maintain Green Infrastructure for Peak Performance Year Round

Posted by Ecogardens


Stewardship is a critical factor in getting the most out of your green system, whether your goal is beauty or environmental benefits or both. Here’s how to get peak performance.

You have a green roof, or perhaps another green system. Whether it was recently installed or is 10 years old, you want it to work well.

Ideally, you want it to work very well. Year-round peak performance is the goal.

(One assumes. Let’s just go with it.)

But how do you accomplish that? In other words, what are the basic tasks involved in stewarding a green roof environment?

Glad you asked. Here’s a basic rundown of how you should steward your green system – whether a rooftop garden, bioswale or another kind of green infrastructure – all year round.

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Topics: Stewardship