Monday, December 6, 2010

Charity work in Guatamala

Last week, Eli, the owner of Green Future Construction went to Guatemala to do charity work and learn about the culture of many of our workers. Guatemala is a country in Central America that can be described as having a "developing economy" and huge disparities in income. Although a peace accord was signed in 1996 to end armed conflict, violent crime is still a main concern. Extreme poverty has made many Guatemalans turn to violence and drug trade out of desperation.

Eli traveled around the country with 4 body guards and a bullet proof car, to protect himself, since many Americans fall victim to kidnappings. He stayed with some wealthy locals and had a chance to visit places tourists don't typically get to go, including one of the poorest villages in the country. While he was there, he and a few other companies raised $10,000 for the village and brought truck loads of food, candies, and supplies. The villagers lined up, waiting excitedly as trucks full of rice, corn, beans and candy pulled up one by one. Their anticipation was palpable as children chatted and adults buzzed, looking longingly at the sweets.

It felt great to give the donation to the needy village, but it was also apparent to Eli that this offering wasn't enough. Soon the food supply would be depleted again and the villagers lacked something essential to get themselves back on their feet. The village had other problems: women as young as 11 had children of their own, babies were growing up malnourished so that a 5 year old, Nelson, looked like a two year old and could not walk or talk, and any crops that the village tried to plant to sustain themselves, immediately died. When Eli inquired about the crop failure, he was informed that the villagers had cut all there trees down and sold them to make money, now when they try to farm, the crops get washed away because there are no trees to prevent erosion. Aside from the obvious environmental and economic problems of this community, it was obvious to him that at the root of these problems was lack of education.

If the villagers were better educated, young women would wait to have children and would be more likely to develop skills or a career that could help them support their family. If they had been educated, they may have realized that cutting down the trees would result in crop failure. Education would also provide more opportunities for growth and jobs. The same is true here. Education is at the root of a changing future and it seems that more emphasis should be placed on the environment considering how it impacts almost all aspects of our daily lives.

We encourage all of our clients, friends, and families to do what they can to help people in need, but also to remember that the focus of the aide should ideally be on long term solutions including educational programs. Remember the old adage, give a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for life.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fall landscaping

Ah Autumn! The crisp fall air, the comforting scent of apple cider and pumpkin pie, the warmth of family and the glorious colors of changing leaves. If you are lucky enough to live in our area: Maryland, the mid-Atlantic region, you get to see all of the seasons in a distinct progression, and for many of us fall is a favorite. Fall offers mild temperatures with the warm energy of food and family to keep the incoming winter chills at bey.

Fall is also a great time to prepare your house and yard for the harsh frost, snow and ice of winter. Before you nestle into your cozy sofa to enjoy your spiced cider by the fire, there are a few keys to protecting your house and yard and prevent the banes of winter weather.

Ice and leaves can put a burden on gutters. That's why fall is an optimal time to get the gutters cleaned and ensure that they are sturdy and in good working condition. Leaves and Ice can clog and weigh down gutters, not only causing over flow and water damage, but also putting them in danger of collapsing. A good gutter cleaning is relatively inexpensive and can save you money in the long run by preventing future damage.

Ice and snow can also pose a problem for roofing. Any leaks or weak spots will be exacerbated by the heavy snow and ice. Nobody wants to deal with a collapse roof, or a leaky ceiling in the middle of winter, especially when snow and ice can make roof access dangerous and difficult. Replacing your roof or repairing any damage in the fall is ideal. Also, the government is offering tax rebates until January 2011 for certain roofing material with a high SRI. If you are thinking about going solar, now is an ideal time too. Using the suns energy will help you save on heating, and most systems pay for themselves in about 5 years with the rebates the government is offering for installation.

