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 www.greenfutureus.com

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.