Environment

Green Household Techniques (That Won’t Freak out Your Neighbors)

As far as lifestyle fads go, the ‘green movement’ has done much more to save the environment than, say, the South Beach diet or helicopter parenting. But try telling that to your neighbors, lest they hear any mention of eco-friendliness and immediately suspect you’re trying toorganize a nudist commune on your property. So try these subtle approaches if you want to help Mother Earth without freaking out the people who share your fence line.

Raise-some-chickensRaise some chickens
If you’ve never considered building a chicken coop and raising your own backyard brood, then you probably don’t realize that poultry-rearing is incredibly low-maintenance – and beneficial onseveral levels. First, hens are essentially living, breathing pest exterminators; expect your ant, termite and mosquito populations to drop dramatically once the chickens take charge. Second, their poop is rich in nitrogen and functions as a highly effective organic fertilizer. Third, adopting chickens could actually save an endangered species; several heritage breeds are considered at-risk due to unsustainable farm factory practices. Finally, you can literally taste the difference between store-bought eggs and the tasty free-range gems in your backyard (the average hen produces eggs for up to five years). As a bonus, several DIY chicken coops are on the market – so you won’t have to spend extra money on a pre-assembled model.

“you can literally taste the difference between store-bought eggs and the tasty free-range gems in your backyard”

Tip: That said, be sure to consult your local regulations before you purchase backyard chickens, as rules of poultry ownership vary between municipalities. It might not be a bad idea to let your next-door neighbors know ahead of time, either – and maybe even throw in some complimentary eggs to sweeten the deal.

rwHarvest your rainwater
Even in the Pacific Northwest (where rain is the norm), most residents don’t realize how much rainwater can actually be harvested on an annual basis. Thanks to Raindrop Cisterns, you can calculate the annual rainwater yield of your home using your zip code and roof size (in square feet). For example, a Seattle home equipped with a 1,000-square foot roof will be able to harvest more than 23,000 gallons of water every year – that’s equivalent to more than 11,000 toilet flushes and nearly 600 loads of laundry. Plus, rainwater catchment systems are fairly simple to build and install; this how-to guide by Build it Solar is fairly straightforward, but there are dozens of different designs available online.

Tip: To save additional water, place a bucket beneath your bathtub faucet while you wait for your shower water to get warm. The average bathtub expels 2.5 gallons every minute – so wait two minutes before removing the bucket and you’ll have more than enough water for your plants later that day.

Use-organic-pesticidesUse organic pesticides
“But they don’t work the same as chemicals,” you may complain. You’re right – in many cases, organic pesticides work much better than their toxic, corrosive counterparts. Simple materials like ash, organic soap solution and raw tobacco keep insects away, while ground chili peppers repel slugs, snails and your pets – all without doing harm to the soil our your plants. Some green materials can also be used to keep your garden disease-free. Milk is also a known deterrent for mildew and blight; cornmeal prevents algae, yellow/brown patches and leaf spots on roses; and sodium bicarbonate wipes out fungal growth.

Tip: An even easier way to keep your garden healthy is by ‘companion planting,’ or intercropping certain plants that are known to distract pests from munching on their neighbors (marigolds and chives are two examples). Also, though it may be tempting, try to refrain from killing spiders – they’re on your side as far as pest management is concerned. 

“Simple materials like ash, organic soap solution and raw tobacco keep insects away, while ground chili peppers repel slugs, snails and your pets – all without doing harm to the soil our your plants.”

manual lawnmowerUse a manual lawnmower

For the record, the average electric lawn mower uses roughly five gallons of gasoline every year. But nationwide, we use 600 million gallons of gas every year for mowing and trimming purposes – an amount that translates to more than $2.4 billion at the pump. So, you’re left with two choices: a) be part of the problem or b) invest in a push mower that doesn’t require fossil fuels. Those who have opted for the latter will tell you that the cutting ability of manual mowers is comparable to gas-powered models, while their flexibility and relatively compact size are superior to clunky electric mowers in terms of trimming hard-to-reach corners of the yard. Plus, you’ll get a nice workout – not that you need one.

Tip: One downside to manual mowers is the mess of unsightly grass clumps left behind when you’ve finished – unless you have a compost pile. Organic materials that are shredded (by, say, a lawn mower) will decay much faster than whole materials.

By Brad Nehring

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