Few people enjoy raking, but it really is necessary to maintain the health of your lawn. Like us, grass needs to "breathe," and it can be smothered if a thick layer of  leaves is left on top of them over the winter, causing problems such as snow mold. Also, some grasses are cool season grasses, which revitalize themselves in the fall. The fallen leaves can inhibit this process, which can harm your lawn. Leaves are also a safety hazard, and can be slippery if left wet on walkways and sidewalks. Thus, leaf removal is an important fall task for both lawn care and safety. To make leaf removal more eco-friendly, shred the leaves and use them for mulch, and avoid using plastic bags to haul them away.

Finally, a nice yard clean-up with mulch and annual flowers like mums can add a fresh look to your home, as the deciduous and seasonal plants start dying. Since fall is a season of family and festivals, giving your yard a makeover will help your home stand out and look more welcoming. Mulch and flowers will also help absorb storm water run-off making them a nice sustainable option.

As fall turns to winter make sure you are prepared by implementing a few environmentally friendly preparation options.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

European Landscaping

I went on a trip to Europe last week, and ever the workaholic, of course, I couldn't stop thinking about landscaping and construction. I saw a couple of innovative techniques, such as the retaining walls made by stones secured in a metal grate, saving money and helping promote better storm management. However, for the vast majority of public land, landscaping was limited: medians were left unkempt, trees were not mulched, and trash was scattered everywhere.

While Europeans have led the world for years in history, art, architecture and design, their landscape ideas seemed to be limited and isolated to private gardens. The US seems to be a world leader in landscaping, construction and green building.

The United States spends billions of dollars on landscaping and construction projects each year and as a result they have refined the practices of  these industries and the appearance of publicly owned land. There are so many opportunities for government contracting in landscaping and construction so as a result, the field has become very competitive. This helps to facilitate the growth and innovation of the industry.

The practice of mulching is quite standard in the US. Mulch not only creates a nice visual border, but it also helps nourish plant life and improve drainage. In Europe, however, I noticed that there wasn't any mulching. The trees, in contrast looked lonely and kind of sad. Mulching can add a lot to the appearance of any property.

In addition, planting flowers, trees and other plants helps improve the look of any property. In Europe, public land and commercial grounds didn't really have much decorative vegetation. Plant life enhances the beauty of a space and contributes to the greening of the environment.

A well maintained yard whether it is public, commercially owned or residential, should be kept clean, free of debris and well manicured with a variety of vegetation. This is one are where America exceeds Europe in design and beauty. Hopefully, by working together we can make the goal of a greener environment more of an international priority.

Visit our web site for ideas

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mo' Money Mo' Problems

When you think green what comes to mind? The environment? Money? St. Patrick's Day?
Lately "green" and environmentally friendly have become synonymous with expensive. You see it  everywhere: At the grocery store organic milk costs almost twice as much as regular milk, green cleaning products are sure to cost a pretty penny more than their toxic counterparts and in landscaping and construction green always seems to add a few thousand dollars to the bill.

Today, a man walked into the Discovery Channel Building, appearing to have a bomb strapped to his chest, and taking hostages. The suspect is reported to have a long history of dissatisfaction with the Discovery channel, arguing that it's focus was not on the environment, as it claimed, but instead on products and making money.

It seems like the"green" industry has shifted from environmentalism to capitalist gains, but that is not all bad and consumers can use that to their advantage. The fact that sustainable design has gained awareness and that consumers are more willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products means that investors are more interested in creating these eco-options. The fact that there are so many "eco-options" means more choices for consumers and thus more competitive pricing. Even generic brands have come out with their own sustainable variety of products.

But even if you are not willing to pony up the extra bucks, green options, especially in landscaping can be cost neutral or even save you money. Green solutions especially for storm water management can save a lot of money: planting a rain garden is a relatively low cost option to solve potential flooding and other drainage issues. In addition, french drains can also be used to help solve drainage issues for a low cost.

Another way to help promote a clean environment and reduce the heat island effect is to choose pavement with a high SRI. By choosing hardscaping with a lighter color, you reduce the heat island effect, and help promote the native environment. The lighter color options should not add any costs on to your project. In addition, selecting native plants and local resources helps promote the native environment, and may be less costly, since the shipping costs for materials is not as high. Choosing native plants also reduces the need for irrigation, which can also save money.

