by Stephanie Horowitz – www.zeroenergy.com
Your yard has always been an important part of your home, whether cooking on the grill in the summer or enjoying a fall fire. Making these spaces an extension of your home has become popular and almost expected in today’s market. But how can our outdoor living space become part of our green home?
With more and more people heading outdoors there is an increasing number of eco-friendly outdoor products, such as outdoor furniture made from renewable materials. Further, you might see a break in utility bills if you spend more time cooling off outdoors instead of blasting energy-eating air conditioning indoors. And since outdoor spaces often feature an elaborate spread of vegetation, implementing xeriscaping or planting drought-tolerant plants will relieve your sprinklers from working overtime.
A Greener Outdoor Experience
Eco-friendly furniture is pretty easy to come across, but it is hard to know what to look for. Typically, furniture made of rapidly renewable or low maintenance materials, such as teak, eucalyptus, or bamboo is a good choice. Furniture that does not require varnishes or other harmful chemicals to protect its surface is also a plus. Check out some of TreeHugger’s favorite finds here.
If you plan on carrying the party into the night, solar powered lights are a great low energy feature. Powered by the sun, energy is stored in rechargeable batteries and used by LED bulbs when needed. Lastly, but most importantly, is the grill. Propane is said to be the cleanest choice, but it still is a fossil fuel. ‘Real’ charcoal is best because it is carbon neutral, but it is often shipped overseas. TreeHugger suggests locally made charcoal as the greenest choice.
Giving Your Home a Break
Spending time outside is not only enjoyable for you and your family, but taking more activities outdoors may reduce your energy needs inside. Central air conditioning alone accounted for half of American’s electricity usage in 2001 (see chart). Cooling off outside can help reduce this staggering percentage.
Furthermore, incorporating an outdoor living space into your new home may eliminate the need for larger spaces inside. Entertaining, eating, cooking and space for children to play can head to the backyard rather than requiring several spaces indoors. And with all of this new found space outside, you may actually be less inclined to watch t.v. or work on the computer indoors.
So now that you are heading outside more, you may expect it to look as nice as it does inside. Fancy combinations of exotic plants and shrubs may look nice, but a lot of water is usually needed to keep them healthy.
Xeriscaping is a term that comes comes from the greek word ‘xeros,’ meaning zero. Essentially a xeriscape is a landscape which does not require additional irrigation (hoses and sprinklers). Arrays of plants that work for your particular climate are used and vegetation is planted to avoid evaporation and run-off to avoid water loss. Remember, xeriscaping doesn’t mean zero beauty; the right combination of vegetation can actually be quite striking.
Turning our backyards into an additional space to live, work and play can increase the efficiency of our homes and reduce the need for extra living space indoors. With the rising popularity of outdoor living, there are so many ways to make your space green. Solar powered lights, renewable materials, and green grilling can turn your outdoor experience into a green one too.