(ARA) - As energy costs continue to rise, homeowners should consider alternative ways to help lower their bills -- and help the environment -- by making their homes more "green." The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is raising awareness of the need for sustainable, environmentally sensitive design and how homeowners can help achieve this goal.
SLA is doing its part to become more "green" by installing a green roof covered with vegetation on its downtown Washington, D.C., headquarters. Green roofs last up to twice as long as conventional roofs, save significantly on heating and cooling costs, improve community air and water quality, and reduce the urban heat island effect in the summertime. While it's not feasible for most homeowners to retrofit their homes with green roofs, there are other steps you can take to minimize your home's impact on the environment:
Use trees and vegetation to cut your summertime air conditioning use by shading all east- and west-facing windows. Shade windows from the outside with a covered pergola, strategically placed trees, or trellises with vines for a beautiful look inside and out. Create "outdoor rooms" for your family, such as cooking and dining areas. Spending more time and cooking outdoors reduce the need for air conditioning indoors.
Replace exposed concrete and asphalt driveways and walkways with pavers, which stay cooler, look better, and can even be placed to allow vegetation to grow through. Exposed concrete and pavement get heated by the sun, reradiating unwanted heat indoors.
Use native plants common to your area to reduce watering and maintenance. Keep traditional lawn areas to a minimum or consider using ground-cover plants -- many are sturdy enough to allow for play areas for children and pets. Use mulch in garden beds to reduce the need to water, and install a rainwater tank to collect stormwater for watering. Many landscape architects are working with clients to use "graywater" (such as condensation from a home's air conditioning) for irrigation and water features.
Recycle kitchen waste into garden compost. It's an effective and affordable way to keep your plants healthy and reduce garbage. Many good resources are on the web to help homeowners get started, including the U.S. Composting Council Web site (www.compostingcouncil.org). Courtesy of ARA Content