In addition to all these low cost options, the government also offers rebates for green construction. In some areas you can pay for permeable pavers, and reduce the costs of solar or green roofing. By taking advantage of these government funded financial aids, consumers can afford construction that will have a more significant impact on reducing damage to the environment.

Although many see "green" as a higher cost alternative, the reality is that there are many low cost or no cost ways to promote sustainability. With the addition of government aid, eco-friendly options are well within budget-conscious consumers' reach.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sustainable Materials

Since I was in high school and learned that you could make fuel out of corn, I wondered why more people didn't jump at this idea to improve our environment, our economy and our environment by taking advantage of this technology. I was always passionate about the environment but I felt powerless against the government and big corporations, which I felt would never take me seriously.

Today, I saw a commercial on TV promoting Ethanol (corn produced fuel) use, just as I had envisioned in high school. I think that we can all agree that after the oil spill in the Gulf and the diplomacy problems that have resulted from our dependence on foreign oil, finding a safer and more local solution for our energy needs would be ideal.

However, the point I want to emphasize is that no one should ever feel like they are to small or green (little pun :-) ) to make a difference. Everyone can do little things to help decrease their carbon footprint and live more sustainably. As a landscaping and construction company, I feel that few of our kind really try to promote these values when we could really have a large impact.

Small choices like using hybrid cars to do estimates, using sustainable product choices like low VOC paint, wood with a short harvesting life span, or materials made from recycled goods can all help the environment. Landscape designers can also help by educating consumers on green building techniques and ways to incorporate sustainability into the design.

If you work in the landscaping and construction industry try to educate yourself on the latest technologies and if you are a homeowner in need of services educate yourself or ask your provider what they know.

Empowering yourself with knowledge is the first step to a cleaner, greener earth!

Monday, June 21, 2010


The USGBC (United States Green Building Council) has developed a new certification and accreditation system where Buildings can be rated on their sustainability and professionals who work in the creation or maintenance of buildings can get a accredited with the ability to recognize and take advantage of methods to make buildings more "green."

I have just started working on getting the LEED Green Associate accreditation and I have already learned a lot. I am taking the online certification which is basically a 4 hour long video training session with built in quizzes. I think this format is great for working professionals who don't have time to take an actual class but who still want to refine their knowledge and gain accreditation. The videos are easy to watch and very informative so far i have learned ways to improve sustainability in both my work and my home.

Although I have posted many of the tips that I have learned through LEED there are other ways I learned that I had never thought of. Did you know that by measuring your water, and energy use you can actually help yourself save.  In addition, the loaction of your building can make a huge difference. A building in a densely populated area that stays away from wildlife and makes use of damaged or existing building grounds help reduce the impact on the environment. I also had no idea all the ways rainwater could be used: from toilets to HVAC units.

I feel like the knowledge I gain from LEED will help give me creative new ways to make Green Future even more "green" and help educate our customers on the latest ways incorporate sustainability into their projects while helping them save money.

I would highly encourage others to pursue accreditation through LEED and feel free to ask me any questions you may have!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Water Polution

With the recent oil leak in the gulf cost I have been thinking a lot about water pollution. Water is essential to all life forms on this planet. However, polluted water causes more harm than good. Thankfully, modern technology has come up with ways to filter water for our consumption, but that still leaves much of the world's water susceptible to nutrients, toxins, and other harmful chemicals that cause permanent damage to our ecosystems.

I read recently that in a study conducted by the Canadian Freshwater Institute, scientists placed birth control pills in a Canadian lake, which caused male fish to begin developing ovaries. The research was meant to mimic the effect of birth control that filters through the sewage system. However, it is clear from this study that contaminants in the water system create huge implications for our ecosystem.

This issue really hits home since I grew up in the Chesapeake area where all kids in Maryland were forced to watch a video about the watershed and the dangers of erosion, run-off, and water pollution. I have even seen my brother catch frogs and turtles with 5 or 6 arms and legs, deformed, no doubt, from contaminants in the water. It's sad to see the kind of damage that can occur first hand, knowing that the cause is human carelessness.

With that said, there are many ways that we can reduce the number of contaminants that infiltrate our watersheds. Since we deal with landscaping and construction, my focus will be on preventing water pollution in that way.

One good way to prevent, run-off, which is when contaminants wash away into the watershed, is to plant vegetation with a sturdy root system. The roots bind to the soil to keep it in place so less contaminants are washed away.

In addition, retaining walls can be built to prevent erosion, since they hold dirt it place and prevent things like fertilizer from washing into water systems.

Likewise, mulching helps prevent run-off by keeping the layer of topsoil in place. It is also important to use a brand of mulch and fertilizer that is gentler on the environment. Some nutrients in fertilizer can enter the watershed and create an overgrowth of algae that kills sealife.

New permeable concrete and pervious pavers that I talked about in the last blog are also good options since they let water pass through the soil to allow for natural filtration.

I hope these ideas inspire you to be more conscious of water pollution and maybe give some of the ideas a try for your next landscaping/ construction project!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sustainable Patios

With summer only here a great way to enjoy your yard is by building a patio.
Patios can be made from a number of different types of materials but one of the greenest options is permeable pavers.

Permeable pavers are porous blocks that allow water to filter through to the ground.

Our favorite brand, Nicolock, ( offers a few different "green" options: Eco-ridge, SF Rima, Checker Block and Turfstone

These pavers work by allowing water to seep through to the ground, filtering it through the aggregate beneath. This helps reduce the risk of run-off and flooding. Some of these pavers, like Turfstone, even allow grass to grow through the pavers, further aiding in soil stability and helping to prevent erosion. If the grass look is not what you want, pavers like Eco-Ridge and SF Rima give a more traditional look with similar benefits.

In addition to preventing erosion, having a patio reduces the need for lawn watering, reducing water useage. It also decreases the area that needs mowing, which, if you are using an electric mower, reduces carbon emissions.

To complete your eco-friendly patio try adding local plants to your landscaping, Summer vegetable gardens also help you reduce your carbon foot print and your grocery bill at the same time!

You can also buy patio furniture made of sustainable or recycled materials. Bamboo is a sustainable wood that would be ideal for a tropical themed patio. There are also a wide variety of furniture made from recycled materials.

There are so many options out there to help make your patio something that is good for the earth and for your soul!

Monday, April 19, 2010

How to Make Your Landscape Green!

At Green Future Construction our goal is to beautify your house, while at the same time minimizing negative impacts on the environment. There are several ways that you can help reduce damage to our environment while still getting the gorgeous yard that you desire. Here are some great ideas that you should consider when redesigning your landscape to make you yard more eco-conscious and in some cases save you money in the long run.

1. Plant shade trees which will help keep your house cool in the summer, reducing the cost of air conditioning for more information click here.

2. Develop a smart irrigation system that is efficient and uses less water, choose low-water use plants, and create water-wise garden designs.

3. Choose your plants wisely. Stick with native vegetation, which require less maintenance and are more beneficial to the other inhabitants of our environment.

4. Plant large pine trees in the north and west, which help reduce heating costs by blocking cold winter winds.

5. Use solar powered landscaping lights when illuminating your outdoor space to cut back on energy costs.

6. Ask your landscaper about organic and natural landscaping products, compost service and organic pesticides can be used to reduce toxic waste in our environment.

7. Reduce your lawn area. Lawns use a large amount of water and energy to maintain, not to mention the time it takes to mow them. Contact us to find out options that reduce your lawn area while maintaining your yard’s beauty.

8. Include plants that enhance the wildlife habitat and provide homes for native birds and beneficial insects.. Select native trees with flowers, fruits or berries. Hummingbirds love trumpet vines and other plants will attract butterflies and ladybugs.

9. Plant a natural vegetable garden as a way to reduce grocery costs and create a sustainable landscape. Ask about our garden planning services.

10. Use sustainable materials such as weed trees for construction and permeable pathways to allow for natural water flow and better irrigation.

Green Construction